Some tips for growing kale when everything wants to eat it.

Apr 11 '13

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Some tips for growing kale when everything wants to eat it.

I’ve been trying to successfully grow Nero kale and other brassicas for the last 3 years.  I just can’t seem to manage it.  I see huge palm-tree sized Nero kale plants in some people’s front yards and I wonder what’s wrong with me.  The first year, it was the soil.  Bad soil=unhappy kale.  The next year it was an onslaught of slugs and then cabbage moths.   Last year, it was slugs again, and then more moths despite all my efforts to fend them off.  This year, I’m ready.


If you grow veggies in the NW, then you know that slugs are a huge drag.  I have been trying for the past couple of years to keep the slugs at bay with various organic methods.  I’ve tried the beer traps, where you pour some beer into a cup half-buried in the ground.  The slugs jump into the beer swimming pool and apparently get so drunk they drown.  The results: a totally gross slug cocktail and no real reduction in slug popluation. _MG_1107So last year I tried using Sluggo, which is an expensive organic slug killer that seems to be somewhat effective, but it has to be regularly reapplied after a few rains, or the slugs come back and eat up your veggies.  I also found that no matter how much or how often I sprinkled Sluggo around my brassicas, some slugs would just roll right over it and eat up my starts.



So this year I’ve decided to try copper tape. I didn’t want to wrap my entire raised bed of cute little brassica starts with copper tape, as I suspect the slugs are already in the bed and I’d just be corralling them.  So I took the smallest old plastic pots I had laying around the potting shed and cut the bottoms out.  I then wrapped a strip of copper tape around the pot and place them around the little starts.


Clever, right?


Guess what?


No more slugs!  Yay!

BED COVERS. (No, not the ones in your bedroom.)


I have a variety of bed covers this year.  Here’s the brassica bed with a fabric cover to keep out cabbage moths and hungry chickens.  behind it is the “hoop house” covered with UV plastic.



Inside the fabric-covered bed are the brassicas (cabbage family).  They seem to be a favorite of NW pests, including cabbage moths, slugs, and chickens.  Notice the devilish chicken on the left who is sticking his head in just when I open it up just to take a photo?


These little starts would be goners without the fabric cover.  The cover also allowed me to plant the starts a little bit earlier since it gives a few degrees of frost protection.


Did I mention chickens are devils?  These aren’t my chickens by the way, they are my housemate’s chickens.  They don’t lay eggs, but they poop everywhere and eat any veggie not protected from their evil beaks.  Here’s a photo of me chasing the chickens away from the kale starts.


The  big, fairly unattractive plastic house is the bamboo hothouse.  It may be ugly, but it’s already housing our peppers, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and basil.   With any luck, this year it’s going to be a veritable fresh summer veggie paradise.    There will be more photos of those later. Right now they are still in their seed pots, keeping warm next to the big black plastic pots full of water._MG_1127        _MG_1110

Lettuce in the hoop house.


Pumpkin in the bamboo hothouse.




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