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How to grow organic Asparagus
How to grow organic Aubergines
How to grow organic Beetroot
How to grow organic Broad beans
How to grow organic Broccoli
How to grow organic Brussels sprouts
How to grow organic Cabbage
How to grow organic Calabrese
How to grow organic Carrot
How to grow organic Cauliflower
How to grow organic Celeriac
How to grow organic Celery
How to grow organic Celtuce
How to grow organic Chinese broccoli
How to grow organic Chinese cabbage
How to grow organic Chicory
How to grow organic Corn
How to grow organic Cucumbers and Gherkins
How to grow organic Endive
How to grow organic Florence fennel
How to grow organic French beans
How to grow organic Garlic
How to grow organic Globe artichokes
How to grow organic Jerusalem artichokes
How to grow organic Kale and borecole
How to grow organic Kohl rabi
How to grow organic Komatsuna
How to grow organic Land cress
How to grow organic Leaf beet
How to grow organic Leeks
How to grow organic Lettuce
How to grow organic Mizuna
How to grow organic Mustard greens
How to grow organic New Zealand spinach
How to grow organic Onions
How to grow organic Parsnips and Hamburg Parsley
How to grow organic Peas
How to grow organic Peppers (hot and sweet)
How to grow organic Potatoes
How to grow organic Radishes
How to grow organic Rocket
How to grow organic Runner beans
How to grow organic Salad onions
How to grow organic Salsify, Scorzonera and Scolymus
How to grow organic Seakale
How to grow organic Shallots
How to grow organic Spinach
How to grow organic Squash
How to grow organic Swede
How to grow organic Texsel greens
How to grow organic Tomatoes
How to grow organic Turnips
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How to grow organic Seakale
by Frann Leach
Seakale is blanched before cutting
Seakale (Sea kale)
Family: Cruciferae (Group 2)
Seakale is a very hardy perennial British native often found growing on beaches, cliffs and rocks and tolerant of drought. If you have a patch of very exposed soil on your site where not much else will grow, seakale will be perfectly happy to colonise the area for you. It is closely related to Brassicas, so should not be planted on soil infected with clubroot. Blanched stems, young flower heads and very young leaves can be eaten raw, leaf midribs cooked like asparagus.
Plant seakale in an open, sunny position where it can be left undisturbed. It should be grown in a deep, rich, sandy soil; ideal pH is 7. Good drainage is essential; lighten heavy soils with sand or grit.
Plants start to deteriorate after about 7 years, so it is best to replace a few plants each year.
Raising from thongs
Root cuttings or 'thongs' can be purchased or obtained from established plants. To take a thong, select a healthy plant at least 3 years old, with no sign of rotting on the crown, and lift carefully after the leaves have died back in November or December. Select side roots of about pencil thickness and cut them into pieces 8-15cm (3-6") long. To avoid planting them upside down, make a straight cut across the top and a slanting cut across the bottom. Tie the cuttings into bundles and stand them in a box of sand in a cool shed until March. By then buds will have appeared on the shoots.
Rub off all but the strongest central bud in preparation for planting out. Make a hole with a dibber and plant the cuttings 2.5cm (1") below soil level, 37cm (15") apart each way. It is sometimes possible to buy young plants; they can be planted in spring or autumn at the same spacing.
Although thong-raised plants can be forced in the January following planting, it is best to allow the plants to build up for a complete year, and to start forcing the following winter or very early spring.
Raising from seed
Seakale has very corky seeds, which enable them to float at sea for several years. For this reason, germination can be very slow, up to 3 years! The corky case can be carefully removed to speed up germination. Sow 2.5cm (1") deep in moist soil in late May, either in seed trays, pricking out as they grow, or in a seedbed for transplanting early the following May or direct. Seedbed grown seedlings should be thinned when they have 3-4 leaves, selecting only the strongest looking plants to plant out. They should not be forced until their third season.
Forcing and harvesting
Plants can either be forced and blanched in situ, in which case the same plants can be grown for several years, or they can be lifted and forced in warmer conditions indoors. In this case they will have to be discarded after forcing.
Forcing in situ
Any time after the crowns have died right back, from autumn until January, clear away the debris of rotting leaves and cover the crowns with about 8cm (3") of dry leaves. This helps raise the temperature. Then exclude light by covering them with a 25-30cm (10-12") bucket or flower pot with the drainage hole blocked, or black polythene attached to a wooden frame. Alternatively, use a traditional clay seakale pot. Whatever covering is used should be at least 37cm (15") high and firmly held down, so it does not blow away. Stems are ready for cutting within about 3 months. They can be cut when anything from 10-20cm (4-8") long, using a sharp knife to cut them low down with a little piece of root attached. Stop cutting in May and allow plants to regrow. They can then be blanched again the following year.
Dig up the roots after the first frosts - or lift roots earlier, but leave them on the ground to expose them to frost. Pack them into boxes or large pots, trimming off any awkward side roots, exclude light by covering them with an upturned bucket, box or frame covered with black polythene. Roots can be forced in a cool room or greenhouse.
Pests and diseases
Apart from clubroot, seakale is virtually trouble free.
Soil may remain infected for 20 years; steps to avoid introduction include:
Once infected avoid growing any brassicas except fast maturing types such as Texsel greens or cut and come again oriental seedlings. If you have no other land available, and you must grow types with a lengthy growing season, you can try sowing seed in modules, and potting up until the plants reach a height of 10cm (4") before planting out. A root drench may also help.