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Articles about Vegetable Crops for the Garden

  Advantages of Container Vegetable Gardens
  Best Vegetable Crops for Containers
  Brandywine Tomatoes - Get the Most From This Heirloom Variety
  Choosing a Site For Your Home Vegetable Garden
  Container Vegetable Gardening Tips
  Container Vegetable Gardens
  Double Your Crops
  Getting Children Interested in Growing Vegetables
  Grow Your Own Salad
  Growing Tomatoes in Pots
  Growing Vegetable Plants Becomes More Than Just A Hobby
  How to Grow a Vegetable Garden
  Indoor Container Vegetable Gardening Ideas
  Indoor Vegetable Gardening How to Tips
  Learning About Indoor Container Vegetable Gardening
  List of vegetable crops by difficulty
  Mushroom Growing in Odd Unused Spaces
  Non Hybrid Seeds For Survival Gardening
  Organic Container Gardening - Simple and Easy Ways to Grow Vegetables and Flowers in Pots
  Organic Vegetable Cultivation Table
  Over Wintering Chilli Pepper Plants
  pH preferences of food crops
  Planning your Container Crops
  Planting Tomatoes Upside Down
  Potato Container Garden Tips
  Preparing a Vegetable Garden
  Review: Food4Wealth by Jonathan White
  Vegetable Container Garden Tips
  Vegetable Crops in alphabetical order by name
  Why I Recommend Vegetable Container Gardening
  Why Vegetable Container Gardening is Getting More Popular Today Than Ever
  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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Frann Leach

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Organic Gardening:

How to grow organic Seakale


Seakale is blanched before cutting

Seakale (Sea kale)

Crambe maritima

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.

Forcing indoors

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.

Note on clubroot

Soil may remain infected for 20 years; steps to avoid introduction include:

  • good drainage
  • rotation
  • liming acid soils to a pH around 7
  • working in high levels of organic matter
  • ensuring clean plants are used - source must be known to be free of disease (best grown at home in sterile medium)
  • boots and tools used on infected land must be thoroughly cleaned before use on clean land

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.

Article ©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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