Notes on Kale Pollination/Germination

Earlier in the season, I posted some images of my Red Russian Kale plant that had overwintered in the garden by my house and was blooming profusely.

I had thought I read in my Seed to Seed book that brassicas are not self-fertile, and need a second plant to pollinate them. Since there were no other flowering brassicas in my home garden, and none that I could see in neighboring gardens, I decided to simply compost in place the seed stalk that formed rather than saving the seed.

Well, it looks like I’ve got a lot of little kale seedlings coming up in that area. Looking back at the book, I see that several plants are recommended to maintain genetic diversity, but apparently are not required. Brassicas will outcross with other members of their family–kale will cross with broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and others if not isolated.

I will keep an eye on these seedlings–thin them out and see if they look like they bred true.  If any of my local readers are interested in a few young kale plants to overwinter, let me know!

You can still eat the kale leaves even in the plant’s second year.  For overwintering, I’ve found it’s best to give them a little protection–mulch or other covering the prevent them from drying out too much.

Red Russian has been, for me, the kale with the highest winter survival rate–surpassing Winterbor (the curly kind) or Lacinato (Tuscan Black Cabbage).  It also makes as great addition to edible/ornamental gardens, with its lovely purple stems and silvery gray-green leaves.


2 responses

  1. Hi,

    I brought potted kale plants inside for the winter, it is Feb and they are now blooming. Of course there are no bees or pollinators in my porch in Feb. Do they need pollination? If so could I pollinate them? Is there a chance the seeds will be viable without?



    • Lela–

      I looked through my Seed to Seed book (awesome resource!) and it looks like it probably won’t work–a lot of the brassicas are self-incompatible and require insects for pollination. You could try pollinating between plants yourself, but you wouldn’t know if it worked until you tried to grow out the seed. Brassicas are kind of a pain this way because even if you did grow them outside, you’d be chancing their out-crossing with just about any other member of this really large family (including a number of “weeds”) just by having them uncovered for insect access.

      But if this is more of an experiment or project than a need-to-have-seed issue, you could always try it and see how it works! And then let me know…


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