1/6In an era of kale addiction, some Brooklynites have taken to planting their own crops. Take Ft. Greene’s Yuko Uchikawa, the principal of OpenTalk and co-founder of Ruckus Safety Awareness, whose beautiful backyard brownstone garden teams with “the right amount of kale.”
In past years, Uchikawa and her partner have been overrun by the plants. “We grow Lacinato (Dinosaur kale) and Russian kale (sometimes known as purple kale), which is great since the leaves are very tender and it doesn’t need much massaging,” she says. And while many plants are at their peak in August, kale only gets sweeter as the temperatures dip.
Read on for a quick tour of this end-of-summer Brooklyn brownstone kale garden… —Melisse Gelula
Photos: Yuko Uchikawa for Well+Good
2/6“Since we’re a household of two, we calculated that we just need 10 kale plants to feed us daily,” explains Uchikawa. That makes kale a great crop for New Yorkers without much room. “They grow like crazy. We’d planted 14 in the past, and they produce way too much,” she says.
Kale is a green you can harvest at different stages, because the Russian kale is soft, it can be eaten mature or you can pick them as “teenagers.”
It’s also an instant gratification crop. “Unlike tomatoes, which may not mature for 80 days, with kale, I was beginning to pick them 3 weeks after planting,” she says.
3/6“Here’s an aerial shot of our garden after a few weeks of planting kale (lower left). Next to the kale is the cucumber, which does great, and gives us about 10-12 cukes per week.
I have 2 composters (one in front, and one in the back; brown structure to the left) and I get hundreds of worms. It dramatically reduces our garbage. It is remarkable! I have videos of the worms. They are amazing.”
4/6“We’ve grown kale every year since 2009, because it grows so well and yields so much and for so long. (The kale is bottom left in this shot.) The plants do well into the fall and become sweeter when there’s a bit of frost—the cold brings out the sugar in them. There are a few tricks to growing kale organically though, because the plants can get really buggy. This year’s been great. But then I’ve learned a few things…”
5/6“This year I planted cucumbers near the kale. It’s a different family, but one that doesn’t clash. This strategy worked great. No more bugs or slugs on the kale, like in previous summers. What a difference a shift in the environment can make.
I used to have wash the kale plants constantly to keep them from being devoured, but now, I do it no more than twice and they’re ready to eat.
Kirby cucumbers don’t have hard seeds, grow small, and are absolutely delicious with feta cheese,” says Uchikawa.