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Kale seedlings not growing

Houston, TX

I planted seeds of Starbor kale, an F1 hybrid, in pots in July, hoping to get them started early for a fall garden.

They germinated very quickly and quickly sprouted up to about 2 inches tall ... then stopped. They haven't budged in a good two months. They grew their first true leaves (after the cotyledons) and haven't produced any new leaves since.

I'm at a loss what to do!

They seem still too small to transplant into the garden, but they aren't really growing in their pots.

I've put Miracle-Gro on them, given them plenty of sunlight.

Do I scrap them and start over? (Is it too late to start over with new seeds?)

Give them some more time?

Really, the point of my question is, for people experienced with growing kale, can I expect them to start growing again now that the weather is cooling? Maybe kale just can't grow well in hot weather.

Background info: I live in Northeastern Texas, zone 7. We had an exceptionally hot summer, but I babied the kale, bringing the trays into the air conditioning every night and on the hottest days, leaving them out in the sun for only a few hours each morning. (Maybe this lack of sunlight or else the heat stunted their growth.)

Any thoughts or suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

definitely the limited sunlight played a role, as they are definitely sun lovers, as with most vegetables. Kale falls into the "Cole crops" category--in other words, cool season crops, along with Kale, Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce also fit into this group of cool weather loving plants, so plant them either as early as possible in early spring, or grow them as an autumn harvest (i find they typically do better towards autumn, as most insects have cycled through their generation for the year, and have either migrated, or gone dormant for the coming winter--although you still may find a few, there will be less chance of it). Also Cole crops can be some very heavy feeders, they will gladly take even a weekly fertilizing, but in your case with the miracle grow, you would only add in just barely enough to color the water. I have learned much about cole crops since joining this site.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Hi, Leucaena!
I'm new to growing Kale, but not new to growing cole crops! I'm also a Houstonian, growing in Southeast Houston, near 288S.

I just bought Kale seeds at Southwest Fertilizer this week, and plan to sow some of them this weekend. I do believe your problem was starting too early in our Texas Hellfire, which is desperately trying to hold on. Which is why I didn't sow any cole crop seeds before last Monday.

I have broccoli, cauliflower & cabbages going inside under fluorescent lights. They were sown last Monday, and were up by last Wednesday morning -- two days. While some others here in Zone 9a have been sowing seeds directly outdoors since around August, I just don't wanna deal with that heat! So, I start mine indoors and set out good size transplants. I also have pill bugs that don't give wee seedling a chance!

Last year my cole crop seeds were sown the first weekend in August. When I finally put the transplants out in mid-September, they stalled because it was still too hot! So, I decided to start a month later this season. Thank God, it is trying to cool off, but still very slowly.

I'll start those kale seeds inside, and maybe a few outdoors in seed trays under my patio cover. I'd be happy to share some seedlings with you. I think mine is just a generic kale, no special variety. It is a bit less curly on the edges, which is what I prefer since I'll be using the kale for juicing, and I don't wanna have buggies hiding out in the curls, LOL!

Oh, and, we have more than enough sun here to keep our veggies happy! If fact, I have found my cole crops actually prefer to grow in bright light rather than full on Texas sun. They end up swooning, LOL!

Lemme know about the kale, and if you need help with any of the other cole crop veggies.


P.S. JMC1987 gave you some excellent advice!

Houston, TX

Thanks for the replies.

I think I definitely was impatient and started too early. I'll know better next time.

I went to farmer's co-op today to buy more seeds. There was a very helpful employee who thought that the problem with my kale seedlings was damping off. I looked that up online and I think she is right. The stems look brown and pinched at the base near the soil. I hadn't noticed that before.

So anyway I bought some lancinato kale sets and some collards and will make do with those.

I'm still going to try again next spring with growing from seed.

Wish me luck!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Don't give up so easily! You have at least until December 20th to either sow seeds or set transplants.

Growing from seeds is my specialty. Lemme know if you'd like to see my operation and get some pointers. It's really easy!

What side of town are you?


Houston, TX

I just realized my user information still says Houston. I live up near Dallas now.

I'm not giving up. I planted my lancinato kale plants this morning, but I'm going to give my Starbor seedlings a little more time to see if the cool weather gets them going again. I have two large trays of kale seedlings, so surely a few of them will grow up.

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

yeah definitely dont give up, i had to re seed 3 different times in the place i am trying to grow them because first time around slugs cleaned it out, the other two times deer cleaned them out, lol! we have intimidated the deer from coming out there now since i have started letting the dog use the area around the garden as a potty place

This message was edited Sep 26, 2013 5:44 PM

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

You might try direct sowing. That way the plants don't need to acclimate. Please don't wait until next year. Lol. You have plenty of time this year still. Last year it didn't get cold until Christmas. I grow Cole crops all winter and never cover them when it freezes. I do cover or cut back my lettuce blends when a hard freeze is predicted.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

I was very happy to see your topic leucaena, as I'm having a similar topic. Except I'm in Oregon, the seeds were direct planted in full sun with no slugs(!) and they only got half an inch tall! So hey, yours sound like giants!


SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I think people named "Turtle" are very special people!

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Wow! (My DP thinks you're a smart people.)

Delhi, LA

I am glad I read this post. I wondered if I was the only one having a problem. I sowed cabbage, kale, and califlower seed with the same resuls. I usually buy my plants but I was tired of the giant hybrid cabbage and wanted to raise smaller ones. All the seed came up in about three days. they jumped to about two inchs and just sat there. Never even tried to put on another leaf. I finally got sick of them and dumped the whole mess out and bought plants. Now my cabbage are twirling and the brocoli is about knee high. Since I am kind of stupid, I'll probably try again next fall.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Bro. Jim,
Just like there's "no crying in baseball," there's "no stupid" in gardening," LOL!

The only thing you really need to remember is that Cole crops are cool/cold weather crops. Ergo, they perform better growing into cool/cold weather. If you check your 1st frost date and back that up by about 10 weeks to sow seeds, you should be fine, and your plants will not stall trying to withstand the summer heat -- especially our summer heat!

I suggest backing your sowing schedule up 10 weeks because that gives you about two weeks for the seeds to come up and put on at least 5-6 true leaves right as the air starts to get a chill. Once they feel that chill and their roots are established enough (the next 6 weeks or so), they will begin to take off like a bullet!

The final four weeks (of the 10) will see them fully established, up and running, just as the temps begin to dip down toward the mid- to low-40s, which is when they put on the suntan oil and begin the beach volleyball games!

I've been monitoring the Zone 8-9a Texas posts, and have observed that regardless of when the seeds were sown, the plants didn't really take off until right after that chill hits the air. And, if they seedlings had been in the ground too far ahead of that chill, the plants just stalled, like they were making you pay for setting them out in all that heat. Once they decide you've paid enough, they start throwing on new growth. But, I've also observed that those plants that stalled weren't nearly as robust as the ones that were planted and established closer to the ambient air "chill change".

I believe they waste fruiting energy struggling against the heat. I think (and this is just me talking) that these "water" plants need all the hydration they can get pulled through their stems and leaves to produce good, healthy heads. Cabbages, broccoli, cauliflowers, especially need to be filled with water. When it's too hot outside (again, just me theorizing off the top of my head), these plants experience high transpiration (the exchange of moisture for cooling off), just like we do when we perspire. If we make the plants throw off necessary moisture to keep cool, it has no reserve to send to the fruiting system. Just check out a too hot broccoli plant -- it actually will faint in the heat! Leaves droopy, stem flacid. It's a shame to see!

Ok. Enough waxing eloquent, here...LOL!

Ya'll lmk how you make out this season. Keep posting your progress AND your pictures, here, please!

Godspeed, and Good Harvest


Thumbnail by Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

P.S. The same goes for the leafy cole crops. I find that growing them in very bright light where there's a breeze (rather than in full on sun all day), keeps them cool and growing, too. Greens will transpire and faint too, trying to keep cool...

And, cabbages simply will NOT head properly, if it's too hot out. That's what happened to my crop this past season. Just too warm out. You know how when we're outside and we get cold, we draw our coat/sweater tighter around us to keep warm?

Well, a cabbage does the same thing -- only, it's wrapping up its leaves into a tight ball around itself -- we call it "making a head!" If it's too hot, no need to wrap up, huh?


Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Jim-DONT EVER CALL YOURSELF STUPID! It's all about living and learning. What works one yr may not work the next. If I plant my heat loving plants out when it's too cold they just sit there same with the cool loving plants.

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