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Gardening Q&A

Ask the Master Gardeners: November 2012

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

November 2, 2012 | 1,699 views | Post a comment

Q: What is the difference between flowering kale and the kale we eat?

A: It is the same genus and species and is genetically the same as the kind we grow in vegetable gardens to eat. The flowering version was developed by growers for the foliage colors. It is basically still edible but most cooks just use the leaves to garnish a dish.

Kale is a form of cabbage in which the central leaves do not form a head. Nurseries carry various types of ornamental kale. The three leaf types, according to Kathie Carter of the Botany Plant Sciences Department of the University of California Riverside, are crinkle edged, feather leaved and round leaved. Each kind comes with red, pink or creamy white centers. I’ve just finished planting two types for contrast around my front bed: green with white center and dark purplish green with red center.

We treat ornamental kale as an annual, but it is really a biennial. Carter suggests planting kale in full sun October through November, ten to twelve inches apart. The plants thrive in cold weather, and, if acclimatized to the cold, can withstand temperatures as low as five degrees F.

If you start seeing holes in the leaves, remember that the same bugs that like cabbage and kale also like ornamental kale. Cabbage loopers and cabbage worms can be spotted on the underside of the leaves and can be easily mashed.

Q: I see fall aster blooming by the side of road. Can I buy it in the nursery now?

A: All our area nurseries are carrying fall aster right now as it is one of the NICE! recommended plants for this quarter. NICE! (Natives Instead of Common Exotics) is the program promoted by the Guadalupe and Comal Chapters of the Native Plant Society of Texas. Fall aster (Aster oblongifolium) grows two to three feet tall and is a great perennial for this area. It freezes to the ground in winter but will come back in the spring. You need to trim the plant to the rosette at the base of the plant in early spring. Baby plants form around the outside of the base. The NPSOT recommends dividing the clumps of plants every third year.

Fall aster is very drought tolerant once it develops deep roots. After the new plant is placed in the ground, you should water well with a root stimulator. Then, for the first three months, water the plant when the top two to three inches of soil is dry.

Plants can be grown in well-drained rocky, calcareous or sandy soils in full sun. The flowers attract butterflies.

NOTE: Don’t forget to put a cutting of basil in a jar of water on your window sill before the first freeze for use during the winter.

Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, on the second floor of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin.
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