How To Grow Lacinato Kale (Cavolo Nero)

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Real Men Sow

Lacinato kale, also known as cavolo nero (literally “black cabbage”) in Italian and cavolo nero (meaning “black cabbage”) in English, is a kind of kale that has a long history of use in the cuisine of Italy, particularly Tuscany. There are a number of other names for it, including Tuscan kale, Italian kale, dinosaur kale, kale, flat back kale, palm tree kale, and black Tuscan palm. One of the classic components of minestrone and ribollita is lacinato kale, which has been cultivated in Tuscany for hundreds of years and has been a staple crop there for ages.

Where To Grow Lacinato Kale

Lacinato Kale needs good soil, but it can grow in any soil. To get the best crop, use soil that has been amended with compost or manure in the previous season. They will thrive in full sun, but they can also grow well in partial shade.

When To Grow Cavolo Nero

Except for rape kale seeds, you should sow them in a seedbed around April or May. Kale can germinate at temperatures as low or high as 5°C/42°F. This is a huge range for any vegetable.

Place the kale seeds approximately 1.5cm (1/2 in) deep in rows that are 22cm (9in). apart. Germination takes about 10 days. After the plant reaches about 22cm (9in) in height and four leaves have developed, transplant it to its final position. This usually takes 6 weeks.

Transplanting Lacinato Kale

You should space transplanted or seeded Lacinato kale 6 inches apart in rows with rows 1 feet apart. Use a drill or a suitable stick to make a hole. A piece of old broom handle works well. The seedling plug should be placed in the hole. Water well. Kale should not be planted deeper than what they were in the seedbed. The spacing between rows is 45cm/18in and the rows are the same distance apart.

Sowing Lacinato Kale

You can sow Kale in modular trays. It will be easier to plant and establish than in a seedbed. Why?

  • Excellent crop production
  • Uniform plant development
  • Rapid transplantation with minimal root disturbance
  • This gives the plant an advantage against garden pests, diseases and weather.

Sowing in Modular Trays

A seed compost with a finer texture than standard multipurpose compost will yield higher nutrients and better results. Each section of the seed module tray should be approximately 2 inches in depth. Here’s how you do it:

Then fill the tray with compost. To break up lumps in the compost, rub your hands on the tray as you fill it. To settle the tray, give it a hard bang on your table. Make small depressions with your fingers in each cell, approximately one fingernail deep or 2 cm deep.

You should sow one seed per module. To remove any excess compost, cover the seeds with another layer of soil. Water your seeds gently. Use a small hole punched into the cap of a plastic container to water your seeds. It is much easier to clean the seed than using a heavy spray from the watering can.

To germinate, place your trays in a greenhouse, polytunnel or cold frame. In approximately 4 weeks, they should be ready for planting.

Hardening Off Lacinato Kale Seedlings

If plants have been raised indoors, they will need to adjust to outdoor temperatures and conditions before being planted outdoors. This can take anywhere from a week to ten days, depending on the weather.

A mini greenhouse or cloche is the best option. The cloche can be removed from the plants when it is dry and frost-free, then replaced at night. Gradually increase your time without the cloche until you can take it off at night.

You don’t need the cloche if the weather is warm. Instead, move the plants outside for longer periods of time each day. You will need to keep your seeds in an unheated area for at least a day if you started them on a windowsill. Then, move outside to the cloche.

General Care Guide for Cavolo Nero

These vegetables require little care as they are among the most durable and disease-resistant of all vegetables. Yellowing leaves around the plant’s base should be removed. 

Regular hoeing will keep weeds under control. Winter winds will not be an issue for kale varieties that are small (see curly/crinkly kale to right).


Lacinato Kale has a 60cm spacing between plants, and a 50 cm space between rows. Before transplanting, water your seedlings thoroughly for at least an hour. Make a hole in your soil to plant the seedling. Don’t dig too deep into the soil. To make contact with the soil, push the soil around the roots with your fingers.

After planting, water the plants but don’t soak them. It is better to plant the plants on a sunny day or in the evening, to avoid the plants from wilting on hot and dry days.


You can water Lacinato kale even if it is dry, but it is more resilient than other brassicas.


A sprinkle of poultry manure will be beneficial for Cavolo Nero. Seaweed-chicken manure pellets from ‘Seamungus” are a great source of nitrogen that will work well with leafy plants like Lacinato kale. A liquid seaweed feed is a great way to give your plants a boost.


To control weeds and stimulate plant growth, hoe regularly. The oscillating stirrup hone is one of the most useful gardening tools. This is a classic tool that works well and is very efficient.

Hoeing is not only a great way to remove weeds, but it also helps create a fine texture (or ’tilth’). Good tilth allows air and moisture to penetrate the soil. This increases microbial activity, which feeds nutrients into the roots of your plants.

Removing dead leaves

You should remove any yellow or discoloured leaves as they could be carriers of disease that can spread to your crop.

Pest and Disease Control of Lacinato Kale

Cavolo Nero is not as afflicted by the common brassica diseases and pests, but it does suffer from them to a lesser degree.

Although I don’t mean to discourage you, there are some things that you should be aware of once you have planted your seedlings. Sprouts are part of the Brassica or cabbage family, so the same diseases and pests that affect cabbage can also be applied to them. Preventive medicine is always better than curative.

Cabbage root fly

A cabbage root fly looks a lot like a house fly. It lay its eggs at the base of cabbage seedlings. The eggs hatch into maggots that burrow down to eat the new roots.


The young plants will eventually stop growing and begin to wilt. The leaves will turn a blue-green colour. You will find white maggots in the roots.


Covering your calabrese in micromesh (bio net) is the best organic way to control it. This will stop the fly from laying eggs. To prevent the fly from getting inside, make sure that the net is closed all around.

Cabbage collars can be made from carpet underlay or roofing felt. The collars cover the soil around the base of plants and prevent the root fly from laying eggs around it.


These microscopic worms, which are naturally occurring in the soil, attack the larvae of the cabbage root fly. You’re only increasing the number of nematodes in your garden soil. This product is non-toxic and safe to use around children and pets. 

Cabbage White Caterpillars

Your plants will be reduced to a skeleton by the caterpillars of a cabbage white butterfly within a few days. It’s important to keep an eye on them. Keep an eye out for yellow eggs under the leaves. It is much easier to remove eggs than caterpillars, so it’s well worth the effort. The caterpillars shown in the photo are young caterpillars. They will grow larger and cause more damage if they are allowed to.

Cabbage Whitefly

The cabbage whitefly, also known as the cabbage greenfly, is an aphid. Although it is not as troublesome as other cabbage pests, it is worth watching. You’ll find the adults on the undersides of the leaves. Honeydew is a sticky substance that they produce, which can lead to gray mould.

As aphid eggs may be hiding in the leaves, remove any yellowing ones. With a strong spray of water, you can wash away whitefly and honeydew as well as gray mould.


Clubroot is one the most difficult diseases to manage in the garden. However, it can be managed with the right precautions. Clubroot is unlikely to enter a vegetable garden if it’s your first. However, you can stop it from entering your garden. If clubroot gets into your garden, it can live for up to nine years in the soil. Brassicas are the only cabbage family members that can be grown.

Infected plants or walking on infected soil can spread the disease to your garden. It is unlikely that you will get the disease in an isolated garden, but you should be careful with established allotments.


Poor growth, with wilting green leaves. You’ll find a swollen, deformed root with a foul-smelling odor if you pull it up. The roots may have disintegrated into a slimy pulp in more advanced cases.


If clubroot is an existing problem, it’s worth looking for resistant varieties. You’ll have to accept it. You should not compost your brassica roots. Instead, you should burn them. Do not sow brassica family green muck. (Mustard, Rape) Your plants can be started in modules. I recommend it anyway.

Lime the soil in the Autumn before to make it alkaline. (Clubroot loves acid conditions). As clubroot prefers to grow in wet conditions, plant in raised beds.

Harvesting Lacinato Kale

They produce a crop from late September through early May. The bottom leaves should be removed first. The top will grow new leaves and continue to produce more. The bitter taste of mature, larger leaves can be a problem so you should get rid of them and put them in the compost bin

This will encourage the plant to grow more tender, young leaves. Kale should be harvested when it is needed, as it doesn’t keep well in the refrigerator.

While you can pick a lot of leaves at once, make sure that only 8 are left to give the plant enough energy to continue growing. With a sharp downward tug, pull the leaves from the plant. To keep your plant healthy, remove any damaged or yellow leaves. The Lacinato Kale will grow taller as it is harvested. To prevent the stems from blowing in winter winds, you should earth them and then tread in.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.