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Redbor kale receives 2005 Medallion award
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The recent cold front put a little spring in my step and gave me a fresh outlook. It is finally time to plant cool season flowers. One you may have noticed over the past couple of years is Redbor kale, a Fall 2005 Mississippi Medallion award winner.
The Mississippi Plant Selections Committee has named only a handful of fall winners since 1996. Panolas, Bouquet Purple dianthus, Red Giant mustard and Shishi Gashira Camellia sasanqua are the others on this elite list. Redbor kale is equally impressive.
Considered among the best of all the cool-season plants, Redbor is a flowering kale that produces vibrant, dark purple foliage from October or November through April, bringing the winter garden alive. I have seen it still looking good in mid-May.
These plants are native to the Mediterranean and are related to broccoli, cauliflower, collards and another terrific ornamental stock. The plants are a lot tougher than you may think -- once acclimated by cool weather, kale and cabbage can withstand frigid temperatures.
Select a site in full sun with fertile, organic-rich soil. If the planting area consists of tight, heavy clay, amend with compost or humus to loosen. While preparing the soil, incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release, 12-6-6-fertilizer with minor nutrients per 100 square feet.
Set out nursery-grown transplants 12 to 18 inches apart. In northern regions, they also can be planted in early spring. Add a good layer of mulch after planting to help stabilize soil temperatures and conserve moisture. Even though Redbor is cold hardy, completely cover it with pine straw if we have a record cold. Simply remove the pine straw once the weather has warmed.
Redbor kale needs good drainage yet must be kept moist and fed to continue growing vigorously. Pay close attention to dry, cold fronts which have a tendency to deplete significantly the available moisture. Feed with light applications of the pre-plant fertilizer every four to six weeks. During colder weather, they respond more quickly to water-soluble fertilizer than granular types. Redbor's color will intensify as temperatures get colder.
Unfortunately, the same cabbage loopers that attack broccoli can be a problem for these plants. Treat as needed with Bacillus thuringensis, an organic pest control that poses no threat to gardeners.
Redbor kale excels in beds with brightly colored pansies, violas, panolas and snapdragons. Since it has dark purple leaves it is exceptional when grown with yellow pansies or those with apricot colors. Try inter-planting with a large bed of narcissus.
Redbor kale is well suited to planting in large containers where you might place three in a triangular design. Plant a tall dianthus like Bouquet purple, the new double Dynasty dianthus or the Amazon dianthus in the center of the triangle, and then place pansies around the edges.
Even though Redbor is the Mississippi Medallion award winner and my favorite, there is a white form called Winterbor that also makes a nice companion plant.
When Thanksgiving arrives, don't be afraid to harvest some leaves for a beautiful, decorative garnish. Consider planting some Mississippi Medallion award-winning Redbor kale and a flat of pansies this weekend.