If you want to add a little soul to your garden, plant collard greens. A type of cabbage, collards are a key ingredient in Southern-style foods, although these greens can also be prepared like cabbage and spinach. Collard greens taste like a combination of its cousin, kale and cabbage.
How to Grow Collard Greens
One of the reasons why collards are so popular in the south is the plant can withstand the double-whammy of hot summers and cold winters. This easy-to-grow green is a cool-season crop in our region that can be grown as either a fall or spring crop. Each collard plants grows a loose rosette of large leaves at the top of sturdy stems.
- Collard greens are grown similarly to two of its relatives: cabbage and kale. Collards like a fertile, well-drained soil. Start by preparing the garden bed by digging in well-aged manure or compost. To harvest the best collards, the plants need a good start that allows them to grow quickly while the weather is still cool.
- For a spring crop, purchase transplants from the garden center and plant them when the soil temperature is in the 60-65 degree range. If you prefer to grow your own transplants, start collard seeds indoors, allowing for at least 4-6 weeks for plants to grow to transplant size.
- For a fall crop, you can plant collard seeds directly into the garden bed, 60 days before the first frost.
- Mulch around plants with straw, dried shredded leaves or dried, untreated grass clippings. Mulch will help prevent weeds and the required weed cultivation. Collards have shallow roots, so avoid hoeing or cultivating near the soil surface.
- Keep the collard plants watered and tend them like a crop of kale A soaker hose will make it easy to water the plants while keeping the large leaves dry. When plants are 4-5 weeks old, sidedress with additional applications of a high-nitrogen fertilizer, more well-aged manure or compost.
- If plants seem to be slow to grow, encourage them with water and fertilizer. This method will also lead to sweeter and tastier leaves.
- Collards are a fast-growing crop and will be ready to harvest in 40 to 50 days. If you want the bud to continue to grow leaves for a longer season of harvest, cut the oldest leaves first. The plant will send out new leaves on the top of the stem.
- If you prefer to harvest all the leaves at once, cut the plant when it’s between 8 and 12 inches tall. Don’t let the collards linger in the garden too long. The more mature the leaves become, the more strong-flavored or bitter they’ll taste.
Plant collards with these companions:
Avoid planting near strawberries, tomatoes, beans and mustard plants.
Materials for Success
- Soil thermometer
- Soaker hose
- High-quality compost or well-aged manure
- High-nitrogen fertilizer
- Organic mulch
To learn more about growing collard greens or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.