Collard greens are a type of leafy green vegetable, similar to kale. They make a great planting alternative to spinach if you live in a warm region that causes cool-weather leafy vegetables like that to bolt prematurely. Collards are also a rich source of vitamins and minerals including fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese, among others. Here are some tips on how to grow collard greens in your home garden.
WHEN TO GROW
Though they are less susceptible to the heat, collards are still a cool weather crop. They grow best in the fall in most regions and tend to have a sweeter, stronger flavor than spring crops. For fall crops, plant 6-10 weeks prior to the first frost of the winter for your area. For spring crops, plant 3-4 weeks before the last frost of the season.
In the hottest regions, grow collards over winter.
WHERE TO GROW
Collards are known as a southern crop because they tolerate heat but grow best in cooler regions. They can be grown successfully in every region but Hawaii. Plant them in the full sun. They can tolerate partial shade in warmer regions but need 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to really thrive and grow fast.
BEST SOIL FOR GROWING COLLARDS
Collards should be planted in fertile soil that drains well. Soil pH should be 6.5 – 6.8 for good results. Amend the soil with lots or mature compost and aged manure to encourage fast growth. Organic fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen is also acceptable. Collards are susceptible to root rot, so plant them in raised beds in areas with lots of rainfall.
Collards do best when directly sown into your outdoor garden bed. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep. Scatter a few seeds every 2 feet. Thin seedlings to 24-36 inches apart once they become established.
WATERING & CARE
Collards need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. Water them evenly and regularly, particularly during dry spells. The soil should be kept moist but never soggy.
Use organic mulch to maintain soil moisture and fight weeds.
If your collards aren’t growing fast, be sure they have enough sun and apply a nitrogen-based fertilizer if necessary.
DISEASE AND PEST CONTROL
Collards can be susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests. Do not plant them where other cole crops or brassica family vegetables have recently grown (this includes broccoli and cabbage). Be sure your soil drains easily to avoid root rot. Keep a tidy, healthy garden. Practice organic pest control to keep slugs, aphids and other insects at bay.
Harvest collards before the leaves reach more than 10 inches long. Harvest when they are young and tender, usually about 4 – 6 weeks after sowing seeds. Fall crops that have been nipped by a light frost tend to taste the best. Harvest the lower leaves first.
TIPS & ADVICE
The key to growing delicious, tender collards is fast growth. Be sure to use rich soil and provide plenty of sun and water.
You can eat young plants when thinning; don’t just throw them into the compost.
Collards will grow in a 10-inch container.
Spring harvest will end when the hot weather causes them to bolt. Fall harvest is through when the cold freezes the collards, though they will survive a few weeks of frost.
Do you have tips on how to grow collard greens? Let us know in the comments section below.