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Growing Collards: Southern Leafy Greens From Your Own Garden | North American Farmer

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Growing Collards

Southern Garden’s Popular Leafy Veggie

Subspecies: Brassica oleracea var. acephala

Growing collardsCollards are a cooler season vegetable green known for having a rich vitamin and mineral content. Eating and growing collards is popular in the southern United States, where it is a staple vegetable, but can be grown successfully elsewhere too.

Although collards are often considered a substitute for cabbage in southern locations, the greens can be successfully cultivated in more northern regions, due to its ability to tolerate frost.

Read on for our full guide on how to grow collard greens in your own garden.

Cultivation:

Collard seeds need to be planted directly in the ground. Soil needs to be around 45°–70°F for adequate germination to occur within 4 – 7 days.

For fall harvest, plant seeds about three months before first frost. Seeds should be planted at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch. There should be 1 inch between seeds and 18 – 24 inches between rows. The plants should be thinned to 12 – 18 inches apart once established. Seedlings that are not selected during thinning may be eaten.

Collards that will be harvested in the spring should be started inside approximately 8 weeks before last frost. The seedlings need to be placed in the ground at 1 foot intervals, with 18 – 24 inches between rows.

Plants can be left in the ground, through the winter, in milder climates with heavy mulching.

Collards don’t suffer as many pests as other cole crops. Floating or netted, row covers should be used to help protect leaves from insect attacks early in the season.

Any green part of the plant may be eaten. If plants grown with at least 6 inches between them, they can easily be trimmed at the soil level, once they are 8 – 10 inches tall. Plants with more space between them will produce larger leaves and the individual leaves can be cut from the plant when they are about 10 inches tall.  This method of leaf removal harvesting will allow the plants smaller leaves to mature to a harvestable size.

Some growers and chefs prefer the youngest leaves for their tenderness and harvest the rosette. These looser leaves can be blanched by string tying outer leaves over the head to block sunlight. Frost improves the flavor of collards.

Varieties:

Champion is a dark green compact variety, good for gardeners with a small planting area.

Georgia is known for its wavy leaves and Vates for its smooth leaves.

Flash is a hybrid that has been developed for slow bolting and early harvesting.

Pests:

Aphids a direct and steady spray of water will displace aphids from the plants. This should be done before the sun is directly overhead so plants will not be scorched.

Remove Cabbage worms manually and destroy them. Using row covers made of netting or tightly woven cheesecloth will help protect the plants from Cabbage worm damage.

Floating row covers should be used early in the season and cardboard collars should be used if cutworms are present.

Home Storage:

Although it is a traditional method in some areas it is not a good idea to store greens in paper bags. Store the unwashed greens with a damp towel or cheesecloth in a perforated plastic bag, in the refrigerator. If the towel is kept damp, greens will stay fresh for up to a week.

Greens are good vegetables for freezing. They should be washed and then blanched for a few minutes. Drop into ice water immediately after blanching. After they are drained they can be packed in airtight containers or plastic bags and will last up to 6 months.