If you don’t live in the South, you might not see Collards very often; they are a leafy, cool-weather vegetable very popular for cooked greens. However, growing collards can be done throughout the country. In zone 8 and southward, collards often provide a harvest through the entire winter. You can plant them in spring and fall, although collards planted in Fall gardens are favored because the leaves are sweeter when kissed by frost.
Soil, Planting, and Care
et out spring plants 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost; in late summer, plant 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost for fall and winter harvests. Like all vegetables, collards like full sun, but they will tolerate partial shade as long as they get the equivalent of 4 to 5 hours of sun to bring out their full flavor. Plant in fertile soil because collards should grow fast to produce tender leaves. They need fertile, well-drained soil with a PH of 6.5 to 6.8 to discourage clubroot disease. To be sure about your soil pH, test the soil with a do-it-yourself kit.
Work nitrogen-rich amendments such as blood meal, cottonseed meal, or composted manure into the ground before planting. Feed your plants as they develop and each time you harvest to keep lots of leaves coming on. Since the plants produce so much foliage that gets harvested often, regular feeding goes hand-in-hand with regular harvesting.
Collards are easy to plant. Space them 18 to 24 inches apart. After planting, water and fertilize.
Collards like a nice, even supply of water. Water regularly, applying 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week if it doesn’t rain enough to equal that amount. You can measure the amount of water with a rain gauge left in the garden. Apply organic mulch such as compost, finely ground leaves, weed-free hay, or finely ground bark to keep the soil cool and moist and to keep down weeds. Mulching will also help keep the leaves clean.
Harvest and Storage
Harvest leaves when they are up to 10 inches long, dark green, and still young. Old leaves may be tough or stringy. Pick the lower leaves first, working your way up the plant. You can even harvest leaves when frozen in the garden, but be careful because the frozen plant is brittle. Of course, wash the leaves thoroughly before using them in collard green recipes because soil often clings to the undersides. Collard leaves will keep for several days in the refrigerator.