Collards and kale are kissing cousins, as are turnip and mustard greens. All are hardy members of the cabbage family. Long a staple on southern dinner tables, collards are an “old fashioned” cooking green that is too frequently disparaged. While quite similar to kale, collards tolerate heat better than kale. Instructions for growing collards is the same as for kale or turnips.
Everything you can do with kale, turnip greens, or mustard greens, you can do with collards. You don’t have to steam or boil your collards into oblivion. You can sauté your collard greens with a bit of olive oil, bacon, or fried mushrooms, or toss it with olive oil and roast it in the oven for five minutes. Add chopped collards to soups and stir-fries. There are a lot of ways to cook collards that will be acceptable for any taste.
Dig two to three inches of compost or manure into the soil because kale prefers well-draining loam. The ideal pH of the soil should be 6.5 to 6.8 to discourage clubroot disease.
When to Plant
Plant collards in the spring, about six weeks before the last expected frost. Collard seeds germinate in soil temperatures ranging from 45 degrees F to 85 degrees F. You can plant another crop in early summer, especially if you live in a mild climate, or sow seeds in late summer for a fall crop. Collards are among the most cold-hardy vegetables you’ll find and actually tastes better after being exposed to frost conditions.
How to Plant
If you’re planting transplants, place them so that half the stem is buried. If you’re direct seeding the garden, sow 3 inches apart on 18 inches between rows. Water in your seeds well and feed your collards monthly with a fish emulsion liquid fertilizer like Protogrow®.
Pick collard leaves as needed, starting with those from the base. Avoid tough or yellowed leaves. You can also harvest the whole plant, if you wish, by cutting the stem just above ground level. Full maturity is reached at around 85 days, but you can begin harvesting around 40 days.
For southern gardeners, your fall sowing will give you collards throughout the spring. To protect against cold weather, mulch around the plants with chopped leaves.
Collards are less vulnerable to insect pests and diseases than other crops, but it is occasionally bothered by the usual culprits – flea beetles, cutworms, snails, cabbage loopers, cabbage aphids, and nematodes. Diseases include fungal diseases such as black rot and club root.
To minimize pest problems, inter-plant collards with other crops, such as tomatoes, beans, or herbs. Install floating row covers over your garden immediately after planting. Hand pick and destroy slugs, snails, and worms. Treat aphids with a steady stream of water or apply insecticidal soap on cool, cloudy days.