Collards, or collard greens are a staple of Southern cooking known for the sweetness that they create after the first light frosts, making them ideal for a fall and winter garden. What most people don’t see is that collards can also handle warmth, not bolting such as spinach does, so it is possible to plant this green for a summer harvest as well.
Collard greens don’t form cabbage-like heads. Instead, the loose leaves form a ring, or rosette, much like kale does. They taste a bit like kale as well, although there are indications of cabbage in there also. They can be braised on their own, boiled with salt pork or ham and black-eyed or split peas, added to soups, or cooked like spinach or cabbage.
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When to plant: In cold-winter climates, set out plants in spring or late summer, or sow seeds in late summer (it develops best in autumn). In mild-winter climates, either sow seeds or put out plants in spring and again in late summer for a fall and winter crop.
Days to maturity: 50 to 85
Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade
Water requirement: Regular to mild
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Planting and maintenance: Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart; place crops 1 to 2 ft apart. Thin seedlings to the exact same space (use the thinnings in a stir-fry). The soil should be fertile and well drained. Do not plant in which you’ve planted other cabbage relatives in the previous couple of decades.
Maintain the soil weed free. Water less than you would for additional cabbage relatives to avoid the plant from growing too tall. Maintain your watering schedule consistent, however, to whiten the greens.
Collards are much less susceptible to problems than other cabbage relatives, but keep an eye out for aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage works and harlequin bugs. Damping off can be an issue.
Harvest: Cut off the lower leaves and depart the middle of the plant after 40 to 50 times to lengthen the crop. You are able to eliminate the entire plant at once as well.