Growing Collard Greens: A Southern Staple

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People have been rising collard greens for hundreds of years on each continent. They are referred to as a staple within the US south. Tour any kitchen backyard within the south, and also you’ll discover collard greens rising there. They are delectable, simply as a lot as their vegetable counterpart kale, which has gained reputation within the US lately. 

It’s a surprise they’re so widespread as a result of they have an inclination to draw a variety of pests. But the key to rising these giant inexperienced leaves is to develop them on the proper time. Although collards will flourish in summer season, they’re much less prone to appeal to pests in winter. And because the climate cools, the flavour of collards sweetens. They’re wonderful for any of your favourite winter soups or stews. 

Maybe they make up for his or her attractiveness to pests by being really easy to develop from seed. As lengthy as you might have wholesome, wealthy soil, and good fertilizer, rising collards will not be troublesome in any respect. As a terrific companion to many different meals crops, they’ll accompany your favourite backyard meals. Old crops can even function a entice crop on the tail-end of their life cycle simply earlier than they go to seed. 

Thinking of rising collard greens your self? Well, let’s check out the necessities for rising collard greens and talk about how one can domesticate your very personal crop of collards that can final a number of seasons.  

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Quick Care Guide

You’ll be stocked up on inexperienced leafy greens whereas rising collard greens. Source: chipmunk_1
Common Name(s) Collard greens, collards, couve, kovi, haak, sukuma wiki
Scientific Name Brassica oleracea var. viridis
Days to Harvest 4 weeks to reap
Light Partial shade to full solar
Water 1 to 1.5 inches weekly
Soil Fertile, free, well-drained soil, impartial pH of 6.5-7.0
Fertilizer Full-spectrum foliar utilized weekly; slow-release upon planting; excessive nitrogen
Pests cabbage looper, aphids, cutworms, flea beetle, thrips, root-knot nematode
Diseases Alternaria/cercospora/white leaf spots, clubroot, damping-off

All About Collard Greens

Closeup of collard leaf
A closeup view of a collard leaf. Source: AlyssssylA

Collard greens, or Brassica oleracea var. viridis originate in Greece the place they’ve been grown for over 2000 years. They are a member of the cabbage household however don’t produce a head as cabbages do. They are additionally widespread in Spain, Portugal, and India. And it’s no surprise they’re a staple in Africa, with its proximity to Greece. 

Many well-known dishes from the south originate from African meals introduced over by enslaved individuals taken from their houses because of the Atlantic slave commerce. We have a lot gratitude to offer to Africans and African Americans who stored collard crops thriving within the south. Because of them, we have now wholesome, vitamin and mineral-rich greens in a number of varieties. 

Collards develop very similar to their leafy inexperienced counterparts. Light inexperienced to darkish inexperienced leaves develop in rosette formation round a central stalk. Stalk coloration ranges from mild inexperienced to darkish purple relying on the variability. Leaf dimension ranges from 6 inches to over one foot in dimension. Larger varieties are prized for his or her versatility in cooking, and are eaten in a mixture of different leafy greens, or flippantly steamed and served as a wrap. Some varieties develop as much as 36 inches tall. All components of the plant are edible, although the stalks, roots, and ribs will be robust in the event that they aren’t cooked sufficient. 

Collard inexperienced seeds are tiny, darkish, and spherical. They sprout right into a double heart-shaped cotyledon, and small immature collard leaves emerge between these. Leaves develop across the central stalk, and if left alone lengthy sufficient the plant grows small broccoli-like heads that flower into attribute brassica four-petaled yellow flowers. After flowers bloom and die, seedpods stay and burst open to re-seed the realm the place the collards develop. 

My favourite collard selection is known as Old Timey Blue, or Alabama Blue. It’s a southern collard that has been grown on the Blackwell farm in Alabama for at the very least 100 years. The leaves are inexperienced and the stalks are purple. The leaves stand up to 2 toes in size at maturity making them nice for collard inexperienced wraps. Search the web for varieties to see what works finest in your scenario.

Planting Collard Greens

Collard sprout
A really younger collard sprout. Source: paix120

You can plant collard greens by seed or seedling both in early spring, or late summer season. Grow collard greens when it’s temperate in order that they’ll final by means of the warmth of summer season or the chilly of winter. Cool climate makes collards completely happy, and their taste improves with a pleasant winter frost. 

If you’re planting collards within the floor of your backyard ensure that the soil is filled with wealthy natural materials, fertile, and well-draining. Always plant this southern crop at the very least 18 inches aside, and seek for a sunny spot. If you’re used to rising kale and cabbage, use that have as your base for collard greens rising. Collard greens develop nicely in develop luggage, containers, raised beds — you title it. They are a hardy member of the cabbage household that can thrive in nearly any space with the precise care. You can develop them simply from seed or by way of transplant. 

To plant collard inexperienced seeds, create rows in your backyard mattress about 30 inches aside. This width prevents wilts and mildews that may damage your plant. Plant collard greens  ¼ to ⅛ inch deep in free soil in early spring after the hazard of the final frost has handed, or in late summer season 6 weeks earlier than the primary frost. Plant one to 2 seeds per 6 to eight inches. Once they’ve grown true leaves, skinny the seedlings to about 18 inches aside. You can simply divide seedlings and plant them elsewhere. The identical goes in a develop bag or container. Seeds will also be planted indoors.

To transplant collard begins, wait till spring or late summer season to place them within the floor in free soil or a container. Simply take away the entire plant from the pot, loosen the roots which have shaped and plant begins 18 to 24 inches aside in a raised row in your backyard, container, or develop bag. Soil pH ought to be impartial, at about 6.5-7.0. You can even develop collards indoors in a sunny window, however you’ll have a neater time open air in direct daylight.

Care

Collard flowers
Collard flowers are little bursts of yellow. Source: Open minded in Alabama

Although collards are fairly easy-going crops, they want a variety of consideration, particularly in late spring when bugs and pests come out of their winter slumber. Search your backyard each day in hotter seasons for areas that want further love. Take notice of those necessities and also you’ll have pretty collard greens rising by means of summer season, fall, and winter. 

Sun and Temperature

You’ll discover collard greens rising in USDA hardiness zones 6 by means of 10. They are biennial crops in zones 7-10 and reseed to return again every season. I’ve chopped the stalk down in summer season leaving simply the foundation to search out it sprouting once more in fall.

Collard greens choose full solar to partial shade with at the very least 5 strong hours of direct solar per day. 

It’s finest to develop collards in a cool season, in early spring or late summer season when it’s 55-75 levels Fahrenheit. Although they’re hardy, collard greens are delicate to freezing climate and intense warmth and should be well-established to climate these excessive situations. 

Young collard crops will deplete in excessive warmth, and stunt simply in frosty climate. Mature crops can deal with temperatures as little as 20 levels and as excessive as 95 levels. If your spring is particularly heat, use a shade fabric to shelter collard begins from solar rays. Or in case your fall is remarkably chilly, attempt a frost fabric. 

Water and Humidity

Collards want a variety of water to thrive. Mine are doing nice on this unusually moist cool season we’ve had right here in Texas. Because it rained nearly daily in May, I didn’t must water my collard greens in any respect throughout that month. However, when the summer season warmth reaches triple digits, I’ll have to stay vigilant and water at the very least twice a day to forestall browning and burning of the darkish inexperienced leaves.

Generally, collard greens choose at the very least one to 1 and a half inches of water per week. It’s finest to water greens on the base of the plant to forestall powdery mildew or damping-off on tender leaves. If you’re watering by hand, in cool seasons water nicely as soon as within the morning. In the warmth of summer season, rise earlier than the solar does to water nicely after which water once more because the solar units. 

The finest kind of irrigation for rising collard greens is drip irrigation. This focuses water on the base of the plant close to the roots, stopping any injury to the leaves above. Irrigation within the type of sprinklers or misters isn’t nice for collards because the leaves are liable to illness after they stay moist too lengthy. 

Soil

Collard greens like well-draining soil wealthy with natural matter. Soil pH ought to stay impartial, at about 6.5-7.0. Since collard greens are leaf-producing crops, they’ll want nitrogen to thrive. Poor soils are usually not suited to host these greens. Planting collard seeds or begins in ready soil with good drainage is finest. Good drainage retains the fungal and bacterial ailments the leaves are liable to at bay. 

Fertilizing

Where you plant collards determines how a lot fertilizing they want. I fertilize my leaves with a full spectrum primary foliar feed weekly. This retains them wholesome and vigorous. I’ll additionally do a month-to-month soil soak with the identical fertilizer, which accommodates compost tea, sea kelp, molasses, and apple cider vinegar. If it’s been raining so much, I wait to use foliar fertilizer to forestall leaf spots and mildews. 

Since nitrogen is important for leaf manufacturing, excessive nitrogen fertilizer or a fertilizer with low phosphorus works nicely. Slow launch, foliar utility, and soil soaks are nice for collards. Apply a excessive nitrogen fertilizer to the bottom of your crops when they’re younger. If you wish to take away a plant, however go away the foundation, unfold compost over the backyard the place the plant was to replenish vitamins to the soil. 

Pruning/Training

One of the one occasions it’s essential to prune is when your plant bolts prematurely. Remove bolts earlier than they flower to maintain vitamins flowing into leaf manufacturing moderately than flower manufacturing. Simply snip the bolt about one inch above the primary progress level of the leaves with a clear pair of pruning snips.

Search the plant and take away any broken leaves that would have wilt, mildew, or leaf spot as they seem all through the life cycle of the plant. Some counsel collards ought to be staked, however that is determined by the variability. If your crops get tall, add a stake to the aspect to help your fall crop.

Propagation

If you’re rising tree collards, you possibly can take a chopping to propagate them. Most varieties, nevertheless, solely propagate by seed. This yr, I made a decision to let my collard inexperienced plant develop past harvest time, and let it flower. Once the flowers died, seed pods grew and fattened. I snipped off the pods and positioned them in a paper bag. They popped within the bag, and I separated seeds from the pod detritus. This is one of the best ways to avoid wasting collard seeds. After you harvest collards and collect seeds you possibly can plant collard greens seeds for an additional harvest. 

Harvesting and Storing

Harvested collard greens
Harvested greens will be blanched after which frozen. Source: Sarah Oh

Collards are hardy within the backyard, they usually’re hardy in storage too. Here are a couple of methods to reap collards and retailer them to share with household and associates. 

Harvesting

Once leaves attain a 6-8 inch dimension, they’re prepared for harvest. Much like different crops within the cabbage household, merely snap leaves from stems beginning on the base of the plant. Alternatively, you should use a hand device to snip off leaves. You can do that as wanted all through the plant’s total life cycle in mainly any season. You can even harvest your entire plant too. To harvest your entire plant, merely snip it on the base of the soil and canopy the foundation with compost. 

Storing

Collards will be canned, blanched and frozen, or saved contemporary within the fridge.

Canned collards will final at the very least a yr with the right seal. Please notice that these should be stress canned as they’re low-acid meals, and water bathtub canning will not be protected for many leafy greens. Those which have been opened ought to be consumed inside 5 days.

Blanched and frozen collards (that are nice in your favourite morning fruit smoothie) may also last as long as one yr within the freezer. Fresh greens final one to 2 weeks if they’re stored between damp paper towels. 

I discover it finest to solely take what I would like from the plant and use it immediately. If you might have many collard crops, canning or freezing could possibly be a wonderful answer to storing them earlier than the flowers cycle concludes.  

Troubleshooting

Young collards
Collards readily self-seed, however not all the time as you count on them to pop up. Source: rauljcolon

Grow collard greens and supply them with the correct amount of care and a spotlight and also you’ll discover coping with pest and illness issues aren’t any drawback. Several points can come up from improper rising situations, although. 

Growing Problems

Since collards will bolt if it’s too heat, they usually’ll expertise stunted progress in the event that they’re in situations which might be too chilly use frost fabric or shade fabric as wanted.

Collards that don’t have sufficient mild will develop lengthy, spindly leaves that received’t style pretty much as good as these grown in the precise situations.

Without sufficient nitrogen, collard inexperienced leaves received’t develop as shortly and will expertise yellowing. If this continues for too lengthy, leaf collapse can happen. 

Pests

These supple greens are a most well-liked vacation spot for pests within the spring and summer season months. This is why it might be higher in some locations to develop collard greens within the fall for meals, after which permit them to change into a entice crop in spring. Search your plant often for indicators of pests and also you’ll be capable of hold collards wholesome and completely happy all year long. 

Aphids and thrips are two insect pests that like to munch on the leaves of your crops. Aphids group up in colonies and feed in your crops for sustenance. They congregate on the underside of leaves and eat small holes by means of them. Thrips aren’t spherical like aphids; moderately, they’re simply as small however lengthy and skinny. They have a tendency to alter the construction of leaves as they feed, contorting them as they go. Control each with a powerful stream of water in much less critical circumstances. In extra intense circumstances, use neem oil or insecticidal cleaning soap to forestall proliferation. 

Caterpillars wish to eat collard leaves too. Cabbage loopers and cutworms are two such entities that like to feed in your leafy vegetable crops. They each go away giant holes within the leaves as they feed, in addition to their excretions. If you see holes, test for feces or eggs laid by moths on the leaves. Often these will be managed by handpicking. If the issue will not be solved this fashion, neem oil or BT can stop additional larval injury. 

Flea beetles are one other pest that take pleasure in feasting on this vegetable crops’ scrumptious leaves. They are shiny, small black beetles that soar from place to put very similar to a flea. They have a tendency to hold round in the course of the heat rising season. They go away holes in leaves the place they left off and will be managed with soapy water traps. If they infest your greens, attempt a bit of spinosad or pyrethrin foliar pesticide weekly till the problem ceases. 

The root-knot nematode can solely be seen on the root stage however will trigger full vegetable collapse if left unchecked. This pest causes galls on the roots of your collards because it chews on them. If your greens fail and the roots have small galls on them, you’re possible coping with these microscopic pests. While there are industrial nematicides obtainable, the most effective remedy is making use of helpful nematodes to fight the root-knot nematodes.

Diseases

Most of the fungal and bacterial ailments collard greens expertise come from planting too shut, improper watering, improper planting, or unusually moist situations.

In some seasons, it might be price chopping the stem of your plant on the base if the season has been too moist and downy mildew seems. Making the precise determination on the proper time can save this vegetable. Remember to maintain collards at the very least 18 inches aside. If caught early sufficient that it’s not extreme, take away any leaves with seen mildew and spray the remainder of the plant with a copper fungicide.

White leaf spot and cercospora leaf spot should be aggressively managed early on or they’ll devastate your plant, the greens round it, and probably your neighbor’s greens. Alternaria leaf spot might also trigger damping-off in collard begins in addition to leaf spot. Vigilance is vital right here within the moist spring and fall seasons. Some fungal leaf spots will be managed with copper fungicide sprays, however some can’t be handled in any respect. Severe infections might imply eradicating your entire plant and disposing of it in a plastic bag to be taken to the landfill. Do not compost contaminated supplies from plant ailments.

Brassicas are inclined to clubroot attributable to the pathogen Plasmodiophora brassicae. This illness can initially appear like nematode injury, however the galls are a lot bigger and in time the foundation will utterly rot away. This causes plant demise, and the spores of this fungus-like soil pathogen can linger within the soil for as much as 20 years. Avoid planting brassicas within the affected space for 5-7 years after discovering crops with clubroot. Dispose of all remaining root materials with out composting. Recent analysis signifies {that a} particular micro organism, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, might assist crops to withstand clubroot injury; this micro organism can typically be present in natural fertilizers with added micro organism and mycorrhizae, so test labels to see if yours accommodates it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Large collard greens
These Georgia Southern collard greens are fairly giant. Source: James Good

Q: Do collard greens come again yearly?

A: If you permit the foundation of a collard plant in your backyard, they’ll return. They’re additionally vigorous seeders that fortunately return both a couple of times a yr relying in your USDA hardiness zone. 

Q: How lengthy does it take collard greens to develop?

A: Collard greens take one to 2 months from seed to reap. 

Q: Are collards simple to develop?

A: Collards are really easy to develop! The most vital side of caring for collards as soon as they’re established is pest management and watering. They want ample water, and many alternative pests wish to eat their supple leaves.


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