by Matt Gibson
Ever wondered how to grow collard greens in your own garden at home? You have come to the right place. In this article, we have gathered together everything you need to know about collard greens. We touch on the nutritional value and health benefits of collard greens, we break down the different varieties available to gardeners, then we provide all of the information, including tips and tricks for how to successfully grow collard greens in your garden. Finally, we let you know what pests and diseases to watch out for, and some steps you can take to prevent infestations. We even listed some links at the end for further fun and research.
Collards are a culinary staple in the deep south, and when prepared correctly, they can be the star of the show, even outshining main entrees in sheer deliciousness. Hailing from the Brassica family, like cabbage, broccoli, and many other common vegetables, collard greens are known for their large, dark-green, edible leaves. Though the southern states have taken collard greens as their own, collard green consumption did not originate in the southern US. In fact, people have been eating collards for over 2000 years, with the earliest evidence of cultivation dating all the way back to ancient Greece. Collard greens are also a fixture of the traditional New Year’s meal, along with black-eyed peas and cornbread. The greens are consumed in order to encourage financial prosperity in the coming year.
Collard Greens are also an excellent source of antioxidants, rich in vitamins K, A, and C, as well as manganese, fiber, and calcium. They also provide lower levels of many other nutrients that your body needs. Collards have long been used for their ability to help regulate the body’s cholesterol levels, but new research has shown that collards are a standout vegetable when it comes to cancer prevention. Collard greens provide nutritional support for three of our bodies systems that are linked closely with cancer prevention (detox system/antioxidant system /anti inflammatory system). Collard greens have also been found to help improve the functionality of the human body’s digestive and cardiovascular systems.
In order to get the most nutrients and health benefits out of your homegrown collard greens, be sure not to overcook them. Overcooked collard greens have an unpleasantly slimy texture, and emit a sulphurous smell, but more importantly, overcooking your collards zaps out a significant amount of the healthy nutrients that they naturally contain. Quickly steaming or lightly sauteing your collard greens is highly recommended. In short, you should attempt to limit the level of heat that you cook them under, as well as the duration of exposure to the heat source.
Though there are countless recipes online for making the perfect batch of collard greens, many of them suggest cooking them too high and too long. Be sure to find a recipe that encourages you to turn off the burners before the greens start to wilt and turn slimy. Your body and your tastebuds will thank you.
Types of Collard Greens
The best types of collards for gardeners are high-yielding varieties that are resistant to premature flowering and bolting. There are smooth-leaved types and savoy-leaved (curled, wrinkled leaves) types available. There are also tall, upright varieties, as well as short, compact plants. Both hybrid and open-pollinated species are available. Hybrid varieties tend to have a higher yield, while open-pollinated varieties tend to be more uniform in form and maturation. We recommend hybrids for gardeners looking to grow a single harvest, and open-pollinated varieties for those looking to reap a continual harvest throughout the growing season. Try growing one or more of the following selections:
Flash – The Flash variety is a high-yielding, bolt resistant hybrid with smooth leaves that grows upright and is well suited to a wide range of growing environments.
Vates – Vates is an open-pollinated collard green variety that has excellent yield, bolt-resistance, and uniformity. Vates collard plants are short and compact, with smooth leaves.
Top Pick – This variety is a savoy-leaved hybrid that is slow to bolt and highly productive.
Champion – The Champion variety is open-pollinated, short and compact, and produces smooth leaves. Very similar to vates but with a lower yield, but more resistance to bolting and early flowering.
Green Glaze – Green Glaze is an older variety of collard, sometimes called greasy collard, due to its shiny, smooth, bright green leaves. This variety is still grown today because it is slow to bolt, compact, highly productive, and resistant to caterpillar damage.
Growing Conditions for Collard Greens
Collard Greens are a cool season vegetable plant. In the south, they are planted in the late summer or early fall for a winter harvest. In northern states, they are planted a little earlier in the fall for a winter harvest. They can also be planted in the early spring for a summer harvest, but only in cooler areas (and only when plenty of water is provided during the heat of the summer, or bolting will occur).
Collard greens are not only frost-tolerant, but frost actually improves the flavor of the leaves. USDA growing zones 6 and below are ideal for a late season crop. In zones 8 and up, you will get the best crop by planting in the fall and harvesting throughout the winter.
Collard greens enjoy full sunlight exposure in most climates but will need partial shade if grown in a particularly hot area, especially during the summer. The most important environmental condition for collard greens is a consistently moist and fertile soil. They prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH around 6.0 to 6.5 with lots of organic matter.
How to Plant Collard Greens
Collard green plants tend to be rather large and need ample room to grow, and can be started by seed or transplant. Plant in rows that are spaced at least three feet apart. Thin seedlings down to 18 inches apart within the rows. Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep into the soil. Because collards can handle cool spring weather and enjoy a good frost, its best to start them outdoors two weeks before the last frost date. Alternatively, you could get a head start by sowing the seeds indoors four to six weeks earlier and moving the seedlings outdoors around the time of the last frost date.
Care of Collard Greens
Keep your collard green plants well-watered, keeping the soil moist at all times instead of letting it dry out between waterings. Harvest your collard leaves regularly by cutting off the largest leaves to encourage new growth and to allow newer, smaller leaves, more time to mature before harvesting. Harvesting regularly will keep your plants in the habit of producing new leaves in the place of the ones you took away.
Side dress the soil with composted manure or a slow release fertilizer every four to six weeks. This will keep your collard plants producing rapidly, even through multiple harvests. Add a layer of mulch to keep the leaves clean and to help the soil retain moisture.
Though collard green plants enjoy a light frost, prolonged exposure to temperatures that are below freezing will kill your collard plants. In order to continue reaping a harvest in cold climate areas, you will want to protect your collard green plants with a hoop house or a cold frame. Overwintering is a must if you plan to save seed, as collard green plants are biennial.
Pests and Diseases of Collard Greens
Though the plant’s tough leaves do provide some extra protection, collard greens suffer from the same pests and diseases as most other members of the cabbage family. Insect pests that are known to trouble collard greens include aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, cabbage root maggots, slugs, and flea beetles. Smaller pests, such as aphids, can be blasted off of the leaves by spraying them down with the water hose. Slugs and worms can be removed by hand. Organic pesticides can be used as well, but as a general rule, don’t use harsh chemicals on plants that you are cultivating for consumption.
Diseases that trouble the collard green plant include blackleg, black rot, clubroot, and cabbage yellows. Clubroot is less likely to rear its head if the soil is amended to a slightly acidic pH of 6.0 to 6.5. As diseases tend to build up in the soil, one of the best ways to prevent them is to rotate your crops each growing season, taking care not to plant collard greens, or other cruciferous vegetable plants in the same spot each year. It’s also important not to leave your collard plants standing through the winter months if you are experiencing any disease or pest problems. Cut the entire plants down to the ground after reaping the last harvest.
Videos About Collard Greens
There are lots of different collard green recipes on the internet that you can try.
This tutorial shows you how to grow and harvest collard greens:
After you harvest your collard greens but before you cook them, you will need to clean the leaves and cut them down to a manageable cooking size. This tutorial video shows you the proper way to clean and cut your greens before cooking:
Common Questions and Answers About How to Grow Collard Greens
Are collards easy to grow?
Collard greens are easy to grow, do not require a lot of maintenance or care other than weekly watering, and perform well in most climates. They fit in well and are successful in both large and small gardens, can be planted in containers or directly in the ground, and are nutritious and delicious. Collard greens thrive in cool weather and need to get as much sun as possible to grow healthy and strong.
Are collard greens man made?
Collard greens were, in a sense, made by humans in that they were created through the process of selective breeding and do not occur naturally in the wild. Collard greens, along with all of collards’ relatives in the brassica family, are the result of the selective breeding of wild mustard that started with Greeks and Romans 2,500 years ago and continued through the 1600s.
Can you eat collard greens with brown spots?
Black or brown spots on the leaves of your collard greens could be mold, so although you can save the leaf, you shouldn’t eat the discolored portion. Cut out the moldy portion, leaving an inch of extra room around it, then discard the moldy portion. Be careful not to touch your knife to or drag your knife through the moldy zone, as you could cross-contaminate the rest of the collard leaf. If you are not sure that the spots on your collards are mold, contact your local Extension office to have a sample tested.
Can you eat yellow collard greens?
Yellow collard green leaves won’t hurt you if you eat them, but they’re likely to taste overwhelming and bitter, so they’re best discarded or added to the compost pile. Collard green leaves may turn yellow if the greens are left in the refrigerator past their prime, go too long without water, lack nitrogen, are exposed to cold, or are damaged by garden pests and diseases like black rot, aphids, or fusarium yellows. The greens also lose nutrients as they lose their color.
Can you regrow collard greens?
You can harvest your collard greens and put them back into the garden to grow another delicious batch of leaves if you make sure to keep the stem attached to the leaves when you harvest. Bring the stem with leaves attached inside, wash them, and snip off the leaves so you can cook with them. Then put the stem/core in a container with some water and place it on a sunny windowsill, then leave it there so it can develop roots. Once the collard core has some healthy roots going, you can transplant it back into the garden or a container to grow more leaves.
How big do collards grow?
Collard green plants that are properly cared for can get pretty sizable—up to two or three feet tall.
How deep are collard green roots?
The root system of a collard green plant stretches down into the soil to a depth of two feet. That’s why it’s important to loosen your soil well (and deeply enough) before you plant collard greens.
How do I blanch collard greens?
To blanch collard greens for use in a recipe or before you freeze them, start by boiling a pot of water and chopping the greens if desired. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add the collards to the pot and let them blanch for 30 seconds to three minutes. When they’re done softening up, remove the collard greens to an ice water bath or rinse them with cool water to prevent them from actually cooking instead of just blanching. Let the greens drain fully before moving on to your recipe or freezing them.
Common Questions and Answers About How to Grow Shallots
Are shallots a cross between onions and garlic?
Though very similar to both onions and garlic, and a member of the same allium family, shallots are a separate vegetable with a flavor profile that is richer, sweeter, and more potent than either onions or garlic. Shallots are often described as a cross between onions and garlic and it’s no surprise that they can be used as a substitute for either vegetable in recipes. Though shallots, onions, and garlic share many similarities, they differ from each other in several ways as well. For example, shallots contain a more concentrated source of protein, fibers, and micronutrients.
Are shallots annual or perennial?
Shallots are a perennial plant which can be planted whole in the fall or winter and subdivided in the following spring.
Are shallots supposed to be soft?
No, shallots should be firm and heavy for their size. When harvesting, discard shallots that are light or dry, or soft. Soft spots on shallots are a sign of decay and any shallots with soft areas on their exterior should be pulled and tossed into the trash or compost bin.
Can I eat raw shallots?
Shallots can be eaten raw, or cooked in a variety of ways. Shallots work especially well when eaten raw, such as in dressings or fresh salads. Raw shallots are mild but flavorful, as well as highly nutritious. Raw shallots are packed full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and organosulfur compounds, which is why they have a long list of health benefits.
Can I grow shallots in pots?
Shallots are well suited to container gardening. They thrive in full-sun and dry soil conditions when grown in pots instead of outdoor beds. Whether you plan to keep your shallot containers indoors or outdoors, place the containers in a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day, and space them out six inches apart within each pot. If your shallot container is wide enough to grow rows of plants, space them 10 inches apart. Provide water when the soil is dry to a depth of 1 inch, pouring slowly over the soil surface until it begins to flow out of the drainage holes, then stop. Shallots generally need about 1 inch of water each week, but they may need daily watering in hot, dry conditions. Feed shallots by fertilizing from early spring until the bulbs begin to swell. Every week, apply a liquid 24-8-16 fertilizer product and dilute it at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon per 2 gallons of water. If using a different fertilizer product, dilute it at twice the manufacturer’s recommended rate. Save small shallots for next year’s crop.
Can you eat shallot leaves?
Every part of the shallot plant is edible. The long green leaves can be used like you would use spring onions. Shallot leaves and flowers both have a good texture for raw salads, and a nice, earthy, slightly sweet and subtle flavor.
Can you eat the green tops of shallots?
Yes, the long green top leaves can be used like you would spring onions. Shallot tops are usually harvested within 30 days and are commonly used raw in salads, or cooked in soups, stews, and stir-fries.
Can you eat the whole shallot?
All parts of the shallot are edible raw. The long green leaves are used like spring onions. Leaves and flowers can be tossed raw into salads. Shallot bulbs can be used in place of any onion. The bulbs are believed to be milder than large onions, but this seems to only be true when they are cooked, as raw shallots are anything but mild in flavor.
Want to Learn More About Collard Greens?
Burpee covers All About Collards
Gardening Know How covers Growing Collard Greens
SFGate Homeguides covers Collard Varieties
Southern Living covers How to Grow Collard Greens
The Spruce covers How to Grow Collard Greens
Iris Thomas says
North Carolina is a major collard greens producer in the US, and its climate is suitable for growing this crop during the spring and fall. If you want to cultivate collard greens in your garden, it’s best to start in either the fall (between July 15 and September 15) or the spring (from February 1 to April 30).