No food better represents southern cooking than dark green, delicious collard greens. With their nutritious, tender leaves, it is no wonder gardeners love growing these leafy greens in their veggie beds. Learning how to grow collard greens is something you should consider if you want to add nutrition to your diet and expand your vegetable garden.
Planting and caring for an entire plant takes a commitment. How long does collard greens take to grow? Growing collard greens from seed isn’t something that demands all your attention. This plant is a hardy grower and isn’t overly fussy about its environment.
The green leaves on this plant are celebrated in festivals in Georgia and are the state vegetable of South Carolina. Collard leaves are a must-have if you love southern cooking as much as we do, and you won’t regret taking the time to learn how to plant collard greens seeds.
- What Are Collard Greens?
- Everything to Know About Growing Collard Greens
- Collard Green Cultivars
- Managing Pests and Diseases on Collard Greens
- Preserving Collard Greens
What Are Collard Greens?
Collard greens are also known as Brassica oleracea var. Acephala. These plants are a part of the cabbage family and are closely related to Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and more.
Are collard greens and turnip greens the same? While they are similar, they are different, although both have tasty leaves. Mostly grown as annuals, collards are a biennial plant and produce loose leaves that make them less susceptible to getting one of the many diseases that these types of plants have to deal with.
Brassica plants are appreciated because of their mellow flavors and high nutritional value. Collard greens, specifically, are high in fiber, calcium, manganese, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, and K.
It is possible to lose small amounts of this nutrition during the cooking process, but the wonderful flavors make up for it.
Growing collard greens at home is ideal because they tolerate hot and cool weather, although they prefer a cooler growing season to produce sweeter leaves. These plants reach up to 36 inches in height and width. They are hardy in USDA hardiness zones six through 11.
Collard greens varieties likely descended from wild cabbages from Asia. Collard plants were eaten by Greek and Roman civilizations until they spread through the Middle East and Africa.
Over time, collard greens made their way to the southern United States and became a staple food for African slaves.
This crop has an important role in American history and has been passed down through generations to give us the collard green recipes we know and love today.
How long does collard greens take to grow? Let’s get you started on this adventure and find out how easy growing collard greens can be.
Everything to Know About Growing Collard Greens
It’s hard to figure out how to grow collard greens when you’ve never done it before. We have gathered all the gardening information you need to know and put it in one place for a guide that tells you what to do from start to finish.
How to Grow Collard Greens
It is your choice to start growing collard greens from seed either indoors or outdoors. If you prefer, purchase seedlings from a local garden center and start transplanting them in your garden when the time is ready.
The ideal time to start collard green seeds indoors is four to six weeks before the last frost or when you want to transplant them outside.
For an early spring planting, wait until the soil temperature is at least 45°F for germination to take place. For a late summer planting, find a time between the first frost and the first hard freeze of autumn for a winter harvest.
The way to plant collard greens starts with a couple of small pots and filling them with potting soil. Plant your seeds an eighth of an inch deep in the dirt and water them. The seedlings start to sprout after four to seven days.
If sowing directly outdoors, and it is still too frigid outside, you can use a cold frame or row covers to insulate the plants from light frost.
If you sow the seeds directly outside, keep spacing between each row at least 30 inches apart. Thin seedlings back two 12 to 18 inches apart as they grow.
Once your indoor seedlings are ready to put outside, or if you already have some transplants you picked up from a nursery, plant them in the prepared beds at the same depth you planted them in their containers. Space each transplant 12 to 18 inches apart and water them thoroughly.
Caring for Collard Greens
Collard greens thrive in full sun, but a few hours of partial shade won’t hurt them. However, they do have a list of soil requirements to stay happy.
Collard greens enjoy well-draining and fertile soil that is rich in organic material. Some good organic matter to add to your soil includes compost, mulch, or other natural materials.
If you plan to grow them in a raised bed, keep in mind that collard greens have deep roots that grow up to two feet. Aside from that, collard greens grow fairly easily.
They require about two inches of water every week, and you have to supplement it if it doesn’t rain. As the growing season progresses, consider scattering fertilizer next to the plants to give them an additional boost.
Grow collard greens in containers that are at least one foot deep. If you leave your greens in the ground too long, they start bolting and producing flowers. The leaves turn bitter after they bolt, and you will have wasted this year’s harvest.
If you missed your harvest date, stop watering the plants after they bolt and let the seed pods turn brown and dry out.
If you crack one open and the seeds are black, they are ready for harvest, and you have a bunch of collard green seeds prepared for the next growing season.
How Long Does Collard Greens Take to Grow?
Technically, it is okay to harvest collard leaves whenever they reach the size that you like them. This process usually takes about 40 days but could be as early as 30 days.
If you pick them while growing, harvest only the outer leaves and let the inner, new leaves continue to grow. At the end of the season, either harvest the entire plant or continue to cut off the outer leaves as necessary.
Collard Green Cultivars
There are many different varieties of collards for you to choose from. Here is a list of a few of our favorite cultivars to grow in a vegetable garden.
As an heirloom variety, Champion collards do well in pretty much any location. They produce high yields and are resistant to a multitude of diseases. They take up a lot of space and grow up to 34 inches tall.
Georgia Southern Collards
Another heirloom collard green is the Georgia Southern. It is ideal for busy homeowners because it is slow to bolt and ready for harvest in roughly 80 days. It also has an 80 percent germination rate.
Vates are a long-time favorite in the United States. These plants were developed in Virginia during the Great Depression and produce long greenish-blue leaves that are ready in 65 to 75 days. They grow about 32 inches tall.
These collard greens are a hybrid of the Vates and Georgia Southern varieties. They even have a little bit of kale DNA thrown into the mix. Be mindful if you pick this one, though, because it grows four to six feet tall.
Hybrid plants are great because they take the best qualities from one plant and mix them with the best qualities from another.
Tiger collard greens have hardy, upright leaves ready to harvest in 60 days. Their leaves regrow easily, and they are known for their exceptional taste.
Managing Pests and Diseases on Collard Greens
If collards are appealing to you, imagine how appealing they are to a considerable number of pests and fungal diseases. There are ways to keep these issues from happening but expect to see a few animals and insects hanging around these plants.
If you live in an area close to the country, you might have a deer wander into your yard.
Dear love to snack on collard greens and are smart enough to wait after a couple of light frosts to get the sweeter leaves. You might have to create a barrier or protect your veggies with row covers to deter them, or you could make a homemade deer repellent recipe to spritz in the area.
Aphids are a common problem that gardeners face when they grow collard greens. The bugs have pear-shaped bodies and suck the fluids out of the leaves of many plant species.
The smartest way to get rid of wooly aphids or regular ones is to blast them off with a steady stream of water or spray insecticidal soap.
Cabbage Worms and Cabbage Loopers
Cabbage worms and loopers are types of moth caterpillars that snack on collard leaves and other brassica plant members.
Pesticides aren’t an obvious solution to kill them, but some of their natural predators are parasitic wasps. You could also companion plant the greens with zinnias and alliums.
Black rot is a common disease found on collards, cabbage, and kale. The disease shows its first signs as dull, yellow areas on the leaves, which become brown and dry over time.
When the disease advances, it looks like the entire plant is scorched, and the veins and stems are infected with a black pathogen. Black rot is caused by high temperatures and thrives in rainy, humid conditions.
Once your crops have it, it is nearly impossible to get rid of. Rotate your crops every three or four years and make sure you only purchase certified pathogen-free seeds and transplants.
Clubroot is another disease you hopefully won’t find growing on your collard greens. Clubroot is also very common on cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. It results in stunted plant growth and leaves them yellow and wilted during the day.
Downy mildew probably isn’t a foreign disease if you have been gardening a long time. It shows up as tan and yellow spots on the upper surfaces of your collard green leaves.
It also produces a fluffy grayish-white mold on the underside of the leaves and causes them to fall off. Treat this disease with a commercial fungicide found at your local hardware store, garden center, or online.
Preserving Collard Greens
Harvesting is the best part of growing greens. One of the best ways to harvest collard greens is to harvest the outer leaves while leaving the inner ones to grow.
If you harvest just the outer leaves during the growing season, store them in a plastic bag or airtight bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge to keep them fresh for about a week. Only wash your collard greens right before you plan to eat them.
You cannot usually store vegetables in the fridge for a long time. The freezer is a better option.
A better way to preserve your collard greens is to freeze them. After you wash and dry the leaves, remove the fibrous center stem with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.
Boil the greens in hot water for three minutes and then immediately plunge them into an ice-water bath. This quick process is called blanching and helps preserve the flavor of the leaves and destroys enzymes that make them lose their color.
Wash your greens thoroughly and dry them before packing them into a freezer bag, removing the air, and storing them in your freezer for up to a year.
Cooking With Collard Greens
The best part of growing any fruit or vegetable is developing your own recipes or cooking those you already know.
Smaller leaves are best eaten raw, while the larger greens benefit from a little bit of heat. What better way to embrace your harvest than to cook some traditional southern collard greens? Note that you don’t want to use collard greens as a substitute for mustard greens as their flavors are not nearly the same.
Tear the greens away from their central stem, roll them up, and cut them horizontally into smaller pieces. Wash the bunches of greens to remove any sand or grit, and rinse the ham hock. Add the ham to a large pot and cover it with water.
Cook the ham hock over medium-high heat for 45 minutes, or the meat is tender. Stir in the greens and an additional four cups of water.
Add in the remainder of the ingredients and let the collards simmer over medium-low heat for two hours or until the water has evaporated enough to barely cover the greens.
Collard greens have one of the most important backgrounds in American history. There is no better way to honor this ingredient than to grow them in our personal gardens and cook with them regularly.
These delicious, tender greens don’t require a lot of work but have a huge burst of flavor in the end.
If learning how to grow collard greens has made you have a deeper appreciation for this veggie, share this guide for growing collard greens on Facebook and Pinterest.