What Are Collard Greens?

Brassica oleracea var. Viridis or collard greens is a leafy green biennial vegetable in the family Brassicaceae, grown annually for their large succulent edible leaves used in cooking. The collard plant develops from a thick taproot and has a thick stem and broad, leathery leaves that grow to be 4.7–14.5 inches long. The plant’s leaves are light to dark green and are plain and hard. After bolting plant produces small, greenish-yellow flowers and a flat seedpod containing many tiny seeds.

The collard greens plant can reach 40 inches high, and the mature leaves are about 9-12 inches long. The plant originates from the Medditerrain region, and it was the first time cultivated for food in ancient Greece and Rome. Today, collards are grown in many parts of the world and are widely available in supermarkets and farmers’ markets.

fresh collard greens with stem

Why You Should Grow collard greens In your Garden?

Collard greens are one of the most nutritious vegetables you can grow in your garden. They’re versatile and tasty vegetables that are easy to grow, and you can harvest them whenever you need fresh leaves for dinner.

There are many reasons for growing collard greens in your garden. They have a lot to offer, from health benefits to the fact that they’re a great addition to your dinner table. Collard greens are very adaptable in the kitchen as you can use them in any way you’d like. They can be served as a salad vegetable, as a side dish, like soups, sandwiches, and many more dishes. You can use them in place of other leafy greens, such as kale or lettuce, because collards have a milder flavor. Collards also have a high vitamin and mineral content. According to the Healthline, they’re an excellent source of vitamins K, A, C, calcium, folate, and a good source of magnesium. They’re also a great source of antioxidants. 

If you’re looking to grow something nutritious and flavorful in your garden, you should definitely grow collard greens. The fact that they grow fast and don’t need much space makes them ideal for beginning gardeners.

collard greens meal

How to grow 

Collards are a great addition to any garden because they proliferate quickly and are easy to harvest and maintain. You can grow them in containers or directly on the ground.

They are best grown in cool weather and should be harvested before the leaves turn yellow and flowers start to arise. 

This crop likes to grow in full sun and will do best when the soil is rich in organic matter and has plenty of water. A good fertilizer can boost your crop’s production and prevent pest attacks. 

Maintain healthy soil if you want a bumper crop, you need to make sure that the ground is well-fertilized, well-drained, and well-watered. In addition, you should use a mulch to keep weeds at bay or if you plan to keep them over the winter.

young collard greens in garden

When to plant

Collard greens can be planted outside in early spring, late summer, or early fall. If you’re planting collards in the early spring, it’s best to wait until soil temperatures are workable. The general rule is to plant them 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost in your area, and for the winter or fall harvest, start them 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost.

The best time to plant collard greens in cooler climates is in early spring. In warmer areas, it’s best to plant them in the late summer or early fall as a cool vegetable can tolerate and benefit from light frost but will likely not thrive if they are frozen.

During the summertime, collards can suffer from heat stress, so if the plants appear wilted and limp, you’ll need to find shade for them. Collards like full sun, but they do better in areas that receive eight hours of sun.

Sow Seeds

Collard greens are best grown from seed and can be direct-seeded in your garden ground or started indoors in trays or seed beads for transplants.

Sow seeds 0.25–0.4 inches deep in small groups of 1–3 seeds allowing 1 inch between and about a week after emergence, thin to a final spacing 12–20 inches within the row, allowing 18 to 30 inches between rows.

Keep soil evenly moist after planting. If you are growing them in containers or pots, you can thin them more tightly, but you will need to water them more often cause they will quickly become thirsty. 

collard green seedling ready for transplant

Soil and watering

Collards prefer growing in fertile, high organic matter, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0. and 7.5. They do best in cooler climates, but they can be grown in warmer weather. The ideal air temperatures for best yield growing are about 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have trouble getting the soil to hold on to its nutrients, apply compost to the ground before planting. That will provide the plants with nutrients throughout the season.

Be sure to water the greens regularly with 1 to 1,5 inches weekly. It would be best to water two times daily in the morning and after sunset during the heating summer temperatures. It is better to water them close to and around the stem than over the leaves because it allows the water to get into the roots better and prevents some diseases caused by bacteria by maintaining leaf wetness. 

Fertilizing

The main requirement for collard green plants is nitrogen. If the soil has adequate nitrogen, the plants will thrive and produce abundant yields. Collards are best grown in fertile soil, which means having plenty of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, but collards will progress slowly and have stunted growth if the ground has low nitrogen.

You should use organic fertilizers like chicken manure, blood and bone meal, and pig slurry, which are high in nitrogen will keep the soil healthy and help plants grow. According to this study publication, organic fertilizers resulted in equivalent yields compared to mineral ones. So try to use organic fertilizer, preferably one formulated explicitly for collards. Use it every two weeks to encourage vigorous plant growth.

collard greens container growth

Propagation

Collard green is a biennial vegetable that will give flowers and seeds in the second year of growth. So if you want to keep germs from previous plants, leave them for two years to mature into larger plants. The plant will start to bolt during the summer, and yellow flowers appear.

When the flowers dry out, they will leave flat seed pods filled with tiny seeds. It is crucial to collect them when seed pods are completely dry, crunchy, and brown cause otherwise, if you pick them, fresh seeds won’t start to grow later.

You can still eat the leaves when the flowers appear, but they taste more bitter than usual. Sometimes, collard will start bolting during the hot temperature in the first year of growing. If you don’t want to leave them for seeds, just cut the flower in the early growth stage. That will return the leaves to your favorite flavor, and the leaves will continue to grow.

Companion plants

Collard greens are one of the most versatile vegetables you can grow in your garden, but they can require a lot of space. Planting collards in a small place with various companion plants can help maximize your garden space. Try growing them with other vegetables like potatoes, garlic, and onions in a small garden. Some of the best companion herbs include dill, oregano, rosemary, mint, and chamomille.

Avoid planting collards with members of the same family like cabbage, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, and cauliflower cause they use the same nutrients, and the combination of these plants will result in stunted growth for all plants. It would be best to avoid plants that attract bugs and aphids, like tomatoes and strawberries.

collard greens pest control

When to harvest

Collard greens will mature in 70 to 95 days when started from seeds, and you can start harvesting when they have 5 to 6 leaves per stem. Leaves can be picked at any time then as they will regrow again so that you can harvest collards over and over again. The idea is to select one or two leaves of each plant you have to keep them thriving.

The leaves should be firm and dark green, and for the best flavor, you want to pick them before the plant flowers. You can also harvest thems by using a sharp knife to cut the stem where it meets the plant, or you can pick the leaves as you need them.

After harvesting the leaves, wash them in cold water. Dry the leaves in a salad spinner, wrap them in a towel and store them in the refrigerator. Before freezing, you can also freeze collards but blanch them (sink in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes and then put them in ice-cold water). That way, frozen collards will still have fresh flavor.

Common problems

Keep an eye on flea beetles, nematodes, cabbage pests (worms, loopers, moths, butterflies), and thrips, just like slugs and snails. Aphids are the worst pests to deal with when growing vegetables because they can cause stunted growth, reduced yields, and even plant death. Spray your plants with water early and often to keep them under control.

Flea beetles will eat collards like nobody’s business, but you can reduce them with proper cultivation and management. It is crucial to inspect leaves regularly.

Here are some of the most common disease problems to watch out for:

  • Alternaria leaf spot
  • Clubroot
  • White leaf spot
  • Black rot
  • Downey Mildew 
collard greens ready to harvest

Conclusion

In conclusion, collard greens are a versatile vegetable that is one of the easiest to grow in the backyard garden. They are an incredible source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. As they don’t require much care, they can also be grown in various climates, and you can harvest leaves over and over again. 

Frequently asked questions

How to grow collard greens from the stem?

To grow collard greens from the stem, cut the plant on the bottom and remove the leaves. Or you can buy them in the marketplace that is not cut for a single leaf as you need the base of the plant. Just pull the leaves and leave the stems intact. Now you will have a stem that looks like a root. You can dig the hole about a half-foot deep and place the branch directly in the ground. Cover with soil gently and water thoroughly. You will have new leaves in a month and after three months, you can harvest seeds from your plant.

Why are my collard green leaves curling?

There are many reasons why leaves are curling, but in general, because the plant is stressed. It is probably an environmental problem if the leaves look healthy and folded downwards. Try to give them water or shade, and the leaves should get back to normal very soon. If the leaves are yellow and are folded downwards plant is overwatered. The leaf can be folded upward, and if the young leaves are yellow, inspect the Ph of the soil. If there are any yellow, black, or red spots, it is probably caused by disease.

Are collard greens kale?

Collard greens are not kale. Both are leafy vegetables and members of the same cabbage family, but they are entirely different vegetables. Collard greens have harder, plain leaves, while kale has soft and curly leaves, and the taste is slightly bitter compared to collard’s mild flavor.

What do you feed collard greens with?

I feed my collards with chicken manure and blood and bone meal as an organic gardener. I use manure for fertilizer and bone meal to help my plants grow faster. Some farmers use pig slurry, but you can use organic liquid fertilizer specially formulated for collard greens for small gardening.