Raise Your Own Greens

Growing collards is simple and the luscious leaves of collard greens look as good as they taste.

Fresh Decorative Collards
The striking foliage of collards is a decorative choice to fill containers. Group pots to keep plenty of fresh greens at hand. Photo: Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Easy and versatile, collards have graced Southern gardens and tables for generations. A cousin to kale and cabbage, these nutritious, leafy greens thrive in the cooler weather of fall and early spring.

How To Plant Collard Greens
Depending on where you live in the South, you can plant collards in late summer or early fall. (You can also plant them in early spring.) Space multiple rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Within each row, set out transplants 18 to 24 inches apart. If you sow seeds, thin seedlings to that same distance. When space is an issue, collards also work great in containers. Some of our favorite selections include 'Champion,' 'Blue Max,' 'Flash,' and 'Vates.'

Collard Green Care
Collards like to be fed. Choose a fertilizer high in nitrogen (because you're promoting leaves, not flowers). Try Dynamite Organic All-Purpose (10-2-8). Water regularly. Deter collard-loving caterpillars, especially in spring, with a biological insecticide such as DiPel or Thuricide containing Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).

How to Harvest Collards
Use a small knife or clippers to cut the entire plant about 4 inches from the ground; the plant will send up new leaves from the remaining stem. You can also pop off single leaves by hand, starting from the bottom. Wash thoroughly before cooking. A light frost will actually sweeten the flavor of the leaves.

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