Brassica oleracea var. acephala
Collards are a mainstay of Southern vegetable gardens. The cool-season leafy vegetable is a super cold-hardy member of the cabbage family. Collards tolerate both warm and cold temperatures better than cabbage – in fact, collards are often grown in areas where cabbage cannot.
• More detailed information can be found in The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Book by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing
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Because it tolerates our fickle weather, collards have long been a traditional Southern crop, and a main constituent of traditional southern cooking – sometimes the only thing in the garden to eat during the coldest part of winter!
WHEN TO PLANT
Collards are usually planted in the fall for winter harvest, but can also be set out in late winter for spring and early summer harvest. For the earliest spring production, start with store-bought transplants; buy ones that have a good green color, are short and compact, and are free of pests. For a fall crop, sow seed in mid July, and set the seedlings in the garden in late August 10; or direct seed in midsummer.
WHERE TO PLANT
Collards need a full-sun (8 to 10 hours will suffice) location with well-drained soil. (See the discussion on soils in the introduction.) They will produce in partial shade (lightly filtered sunlight or full sun for only part of the day), but the quality will be different. The leaves will be larger and floppier, and the flavor will be milder.
HOW TO PLANT
Apply a complete garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, at a rate of 11/2 pounds per 100 square feet of garden. Spade or rototill the soil. For plants that are direct seeded, thin seedlings to the proper spacing noted for transplants; later you can move excess seedlings to another row if you prefer not to dispose of them. In rows, space the transplants 12 to 18 inches apart, with 30 inches between rows. In beds, space the plants 16 to 18 inches apart, which will allow 2 or 3 plants across each bed. Set the plants at the same depth they were growing. Water in the plants with transplant starter fertilizer, such as 10-52-17 or 10-30-10, mixed according to directions on the label, and apply approximately 1 cup per plant. If root maggots have been a problem in the past and your previous crops have suffered root damage, mix an approved garden insecticide in water according to label directions, and use it as a drench as transplants are watered in. Control leaf-eating caterpillars with a biological worm spray or dust, found at most garden centers.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
These plants need adequate water, especially in hot weather, so you should provide 1 inch per week if insufficient rain falls. Pests and diseases may affect the plantings. Prevent infestation of cabbage worms with a biological worm spray or dust, available at most garden centers. Eliminate stem and root diseases by avoiding planting where cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli were planted in the past year or more.
If seedlings from a planting are thinned to about 6 inches apart and allowed to grow to 12 inches tall, harvest them, leaving 1 plant every 18 inches. Allow these remaining plants to mature. Harvest collards by cutting outer leaves as they reach full size. Some gardeners who prefer the young, tender inner leaves blanch them, which makes them tender for use in salads; blanching involves tying up the outer leaves to block the light.
New hybrid varieties are more vigorous and better adapted to Southern gardens, but some gardeners still prefer open-pollinated varieties.
Days to Maturity
Maintains excellent flavor in hot weather
Heavy yields on a small plant
Popular old-garden favorite that sweetens with frost
Champion Long Standing