Can any Southern garden truly be Southern without collard greens? If you are from the South your Grandmother probably cooked them up with a bit of smoked meat or bacon. They are a staple at the Sunday dinner table, tasty and very nutritious. Collard greens are a wonderful fall plant because they can take the heat and the cold. For questions about any fall garden vegetable contact your local UGA Extension Agent.
August is the time for direct seed sowing. Make sure your soil is loose and well-drained. The seeds will germinate at soil temperatures from 45 degrees – 85 degrees, a very wide range. Seed heavily, putting about 2 inches between seeds, and cover the seeds with about 1/4-1/2 inch of soil. Thin to 12-18 inches between plants. The thinnings can be steamed and eaten or transplanted. Since you are planting in the summer, insect pests may be a problem for very young seedlings.
Many gardeners start their seeds inside and transplant hardier seedlings. For transplants, either raised or purchased, September is the time for planting. Transplants will adjust quicker if they are planted on a cloudy day or hardened off to the heat by keeping them in the shade for a few days. Keep the plants 12-18 inches apart. Collards are heavy feeders so make sure to add some fertilizer or compost when you plant. Nitrogen keeps those leaves nice and green. Keep the young plants well watered. Some gardeners have problems with leaf spots on their greens. Paul Pugliese’s Leaf Spots on Greens Related to Moisture could be helpful if this happens to you.
With collard greens you don’t have to worry about the first frost damaging the plant. The greens actually taste sweeter after a frost.
You can harvest greens a number of ways. You can harvest the entire plant when it is half grown or full grown. Or, you can begin taking several of the outer, lower leaves after the plants are about a foot tall. Harvesting the plant a few leaves at a time will prolong your harvest and you will have fresh greens as you want them.
Blue Max, Georgia Southern, Hevi-Crop are all recommended cultivars. Master Gardeners have also had success with Georgia Green as well. These should be available almost at any place that sells seeds. If you are fortunate enough to live near an old fashioned feed and seed store or an older hardware store, you may be able to find seeds there. Also, there are several mail order companies such as Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds that specialize in hard to find seeds.
The poet Maya Angelou is quoted as saying “The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.” We tend to agree, don’t you?