How to grow collard greens. A member of the cabbage family, collard greens are more nutritious, grow better in warm weather, and tolerate more cold than most other members of the family. This makes it a superb choice for the home garden.
As a general rule, the darker the leaf the more nutritious the plant, and collard is no exception. This dark green southern standard is a powerhouse of vitamins, calcium, and fiber!
Learning how to grow collard is easy, as long as its little quirks are satisfied.
Collard needs very deeply tilled soil, as it can grow an extensive tap root. It also prefers a more sandy soil than most garden plants. It may do better in a separate bed. Carrots would be a good companion as they like deep sandy soil, too.
A raised bed would be ideal for this crop since the soil is already loose and wouldn't require such deep digging. The same effect can be achieved by gathering your loose soil into raised rows right in the garden.
Start your crop of collard greens by topdressing the soil with organic compost or fertilizer, digging it into the top few inches. Then sprinkle the seed onto the raised portions. Water gently to be sure to not disturb the seeds, and keep an even moisture level until the plants sprout.
When you know how to grow collard greens, you get get two seasons. Two crops can be had by planting early in the season, and again toward the end of summer, for a fall harvest.
The seedbed must be watered gently. Once plants have sprouted, water when needed to maintain an even moisture similar to the rest of the garden. Collard can be grown through the summer with enough care and judicious use of water.
A good organic mulch will provide protection from the sun and keep the soil from drying out, conserving water. Nutrients from the mulch will soak down into the soil when you water, and incorporate fully when tilled under at the end of the growing season.
Occasional watering with manure tea or fish emulsion can keep your collard plants from turning pale and weak.
Collard greens are ready to eat practically as soon as they have real leaves. Cut the outside leaves and leave several layers of center leaves to grow. Collard will provide a continuous source of greens in mild climates when harvested regularly. Short season gardeners may want to harvest the whole crop at once and freeze to preserve it.
Knowing how to cook collard greens is as important as knowing how to grow collard greens. Collard is full of fiber and tougher than other leafy green vegetables, so requires a longer cooking time. Boil them with shredded onions and flavored vinegars. In the south, nothing is ever wasted; the water from cooking greens is saved to make soup base or gravy, and even soaked up in bread and eaten on the spot.
To obtain more nutrients from a collard greens recipe, make a green smoothie. Green smoothies make eating greens from being a chore to a treat. Just blend fruit and your collard greens together to get a delicious and nutritious drink. You will be surprised at how you and your family will want more.
As with several other cool weather vegetables, frost adds a touch of flavor to collard.
Collard greens will grow large. Keep plants thinned so that they don’t touch. Eat the thinnings or they can be transplanted elsewhere.
For a different version, let your collard grow and form a loose head in the center. Wrap the outer leaves tightly around the center to help keep it tender. This is the same treatment used with cauliflower and is called blanching.
Cover the bed with a fine mesh fabric to keep moths from laying the eggs that turn into the worms and caterpillars that can ravage a collard patch in no time at all.
Hatch a Preying Mantis egg case in the bed to help control any aphid problems. Egg cases can be found in specialty nurseries or online.
The process of learning how to grow collard greens is the same as with most garden plants, trial and error. When you find the sweet spot, that sandy place where they grow like a weed, you'll have a plentiful source of nutritional food for your family.