This leafy green seems to be in gardens year-round but is at its best in spring and fall during cool weather. Early spring plantings produce edible leaves right through summer if watered and fertilized, and if insects are controlled.
They are easy to grow, productive and well suited to either large or small gardens. They also need a deep soil that is well drained and well prepared. Collards do not form heads and are grown for their leaves. They are a member of the cabbage family.
Vates—standard older variety for overwintering; good resistance to bolting; low-growing, compact.
Georgia LS—spring and summer planting not recommended for overwintering.
Blue Max—hybrid; slightly savoyed, large leaves that extend down the petioles; blue-green color; mild taste; upright, vigorous, compact plant.
Champion—Vates type with longer standing ability.
When to Plant
Collards do best if started from transplants. This adds 4 to 5 weeks to the harvest season. Plant the transplants into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. In mild winter areas set transplants in the garden a couple of months before the first frost. Well established plants will tolerate frosts and some freezing weather, often providing delicious harvest through winter in mild climates.
Spacing & Depth
When planting seed, make a shallow furrow about 1/2 inch deep down the center of the bed. Scatter the seed lightly in the furrow. With a little practice the seed can be scattered easily by tapping the edge of the open seed packet lightly with your fingers. One teaspoon of seed plants about 30 feet of row. Cover the seed about 1/4 inch with loose soil or compost. Then sprinkle with water. The plants should come up in 6 to 12 days. However, the colder the soil, the slower the seeds will sprout.
Collards are relatively heavy feeding plants and require side-dressing with a nitrogen fertilizer. The most popular old varieties, Georgia LS (long standing) and Vates, are both relatively slow to go to seed. Vates is the preferred variety for overwintering.
The roots of the collard plant easily reach depths of 2 feet or more. Cultivate the soil as deeply as possible before planting -- at least 10" deep. This loosens the soil so small feeder roots can grow more easily. Add compost and plenty of organic matter. Just before planting, scatter a complete garden fertilizer such as over the planting area. It is best to fertilize according to recommendations from a soil test. If you don't have test results, apply 2 or 3 of 10-10-10 for each 100 square feet or about 1 cup for each 10 feet of row. Or apply organic fertilizer according to label directions.
Some gardeners prefer to harvest the large, mature lower leaves, leaving young leaves and the growing bud to produce more leaves for later harvests. Other gardeners harvest leaves from young plants by cutting them from the plants, leaving the growing buds to produce leaves for later harvests. Collard seeds are sometimes planted in May, June, or July for summer transplants and fall harvest.
Major insect problems are aphids and leaf-eating worms. Larvae of cabbage loopers and imported cabbage moths are serious pests in late spring, summer, and early fall.