LOVELY, LEAFY GREENS
In the South, collards are usually planted in very early spring or, even better, in late summer for harvesting through the fall and winter. However, they can be grown in any region. They’re hardy to Zone 6, and a frost actually makes them sweeter. Collards also tolerate heat, but summer collards are not as tender as those grown in cooler temperatures.
• COLLARDS ARE EASY TO GROW, AND THEY’RE GOOD FOR YOU: They are high in Vitamin A and C, calcium, and healthy antioxidants.
Grow them from seed or from transplants (available at garden centers in early spring or late summer).
• PLANT COLLARDS IN FULL SUN, IN WELL-DRAINED SOIL. Sow seeds about ¼ inch deep, firm the soil over the seeds, and water well. Thin seedlings to about 12–18 inches apart. Tiny leaves, snipped off at soil level, are delicious in salads.
• COLLARDS ARE NON HEADING GREENS. Some varieties form a pretty, loose head in the center but also produce many edible leaves along their stems. Most varieties produce full-size leaves (12 inches or larger) after 60–75 days on plants that grow up to about 3 feet tall. To harvest, trim off leaves near the stem.
In Virginia, Ira Wallace plants collards almost any time, but she avoids high summer. “In July, every bug wants to eat them,” she says, “but in late August you can start new collards and grow them through the fall.” Wallace likes to plant collards as a succession crop, sowing seeds every few weeks so she almost always has young collards as well as more mature plants.
• HEAVY FROST MAKES COLLARDS LOOK A LITTLE RAGGED. Wallace keeps her plants looking good and is able to harvest leaves through the winter by protecting them under row covers. Collards grown under row covers also bounce back with fresh growth in the spring, producing new leaves before the rest of the spring garden really has time to become established. Row covers protect collards from cabbage worms, which can be a problem in warm weather. You’re not likely to have a problem with them if you grow your collards when it’s cool.