Collard Greens –
As beautiful as they are delicious, kale, collards, flowering cabbage, and the other vegetables in this group derive from Brassica oleracea, a fleshy-leaved short-lived perennial from the coastal areas of western and southern Europe. They are typically grown as annuals.
Plants in this group have open rosettes (rather than closed heads) of large, fleshy, waxy, edible leaves. Ornamental kales and ornamental cabbages bear many-leaved, chrysanthemum-like rosettes on short stems, whereas collards and culinary kales bear leaves individually on long stout stalks. Plants may produce sprays of four-petaled lemon yellow flowers on tall stems in spring or summer. Some cultivars are highly ornamental and may have pink, purple or variegated leaves that are sometimes deeply lobed, ruffled or curly.
These cool weather crops prefer full sun and fertile, organic-rich garden soil with ample drainage. Most are sown in the chill of early spring or in fall several weeks before first frost. Many taste better if harvested after frost. Tender young leaves can often be harvested for salads a month or so after sowing. Leaves typically mature about 2 months after sowing. Tougher and zestier than many other cabbage greens, mature leaves are usually best steamed or sauteed.
These wonderful, variable vegetables are generally easy to grow. Ornamental selections are beautiful in fall gardens and containers. They make ideal companions to asters, pansies and mums in the autumn garden, and violas and spring bulbs in late winter and spring. Tolerant of subfreezing temperatures, they will perish in severe cold. Ornamental cabbages and kales do best in cool weather, otherwise forming leggy relatively drab plants.
Winchester Gardens generally stocks this item.
Annual – Edible
White, Red, Purple, Blue Green, Gray Green, Dark Green
Plant collards in full sun, in well-drained soil high in organic matter with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.
For a spring crop, sow collard seeds directly in the garden 3 weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow seeds ½ inch deep and 3 inches apart. When seedlings are a few inches high, thin to 6 inches apart; as plants grow, thin to 12 to 18 inch spacing so they have plenty of room to develop. To get a jump on the season, you can start collards early indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost date, moving hardened-off seedlings to the garden about 2 weeks before the last frost.
Tolerant of cool conditions, collards make a good fall crop in many parts of the country. Sow seeds in late summer or early fall, about 10 weeks before the first expected fall frost date. In warmer parts of the country, late summer and fall sown collards can be harvested through the winter and into the spring.
The secret to tender, succulent collard greens is rapid, even growth. Keep soil moisture consistent for the sweetest crop; mulch will help to conserve moisture and keep down weeds. Add a complete organic fertilizer before planting and sidedress with fish emulsion monthly to provide the nitrogen needed for quick growth.
Collards are prone to many of the same pests that trouble other cabbage family members, although not usually to the same degree. Place floating row covers over the seedbed or transplants to keep pests such as cabbageworms, aphids and flea beetles at bay.
Pick leaves as needed, harvesting the outer leaves first. Leave the central bud or growing point intact so the plant will continue to produce new leaves. Collards withstand moderate frosts, but a hard freeze may damage the leaves. At the end of the growing season you can harvest the whole plant at once.
Beet, celery, chard, cucumber, lettuce, onion, potato, spinach. Chamomile and garlic improve growth and flavor.