How to Plant and Grow Collard Greens

In this article you will learn how to successfully grow collard greens. You’ll also learn about companion planting with collard greens and how it can make the growing process easier. From trouble shooting to using the correct fertilizer, you’ll find it here.

Growing Collard Greens

Brassica oleracea     Full Sun ~ Partial Shade      Soil pH: 6.5 to 6.8

Collard Greens are a very popular southern dish, they’re considered a ‘Soul-Food’ by many. When I first tasted them as a youngster, I simply couldn’t understand why they were so popular.

Years later I tried some again I was overwhelmed by how fantastic they were. Not only are they delicious when properly cooked they are extremely healthy, they’re chock full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Mature collard green plants growing in the garden.

They are related to kale and cabbage and although they are popular in the south, they can be grown in northern climates as they are cold-resistant, but also tolerate southern heat.

Planting Collard Greens

Sow seeds in the early spring, about 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost date in your region. See: See Frost Dates

They should be sown about about 1/4 inch deep. If using seedlings they should be spaced about a foot apart in rows 3 feet apart.

If planting a fall crop, seeds should be broadcast 8 to 10 weeks before the first Autumn frost date. If you get a high germination rate you may need to thin them to about a foot apart.

A small, young collard green plant growing in garden.

Collard Greens perform best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.

About 5 hours of sunlight daily will produce the best flavor. Maintain a regular, uniform supply of water, about 1 1/2 inches weekly. As with most vegetables a drip system is best but not an absolutely essential requirement.

What Fertilizer to Use for Collard Greens

High nitrogen fertilizer and rich amendments such as blood meal, or composted manure can be added to the soil before planting. I usually fertilize the plants again with fish emulsion after they’ve begun to develop new foliage and also when they start forming heads.

If you use a lot of collard greens, a foliar spray of liquid seaweed extract or a nitrogen-rich compost added to the soil after each harvest is advisable. The optimal soil pH is 6.5 to 6.8. See Tracking and Adjusting Soil pH

Organic mulch such as finely ground leaves, or bark will help to keep the soil cool and moisture retentive as well as help to suppress weeds. Mulching will also help keep soil; from splashing to the leaves during watering.

Troubleshooting Collard Greens

Clubroot disease is very common – maintaining the proper Soil pH is essential to curtailing this disease – soil pH should be 6.5 to 6.8.

A. Proper sanitary practices are vital to the health of your garden. Proper sanitation can help to ensure disease-free and productive gardens.

B. Try to keep the garden free of any diseased dead or damaged plant materials. Remove cuttings from pruning and trimming and either destroy them – if diseased or send them to the compost pile. Leaving rotting fruits and vegetables in the garden is like a written invitation to unwanted pests and diseases.

C. If a diseased or dead plant part has to be cut, the microorganism that caused the problem is probably on the tool you just used. Like a surgeon, sterilize all tools by washing in soap and water – rubbing alcohol wouldn’t hurt either. If you pinch off diseased plant parts, wash hands before handling any other plants.

D. Keep Weeds under control.

E. Make sure that any compost you put in your garden is completely decomposed to prevent disease organisms that may contain, from spreading.

To prevent diseases from accumulating in the soil, refrain from planting collards or related cole crops in the same location each year. Rotate with a non-cole crop.

Companion Plants for Collard Greens

Good Companion plants for Collard Greens include:

  • Potatoes
  • Celery
  • Dill
  • Chamomile
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Mint
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Beets
  • Onions

Chamomile – Improves the flavor of cabbages and onions.

Aromatic plants deter cabbage worms

Inter-plant with Thyme as it repels cabbage worms.

Clover inter-planted with cabbage has been shown to reduce the native cabbage aphid and cabbageworm populations by interfering with the colonization of the pests and increasing the number of predator ground beetles

Bad Companions for Collard Greens

Avoid planting cabbage near, or in rotation with Rue or Strawberries.

See also Companion Planting

Harvesting Collards

When the plants are a foot tall, you can begin harvesting outer leaves. When you harvest collard greens, if not harvesting the entire head, it should be done from the bottom up, the lower stem will be made bare, giving the plant a tree like appearance.

New leaves will continue grow from the center during cool weather.

Top down view of harvested and prepared collard green leaves.

Collard leaves should be harvested when they are dark green, and still young, before they are a foot long. Old leaves tend to be fibrous and not as tasty. Start with the lower leaves, then work your way up the stem.

The leaves can also be harvested when frozen, the frozen plant will be brittle and easily damaged. Frosts improves flavor.