When to plant greens?

Quick Guide to Growing Collards

  • Plant collard greens in spring 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost. These plants will grow well in raised beds, containers, and in-ground gardens.
  • Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in an area with full sun and fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8.
  • Improve your native soil by mixing in several inches of compost or other rich organic matter.
  • Collards do best with an even supply of water. Be sure to give them 1 to 1.5 inches of water weekly.
  • Collards are fast growers and producers, so it’s essential to feed them regularly with a water-soluble plant food.
  • Add a 3-inch layer of mulch made from organic material to keep soil moist and prevent weeds.
  • Harvest the young leaves of collard greens when they are dark green and 10 inches long.

Soil, Planting, and Care

For faster results and a better chance at success, start with vigorous young Bonnie Plants® collards instead of with seed. Bonnie has been growing plants for home gardeners for over a century, so you know you can rely on us.

Set out spring plants 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost; in late summer, plant 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost for fall and winter harvests. Like all vegetables, collards like full sun, but they will tolerate partial shade as long as they get the equivalent of 4 to 5 hours of sun to bring out their full flavor. Plant in fertile soil because collards should grow fast to produce tender leaves. They need fertile, well-drained soil with a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8 to discourage clubroot disease. To check your soil pH, test the soil with a do-it-yourself kit or one you can get from your regional Cooperative Extension office. If that’s too complicated, forget the testing and simply improve your existing soil with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil, which is enriched with aged compost to create an excellent growing environment for plant roots.

If you plan to grow collards in a raised bed, fill the bed with organic Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil, a special soil mixture designed to have just the right weight and texture for raised bed growing. For containers, use Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix to help collards grow vigorously.

Great soil is only one-half of the equation that equals strong, thriving plants. The other half is premium quality plant food. Feed your plants with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition throughout the growing season (follow label directions!) to keep lots of leaves coming on. Since the plants produce so much foliage that gets harvested often, regular feeding goes hand-in-hand with regular harvesting.

Collards are easy to plant. Space them 18 to 24 inches apart. After planting, water and fertilize.

Collards like a nice, even supply of water. Water regularly, applying 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week if it doesn’t rain enough to equal that amount. You can measure the amount of water with a rain gauge left in the garden. Apply organic mulch such as compost, finely ground leaves, weed-free hay, or finely ground bark to keep the soil cool and moist and to keep down weeds. Mulching will also help keep the leaves clean.

Tips On How To Grow Collard Greens

Growing collard greens is a southern tradition. The greens are included in the traditional New Year’s meal in many areas of the South and are a great source of vitamins C and Beta Carotene, as well as fiber. Learning how to grow collard greens provides an abundant supply of this dark-green, leafy vegetable at other times of the year.

When to Plant Collard Greens

Collard greens are a cool season vegetable and are often planted in late summer to early autumn for winter harvest in the south. In more northern areas, collards may be planted a little earlier for fall or winter harvest.

Collards are frost tolerant, so growing collard greens in USDA growing zones 6 and below is an ideal late season crop. Frost actually improves the flavor of collard greens. Collard greens planting may also be done in early spring for a summer harvest, but adequate moisture is necessary for collards greens growing successfully in summer heat. A member of the cabbage family, collard greens growing in the heat may bolt.

How to Grow Collard Greens

The best collard greens growing environment is one with moist, fertile soil. The area chosen for collard greens planting should be in full sun. Plant seeds in rows at least 3 feet apart, as growing collard greens get large and need room to grow. Thin seedlings to 18 inches apart for adequate room in the rows. Include the thinned seedlings in salads or coleslaw for a tasty addition to these dishes.

Harvest collard greens growing in summer before bolting can occur. While 60 to 75 days is an average harvest time for growing collard greens to reach maturity, the leaves can be picked at any time they are of edible size from the bottom of the large, inedible stalks. Knowing when to plant collard greens leads to the most productive crop.

Pests of growing collard greens are similar to those of other members of the cabbage family. Aphids may congregate on new succulent growth and cabbage loopers may eat holes in the leaves. If aphids are spotted, keep an eye on the underside of the leaves of collard greens. Learn how to control pests on collard greens to prevent damage to your crop.

Whatever your location, get some collard greens growing in the vegetable garden this year. If planted at the right time, growing collard greens will be an easy and worthwhile gardening experience.

Kitchen Garden Seeds

Gardening Tips

Gardening Tips: Hail to the Hardy Greens
Most garden greens can hardly wait for cool weather to come. They perk up and sweeten up as the mugginess of August fades away. Crops such as Spinach, Arugula, Claytonia and Mâche, if protected by a cold frame or simple unheated greenhouse, survive the winter in cold climates, to be cut and re-cut for a continuous harvest. Sow them in September in the north, October in warmer parts of the country. They do best hunkering down, close to the earth. Lettuce and Endive over-winter best when cut at baby leaf size rather than full-sized heads.

Kale, Collards and Brussels Sprouts fare better if grown to full size and left outdoors to soldier on as long as they can, since they do not re-grow if cut back in winter. We can often harvest them for our Christmas table, even in snowy Maine.
Southern Greens Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth:1/4”-1/2”
Row Spacing:18”-30”
Plant Spacing:1”-2”
Days to Germination:6-14 days
Germination Temperature:45°-75°F
Southern Greens prefer cool weather, although Collards are tolerant of summer heat. Direct-sow outdoors in the early spring as soon as the soil can be worked or in the late summer for fall harvest. They can be started as transplants 6 weeks before setting out in full sun and rich, well-draining soil. Add organic compost and/or well-rotted manure as needed. Keep the seed bed moist and weed free. Once seedlings are 4″ tall, thin Mustard plants to 8″ apart and Collard plants to 12″ apart for full-size plants. Water regularly and fertilize as needed with kelp, fish emulsion or seaweed fertilizer. Harvest individual outside leaves without disturbing the plant’s growing point, or harvest the whole plant by cutting it off 1″ above soil level: they may resprout. Avoid planting any Brassica in the same area until four years have passed.
Hail to the Hardy Greens
Most garden greens can hardly wait for cool weather to come. They perk up and sweeten up as the mugginess of August fades away. Crops such as Spinach, Arugula, Claytonia and Mâche, if protected by a cold frame or simple unheated greenhouse, survive the winter in cold climates, to be cut and re-cut for a continuous harvest. Sow them in September in the north, October in warmer parts of the country. They do best hunkering down, close to the earth. Lettuce and Endive over-winter best when cut at baby leaf size rather than full-sized heads.
Kale, Collards and Brussels Sprouts fare better if grown to full size and left outdoors to soldier on as long as they can, since they do not re-grow if cut back in winter. We can often harvest them for our Christmas table, even in snowy Maine.
Shade Tolerance
Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

Quick Guide to Growing Turnip Greens

  • Plant your fall turnip greens from late August to October; for a spring crop, plant 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost.
  • Space these easy-to-grow greens 6 inches apart in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Give your native soil a hand by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
  • Leafy vegetables need consistent water to produce delicious, tender leaves; use a soaker hose or drip irrigation to keep plants happy and hydrated.
  • Keep turnip greens fed by giving them a water-soluble fertilizer regularly.
  • For the best flavor, wait to harvest turnip greens until evening temperatures dip into the 40s or below.

Turnip greens are easy to grow in any well-drained soil. Set out turnip green plants 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring and from late August to October for a fall crop in most areas. In zones 9 and 10 they can be planted throughout fall and winter.

Like collards, kale, and other greens, turnip greens need to grow fast to produce nice, tender leaves. They aren’t too fussy about soil, growing well in a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8, and doing okay even in poor sandy soil. Ideally, though, you should enrich the ground with compost or aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil before setting out plants to improve soil texture and nutrition.

Set plants 6 inches apart, and do not try to thin or separate seedlings if there are several in the container. Turnip greens don’t mind growing in small clumps as long as each little group has ample elbow room. Although they are a variety that will make turnips, don’t expect great roots from crowded plants. They are sown with just the leaves in mind.

Turnip greens need steady water in order to thrive, so keep them watered during typically dry fall weather. Pull any weeds that appear in your turnip patch. For best results, feed them with a water-soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition. This plant food works in harmony with In-Ground Soil to provide just the right nutrition to fuel more growth as you harvest leaves.

Joseph Masabni, Assistant Professor and Extension Horticulturist, The Texas A&M University System

Turnips and mustards, members of the cabbage family, are cool-season crops. They must be grown in the cool temperatures of early spring and fall.

Mustard is grown only for the leaves. Turnip is a dual purpose crop—the leaves are used for greens, and the root is cooked similar to potatoes and beets. When cooked properly, mustard and turnip greens are high in minerals and vitamins A and C.


Turnips can be used either for greens or for roots. A variety developed for root production can be harvested for greens. However, a variety developed for greens may not produce a good root. Mustard varieties can be broadleaved or curled. Broadleaved mustard has a wide, flat leaf. Curled leaf mustard produces narrow, wrinkled leaves like those of spinach.

Curled mustard will stand colder temperatures and can be grown later into the winter than can broadleaved mustard. Some gardeners do not like curled mustard because it is hard to wash sand and dirt from the wrinkled leaves. A well-mulched garden usually does not have this problem.

Site selection

If possible, plant mustard and turnips in full sun. For best production, they also need well-drained soil.

Mustard works well as a border to a flower bed or sidewalk (Fig. 1). Both the broadleaf and curled leaf varieties are attractive and add green to a flower bed. Mustard and turnip greens are also easily grown in window boxes and containers on an apartment balcony or patio.

Figure 1. Mustard can be planted as a border to a flower bed or sidewalk.


Plant turnips and mustards as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. The seeds will sprout if the soil temperature is 40 degrees F or higher.

For a fall crop, start planting 8 to 10 weeks before the first expected frost. In South Texas and coastal areas, turnips and mustard grow well all winter. Bed the soil into ridges 6 to 8 inches high and 18 to 24 inches apart (Fig. 2). Allow the ridges to settle, or pack them before planting. Just before planting, drag the top from the ridges with a rake or hoe to widen the planting bed to 8 to 10 inches (Fig. 3).

Figure 2. Make ridges 6 to 8 inches high and 18 to 24 inches apart in the soil.

Figure 3. Before planting, widen the planting bed to 8 to 10 inches by dragging the top from the ridges with a rake or hoe

If the ridges have been made 3 feet apart for planting other vegetables, plant two rows of mustard and turnips on each ridge. You can plant one row of seeds down each side of the ridge.

Plant the seeds in moist soil. This is vital for fall crops. Cover the seeds lightly with soft soil or compost; then sprinkle the row with water to speed sprouting. When planting a fall crop, cover the seeds with sand or light-colored mulch to keep the row cool.

Sprinkle the row regularly with water to prevent soil crusting until the small plants break through. Under good conditions, most of the plants should be up in 3 to 7 days.

To have a continuous supply of fresh, tender mustard and turnip greens, make two or three plantings 10 days apart.

Figure 4. Scatter 2 to 3 pounds of complete garden fertilizer such as 10-20-10 over each 100 square feet.


Before planting mustard or turnips, till the soil then scatter 2 to 3 pounds of complete garden fertilizer such as 15-5-10 over each 100 square feet (Fig. 4). If only one row is to be planted, use 1 cup of fertilizer for each 10 feet of row (Fig. 5.) Phosphorus, the middle number on the fertilizer bag, is especially needed to grow good turnip roots.

Figure 5. If you are planting only one row of mustard or turnips, use 1 cup of fertilizer for each 10 feet of row.

Keep the plants free of weeds, especially when they are small. Pull the weeds by hand or use a hoe, but do not cut too deeply with the hoe, or you may cut of the some crop roots.

When the plants become crowded in the row, thin the row by pulling some plants. Small plants of both turnips and mustard make delicious greens. Thin the mustard plants until they are about 6 inches apart (Fig. 6). Leave the turnips 3 to 4 inches apart; remember that overcrowding prevents the turnip roots from developing.

Turnips and mustards need adequate nitrogen to develop a dark green color. When the plants are 4 to 5 inches tall, apply ½ cup of fertilizer for each 10 feet of row. Spread the fertilizer beside the plants, mix it lightly with the soil and water it into the soil. If the soil is sandy and the season is wet, apply more fertilizer later.

Figure 6. Keep turnips 3–4 inches apart; overcrowding will prevent their roots from developing.


Many insecticides are available at garden centers. Sevin is a synthetic insecticide; organic options include sulfur and Bt-based insecticides. Sulfur has also fungicidal properties and helps in controlling many diseases.

Before using a pesticide, read the label and always follow cautions, warnings, and directions. Because greens are harvested often, be sure to follow the waiting periods for pesticides.


Diseases on turnips are most severe in cloudy, damp weather. Check the plants daily; if diseases appear, treat the plants with an approved fungicide. Neem oil, sulfur, and other fungicides are available for use. Always follow label directions.


Mustard and turnip greens are good until the weather gets hot. Too much heat causes them to be tough and strong flavored. Harvest mustard greens when they are young and tender. Cut the large outer leaves and leave the inner leaves to continue growing. You can also cut and use the entire plants.

Most turnip varieties produce greens in 40 days. Turnip roots generally take 50 to 60 days to produce. Harvest turnip greens by pulling the entire plant when the leaves are 4 to 6 inches long (Fig. 7a.) Turnip roots can be harvested when they are 2 to 2½ inches in diameter (Fig. 7b). If left longer they will get tough and stringy.

The ideal size of turnip roots harvested for bunching is 2 inches in diameter. If you want to top the turnip roots, the bigger roots that are 3 to 4 inches in diameter are best suited for this method. Both mustards and turnips lose quality and go to seed quickly when days become long and hot. Do not leave them too long.

Unused leafy vegetables make good additions to a compost pile. They break down quickly and can be turned into the garden soil.

Figure 7a. Harvest turnip greens by pulling the entire plant when leaves are 4 to 6 inches long.

Figure 7b. Harvest turnip roots when they are 2 to 2½ inches in diameter.


Greens can be stored several days in closed plastic bags in the refrigerator. Turnip roots will keep several weeks in a cool, humid area such as a root cellar or the bottom of the refrigerator.


Cook greens only until they are tender. Use only the water that remains on the leaves after washing them. For more information on how to prepare and serve mustards and turnips, contact your county Extension agent.

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View this publication in Spanish: Cómo cultivar Nabo y Mostaza

Purchase this book: Easy Gardening in Texas

By: Joseph Masabni

Collards are one of the most nutritious vegetables. They are low in calories and high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Although they are a member of the cabbage family, collards do not form heads. They are grown for their leaves.

Collards tolerate more heat and cold than most other vegetables grown in Texas. They are easy to grow, productive, and well suited to either large or small gardens. Collards grow best in cool weather and need as much sunlight as possible.

Soil preparation

Collards need a deep soil that is well drained and well prepared. The roots of a collard plant easily reach depths of 2 feet of more. Dig the soil as deep as possible or at least 10 inches. This will loosen the soil so the small feeder roots can grow more easily.

Before planting, remove rocks and large sticks from the soil; then spade it over to cover the plant material on the soil surface. Allow time for the material to begin rotting.

If the soil is mostly clay or light sand, add organic matter. A 4-inch layer of compost is enough. Spread the compost over the planting area before digging.

Just before planting, scatter a complete garden fertilizer such as 10-10-10 over the area you will plant. Use 2 or 3 pounds for each 100 square feet, or about 1 cup for each 10 feet of row. Use a rake to mix the fertilizer 3 to 4 inches into the soil.

Work the soil into ridges that are 6 to 8 inches high and at least 36 inches apart (Fig. 1). This brings the fertilizer under the row, where the plants can reach it easily. The ridges also allow water to drain away from the plant roots.

Figure 1. Work the soil into ridges that are 6 to 8 inches high and at least 36 inches apart.


Collard varieties suitable for growing in Texas include Blue Max, Champion, Flash, Georgia LS, Georgia Southern, Top Bunch, and Vates.


Collards can be started from transplants or from seeds sown directly in the garden. Transplants usually are used for the spring crop. They add 4 to 5 weeks to the growing season because they can be grown indoors before the weather is warm enough to plant the seeds outside. Collard seeds sprout when the soil temperature reaches 45 degrees F.

Move the transplants into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring; in most of Texas, this is in February or March. Set the plants in the soil at about the same depth as they were grown indoors. Space them 18 to 24 inches apart in the row (Fig. 2). Water the plants after transplanting.

When planting seeds, make a shallow furrow about ½ inch deep down the center of the bed. Scatter the seeds lightly in the furrow. With a little practice, you can easily scatter the seeds by using your fingers to lightly tap the edge of the open seed packet. One teaspoon of seed will plant about 30 feet of row.

Cover the seeds with about ¼ inch of loose soil or compost; then sprinkle them with water. The plants should come up in 6 to 12 days. However, the colder the soil is, the more slowly the seeds will sprout.

For a fall crop, plant the seeds in the garden about 80 days before frost, which corresponds to August or September in most areas of Texas. Seed them heavily and then thin them.

Figure 2. Space collard plants about 18 inches apart.

Care during the season

After the plants have sprouted, let them grow until they get about 4 to 6 inches tall or become crowded in the row. Then thin the plants gradually until about 18 inches remain between them. Crowding causes the leaves to be smaller and less green.

The young plants can be either transplanted to another spot or used as greens (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Thinned plants can be either transplanted to another spot or used as greens.


Scatter 1 cup of garden fertilizer beside the plants for each 30 feet of row, about 1 tablespoon per plant. This is called side-dressing. Mix the fertilizer lightly with the soil, and water.

The plants may need to be sidedressed again in 4 to 6 weeks if they become pale and there is no sign that insects caused the change.

When the plants are thinned to their final spacing or if they become pale green, add a little more fertilizer. Collards need plenty of nitrogen to develop their dark green leaf color.


Water the plants well each week if it does not rain.


Keep the garden free of weeds because they rob the plants of water and nutrients. Pull the weeds or hoe them carefully to prevent damage to the collard plant’s roots.


Many insecticides are available at garden centers for homeowner use. Sevin® is a synthetic insecticide; organic options include Bt-based insecticides and sulfur. Sulfur also has fungicidal properties and helps control many diseases.

Before using a pesticide, read the label and always follow cautions, warnings, and directions.


Collards are subject to some diseases. If the plants have spots on the leaves, you may need to use a fungicide. Check the plants daily, and treat them with an approved fungicide if diseases appear. Neem oil, sulfur, and other fungicides are available for use. Always follow the label directions.


Collards can be harvested in two ways. For small plants that need thinning, cut the entire plant about 4 inches above the ground (Fig. 4). Sometimes they will sprout back from the side of the stem. Usually, only the lower leaves of collards are harvested. This allows the plant to continue growing and producing more leaves. In mild regions, such as South Texas and coastal areas, collards will produce all winter.

Collards can stand temperatures of 20 degrees F or less in some cases. They taste sweeter after a light frost.

Figure 4. To harvest collards, cut small plants at ground level, or remove the lower leaves as the plant grows.


To prevent the loss of nutrients, do not cook collards in too much water. Your county Extension agent can provide more information on cooking and serving collards.

Download a printer-friendly version of this page: How to Grow Collard Greens

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Contact Your County Office

All About Collards

Can I Grow Collards?

Collards prefer rich, well-drained soil in full sun. In spring sow seed directly in the garden 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep after danger of heavy frost. Space the rows 30 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 6 to 8 inches apart.You can also star the seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting. The plants need 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water every week.

What is Collards Plant History?

A close relative of cabbage and kale, collards form rosettes of leaves rather than heads. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, and have a delicious, mild, cabbage like flavor. Collards are easier to grow than cabbage, as they tolerate a wider range of temperatures and growing conditions. They can withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees F, but also grow well in hot summer weather.

Collards Harvest Tips

Harvest whole collard plants when they are 6 to 8 inches tall. Or, pick the bottom leaves as you need them, and the inner buds will keep producing more foliage. Wait until after a light frost to harvest in fall, as frost sweetens the flavor.

Collards Recipes & Storage

Enjoy collard greens steamed, sautéed, or boiled. They can be used to flavor soups or stews, or cooked and served with ham and pork.

See all our collards

Collard leaves are ready for harvest as soon as they reach usable size. They will be most tasty when picked young–less than 10 inches long and dark green. Older leaves will be tough and stringy.

Collard greens are ready for harvest 75 to 85 days from transplants, 85 to 95 days from seed.

When to Harvest Collards

  • Collard leaves are most flavorful in cool weather. Leaves will be sweeter if harvested after frost; cool temperatures cause carbohydrates in the leaves to turn to sugar.
  • In mild-winter regions, collards will produce new leaves nearly all winter. In hard freeze regions, protect collards from temperatures in the low 20°sF—use row covers, plastic tunnels, or cold frames.
  • When temperatures in the teens are predicted, cover collard plants to keep the leaves from freezing. Still, frozen leaves can be cooked.
  • Overwintered collards will bolt and produce flowers in the spring; then plants should be removed and replaced.
  • Collards planted in the spring and grown into the summer will be bitter if hit by a summer heatwave. But new leaves generated in the fall when temperatures become cool again will be tasty. The roots of summer grown collards should be generously mulched and watered for best flavor.

Leaves will come away from the stem with a sharp downward pull. You can also use a sharp knife.

How to Harvest Collards

  • Harvest leaves from low on the stem first and work your way up the stalk. Pick leaves from the outside of the plant and work inward. Be careful not to damage the stem where new leaves emerge.
  • Leaves will come away from the stem with a sharp downward pull. You can also use a sharp knife.
  • Leave at least four leaves at the top of the plant (the growing crown); that will allow the plant to grow new leaves for future harvest.
  • Regular harvest and even watering will keep the plant producing new tender leaves.

Store collard leaves for several days to a week in the refrigerator.

How to Store Collards

  • After harvesting collard greens, wash the leaves thoroughly to remove any soil that may be clinging to the bottom of leaves.
  • Store collard leaves for several days to a week in the refrigerator. Place leaves in a perforated plastic bag wrapped in a damp paper towel in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator to keep leaves moist and to avoid drying.
  • Collard greens will store for two to three weeks at 32° to 34°F and 90 to 95 percent humidity (moist) with some air circulation.
  • You can harvest the collard plant whole and keep the leaves fresh indoors for a few weeks by setting the roots in moist soil or sand.
  • If you cook collard greens whole, stems will become tender.

More tips at How to Grow Collards.

Days to germination: 5 to 10 days

Days to harvest: 85 days to maturity, harvest at 40 days
Light requirements: Full sun or light shading
Water requirements: Regularly and frequently
Soil: Tolerates all soils, extra nitrogen helpful
Container: Suitable


If you use greens like spinach but have problems with the plants bolting (going to seed) in the heat, then try growing a few heads of collards instead. They look like loose cabbage without the rounded head in the middle. Collards are very similar to kale, in growing habits and taste.

Though cooked collard greens is a dish many associate with the American south, it’s actually a cool weather plant that grows better in the fall. There are a few variations to the collard, but there is not much difference between them. All plants are green and look fundamentally the same. Georgia is the most popular variety among home gardeners

High in fiber, vitamins C, A and K, as well as manganese, folic acid and even calcium, collard greens pack quite a nutritional punch. The are usually cooked but the smaller leaves can be eaten raw too. They have a stronger flavor when raw.

Starting from Seed

You can grow collard greens as either a spring or fall crop, though your greens will be more flavorful and sweeter when grown in the cool autumn. Collards are usually sown right into the garden rather than indoors for transplants.

In the spring, get your soil ready for seeds about 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date. Dig down to loosen the soil and add in compost or aged manure for nutrients. Collards are considered to be “heavy-feeders”. Plant a few seeds every 2 feet, and thin them down to 1 plant after they sprout. Seeds should be planted just a 1/4 inch under the surface.

If you want to start harvesting young greens earlier, you can not bother with the specific spacing and just sprinkle the seeds over the soil. Cover them over with a thin layer of soil. As the plants begin to grow, you can pick the young ones for eating, until you are left with larger plants with at least 2 feet of spacing between them.

Later in the season, you can seed out your fall crop. For many people, this would be their main collard crop for the year. Follow the same planting arrangements as for the spring crop above, but start them out about 4 to 6 weeks after your last frost date.

Growing instructions

Collard greens are one of those crops that you harvest at your leisure throughout the growing season. See the harvest section for more on how and when to pick collard leaves.

Water your plants often. Dry periods won’t necessarily harm the plant, but the leaves will take on a much stronger flavor afterwards and possibly become too bitter to eat.

Fertilizing with a high-nitrogen blend of fertilizer is a great help to boost leaf production. Just remember that this kind of fertilizer should only be used on leafy green vegetables. It will help leaves develop but will shrink or stunt any fruit or tuber formation. Regular fertilizer is also fine with collards if that is what you are using. Give your plants a feeding two or three times through the summer.


Collards do grow larger than most other greens, so you will have to have one plant per 10″ pot. Larger containers are fine with 2 plants as long as you can provide at least 18 to 20 inches between their main stalks. Keep them well-watered and well-fed with fertilizer.

Pests and Diseases

Collards are part of the Brassica family, which includes cabbage and broccoli. This also means that they are at risk from the same host of pests that plague those other vegetables (and many others).

First off are the slugs and snails common to any vegetable garden. You can buy commercial baits and traps, or drown them in saucers of beer left out at night. Diatomaceous earth is a fine white powder made from microscopic crushed shells. Harmless to animals, it will kill soft-bodied pests like slugs and snails. It can also help get rid of other caterpillars as well. Sprinkle heavily around the plants and re-apply after rain.

Cabbage worms and cabbage loopers are two different kinds of caterpillar that will do serious damage to your collard leaves if you don’t control them. Both of these pests are green so look closely at your plants or you might miss them. Insecticide sprays can usually protect your plants, and you should pick them off whenever you see them.

A harder to spot threat is the cabbage root maggot because they attack underground. If your plants are dying back for no other visible reason, dig one up and see if the roots are being eaten by small worms or maggots. Once you have them, its difficult to get rid of them. Your best approach is to keep them out of the soil in the first place. A light cover of mesh or screen in the spring can keep the moths away that lay the maggot eggs. It’s less of a problem for fall crops because the moth season has passed.

Harvest and Storage

You can start taking leaves about 4 to 6 weeks after you’ve started your seeds. If you let the leaves get too large before cutting, there may be a tough central stalk through the leave that will have to be cut out before using.

You can pick the leaves as the plant grows, always cutting off the ones at the bottom of the plant. As the inner stalk continues to grow upwards and produce more leaves, your collard plant will eventually look like a little tree with a bare stem at the bottom and leaves on the top. They will start to get top-heavy towards the end of the season and may require support.

For spring collards, your growing season comes to an end when hot weather arrives and your plants bolt to seed. The leaves will be too bitter to eat at this point. It’s not a problem with fall collards, and you can keep on harvesting well after the frosts start arriving.

Cooked collard greens can be frozen for longer storage, but the fresh leaves will only last a few days in the fridge.

  1. jamie bishop Says:
    September 23rd, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    i need to get some liquid bug killer for my greens

  2. poenandarkyaw Says:
    December 27th, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I would like to know about degree day and harvest date prediction for collard.

  3. larry Says:
    March 30th, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    I planted ollards in march, first week. When shouldI harvest them?

  4. larry Says:
    March 30th, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    I planted collards in march the first week, when do i pick them?

  5. Chaska Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    I’ve been using this website to guide me through planting and harvesting. You’ll have to go and google what zone you are in but I have found the chart for my zone is VERY accurate! I live in southern Ohio and I am zone 5 🙂 http://www.veggieharvest.com/Table/Vegetable-Planting-Calendar/

  6. LLL Says:
    April 30th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I used a good active organic soil. Then I took half inch thick, twisted copper wire and half buried it in circles around the collars. Completely cured the slug problem and the collards thrived. No pests at all. Also – I found that the collards remain sweet until the weather goes above 85 degrees for a steady period, then they become bitter. So far it’s been unseasonably cool here most of the time and nothing has gone to seed (kale and chard the same), although I’ve been told you can’t grow greens down here in zone 10 after about May 1.

  7. Angie Says:
    May 5th, 2011 at 7:15 am

    I live in Colorado at an altitude of 8000′ – a short, cool growing season. Collards grow well here, & I harvest leaves throughout the summer & fall. Spring is starting, & last year’s collard plants in the garden are producing new leaves. Should I let these plants continue to grow, or would it be better to remove them & plant new seeds?

  8. shannon Says:
    May 20th, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I just transplanted starter plants that I bought at Home Depot. They seem to be doing ok, but a few of the leaves are yellow. This is my first garden ever. It’s a raised bed with 10″ of organic soil/Peet mix in Central Oregon (high desert climate).

    Should I pick off the yellow leaves? Or give them some time to settle into their new home?

  9. cdgarrett Says:
    July 4th, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    I have been trying to start Collard seeds in one of those seed starter trays in my kitchen. They come up so tin and frail looking and get taller than the clear plastic green house top will allow then they die. I try taking the plastic green house top off and the Collard Greens just dry up. They get plenty of moisture. I bought 3 ounces of Morris Heading Collard Green seed so I guess I just keep trying until I have plants suitable for transplant into the garden. I made some homemade Deer repellant for the garden that seems to be working against deer, rabbits and squirrels. May-be I should try planting the seeds directly in the garden. Who Knows? I have 2 trays of Rainbow Chard seed planted in my kitchen also.

  10. laura Says:
    February 7th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I cut all the outer leaves off of one of my collard grocery store bought plants (cooked them). I placed the remaining stalk with a couple of small leaves left in the center in a small bowl of water. A couple of weeks later roots are growing. I’m now going to plant it in a pot of soil outside and see what happens. I’m in zone 8. I thought it would be a neat experiment.

  11. jacs Says:
    March 21st, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Hi ok, so we moved into a house and the previous owners had collard greens growing. They are at the point that they look like a big stalk but have lots of leaves on them at the top.. how long can we eat them? can we eat them? Or should we just get rid of them and start over? Thanks for any info. It will be appreciated.

  12. Theresa Kaul Says:
    April 15th, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I always wondered the same. We plant them every year in our garden and pull out the old plants and start again. Ironically, just today, I decided to pick leaves from our last years plants which are now flowering on the top. I picked the newest tender leaves near the top and cooked them. I thought they were just fine! I read that they would be bitter and tough. We pressure cook ours so they really are never tough…but they weren’t bitter. I would say give it a try, you can always pull them if you find them not tasty.

  13. karen Says:
    April 19th, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    My husband is an old-timer from the south. He remembers picking collard greens for his mom down by the railroad tracks that grew wild for her to cook. So, I took this hint from his history and stopped ripping out my collards from the year before. They are fine and growing new leaves this year. (We live in a cold winter climate, zone 8). That original flat of 6 plants was a great investment?

  14. Andrew B Says:
    May 6th, 2012 at 6:45 am

    First time growing Collards and live in NC. It’s been warmer than normal this year. We got our garden in late this year. Our Collards are up and have been, but reading this article it looks like they won’t grow much more with the weather well into the 80’s and 90’s now. Shall I leave them and see what happens, pull them out and plant something else? I have a limited space in my garden and want to maximize my growing season. I will definitely re plant once the temperature cools back down if that’s what you recommend.

    Please help this first time farmer out.

  15. Theresa Kaul Says:
    June 8th, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Leave them, they’ll do fine in the hot weather as well. That’s the beauty of this crop, they do fine in the summer and well into fall…enjoy!

  16. d ral Says:
    June 11th, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    I recently moved to the NorthWest. I was surprised to find collars at Home Depot thinking it was a southern crop. I planted them in my raised bed. This being my first time growing collars I was surprised to see them no leafy but stalk with flowers on the tip and a few leaves- nothing like the pictures I see of them. Any suggestions? Obvious they are not right. I need help please

  17. marvolene Says:
    October 15th, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I just planted some collars two weeks ago, have never planted collars, don’t know how much water, what kind of fertilizer is good, could I use mircle grow? help I really want some collards , love them, help please give me some hints. thanks

  18. veronica kizzee Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I have bugs eating my leaves up.But i cant see them. its like little white spects all over the back of them.

  19. destrum Says:
    January 11th, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Veronica The bugs that eat mine are small green catipilars and the same color as the collards you have to look real hard to see them. You know those real pretty little white butter flies. those little #@**&^% lay the eggs that are those green worms Kill them. Can ya tell I hate them. the eggs are real tiny light brown spots grouped together in a 1/4 inch area. I mash them with my thumb. They are really hard to see. good luck

  20. destrum Says:
    January 11th, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    forgot those eggs are always on the bottom of the leaves.

  21. eula walace Says:
    March 19th, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    hi i have some collard greens plants that i was growing back in Sept of last year and they now have flowers at the top of the plants and the leaves are still so pretty.i just picked more off of them. but i want to know if there are seeds in the flowers and how do i get them so i can have them to plant more plants.i live in Mississippi

  22. Walter Bliss Says:
    May 31st, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Collards are not just associated with the South. I grew up in Liberia, Africa as a child with my misionary parents. They eat lots of greens including collards. The collards and cassava greens are what I remember most and loved. I believe this is part of the heritage of blacks in the south. Add palm oil or better yet palm butter, rice, goat, chicken, fish, snake or bush meat, cassava root, plantain, mangos and you are eating like a king. You must put a liberal amount of the local (wild type cayenne) hot peppa in your gravy. I can eat them almost straight.

  23. frederick collings Says:
    July 10th, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I bought collard greens plant at home depot. Then planted them in my planter at home. While they grow, I cut the leaves and cook as collard greens. It tasted like collard greens. I even give my neighbors some of the leaves and they told me that the collard greens was delicious. After about a month and a half the plants begun to fold like cabbage. I then root up several of the plants and cut the head and cook it like cabbage and it tasted like cabbage. Is this normal.

  24. reggie Says:
    September 14th, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Just wanted to tell crush egg shell and coffee ground around your collards will prevent cutworms from damage your collards

  25. frank Says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Frank asks: Is it all right(safe) to use sevin 5 dust on collard greens as a pesticide? What about growing collards in raised beds??

  26. Donna Says:
    October 8th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    If your collard plants are forming heads they are not collard plants. They are cabbage plants.

  27. Donna Says:
    October 8th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Cabbage and collard plants look alike as they are in the same family.

  28. Lawrence Moore 111 Says:
    October 26th, 2013 at 10:11 am

    This year my collards have a fuzzy or velvety looking film on the leaves. What is this and is it safe to eat. My chard, kale or turnip greens didn’t have this.
    please help

  29. Farell Moughon Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 1:35 am

    My micro collard patch is 3 years old and the plants are 7 ft tall. I had to stake them. If they were straighten up they would probably be 8 or 9 ft tall. They are richly flowing at the top, but I harvest below the tops. When I cook them, I combine with mustard greens, kale, or Swiss chard….all great to help prevent prostate problems….as I read as such. I chop up the greens, add chicken broth, 2 organic bullion cubes, 1 large onion, 2 marinated turkey thighs and simmer for 2 hrs after boiling starts. Maybe I will add quinoa or millet about 20 minutes before the 2 hrs is up. Course, all that is no good without whole grain cornbread, and that’s no good without a bottle of seranno pepper sauce. Ummmhum good ummmhummm good.

  30. Bruce in SEA Says:
    May 16th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I wanna come eat at your house!!

  31. Arrow Says:
    December 6th, 2014 at 7:46 am

    I use Thuricide BT spray on my cabbage and broccoli. Its considered and organic pest control. It works really well against those white butterlflys and the worms they cause. Works well on the Kale too so it should work on collards.

  32. Felicity Says:
    May 22nd, 2015 at 7:15 am

    Collard greens are good in a green smoothie.
    A banana in the blender takes the bitterness away, and the there is very litte, if any, taste of the greens.

    1 banana
    1/4 cup mango
    1/4 cup pineapple
    handful of chopped collards (about a half cup)
    splash of water

    Blend in a high velocity mini blender until all one color, then drink with a straw.

    Any leafy green will work, but the flavor of collard greens and turnip greens are my favorites.
    Chop greens, rinse with water, put in a baggie, freeze, and you can have green smoothies all through the year.

    Super delicious and your body will thank you in return with many health benefits.

  33. Patricia Phifer Says:
    July 27th, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I live in lexington NC, want to put in a fall garden. Collards , kale , turnips , onions, carrots. Could you give me some tips on when to put these in or is it to late. Thankyou

  34. Administrator Says:
    December 24th, 2015 at 6:36 am

    60 days before first frost for most of those at a minimum, earlier is always fine.

  35. Patricia Phifer Says:
    July 27th, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Need to know if now is the time to plant collard seeds and kale.

  36. inez croom Says:
    July 31st, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    Is there a collard called cabbagecollard? If so, where can I get seed.

  37. Jean Says:
    September 11th, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for all the helpful info. My question is, should I keep my tall collard plants, even though they are giant stalks, bent, etc.? I planned to pick the tender leafs–however, in reading the previous comments it sounds as though I should keep them. If my assumption is correct, should I, pick the small leaves off, take the seeds off and dry them for planting later, then cut them back to say twelve inches and let them come back out again? Thanks for your responses.

  38. shela Says:
    October 26th, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    I have some kale that I left in the ground and it wintered over to the next year will collards do the same?

  39. George Karfiah Says:
    February 11th, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    thank for all the wonderful information , but I live in Liberia. please how can I manage my back yard collard green garden?

  40. Rick Muse Says:
    August 20th, 2017 at 9:20 am

    I live in north eastern PA and have been growing collards for about 3 years. They never grow taller than 12″ and the insects are eating the leaves very fast. I just read about putting out saucers of beer at night to control slugs/snails, and using diatomaceous earth – both of which will try. Any other suggestions to grow taller, stronger plants and control the pests is greatly appreciated.


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Collard Greens

Grow It, Eat It


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When and Where to Plant
The collard is a cool-season crop that should be grown during early spring or fall. Direct seed midsummer or early spring. Set transplants out in early spring or late summer. The mature plant will withstand frosts and light to medium freezes.

How to Plant
Precision seeders reduce seed use by 40 to 70 percent and produce more uniform stands that require little thinning and are better weed competitors. Uniform stands are easier to grow and harvest. Place seed in moist soil usually ½ to ¾ inch deep, but never deeper than 1 inch. If moisture is not adequate for germination in the top ¾ inch of the soil, water should be applied. Frequent irrigation is important in obtaining good stands in hot weather (¼ inch per day at midday).

Spacing depends on how the crop will be harvested. If the plants will be cut when half grown, space them 10 to 15 inches apart. If they will be harvested when full grown, space them 15 to 18 inches apart. If young collard plants will be harvested, similar to mustard greens, space the plants 2 to 4 inches apart. Space rows 36 to 42 inches apart for conventional systems. However, multi-row beds of 2 to 4 rows on 38 to 60 inch centers provide greater yields and improved quality. In such a system, space rows on each bed 12 to 18 inches apart. This provides rapid ground cover, fewer weeds, and more tender growth.

Soil Requirements
Leafy vegetables require quick, continuous growth for best quality. They need ample nitrogen for good green color and tender growth. Test and amend the soil according to the recommendations at least seven days before planting. You may need to side-dress three to five weeks after the seed comes up or two to three weeks after transplanting.

Collards may be grown in a variety of soils. Heavier loamy soils will produce the greatest yields. Lighter, well-drained, sandy soils are best for early spring crops. Soils should be well drained, rich in organic matter, and have a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

Collards can be harvested using several techniques:

  • Cut entire plants when very young. The plant will grow back and can be harvested multiple times.
  • Cut entire plants when about half grown.
  • Cut entire plants when full grown.
  • Harvest tender leaves from full-grown plants.

Recommended Varieties
Vates, Carolina Improved Heading (or Morris), Georgia Southern, Blue Max, and Heavi Crop have consistently done well in North Carolina. For additional recommendations, visit Cornell University’s Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners database.

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How to Clean and Cook Southern Greensaka Collard Greens

How to Buy Them, Cut Them, Clean Them and Cook Them

This is a must ready article before throwing your southern greens into a pot. Do you want to cook a healthy and tasty recipe for you friends and family? Yes, I thought so. Get the results you want now by reading this information before you cook your collard greens.

Have you ever had or made collard greens that just didn’t taste good? The recipe was followed exactly, to the “T”. What could possibly have gone wrong? If you want to produce a good southern greens meal, you have to do more than just follow recipes instructions.

You have to go through the right preparation process before throwing those greens into your pot. What process you ask? You have to buy quality greens, clean them off, and cut them properly. No need to worry how to do this. It’s all explained here.

What to Look for When Buying Collard Greens

You can buy your greens at the grocery store or farmers market, if you’re not fortunate enough to have a garden or a friend who grows greens. It’s best, if you can get them straight from the garden. However you can be selective and buy from your local store or farmer.

When buying greens, always pick bunches with quality leaves. By being very selective you will avoid unnecessary work. Here is what to look for in a good bunch of collard greens:

  • Leaves Should Be Deep Green In Color
  • Leaves Should Be Unwilted And Firm
  • Leaves Should Not Show Signs Of Yellowing Or Browning

How to Clean Collard Greens

Clean your greens thoroughly before cooking them. A good rinsing is always a must, since this vegetable tends to collect soil on its leaves and stems. Before rinsing separate the leaves (with stem attached) from the roots.

Cleaned the leaves by dipped them several times into lukewarm water until all soil is removed. The greens are clean when no dirt remains in the water. You can also rinse your leaves individually under running water to clean away the dirt.

How to Cut Collard Greens

Greens are tough therefore you will have to cut stems off some of the greens. For the large and mature leaves, take each leaf and fold lengthwise at the stem. Tear the tough portion of the stem away from the leaf and discharge. If you like you can cut the stem away with a knife.

Next stack several leaves on top of each other and roll together. Then using a cutting board and sharp knife, slice the leaves into 1 inch thick pieces. That completes the cutting process.

Now that you have bought, cleaned and cut your southern greens, you’re ready to follow your recipe for cooking collard greens. Let’s cook some southern greens.

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Look here for a simple Collard Greens recipes
More health Vegetable Recipes

Cleaning and Cooking Collard Greens

It seems that cleaning and cooking collard greens is a Southern girl’s transition from childhood to womanhood in the South! Collards have been part of the Southern diet for centuries now. When I hear the word “collards,” I think of the days before the mega marts; the days when life was simpler, when every Southern family farmed the land. It is too bad that these wonderful greens are now only prepared at barbecue restaurants. With a little motivation and a spot of fertile land (you don’t need a lot, maybe a 4’x8′ section) you can easily grow your own “mess of greens.”

The first step in growing collards is, of course, buying the seed. I plant the variety Green Glaze, an old heirloom from the 1820’s, but other varieties such as Georgia Green are great as well. Plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep around 8 weeks before the first frost (Nov. 15 for central Alabama).

After the seedlings are about 4 weeks old, start thinning, spacing the collards first to about 4 inches, then to 6 inches. Don’t throw away the outcast; this can be your first harvest of collards. After you thin, you can continue to harvest the collards by snapping off the larger outside leaves and allowing the head to continue to grow. Once you have your collards inside, you are ready to start the cooking process.

Many people are scared to cook fresh collards for the hassle of having to wash away the grit and fearing the texture to be mushy and grainy (I know, I’ve had it too many times). It doesn’t have to be this way.

When you prepare to cook your collards, the first step you need to take is not to reach for the spices, but for the sink. This is the hardest step, but is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, or you will be taking a visit to the dentist. The easiest way to do this is to fill the largest pot you have up with water and place the collards in the tub. Give them a stir and let them bathe for about a minute. Remove the collards, pour out dirty water and replace with new water. You should see a pile of sand at the bottom of the pot and will be glad you took the trouble. Repeat at least 2 more times or until the collards release no more sand. Enjoy delicious collards or any kind of greens for that matter.
Note: Collard greens are loaded with Vitamin K which helps with increasing bone mass and decreases the effects of Alzheimer’s disease by limiting neuronal damage.

Hint: If you do not want to go through the process above, soak the entire bunch of leaves in salt water for about 30 minutes then rinse the greens in running water for about 3 minutes before cooking fresh collards.

Get more recipes like this on Meal Plan Monday!

Collard greens are among my favorite winter vegetable and they are incredibly easy to prepare. You can cook every part of this vegetable from the leaf to the root.

Southern Collard Greens

Olive oil
1 onion , chopped
1 tablespoon garlic
2 pounds collards, washed and pulled from the stem
2 cups dry white wine such as a Chardonnay
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ tablespoon freshly ground pepper

1. Sweat the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds longer.

2. Placed washed collards into sauté pan. You may have to add half of the greens to the pan and let them shrink and then add the other half. Add wine, broth, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the pan. Bring mixture to a boil and lower to simmer for 1 hour. Serve with Southern Fried Corn Bread crumbled up in your tasty collard greens!

Southern Collard Greens


  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 2 pounds collards washed and pulled from the stem
  • 2 cups dry white wine such as a Chardonnay
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ tablespoon freshly ground pepper


  1. Sweat the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds longer.
  2. Placed washed collards into sauté pan. You may have to add half of the greens to the pan and let them shrink and then add the other half. Add wine, broth, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the pan. Bring mixture to a boil and lower to simmer for 1 hour. Serve with Southern Fried Corn Bread crumbled up in your tasty collard greens!

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