Grow your own collard greens

If you’re disappointed by the availability, freshness or the price of collard greens at your favorite grocery store, consider growing your own.

The delicious and nutritious leafy greens do well in our unique climate, growing outside in a garden, in a raised bed or in a large container, giving you fresh collards all year long. Here are a few suggestions from the Clemson Cooperative Extension’s Home & Garden Information Center.

Get Tested

To have a soil analysis done you need to collect 8 to 10 core samples, which will be combined as one composite sample. A simple garden trowel can be used to collect the samples. Place them in a clean plastic bucket and mix them thoroughly. Bring a minimum of 2 cups of soil in a clean jar or zip-lock bag to the Beaufort County Cooperative Extension office, located at 18 John Galt Road in Beaufort. Got questions? Go online to, email or call 888-656-9988.

Planting: Collards are cool-season plants that should be grown in early spring or fall. They grow best at temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees. Like many other cool-season crops, they will bolt or produce a flower stalk if exposed to a prolonged cold period following a favorable growing period. These crops must be planted early enough in the spring to ensure that the crop is harvested before temperatures become too hot. The mature plant will withstand frosts and light to medium freezes. Transplants can be grown and set out in early spring. It takes about six to eight weeks to produce plants ready for transplanting. Plant collards in rows that are 3 feet apart.

Harvesting & Storage: Collards should be ready for harvest 70 days after direct seeding. Entire plants can be cut when very young, half-grown or full-grown. Tender leaves can also be harvested from full-grown plants. Store all harvested collards in the refrigerator.

Watering: Water the garden in the morning so the leaves will be dry before nightfall. Water sufficiently to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches. Light sprinklings will encourage shallow rooting of the plants. It is important to have a constant uniform moisture supply to produce a high-quality crop and to have the spring crop mature before high summer temperatures. Mulching can help conserve water and reduce weeds.

Soil: Heavier loam soils will produce the greatest yields. The light, well-drained, sandy soils are best for early spring crops. Soils should be well-drained, rich in organic matter and have a pH of 5.8 to 6.5. Nitrogen is important for these crops to produce a high-quality product.

Problems: Several worms (imported cabbageworm, cabbage looper, diamondback moth caterpillar) and harlequin bugs are the major insect problems. Aphids can also be a serious problem, especially during cool weather. Common disease problems include black rot, downy mildew and Alternaria leaf spot. Fusarium yellows may be a problem on summer-grown collards.

Cooking tips:

Don’t wash the greens unless you are going to use them in a day or two as they will start to wilt.

• If you are concerned that the greens will be too bitter, you can remove that bitter taste by blanching them first.

Add flavor with aromatics like shallots, onions and garlic.

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