Growing Collard Greens From Seed

Collard greens are a staple of Southern cooking. They’re nutritious, easy to cook, and comfort food in many families. Related to cauliflower and cabbage, these brassicas are hardy and thrive in a range of growing regions.

While you can get seedlings from a nursery to plant outdoors, we love starting them from seed. In temperate climates, they’re a three-season crop that produces an abundance!

We’re answering common questions about starting collard greens from seed today on our blog. We’ll discuss best practices and factors that affect your favorite barbecue side dish.

Join us!

Common questions about planting collard greens

Collard greens have a long history in the United States. Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, these plants were commonly used in Southern cooking in America.

Including collard greens in your garden is the perfect way to ensure you always have them on hand. Like most plants, timing and placement in your beds are essential to their success.

When should you plant collard greens?

Collard greens thrive in cooler temperatures and don’t tolerate the high heat of summer. For that reason, they’re best planted in early spring and fall. You’ll have a crop before the heat rises and another before the deep freeze of winter. 

If you live in a warmer climate, you can also plant in late fall for winter harvest. A touch of frost actually improves the flavor by concentrating the natural sugars! 

In Florida collards can and will grow all summer, if they don't go to seed. That is, until the harlequin bug shows up! Best collard to try and over-summer in Florida is the Georgia Collards. It usually doesn't get cold enough here in winter to let them bolt in summer.

We also have a Florida heirloom collard that will definitely bolt (go to seed) over summer. This is open pollinated, so it will grow true to seed and is a great choice for those trying to save seeds.

Where should you place your collard greens?

Collards can thrive in containers or planted directly in the soil. They do best when exposed to four to six hours of sun daily. While they do well in both humid and dry climates, keeping them watered is essential. Well-drained, slightly acidic soil is the perfect environment for your plants.

Factors that affect the growth of your collard greens

Collard greens aren’t temperamental and grow in nearly every climate. Environmental factors affect your collard greens' growth, and we have some tips for the best results.

Light consumption

Collards need consistent sunlight, between four to six hours daily, to develop the best flavor. Full sun is perfect for these hardy greens when the weather is mild. They will tolerate some shade in hot weather but still need the sun to thrive.

The amount of water

Consistency is key with collard greens. They need well-drained, moist soil to reach their full growth. Water once a week with one and a half to two inches unless you’ve had rain recently.

To help keep the soil moist, you can place mulch or other organic material in your garden bed. This protects the seedlings and keeps their leaves clean.

Temperature and humidity 

When temperatures get too extreme, you’ll likely see an impact on your collards. Once they’re of an edible size, they can tolerate a freeze as long as it doesn’t go on too long. Installing a hoop or cover can prolong your harvest season throughout the winter.

High heat causes collard greens to bolt and flower. Once they’ve flowered, the leaves take on a pronounced bitter flavor. If this happens, you can collect and save the seed pods for the next planting season.

As long as they have consistent moisture in the soil, these plants can handle dry or humid climates equally.

Choose an appropriate fertilizer

Adding a nitrogen-rich fertilizer can help improve the quality of your collard greens. Look for a fertilizer containing calcium so they get what they need, like our 8-3-5 fertilizer! Consider testing your soil before adding fertilizer to keep the pH between 6.5 and 6.8.

Tips for successful collard green growth

Following planting instructions can help you get the most out of your crop of collards. We’ve also got a few helpful tips for the best outcome.

Make sure to space your seeds apart

Because of how large the leaves get on these brassicas, they need some room to grow. When planting seeds, use this as your rule of thumb. For bunching, you’ll plant three to four seeds every 12 to 18 inches apart, with 18 to 36 inches between rows. Once they’ve sprouted, thin your planting to one plant per group.

Be on top of pests and wildlife threats to your collard greens

Pests and wildlife love collard greens for the same reasons we do: they’re nutritious and plentiful! Keep pests like cabbage worms from destroying your crop naturally with organic pest control. One of our favorite methods is to mix olive oil, water, and cayenne pepper in a spray bottle. Apply to the leaves as needed.

To keep larger wildlife away, you can add blood meal to your soil or use the same spicy spray to limit damage.

Bury your seed at least a quarter inch deep

Collard green seeds do best when planted between a quarter to half an inch deep. Their root systems can reach nearly two feet below the ground as they grow!

Whitwam Organics will help answer any gardening question you have!

Whitwam Organics is your source for organic gardening advice in the Tampa area, and seedling shipping nationwide. Our team of expert gardeners can help you unlock your garden’s potential through planning and education services. We’re the best source for seeds and seedlings that will thrive in our region's temperate, humid climate.

Check out our website for more tips on how to make the most of your planting season!

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