Fall Collards – Its Time!
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If you haven’t made plans to plant your fall collards, now is the time to start that process. Collards are a southern staple that can be found on many holiday tables. Packed with vitamin A and K, this easy to grow crop is worth the investment.
Collards are best described as a cool-season crop that grows better during the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. However, to achieve a fall harvest you must start seeding or planting transplants now (July 15- Sept 15). Collards grown in the fall will also survive the winter in Pamlico County, but warm temperatures in August can slow growth, and a higher volume of insect pests are also present during this time.
If you can locate transplants, go ahead and get them in the ground. Bring soil pH up to 6.0-6.5, and supply enough nitrogen fertilizer to keep plants green and actively growing. For average soils, use 1-2 lbs. of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet before planting. Side-dress with ¼ pound of nitrogen fertilizer like 21-0-0 per 100 square feet, 3 to 5 weeks after the seed comes up or after transplanting, and 2 to 3 weeks after that. Collards need nitrogen to grow large, so if you desire a good harvest do not forgo repetitive applications of nitrogen.
You can also grow your own transplants by seeding plants in rows 2-3 inches apart with in-row spacing of approximately 2-4 inches. In about 6-weeks you can dig these bare-root plants up and transplant them into the garden. Variety suggestions include Morris Heading, Yellow Cabbage, Vates, Blue Max, and Top Bunch.
Frequent watering will be required during hot sunny days and shading may be required to improve early growth of small seedlings. Typical pest problems include four-legged animals, imported cabbage worms, diamond back moths, and cabbage loopers. A regular insecticide application will probably be required until colder temperatures arrive. Physical barriers like row covers may help prevent insect infestation, but they will also increase growing temperatures. Therefore, they provide the greatest benefit during cooler temperatures and early spring.
Common insecticide recommendations include the active ingredients carbaryl (Sevin), Bt (Dipel), permethrin, bifenthrin, and spinosad. Small insects are easier to control, so keep a look out for activity. Read and follow label directions and pay attention to harvest restrictions (time between application and safe harvest) and maximum applications per year. Rotate products when possible and apply at the first sign of feeding. Remember for every worm you see you have probably missed three.
Some disease issues may arise, but they usually occur with excessively wet conditions and from saved seed or plant debris left in the garden. If possible, plant on new ground or areas in the garden that did not have a Brassica crop (cabbage, collard, broccoli, etc.) in the spring. Remove plant debris and cultivate deeply. Avoid overhead irrigation when possible as soil splashing onto leaves will spread most common collard diseases.
Harvesting collards is accomplished by several different methods but most folks allow plants to mature before stripping leaves from stalks of multiple plants as the crop progresses through the season. This allows for a continual harvest of leaves as the growing plant producing new leaves from the top bud. Be careful not to remove too many leaves from each plant and do not break out the top growing bud. Removal of the bud will drastically slow growth resulting in low productivity.
Traditional recipes often include cooking chopped greens with fat and oil from bacon, smoked or salted meat. Cooking times range from minutes to hours depending upon taste and preference. If you would like to learn more about growing and cooking collards, then review the NC State Extension Publication titled “Collard Greens, Grow It, Eat It”.
You can also contact Daniel Simpson at 252-745-4121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.