The health benefits of collards are well documented — calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, folic acid (see What Are the Health Benefits of Cooked Collard Greens and The World’s Healthiest Foods-Collard Greens). This year I was amazed at the productivity of the plants in my little 6-7 foot wide patch of collards.
I literally could not eat all the collards my patch was producing and I gave away many bags of delicious tender succulent leaves.
My secret? Soil preparation, mulching, water, and fertilizer.
Out-Perform the Commercial Growers
In general commercial collar growers sell you an entire collar plant, typically in the late fall or around Christmas time; but the leaves from commercially grown collards are often tough, requiring hours of cooking. You can get better yields, flavor, and texture by picking the larger leaves off the collard plant and watering your plants daily.
The collards from my patch were so tender that they required only five to ten minutes cooking and when eaten with butter they tasted remarkably like spinach. I put one or two gallons of water per day on my collards during picking season and people told me they were the best collards they ever tasted.
Step 1 – Prepare the Soil
The first step to growing succulent productive collard plants is to prepare your soil properly.
I dig down deep into the Alabama clay soil with a pick and a shovel and fill trenches with organic material such as rotted wood, leaves, and pine needles. For more information see Prepare Your Soil for Productive Gardening.
Heap the soil up into a wide ridge with a small furrow in the center of the ridge. This is where you should plant your collard seeds. The ridge with the furrow in the center assures good drainage but also catches rainwater instead of just allowing the rainwater to run off the ridge. This is VERY IMPORTANT for collards.
Step 2 – Mulch
Mulching holds down weeds, keeps the soil from drying out, and adds nutrients to the soil. See Mulch for Garden Success for more complete information on mulching.
Step 3 – Water
I water my little six foot patch of collards every day (except rainy days). The collards pay me back by producing a bountiful harvest of fresh leaves every few days. If you mulched your collards you shouldn’t need much water, maybe one or two gallon watering buckets per day.
Step 4 – Fertilize
I use Miracle-Gro®. I mix it in a watering can and pour it on the collards every few weeks. If you prefer to use a granular fertilizer like 10-10-10, that works well too.
Step 5 – Pick and Eat
Traditionally collards are cooked for several hours with fatback or some other kind of pork, but I just steam mine for 10 to 15 minutes in a covered pot and put a dab of butter on them (see photo below). Delicious.