In the Southeast we can grow collards year round but the best tasting collards are by far are harvested in the cooler times of the year. We have found an heirloom collard called Alabama Blue that we think will add taste and nutrition to your diet.
Collards belong to the cruciferous family like their cousin Kale. The Alabama Blue Collard is an heirloom variety we buy from Southern Seed Exchange. The leaf has a blue vein and takes on even an even bluer color in cold weather. The color in the leaf it is a sign of more antioxidants and phytonutrients. The leaves are tender, cook faster and hold their sweetness longer even in hot weather. The plant has smaller leaves than most collards and spaced close. 8 to 12 inches apart.
The best time to plant collards is in the late summer . At our farm in Georgia we sow seeds around the first of August into pots. After a few weeks we transplant them into the garden around mid September. Growing collards while it is still hot weather is no problem and gives them the size and maturity they need to withstand cold weather. Collards can be harvested by taking the entire plant but on our farm we like to pick individual leaves because they will continue to grow during warm spells of the late fall and winter. Their best flavor is realized after frost has fallen on the leaves.
Collards do best in full sun but will tolerate a little shade. Just a day or two before planting we apply an organic fertilizer (3-2-3) at the recommended rate according to soil test. We water plants in well after planting to get them established and continue to supply water during periods with no rain. The two most common insects we see on collards are Aphids and Caterpillars. To control the aphids we spray with an organic insecticidal soap. To control the caterpillars we use an organic product called dipel that contains BT which is a bacteria that kills the caterpillars but is not harmful to humans. It is easy on beneficial Insects. The insect problems usually only occur in the beginning of the growing season when it is warm.
At the time of this post (February 2016) seed savers exchange was sold out of Alabama Blue Collard but expected to have more by late summer 2016 which would be the right time to plant for a fall winter crop. Click Here to visit Seed Savers Exchange