As a leading producer of collards in the United States, North Carolina’s climate is cool enough for this crop to thrive in both spring and fall. If you’re planning your own collard greens garden, the best time to start it would be in the fall, around July 15 to September 15, or in the spring, from February 1 to April 30.
Read below for details on when to plant collards in North Carolina.
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Best Time to Plant Collards in NC
Collard greens season begins six to eight weeks before the final frost for those who choose to start seeds indoors.
If you prefer to avoid transplanting, however, it’s possible to grow collard greens outside a short while later, three weeks before the last bout of ice and snow arrives. If you worry about cold weather, you don’t have to.
These vegetables will survive freezing conditions outdoors and germinate when temperatures reach 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
And considering that they require six weeks to grow before transplanting, you can move your seedlings outside after the last frost or two weeks before it.
Spring scheduling aside, though, I must say fall is the ideal growing season for collards, since warmer spring temperatures may turn their leaves bitter. Meanwhile, plants grown for fall harvest will have a sweeter taste after vegetable starches produce more sugar under slight frost exposure.
This is especially true in North Carolina, where most regions fall within hardiness zone 6 to 8b, though some small areas are under zone 5b. In zone 8 and all parts of the state, it’s wise to plant collard green seeds as late-season crops six to eight weeks before the first frost for optimal growth.
As for what month that would be, the estimate is July to September in eastern North Carolina and central North Carolina. For western parts of the state, the timeframe would be June to early August.
In very warm locations, collard greens may survive winter if given protection in the form of frost cloths.
To help you determine the best time to plant collard greens, here are the frost dates for some locations in NC.
|Location||Last frost||First frost|
|Charlotte||April 5||October 30|
|Cary||April 4||November 4|
|Fayetteville||April 5||November 4|
|High Point||April 5||October 31|
|Greenville||April 2||November 3|
|Raleigh||April 3||November 4|
Read more: Best time to plant collard in Georgia.
How to Plant Collard Greens? Which Cultivars to Use?
1. Planting tips
To direct-sow seeds in the garden, ensure the ground has a pH of 6 to 6.5 and amend poor soil according to the recommendations of your soil test. The general tip is to apply a balanced fertilizer before planting, such as one pound of a 10-10-10 formula for every 100 square feet.
Once the soil’s ready, sow seeds at a depth of ¼ inch with a distance of 15 inches between them. This spacing for collard greens will leave plenty of room for the veggies to grow until full maturity.
Note that in residences with garden beds, there should be 36 to 42 inches between rows, unless you have a multi-row system, in which the spacing may be half that or 18 inches.
To ensure healthy foliage, supplement the soil with nitrogen three to five weeks after germination. Common fertilizers for this purpose are a 21-0-0, 15-0-0, or 16-0-0 formula. Avoid products with herbicides, and use the same nitrogen dressing for transplants three weeks after moving them into the garden.
If you’re growing collards in containers, use pots with drain holes and fill them with a plant mix, like the all-purpose product from Miracle-Gro.
The pots should be three to five gallons in size if you intend to keep collards in them indefinitely. Otherwise, cell trays will suffice before transplanting. Sow two to three seeds per cell for the highest chance of germination. After about two weeks, pick the healthiest collard in each cell to grow and move into your garden.
Last but not least, pick a plot with full sun and give it 1.5 inches of water per week as well.
2. Collard greens for North Carolina
Now that you know the answer to “when are collards in season?” purchase the following varieties for planting in North Carolina.
- Morris Heading
Morris Heading collards mature in 85 days and grow from both seeds and transplants. If you want a cold-resistant veggie that’s also tolerant of warm weather without turning bitter quickly, this variety can meet that demand.
Similar to Morris Heading, Vates collards grow well under both hot and cool temperatures. Being able to reach full maturity in 75 days, they produce bigger foliage if started from transplants rather than seeds.
- Top Bunch
Top Bunch is excellent for growers who seek a quick-growing crop, as it matures in only 50 days. This variety is terrific in soups and suits bunching well.
- Yellow Cabbage
Yellow Cabbage collards stand out with their yellow leaves and milder flavors, at least in comparison with other collards. This variety is also rare outside of North Carolina. It takes 75 days from seeding for Yellow Cabbage to be ready for harvest.
- Blue Max
A high-yield plant that matures in just 68 days, Blue Max collards can be eaten fresh or processed. Their mild flavor also complements salads, soups, and sandwiches.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best collard varieties to plant in North Carolina?
Other than the varieties above, collards that grow well in North Carolina include Georgia Southern, Heavi Crop, Champion, and Carolina.
How late can you plant collards in NC?
For the most part, North Carolina has its first frost around October to November. Six to eight weeks before these months equal a planting time of August to September.
How long does it take collard greens to grow in North Carolina?
Collard greens will take 32 to 72 days to grow from transplants and 60 to 100 days to mature from seeds. If you plant them in August, as is often the case in North Carolina, harvesting collards will take place in October or November.
You may also cut young leaves from the plants throughout the season before they mature, when the foliage reaches ten inches in height.
Collards are straightforward to grow and will thrive best under cool weather. If you live in zone 7 and 8, it’s possible to treat them as biennials rather than annuals like they usually are in colder regions. So long as you mulch the soil to keep collards warm, they should stay in your garden for up to two years.
All it takes is knowing when to plant collards in North Carolina.
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