Back in August we planted our first round of greens that will be ready to harvest in November and December. Now is a good time to plant a second round of greens that will grow through the winter. Collard greens and kale will be able to withstand most winter cold in our part of the Carolina. I have seen bitter cold mornings with my collards dark green, wilted and frozen… only to see them perk up in the cool afternoon sunshine.
Collard greens should be a staple in any Carolina vegetable garden. While collards will grow year-round in the Carolinas, they really do best in the cool season. They grow slower in cooler weather and are less likely to bolt. Plus, there are caterpillars that will eat collards in the summer. These pests are limited in cooler weather.
Collards planted in October or November will grow all winter long, and you can just pick a few leaves every time you want some, instead of chopping down the whole plant.
In October it is still warm enough to plant collards from seed, but you can also use transplants. Plant the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep. Seeds planted deeper than ½ inch may not germinate, so do not plant them too deep. Collards should be planted about a foot apart in rows 18-36 inches apart. Keep the soil watered until the seedlings become established.
Since our weather in the cool season is not consistently cool, it is important to find a variety that is resistant to bolting. When weather warms up after a prolonged cool spell, the plant can grow very quickly, and can go to seed. Most cultivars are bred to avoid this, but it can be helpful to make sure before planting.
Collard greens are ready to harvest 60-80 days after planting. The whole plant can be cut at harvest, or individual leaves can be picked, a few at a time off multiple plants. This will extend the growing season, especially in cool weather.
Kale is another good winter green. Kale will grow slower in cool winter weather, and it can be kept in the garden all winter long. The plant can withstand frost, and while it can be nipped in very cold weather, the cold tends to sweeten the leaves. The larger, outer leaves can be picked one at a time, so you can harvest some and keep the inner part of the plant growing to keep producing.
Kale plants are fairly large, and the plants need room. Plan on having the plants grow about a foot apart from each other. Plant the seeds between ¼ inch and ½ inch deep. Seeds deeper than ½ inch will not germinate.
Cabbage is a cool season veggie that can be planted in either the fall or early spring. When planted in the spring it is best to use transplants, but in the fall, directly sowing seeds works well. Cabbages get pretty big, and they need a lot of room. If you crowd them together, they tend to grow smaller… so plant them a foot or so apart.
Cabbage seeds planted in October will grow through the winter, but probably will not mature until early spring. Once we get to November and beyond, our weather will be mostly cool, and growth will slow down. Cabbages are very cold hearty, and can withstand temperatures down to 18-20 degrees.
Kohlrabi is fun to have in the garden, it grows a bulb like a turnip, but instead of the bulb growing underground, it grows on top of the soil. It adds an interesting look to the garden, and they are tasty. Kohlrabi seeds germinate in 12-14 days and are ready to harvest in 55 days.