Collards

2013 Greens (end of season notes)

Arugula: did well in shady spot, needed 3 plantings this year
Basil: started indoors and from seed in garden, all did well
Bok Choi: first planting did well, subsequent plantings did less well – one planting next year?
Cilantro: did well, needed 3 plantings (only got 2), not very popular – less next year?
Kales, Collards & Swiss Chard: seeded in garden, excellent spacing and productivity
Lettuce: need to plant every 2 weeks for continuous harvest – try new butterhead & romaine varieties?
Mesclun: did well, but not terribly popular – plant less or use space for lettuce next year?
Spinach: success! great germination and beautiful early & late season plants (left to winter over) – repeat next year?

November Harvests: Brussels Sprouts and other Cold-Hardy Crops

If it's November, it's time to harvest the Brussels Sprouts. They're one of the slowest crops in the garden -- but worth the wait. They're exceptionally cold hardy. In fact, they were growing so vigorously in late October that the snow didn't even stick to them!

 

The last of the Scallions, Leeks, Collard Greens and Tatsoi were harvested this week. (Sadly, the Leeks never fully matured.) We're still picking small Broccoli florets (amazingly, from the seedlings we planted in April) and some of the sweetest Kale I've ever tasted. The Arugula and Broccoli Rabe also continue to produce. A few tiny Lettuce and Spinach seedlings remain, along with our marginal late-season Cabbages.  

Alan harvests Brussels sprouts

Mike, Melanie and Sophia prep the sprouts

Radishes split from the rain

I opened the garden at 5:50 last evening and soon left to go to collect produce donations at the farmers' market.

In just my 20 minutes, several intrigued people came by, the adults usually more interested than the children.

When I returned at 15 before 7, Lisa and Bailey and daughter were there. We tried some of the radishes: The regular ones split from the rain like cherry tomatoes, but were good. Of the big ones, one was OK, but the biggest one was riddled with wire worms.

Tuesday when I was there for a moment in time, a man liked our garden but then didn't think the snow fence was so attractive, but I said well, it was recycled and was practical.

Dick today at Johnnies told me that one day this week when he was there, an older woman, an experienced gardener, informed him the collards were ready and should be harvested now, lest they get old and tough.

 

“Pick those collards now,” she scolded (gently).

While I was at the garden this morning, doing surgery on the soaker hose (2X more holes now), a handsome, boxy 5-ft-5 grandmother, maybe in her early 70s, came over with her 2-year-old grandkid (or was it great-grandkid?) to admire the garden.

We connected quickly. She pointed around the place, calling off all the veggies she had growing in her own garden. Then, hand out level with her shoulder, she said in a thick eastern European accent: “My tomatoes are much taller; they're cherries; and they produce lots.” Then she smiled.

I thought, "This lady knows tomatoes," and told her that some of mine at home were still only 4 to 5 inches high.

Then the gentle, between-friends scold began. 

“Why haven’t you picked those yet?” she said, pointing to the collard greens. “Another week and those leaves will be hard. You don't want that."

"You’ve got to pick them now," she said. "Boil them first, then fry them with a little olive oil. They will taste very good.”

“But do it now,” she repeated, poking the air before me with her finger. “Don’t let them get hard.”

I promised I’d pass her admonitions on to the crew tomorrow evening, when we get together for our mid-week shift.

Collard Greens' Sprouts - On Schedule

The collard greens’ tiny sprouts have broken through, on schedule, as have those of both their neighbors, the Swiss chard and the kale.  The Swiss chard's two seed leaves are elongated, like little green bananas. The two seed leaves for the collard greens and kale, their close cousin, are quite circular, more like Mickey Mouse's ears.

There are lots of those tiny shoots poking their heads up out of the soil. They look adorable. And the kids who walk past the Garden on the way to school seem to take delight in them. 

We'll start thinning these seedlings pretty soon. We don't want them crowding each other. So the Reaper comes soon. We’ll thin them out, saving only the most promising, leaving the survivors spaced maybe just an inch from one another. That's just the first thinning. There will be more. As soon as leaves come close to touching, out comes the weaker-looking of the two.

If I understand this right, at some point we'll end up with collards standing as much as 2 feet from one another.

Planting Collard Greens

Let's start with the soil prep. We started preparing the soil last Saturday, the 17th. That was when Mike and Alan dug up the plot with with a motorized rotary tiller. Then yesterday, to loosen it up still further down --  to about 10 inches or so -- we went at it with our garden forks. Since collards produce tap roots as long 15 to 18 inches, we hope this first 10 inches of fluffed-up soil gives them a good start.

The results from the Ag Center at U Mass Amherst told us the soil was pretty anemic and too acidic. To fortify and sweeten it, we mixed into it a good deal of compost, some dried-out chicken poop and cow manure, plus what seemed like a ton of pelletized lime.

Now the planting. For the collard greens, we planted three rows of seeds. They’re in the center of a 6 x 9 foot section that plays host on one side to Swiss chard and on the other to two varieties of kale, the collards’ closest cousin.

Seeds for collard greens are tiny. We spread them fairly densely along their three rows, with the idea of thinning the less successful seedlings out later.

Then we covered the seeds with about 1/2 inch of dirt and watered each row with a sprinkling can, so as not to disadvantage any of our promising young contenders.

Seeds for collard greens are said to germinate fairly quickly. So we expect to see their sprouts some time next week or the beginning of the week after that.

This type of collards -- Georgia, from Burpee -- is supposed to reach full maturity in about 75 days. That means the first or second week in July.  We’ll start harvesting leaves, though, probably a good month before that.

Speaking for myself, I love collard greens, though I’ve never grown them, never cooked them.  We’ve always gotten our collards, Saturday afternoons, at the basement kitchen of the United House of Prayer for All People, on Seaver Street in Dorchester. Great soul food there.

I look forward to trying my own hand at fixing collards. But I doubt they’ll be nearly as good.

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