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Growing collards and kale in home gardens

Quick facts

  • Grow where you have not grown cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard, turnip or rutabaga for the past four years.
  • Direct seed or start indoors in April.
  • For fall crops, start seed indoors in June.
  • If the plants are overheated or struggling to take up water, they will produce chemicals resulting in pungent or bitter flavors.

Hardy leafy greens 

Green and purple Redbor kale plant

Collards and kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) are leafy forms of the same species as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Collards produce large, smooth, thick leaves, while kale leaves are curly, ruffled or lobed on the edges. Russian or Siberian kale is a very similar plant of a different species (Brassica napus var. pabularia).

You can eat both collards and kale raw when the leaves are small and tender. You can cook the larger, tougher, more mature leaves, as well as stew, braise, stir-fry or even make them into kale chips.

Both plants are cold tolerant and will continue to grow and produce new leaves well beyond the first fall frosts. Even after they have frozen, you can harvest and cook the leaves straight from the garden.

Soil pH and fertility

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Planting

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How to keep your collard and kale plants healthy and productive

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Managing pests, diseases, and disorders

Many things can affect cabbage leaves, roots, and heads. Changes in physical appearance and plant health can be caused by the environment, plant diseases, insects and wildlife. In order to   address what you’re seeing, it is important to make a correct diagnosis.


You can find additional help identifying common pest problems by using the online diagnostic tools or by sending a sample to the UMN Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic. You can use Ask a Master Gardener to share pictures and get input.

Managing pests, diseases, and disorders

Many things can affect cabbage leaves, roots, and heads. Changes in physical appearance and plant health can be caused by the environment, plant diseases, insects and wildlife. In order to   address what you’re seeing, it is important to make a correct diagnosis.


You can find additional help identifying common pest problems by using the online diagnostic tools or by sending a sample to the UMN Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic. You can use Ask a Master Gardener to share pictures and get input.

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Author: Marissa Schuh, IPM Extension educator, and Jill MacKenzie

Reviewed in 2022

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