Feng Shui & the Food Garden: Collards

Leafy collard plant
I don’t harvest the oldest or the youngest leaves. I leave the oldest leaves (which don’t look appetizing) to give the plant energy and the youngest to encourage it to keep growing. Every time I harvest I just take one or two rounds of the biggest appetizing-looking leaves.

Collards are an ideal choice for food growing in the front yard, or anyplace else with good sunlight. They look abundant with huge, lush leaves, and abundance in the front yard is very appropriate. Abundance is usually what people try to symbolize in their front yards when using feng shui. Water fountains are the most common recommendation, since water symbolizes wealth. But with a food garden, the abundance is real—beautifully real!

Collards are my preferred choice here for many reasons. For one, they are more nutritious than most other vegetables, in fact they’re considered a “super food.” It’s not unusual for me to enjoy them at more than one meal a day. To harvest them sustainably, only take three to five leaves at a time from each stalk. Leave the oldest leaves on the plant to nourish it. They look too funky to eat, but they still help the plant grow. The ideal leaves to harvest are the biggest leaves that are just before the funky leaves.

Where a collard stalk flops over—that’s where a new thicket of collard stalks starts growing. The ground cover plant here is mint and the mulch is leaves.

Another reason they’re a favorite of mine to grow is because they’re just so easy. Collards can grow for decades here in Hawaii, and they can overwinter in temperate areas. When I gardened in Tennessee, I just made a clear plastic “room” to fit over the plants and they would survive nicely, providing fresh greens in midwinter and raring to go in the spring.

Here’s how collards grow in Hawaii. One seed starts one plant and as it grows, it makes a stalk which keeps the leaves high off the ground, so dirt and slugs don’t generally get on the leaves at all (unlike kale). As that stalk gets taller, it starts to lean over and eventually flops over to the ground. Then little collard stalks start growing from the mother stalk. This just goes on forever. I once had a collard stalk that reached 15 feet tall. (It fell over the night before I was going to take a picture!) Eventually that one seed you planted will become a collard patch that spreads over several square yards. They’re the easiest vegetable I know of to grow. We just keep mulching them with leaves and they keep producing year after year.

This collard stalk is several years old. When they get this big they’re impossible to harvest from—no slugs though! Sooner or later it will flop over (unless we prop it up which we’re not going to do) and then it will send up new collard stalks along the big mother stalk.

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