While the process of growing mustards is not that popular among a lot of gardeners, making this spicy green a part of your vegetable garden is still worth your time. If you plant mustard greens, you can easily access a tasty and healthy ingredient that you can include in your dishes.
Learn more about planting and growing mustard greens through this article.
Quick Facts About Mustard Greens
- Common name: Brown mustard, Chinese mustard
- Botanical name: Brassica juncea
- Type of plant: Annual featuring basal mustard leaves that develop into a loose bunch
- Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
- Size: 8 to 24 inches
- Number of days to harvest greens: Around 40 to 50 days
- Type of soil and pH level: Fertile, well-drained, and contain plenty of organic matter; 6.0 to 7.5 pH level
- Native area: North Africa, Asia, Europe
- Hardiness zones: USDA zones 2 to 11
An Overview of the Plant Mustard Greens
Mustard greens can be identified as cool-weather leaf crops. They are hardy-leaf vegetables that feature rosettes composed of big dark or light green curly leaves. Among the most edible parts are the mustard leaves and their stalks.
You can eat these parts of the mustard greens and enjoy their peppery flavor. You can also grind mustard seeds for use as condiments. One key fact that you should know about mustard is that it serves as the Brassica family’s nominal head.
By letting mustard greens grow and flourish in your garden, it will likely perform a lot of tasks and roles – one of which is it acts as a cover crop capable of warding off or fighting pathogens while providing unique plant seeds for culinary purposes.
Another advantage of this cool-season plant is that it is primarily hardy. This means it is not that susceptible or prone to the usual problems experienced by cole crops. In addition, mustard greens are adaptable, though, there are also instances when they turn invasive once you let them loose.
Another reason to like mustard greens is that they are quick and easy to grow. It is even possible for even those who are just starting to cultivate a garden to succeed when they grow mustard greens.
Mustard Green Varieties
When attempting to grow mustard, take note that you have several options as far as their varieties and types are concerned. The following are just a few of the mustard varieties that can grow healthily in your garden:
The Southern giant curled variety features a milder flavor compared to other types and varieties. Note that this mustard is cold-resistant while being slow to bolt. Expect young mustard leaves to mature within 50 days while its older outer leaves will most likely leave in 70 days.
There are curly-edged mustards that are in bright green. One thing to note about the curly-leaved varieties is that when raw, they are most likely spicy. The taste of these spicy leaves gets milder, though, once you cook them.
This mustard variety boasts of its peppery taste, which is also a bit bitter. Expect this green to feature tender stems and frondy leaves, making them easy to harvest. You can often eat the Mizuna only when cooked.
The tendergreen variety features flat, smooth-edged, broad, and dark green leaves. Also called Japanese mustard spinach, many are fond of the tenderness of this mustard. Compared to spinach, the tendergreen is more long-lived and heat resistant.
The red giant works well when used in salad recipes. The fact that this variety has thick leaves means that it can handle cooling. It is a peppery and bright variety that originated in Japan.
It takes pride in its bold flavor that has an almost raw garlic-like punch. This variety is also more resistant to pests and insects compared to other mustards. It grows well in your garden, boasting reddish-purple leaves.
This mustard green falls under the spicy variety, which looks and tastes great. It features serrated and deep red leaves. Compared to other varieties, the Scarlet Frills has thinner stems and outer leaves, which means that it can’t withstand cooking that much, making it ideal to eat when raw.
In addition, this variety is known to be not tolerant to heat. With that in mind, it would be a better idea to grow the entire plant early and late during the season in certain areas that are warm.
Compared to other varieties, the green wave bolts slower. This type boasts of its spicy and hot flavor. It can also resist the cold while having the ability to mature within 50 days. You will also love its high-yielding nature.
The Best Place to Grow Mustard Greens
The first thing to do when growing mustard greens is to determine the perfect spot for them to grow. In that case, you should choose a location where the whole plant can receive either partial shade or full sun.
It also helps to prepare a well-drained soil surface with high organic matter content. This is where you can plant the mustard. Make sure that you also put some aged compost into your garden or planting beds prior to planting. It also helps to plant mustard together with nutritious leafy greens, snap peas, and English peas.
Spacing and Planting Requirements
You also have to learn about the proper spacing requirements before planting and growing mustard greens. One thing to note when sowing mustard seeds is that they should be around half an inch deep. If you notice the mustard seedlings becoming bigger, you should work on thinning them starting from around four to eight inches apart.
How to Grow Mustard Greens from Seeds?
When planning to use seeds for growing mustard greens, you have to be aware of how they can germinate. In most cases, the seeds will germinate at their best when exposed to a temperature of around 55 to 65 degrees F.
To plant, sow the seeds directly, around one-third to one-half inches deep. These seeds should also be in rows with each one having a space or distance of around one to two feet.
The seeds should also be planted three to five inches apart. If you don’t, thinning them may be necessary. This may also lead to you transplanting immature mustard plants or eating them.
When letting the seeds germinate, make it a point to cover them lightly. Also, ensure that the soil where you plant the seeds does not end up getting dry. It should have enough moisture all the time for the germination process to take place.
It would take around four to seven days for your mustard greens to germinate successfully, provided you let them stay in proper soil conditions, preferably moist soil. The best time to transplant them is when you noticed that they already have three to four leaves.
This often happens during the third week. In that case, you have to make it a point to harden off these leafy greens for a minimum of one week before you transfer and transplant them in a location where you intend them to continue growing permanently.
Planting Mustard Greens During the Spring
You should also follow specific guidelines when it comes to planting these vegetables with bright green color during specific seasons – for example, during the spring and fall. Basically, if you intend to do spring planting, you should begin the mustard plants indoors, specifically four weeks prior to experiencing the light frost date. This is the ideal time if you wish to have the greens early in the year.
Another option is to direct seed them. This is possible if you sow seeds outdoors starting from the early spring up to the early fall in a lot of areas. What you should do is find a shallow furrow where you can plant the greens with a depth of half an inch.
If you are growing baby greens, there should be around twelve seeds for every foot. If you are already growing full-sized leafy plants, it is advisable to sow seeds with a space of six inches in between. There should also be twelve inches of space in between each row of seeds.
Planting Mustard Greens During the Fall
If you live in an area that is generally warm, your mustard greens will surely survive as fall crops. In that case, it would be ideal to direct-sow the greens during the fall, the time when the temperatures begin to cool down. This should provide an allowance of around four to six weeks prior to the first frost.
In case you are living in a place with hot climate, begin seedlings indoors, specifically during the summer up to the time when it slightly cools down. Bring these growing leafy vegetables outside to transition them slowly at times of the day when it is already cooler.
How to Care for your Mustard Greens?
Despite being one of those plants that can be quickly and easily grown, mustard greens still need proper care and attention. Here’s how you can care for the mustard greens in your garden:
Sunlight and Temperature
One growing requirement of mustard greens is full sunlight. Note, though, that there are also a few varieties of this plant that are capable of handling partial shade. As for their preferred temperature, it is usually around 50 to 75 degrees F.
Your mustard greens also need a consistent water supply. In general, they need around one to two inches of water. They need sufficient hydration, so ensure that you continue making the soil evenly moist.
Fertilizers may no longer be necessary if you use rich soil in your garden. However, if you use poor-quality soil, like the sandy type, you may need to use a balanced fertilizer for your mustard greens. Apply such type of fertilizer once the mustard greens already grow to several inches.
Do the application again once the plants are already in the middle of their growing season. Check the leaves of your mustard greens, too. If they are starting to yellow or show symptoms of nutrient deficiency, apply a liquid fertilizer so you can quickly feed them.
Take note that these plants need high levels of nitrogen. As for potassium and phosphorus, moderate amounts of it would be enough.
Caring for your mustard greens also includes weeding as certain weeds, like pigweed, Shepherd’s purse, and Florida broad leaf, tend to compete with them for nutrients. These weeds may also spread diseases.
Fortunately, it is not that difficult to remove weeds. Just dig them out softly using your hands. Make sure that you remove their roots, too.
Also included in caring for this particular plant is crop rotation since these plants belong to the brassica family, which also includes the cabbage family, collards, kale, turnips, radishes, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. You need to rotate these plants to prevent them from following each other for around three years.
By doing that, you can lower their risk of sharing and spreading pests and diseases. You can also expect brassicas and the cabbage family to survive if they follow legumes because all of them are heavy feeders of nitrogen.
Beans are also capable of adding nitrates to the soil. However, you should avoid planting mustard greens next to legumes in case there is existing mold or mildew.
Harvesting Mustard Greens
It is also advisable to learn how to harvest mustard greens once you are successful in growing them. A wise recommendation is to harvest mustard when the greens are young and tender. The reason is that if you let their leaves get older, there is a high possibility for them to get tougher and highly bitter.
It is also advisable to discard all visible yellow leaves before and during harvest. You can perform the harvest by picking individual leaves and then leaving the remaining plant so it can continue to grow. You may also cut down the entire plant, making it possible for you to harvest all leaves simultaneously.
Store the freshly harvested greens in your fridge. Make sure to put them in cold water before storing them, so you can retain their healthy and perky leaves. In that case, you can store them in a bag which contains a wet paper towel to provide the leaves with moisture. Expect the greens to last for around a week inside the fridge.
You may also store them for longer, but you have to blanch them to be able to do that. To blanch, boil them quickly then plunge the leaves into an ice bath. Once done, you can freeze them. This technique aids in preserving the nutrients and taste of your greens.
Pests and Diseases to Avoid
Mustard greens are also prone to get afflicted by the following pests and diseases:
Flea beetles refer to those small black insects that tend to feed on the leaves of plants, forming tiny holes. If the same pests and insects infest your mustard greens, the best way to handle it is to use a floating row cover in covering young plants.
You can also mulch using a straw to confuse the pests. Also, take note that flea beetles tend to come out during the summer and spring, so it would be best to schedule the planting of the greens in a way that you can enjoy a fall harvest.
Powdery and downy mildew
Both problems affect members of the Brassica family. They tend to result from a fungus carried through water particles from the ground. Several factors may lead to the spread of these diseases – among which are high humidity, fog, dew, overhead irrigation, and rain.
Fight powdery and downy mildew with the help of a drip irrigation system. This is possible if you cultivate the soil during the fall and maintain a schedule for crop rotation. You may also use a high-quality fungicide.
Aphids refer to tiny arachnids that are fond of sucking the fluids from green leaves. They quickly reproduce and tend to show only signs of infestation when the case is already serious. Get rid of these aphids with the help of pyrethrin or neem oil. It also helps to attract beneficial predators, like parasitic wasps and ladybugs.
There are also leaf miners that may chew on the leaves, forming mine-like tunnels that may result in the leaves dying and withering. You can prevent these pests with the help of a crop cover, which also works for cabbage worms and cabbage loopers.
These covers can help protect your mustard seed from pests. Attract parasitic wasps to fight such pests in your garden, too. Another thing that you should do is prune all infected leaves so you can destroy them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take for mustard greens to grow?
In most cases, mustard greens need around thirty to forty days before they can reach the harvest period. Sowing succession crops every four to six weeks can also help in their successful growth, making you harvest mustard greens that are truly healthy and nutritious.
What month/season should you plant mustard greens?
Plant mustard greens during the fall or spring. It is preferable to cultivate this plant during the winter or fall if you are one of those who live in the South, like Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The mentioned states are known for their mild winters while their hot summers are unsuitable for cool-season crops, like mustard.
Do mustard greens come back every year?
No. The reason is that mustard greens can be classified as annual plants. This means that this plant is only capable of lasting for a single growing season.
Will mustard greens grow back after cutting?
Yes. You can expect mustard greens to regrow after you cut them off. Expect a group of new and tender leaves to come out from the center of the plant.