How to Grow Mustard Greens



Days to germination: 7 to 10 days
Days to harvest: 30 to 40 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Loose and fertile
Container: Definitely

Introduction

A peppery alternative to regular lettuce or spinach for your salad greens. Their frilly leaves are bright green, and could even be grown in a flower garden. The taste of raw mustard greens is similar to radish roots.

Most people who grow mustard in their gardens are after the easy-to-harvest greens, but it is the same plant that produces mustard seed for a secondary harvest later on.

There are several varieties for the home garden, including Chinese greens like Choi Sum. Most of the differences between the varieties are maturity dates and the coloring of the leaves. They can range from light to deep green, as well as red.

Mustard greens can be eaten raw or cooked, with the smaller young leaves being the most tender for salads. Larger leaves can be quite spicy but will get milder when you cook them.

Like all greens, mustard is very healthy and filled with vitamins. It’s a good source of vitamins A, K, C and E. You also get folic acid, calcium and fiber.

Starting from Seed

Plant your mustard right into the garden, as early as you can start digging. They love the cool weather and you can usually get both a spring and a fall crop.

Your seeds should be no deeper than half an inch, and sown between 1 and 2 feet apart. Plant a few seeds at each point, and thin down to one plant once they sprout.

Once the heat of the summer is past, put another seeding out to grow again during the cooler fall weather.

Growing Instructions

Take care of your plants while they grow with regular watering and weeding. Mustard doesn’t compete well so keep the bed free of weeds so your plants can thrive. Water whenever the weather gets dry. Moisture-stressed plants will go to seed early.

Though they are not particularly a heavy feeding plant, keep them fertilized to promote faster growing leaves.

Containers

Mustard greens are ideal for containers because the plants stay quite compact and will provide a continuous harvest all spring (or fall). Mustard plants will seldom grow taller than 3 feet high.

Fill pots with loose soil and plant 1 to 2 plants per large pot. You can fit more plants in your containers if you intend to harvest the leaves more frequently to keep their size down. Keep the pots well watered especially when its getting hotter and the containers dry out faster.

Pests and Diseases

Cabbage worms can do a lot of damage to your mustard leaves if they go unchecked. Look over your plants daily and pick off any small caterpillars or worms that are eating the leaves. Regular treatments of insecticides can repel them, just don’t spray the plants right before you intend to harvest the leaves.

The common downy mildew is a fungus that can create a dusty covering on your plant leaves. Treat with fungicide if you see it growing, and don’t let the leaves get wet when you water the plants.

It may not look it, but mustard is in the same family as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. So you should not plant your greens in the same patch that has had these other vegetables growing in the past season or you are more likely to encourage diseases in the soil.

One such disease is club root, a fungus that lives in the soil and attacks underground. The roots of your plants will start to swell up, and won’t survive long once it develops. You’ll have to pull or dig up your plants to see if this is the cause of their wilting. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to treat club root. Harvest your remaining leaves, and plant your next crop of mustard in another part of the garden. Treat the soil heavily with lime to eliminate the fungus.

Harvest and Storage

You can harvest your greens any time during the growing season, by clipping of a few leaves from each plant for use. The larger the leaves, the stronger the flavor is going to be. The best size is around 3 to 4 inches long. Don’t pull the leaves off, but rather cut them with scissors or a knife to avoid damaging the rest of the plant.

How many plants you will need really depends on how often you intend to harvest your greens. They do have a fairly strong flavor and most families don’t eat them with every meal. Plan for 4 to 6 plants for each member in your family, or fewer if you only use the greens occasionally.

When the weather gets hot, the plants will go to seed and put up a flower stalk. At that point, it will stop producing new leaves and your harvest period is over. You can either pull up the plants, or let them go to seed if you are after the mustard seeds as well as the greens.

To harvest the mustard seeds, leave the stalks on the plants until the developing seed pod has dried. Collect the seeds and use them as whole mustard seed, or grind them to make prepared mustard. Leaving the seeds on the plant as long as possible is ideal, yet you want to harvest them before the pod splits open and the seeds end up in the soil.

Mustard seeds that do get dispersed will very likely grow into new plants the next season, so if you intend to use your garden patch for a different crop next year, take care to keep the mustard seeds out.

For your fall crop, you can keep picking leaves until you start to get regular hard frosts. A fall crop won’t have the hot weather needed to trigger flowering, so don’t expect any mustard seeds this time.

Store your extra leaves in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for a week or so. Keep them in a sealed plastic bag. For longer storage, you can freeze them to be used in cooked dishes later. Blanch the leaves in boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes before freezing so they will hold their color.

18 Responses to “How to Grow Mustard Greens”

  1. Jen  Says:

    The hardest part of this was planting only a couple of seeds per hole. Those things are tiny! We had to thin them out quite a bit, but it’s totally worth it. What a great harvest!

  2. Jennifer  Says:

    I have found that mustard green are one of the few plants that will grow in my window garden year round. The leaves are smaller in the winter, but it keeps growing. I use a fertilizer called Crystal Green…all my plants love it, especially the greens!

  3. Vanessa  Says:

    I noticed that in this article it says that Mustard Greens should be harvested when they are 3 to 4 inches long. However, I have never grown any mustard greens that were under 15 inches long and about a foot or more wide. I use a weekly schedule when growing mustards such as watering Monday’s and Wednesday’s and fertilizing on Friday’s, this helps put the greens on a regular routine.

  4. Bobby Fennell  Says:

    I believe one to two feet apart is a waste of good dirt. I sow mine and thin as I get hungry, the young ones for salads and as they grow, for cooking.
    Curly leaf best in salad, broadleaf for cooking.Very healthy but best with lots of salt and bacon.

  5. Nick Serpa  Says:

    I planted mustard greens in a sunny, south facing corner by my porch. In only two inches of soil placed right on top of concrete, they somehow grew three feet tall with a huge amount of edible matter. I used the leaves in a pesto with some basil, garlic, and olive oil. Very tasty! I also enjoyed raw leaf as a replacement for lettuce on a hamburger. If you saw my plant, you’d be wondering where the roots would be. I won’t mess with sucess, planting again this Spring!

  6. Elaine  Says:

    What can you do with the flowers? Can you still eat the greens with the flowers on them?

  7. Boris  Says:

    Hi,
    Can someone please tell me, if this is the same plant that we use the seeds to make mustard out of? for example like Dijon Mustard, or German Mustard etc..

    If it is, I really never knew you can eat the leaves too! Do they also have the mustardy flavour too, or do they have a different flavour?

    Thank you from down under (Australia).

  8. BJ WoodhamPO  Says:

    I cook my greens by cooking in a large electric skillet, by cooking one half lb bacon, then adding greens, cooking them down, then adding water, cooking till tender, adding small amount of sugar and salt while cooking greens. Turns out Great !

  9. Administrator  Says:

    Same plant, though different hybrids are often used to grow the seeds vs the greens. You might not get the best leaves from a hybrid developed for seed production, or vice versa, but ya, same plant.

  10. destrum  Says:

    BJ you make my mouth water. I cook them the same way, but I chop an onion and cook it with the bacon. I grew them last year I got the seeds from burpee on the package it said india mustard and the leaves were not curly like the ones from the store. They tasted good but went to seed real quick. Anyone know the difference? They taste the same to me.

  11. sw  Says:

    would of helped if you`d said what month to grow them in…..bit more thought into you article would help…..

  12. DODIE  Says:

    hi. just want to share my mustard greens pickle recipe… wash each leaf with just plain water. dry with a towel. for a kilo of leaves, mix with a teaspoon of salt and about five to ten tablespoons of vinegar. the next part is the most difficult but necessary part. similar to ‘handwashing’ your clothes, do the same with the leaves. this allows the juice in the leaves and the stalks to blend with the salt and vinegar. once you smell the aroma of the mustard you will know that you are on the right track. do the procedure until all leaves and stalks have been squeezed out of their juices. store in a glass container inside the fridge. u may stock this for 2-4 weeks. u may eat it with your fish or meat or simply eat it as it is… enjoy.

  13. DODIE  Says:

    ps. i forgot to mention that this should be done using a wide and clean basin

  14. ceve  Says:

    i grew up on eating mustard greens and kale, mixed when cooking with a piece of smoked meat in the pot (cook meat done first). So, i never pick the greens at 3 to 4 inches tall!! At about 7 to 8 or longer , then u cut high up enough so more plants will grow and u have a continuous crop . I leave at least 3 or 4 inches at the ground level so the baby leaves will grow. They will grow year around in mild eather such as we have in the NW. I can’t wait to use my son’s yard to plant greens. U sow them, then thin them out, or make very shallow rows and try to space the tiny seeds out. blessings.

  15. mel  Says:

    I live in metro Atlanta, Georgia and my mustards thrive easily and taste delicious accompanied with a lil pork lean and fat caramelized. You cannot over season with too much salt and black pepper but you want that robust aroma that saturate the whole house where everybody know they’re in for some good eating. Again, they’re simply delicious. I can canvas the neiborhoods and find some mustards almost year round and there’s a super market in the Atlanta area that carries them also.

  16. mel  Says:

    Mustards Greens has the edge in flavor over Collards as far as I’m concerned. Of course Collards has an excellent flavor as well. Put a little “pickle meat” (a term privy to New Orleanians)) cooked to carmelization with a modest amount of onions and garlic, bell pepper, celery, black pepper, and salt depending on amount.

  17. ansel  Says:

    very helpful– THANK YOU

  18. Farouk  Says:

    Simple, informative and inclusive;it is useful to me. I’ve sown some seeds last week of December 2013 at this winter season in Khartoum North ( Sudan ).As seedlings they are more tasty for small birds. here in my place. Now after two weeks I’ve lost almost half of them.

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