Planting Mustard Greens – How To Grow Mustard Greens

Planting Mustard Greens – How To Grow Mustard Greens

By: Heather Rhoades

Growing mustards is something that may be unfamiliar to many gardeners, but this spicy green is quick and easy to grow. Planting mustard greens in your garden will help you add a healthy and tasty food to your vegetable garden harvest. Keep reading more to learn how to plant mustard greens and the steps for growing mustard greens.

How to Plant Mustard Greens

Planting mustard greens is done either from seed or from seedlings. Since growing mustard greens from seed is so easy, this is the most common way to plant mustard greens. However, young seedlings will work just as well.

If you’ll be growing mustards from seed, you can start them outdoors three weeks before your last frost date. If you would like a more steady harvest, plant mustard green seeds about every three weeks to give you a successive harvest. Mustard greens will not grow well in the summer, so you should stop planting seeds a bit before the end of spring and start planting the mustard greens seeds again in mid-summer for a fall harvest.

When planting mustard greens seeds, plant each seed just under the soil about a half inch (1.5 cm.) apart. After the seeds sprout, thin the seedlings to 3 inches (7.5 cm.) apart.

If you’re planting seedlings, plant them 3-5 inches (7.5 to 15 cm.) apart beginning three weeks before your last frost date. When planting mustard greens seeds, you can plant new seedlings every three weeks for a successive harvest.

How to Grow Mustard Greens

Mustard greens growing in your garden need little care. Give the plants plenty of sun or partial shade, and keep in mind that mustard greens like cool weather and grow rapidly. You can fertilize with a balanced fertilizer, but often these vegetables don’t need it when in a well amended vegetable garden soil.

Mustard greens need 2 inches (5 cm.) of water a week. If you are not getting this much rainfall a week while growing mustards, then you can do additional watering.

Keep your mustard greens bed weed free, especially when they are small seedlings. The less competition they have from weeds, the better they will grow.

Harvesting Mustard Greens

You should harvest mustard greens while they’re still young and tender. Older leaves will get tough and increasingly bitter as they get older. Discard any yellow leaves that may appear on the plant.

Mustard greens are harvested one of two ways. You can either pick individual leaves and leave the plant to grow more, or the entire plant can be cut down to harvest all the leaves at once.

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How to Grow Mustard

  • A field of mustard.
A black mustard plant.

Mustard is an ancient plant that’s full of appeal for contemporary gardeners. The plants are easy to grow and produce seed in as few as 60 days. The greens are edible, the flowers attractive, and if the seeds are allowed to mature on the plant, they will self-sow and still provide plenty for mustard making. Is making your own mustard worth the effort? Considering that a small jar of good Dijon can cost up to $6, it is indeed. About a dollar’s worth of seed will produce a pantry shelf full of fine and fancy mustards and more greens than you can shake a salad spinner at.

Mustard is a tiny seed with a lot of spunk. It will grow just about anywhere, is rarely bothered by pests, and is prolific to boot.

Mustard in all its forms—shoots, leaves, flowers, whole seed, powdered, or prepared—is a flavorful, low-fat way to punch up any savory food. I’ve used the whole seed in pickling and cooking, tossed the tender greens in fresh salads (garnished with mustard flowers, of course), stewed mature leaves as a southern-style side dish, and crushed spicy seed to make a variety of pungent mustards.

If you’ve ever traveled to California’s wine country in early spring, you may have seen the vineyards awash in yellow flowers. Those are mustard plants, the winemaker’s friend. Many vineyard owners plant mustard deliberately as a cover crop or let field mustard (Brassica kaber) run rampant. When plowed back into the soil, the plants act as a green manure and release nitrogen. Mustard also repels some insects (the seeds are that hot) and attracts syrphid flies, beneficial predators that attack vine-chewing insects.

Mustard seed contains no cholesterol, only trace amounts of vegetable fat, and about 25 percent protein. Leaf mustard contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and Vitamin B. The calories are negligible in most basic prepared mustards, so you can feel free to indulge.

Today, mustard is second in demand to pepper among spices in the United States. Historical records indicate the use of mustard as far back as 4,000 b.c.e., and it’s believed prehistoric man chewed mustard seeds with his meat (probably to disguise decay). From about 2,000 b.c.e. on, ancient civilizations used it as an oil, a spice, and a medicinal plant. It was introduced into western and northern Europe in the early Middle Ages.

Over the years, mustard has been imbued with curative powers. It’s been called an appetite stimulant, a digestive aid, and a decongestant. Because mustard increases blood circulation, it’s often used in plaster form to treat inflammation. Folklore has it you can even sprinkle mustard powder in your socks to prevent frostbite.

All mustards come from the Cruciferae, a family that includes broccoli and cabbage. Brassica nigra, B. alba, and B. juncea produce black, white (really a yellowish-tan), and brown seeds, respectively. The black seeds of B. nigra are used for moderately spicy mustards. French cooks use them to make Dijon-style mustard—it can be called true Dijon mustard only if it is certified to come from that city, which has the exclusive right to produce it. In West Indian dishes, black seeds are fried until they pop. The black variety produces less-desirable greens, and is really intended to be grown for seed.

White seeds—B. alba—are the primary ingredient in traditional ball-park mustard, and it’s the most common and the mildest of the three. The white seeds also have the strongest preserving power and are therefore the kitchen gardener’s choice for pickles, relishes, and chutneys. White mustards are not typically grown for their greens.
Brown mustard, the hottest of all, is used for curries and Chinese hot mustards, and frequently for Dijon-type mustards. If you’re growing mustard for the greens, choose B. juncea or an Oriental variety like ‘Giant Red’.

Mustard is easy to grow
Mustard will grow well in most soils, but will produce the most seed in rich, well-drained, well-prepared soil with a pH of no less than 6.0. It will thrive if given constant moisture. It likes cool weather a light frost can even improve the flavor. Black mustard is the least fussy.

The black mustard plant (Brassica nigra), shown with a mature seed pod (top right), white mustard seeds, and black mustard seeds.

For best results, add 10 to 15 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 500 square feet, or the organic equivalent. Thoroughly work the amendments into the top 2 to 3 inches of soil just prior to seeding.

In the springtime, sow the seed in drills about 1⁄8 inch deep and 15 inches apart, as the last frost deadline nears. If you live in the South, you can also seed in September or October for harvest in the fall and winter. Once the plants are up, thin to 9 or 10 inches apart, and then you can almost ignore them. If you’re interested in harvesting a lot of seed, however, feed the plants regularly.

Mustard is blissfully free of insect and disease problems, and larger critters don’t seem to like it much either. The hotter and drier the weather, though, the faster the plants go to seed—30 to 60 days, depending on the variety and the climate.

Cutting the mustard
Pick B. juncea leaves for salad when they’re small, young, and tender, or use the larger leaves for sautéing or stewing. Add young leaves to stir-fries and salads. Mustard greens add a nice, sharp flavor contrast to mild, buttery lettuces and therefore are often one of the plants found in mesclun mixes.

Larger mustard leaves need to be cooked. Stew them with bacon or a ham hock, southern-style, or shred and sauté them with other greens to make a bed for grilled fish and meats. You can also add mustard greens to long-cooking soups and stews. Flowers can be used as an edible garnish.

Watch out if you let the pods get too ripe, or your garden could become overrun with mustard plants, which may be exactly what you want. If you want to harvest seeds, however, pick the pods just after they change from green to brown, before they are entirely ripe otherwise they will shatter and the fine seed will blow into every corner of your garden.

Pods should be air-dried in a warm place for about two weeks. Spread them out on clean muslin, an old sheet, or a fine screen. Once dry, gently crush the pods to remove the seeds and hulls.

Mustard is an ordinary-looking little seed with an impressive ability to grow into a mighty plant that’s highly prolific. Its reputation as both a seed with great promise and great piquancy is supported by numerous passages found everywhere from the Bible to Shakespeare.

How could this small nothing-of-a-seed attract grandiose praise and literary attention? Through tenacity and vigor, no doubt. See the passage below from the Book of Matthew for an example of these traits. After reading the passage, you might question whether mustard could ever attain the stature suggested. Yes, it is possible that Brassica hirta and B. nigra grew into trees in the Mediterranean climate.

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all seeds. But when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
—Matthew 13:31-32

by LeAnn Zotta
February 1997
from issue #19

About Companion Planting

Gardeners often use companion planting -- positioning vegetables, herbs and flowers strategically -- to benefit the garden. The plants you choose can provide vital nutrients to the soil, draw beneficial insects, repel insects that can damage your plants and provide shade and contrasting scent and color. Making the right choice of companion plants for mustard greens can mean the difference between scraggly, insect-eaten plants and strong, beautiful greens.

Assembling the Containers

Mustard greens get much larger than you think they will. They also don’t play nice with other plants. Mine ended up smothering the onions that I’d mistakenly thought I could grow around them. I’d recommend about 2 plants in a 12 inch, circular terracotta pot. I had three in a slightly larger Smart Pot and this worked just fine, but they all started looking a bit cramped at the end of the season.

Once you have the containers, you can begin the assembly process for growing mustard greens. If the plants that were previously living in the pot in question died of disease, you’ll want to disinfect it and dump the remaining soil. Gardeners can reuse soil that didn’t previously contain diseased plants. If you do that, you will probably need to add compost and/or fertilizer to revamp the dirt’s nutritional qualities.

As for empty containers, simply wash them if they are dirty and let them air dry. Then add potting soil, if needed, and mustard greens. Squish the plant roots apart gently before placing them into their new homes so that the roots don’t end up being root bound. Water the plant until liquid runs out the bottom of the container. Make sure to keep watering them throughout the growing season. Mustard greens don’t seem to need a lot of moisture, but they will quickly start to droop if they aren’t getting enough. Just keep an eye on them over the winter months and they should be fine.

30 Great Zone 5 Plants to Grow

Whether you’re new to zone five or a new gardener in zone five, not all plants grow well in every USDA zone. Picking the right plants for the climate in your region is the very first step to successful gardening. Imagine trying to grow bananas when you live in Vermont that’s not going to happen, no matter how much you try.

I love living in zone five! Not only do we have all four seasons, but we also have a vast range of plants to grow. Most vegetables, flowers, and herbs grow well in this area, but some perennials cannot handle the cold temperatures each winter.

Zone five is divided into two sections: zone 5a and zone 5b. They each have slightly different planting weeks because zone 5a is northern and receives their last frost later than 5b. While each section can grow the same plants, the planting dates might vary slightly.

Zone five plants need to be able to survive temperatures no lower than -20℉. That tends to be the coldest temperature in this region. Perennials need to be tough and capable of withstanding a late frost or still be dormant in the early spring.

Let’s take a look at the best zone 5 plants to grow in your garden.

The Best Vegetables to Grow in Zone 5

First, let’s look at the best vegetables to grow in zone five. As a vegetable gardener in zone five, we can grow most veggies, but we have to plant later than those in zones 6-11. On average, the final frost comes in late April or early May, and the first frost appears in October, which gives us several months of frost-free gardening.

Here are some vegetables that grow exceedingly well in this zone.

1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that produces for over 20 years when cared for properly. Plant in the early spring between March and April in a spot that has full sunlight.

2. Beets

Beets are a root crop that can be planted as soon as the ground is workable, between March and April. Make sure the soil is fluffy and free of rocks or chunks of dirt that prevents root growth.

3. Bush

Both pole and bush beans grow well in zone five. These are warm-season crops planted after the final frost in May. Bush beans produce their crop all at once, but you can plant bush beans two times in zone five before the first frost. Pole beans produce their crop over several months.

4. Cabbage

Cabbages are an annual vegetable that grows as a spring and fall crop in zone five. Plant between March and April, but you need to start the seedlings inside six weeks before transplanting outside.

5. Carrots

Carrots are a favorite root crop planted between March and April and work as a succession planting vegetable. They grow well in the spring and fall in zone five.

6. Celery

Many people bypass growing celery, but it grows well in zone five. Too many gardeners think celery is hard to grow, but it’s not. Plant between April and May, starting the seeds inside 8-10 weeks before transplanting dates.

7. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a warm-season vegetable that vines upwards and needs to be planted in May after the final frost passes. These vegetables need plenty of water, or they’ll wilt quickly.

8. Lettuce

Greens, including lettuce, grow well in zone five. Most greens, including mustards, swiss chard, and kale, grow well in this growing zone — plant between April and May.

9. Onions

Some find growing onions confusing, but they grow well in zone five. It takes two years to grow onions from seeds, but only a few months if grown from onion sets. Plant between April and May.

10. Peas

Peas are an early spring vining crop that climbs up a support system — plant between April and May and the fall. If you want to grow peas in the fall, plant them 8-10 weeks before the first frost in your area.

11. Peppers

Peppers are a warm-season crop that needs as much heat as possible. Plant the seedlings in the garden in May after the final frost date. Expect the harvest to come in August and September.

12. Potatoes

Potatoes are a popular root crop that grows well in this climate. Plant between April and May and harvest towards the late summer and early fall. Make sure the soil doesn’t stay waterlogged or the potatoes rot.

13. Pumpkins

Pumpkins are a traditional warm-season crop that should be planted in May after the final frost. It takes a long time to reach maturity, so be sure the days to maturity match this growing zone.

14. Radishes

Radishes are a simple root crop that reaches maturity in as little as 30 days. Plant between March and April, and you can seeds every two to three weeks for succession planting.

15. Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that tastes more like a fruit with a sour taste best mixed with fruit. It needs to be planted in early spring between March and April, growing for decades to come.

16. Summer Squash

Most commonly grown is zucchini, which does well in zone five. Plant once the final frost passes in May. You can start seeds inside two weeks before transplanting outside or sow seeds directly outdoors.

17. Winter Squash

Traditionally grown due to their long-term storage ability, many winter squashes grow well in zone five. Plant these warm-season crops after the final frost in May. Check their days to maturity to be sure it matches the frost-free days.

The Best Flowers and Herbs to Grow in Zone 5

Flower gardens in zone five are full of color. Gardeners have a considerable selection to consider when planning their gardens. If you want a ground cover, consider creeping phlox, creeping thyme, violets, and stonecrop. These ground covers spread and grow like wildfire in zone five gardens.

Many herbs grow well in zone five. There are few, if none, herbs that you cannot grow in this climate, but not all perennial herbs grow well here because the temperatures might dip too low.

My herb garden is full of different plants, including basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. Most of your favorite herbs can grow well in these zones, but a majority are annuals unless grown inside or grown in containers and brought inside.

Here are some other flowers and herbs that grow well in USDA zone five.

18. Delphinium

Delphinium grows up to six feet tall in zones three through seven. That means you need to grow them towards the back of your garden beds to avoid casting shade. These flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to their pink, blue, and purple blooms. Plant your Delphinium flowers in full sunlight and well-draining soil.

19. Echinacea

Echinacea, sometimes called purple coneflower, is a perennial herb that grows well in full and partial sunlight. This herb tolerates a range of soil, including rocky and poor, but not wet, soggy soil. Pick a spot with full to part sunlight for optimal growth.

20. Lilies

Lilies are one of the most popular flowers to grow in zone five. Not only do they attract butterflies, but the blooms are lovely and come in a range of colors, such as orange, yellow, pink, red, and white. Lilies grow best in full to partial sun and well-draining soil.

21. Salvia

These flowers grow best in full sunlight and well-draining soil, but they do well in any soil type. Salvia has over 900 cultivars, so that you can find the perfect one for your garden. The blooms are brightly colored and attract butterflies and other pollinators to your garden.

22. Hollyhock

Hollyhock reaches up to eight feet tall with the proper care. Plant them in full sunlight and well-draining soil for optimal growth. Due to their height, hollyhocks are best in the back of your garden, or they’ll cast too much shade.

23. Coral Bells

For those with rock gardens, coral bells have brightly colored leaves with pink and purple dashes mixed with green to make your garden pop. The best thing about coral bells is that they’re low maintenance. If you plant them in full sunlight in zones three through nine, these plants reach up to three feet tall.

24. Chives

Here is one of the easiest herbs to grow as a perennial. Chives are the perfect cut and come again herb. You can cut whatever you need for the meal, and it’ll come back fast.

25. Hostas

When you have a garden bed that is full shade, it makes it hard to find plants to grow. Hostas are the perfect full shade plant to add to your garden beds. If possible, hostas need a bit of sun in the morning, but it’s a common plant in zones five to nine.

26. Lavender

Lavender is an iconic herb with the best scent, and gardeners in zones five through eight can enjoy it as a perennial. This herb grows well in full sunlight and well-draining soil.

27. Foxgloves

These are tubular blooms that come in pink, red, yellow, and purple. Foxgloves grow best in well-draining soil and full sunlight, but they also grow well in partial sun, partial shade, or full shade. These are tall plants, reaching up to five feet tall.

28. Bee Balm

As you might guess from the name, bee balm attracts bees and other pollinators to your garden. That makes it handy to have planted nearby. Bee balm grows best in full sunlight, but it does grow in part shade but becomes leggy over time. Pick a spot that has moist, rich soil and plant in the spring or early fall.

29. Hyacinths

If you’re looking for fragrant flowers to add to your garden, hyacinths are an aromatic blooming plant that comes in pink, purple, blue, red, pink, orange, and more! Growing well in zones four through nine, plant your hyacinths in full sunlight and well-draining soil for best results.

30. Aster

Asters are a beautiful flower known for its sweet smell that attracts pollinators. In the right conditions, it reaches eight feet tall, especially if growing in slightly moist soil. These plants grow in any type of sunlight. Asters grow well in zones three through eight.

Try Growing New Plants

The best thing about growing in zone five is that there are so many great plants to grow. While perennial plants’ list is smaller, gardeners in this zone can grow nearly any annual plant desired. That means you don’t have to limit your gardening dreams.

Learn more about zone 5 gardening:



Fidel. Chigbogu says

I’m in Nigeria. I want to start planting Herbs and Fragrance / Aromatic flowers. How can l buy their seeds. And can it grow in Tropical zone like Nigeria?

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