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How to Grow Mustard Greens

Mustard grows in gardenMustard is a cool-season leaf crop. Sow mustard as early as 4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. Sow succession crops every 4 to 6 weeks. Mustard requires 30 to 40 days to reach harvest. Plant crops so that they come to harvest before temperature average greater than 75°F (24°C). Sow mustard in autumn or early winter in mild winter regions.

Description. Mustard is a hardy leaf vegetable with a rosette of large light or dark green curly leaves that grow to 3 feet (.9m) tall. Leaves and leaf stalks are eaten and have a peppery flavor. The seeds can be ground and used as a condiment.

Yield. Plant 6 to 10 mustard plants per household member.

Mustard seedlings
Mustard seedlings

Planting Mustard

Site. Grow mustard in full sun or partial shade. Plant mustard in well-worked, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting. Mustard prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.

Planting time. Sow mustard as early as 4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. Sow succession crops every 4 to 6 weeks. Mustard requires 30 to 40 days to reach harvest. Plant crops so that they come to harvest before temperature average greater than 75°F (24°C). Sow mustard in autumn or early winter in mild winter regions. Seeds may be slow to germinate if the soil is too coo, 40°F (4.4°C) or less. Mustard grown in hot weather or long days will bolt and go to seed.

Planting and spacing. Sow mustard seed ½ inch (12mm) deep; when seedlings are large enough to handle thin them from 4 to 8 inches (10-20cm) apart; space rows 12 to 24 inches a(30-61cm) part.

Companion plants. English peas, snap peas.

Container growing. Mustard can easily be grown in a container. Broadcast seeds over the soil surface and cover lightly with soil. Thinnings can be eaten.

Mustard plants growing
Do not let the soil dry out during the growing season.

Caring for Mustard

Water and feeding. Keep soil evenly moist to keep leaves growing quickly. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Add aged compost to planting beds before sowing. Side dress plants with aged compost at midseason.

Care. Keep planting beds weed-free. Pull mustard from the garden as soon as it goes to seed to avoid prolific self-seeding.

Pests. Mustard can be attacked by flea beetles and aphids. Wash these pests away with a blast of water.

Diseases. Mustard is susceptible to white rust. Remove leaves that have white rust. Water plants at the base of the stem keeping moisture off the leaves.

Harvesting and Storing Mustard

Harvest. Pick individual leaves when they are young and tender, 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) long, or cut and use the entire plant. Complete the harvest before the weather grows hot; hot weather will cause leaves to become tough and strong flavored. Complete the harvest before the plant goes to seed.

Storing and preserving. Mustard will keep in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. Mustard leaves can be frozen or dried. Mustard seeds can be sprouted.

Giant Red Mustard leaves
‘Red Giant’ mustard leaves

Mustard Varieties to Grow

  • Curled Leaf: ‘Fordhook Fancy’ (40 days); ‘Red Giant’ (23 days); ‘Green Wave’ (45 days); ‘Southern Giant Curled’ (40 days).
  • Plain Leaf: ‘Florida Broad Leaf’ (43-50 days); ‘Tendergreen’ (34-40 days).
  • Oriental Mustard Cabbage-green stalks: ‘Chinese Pac Choi’ (60 days); ‘Choi Sum’ (60 days); ‘Dai Gai Choy’ (65 days).
  • Oriental Mustard Cabbage-white stalks: ‘Bok Choi’ (45-60 days); ‘Chinese Flat Cabbage’ (40 days); ‘Green-In-Snow’ (45 days); ‘Joi-Choi’ (45-50 days).

Common name. Mustard, Chinese mustard, leaf mustard, spinach greens

Botanical name. Brassica juncea

Origin. Asia


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  1. I love planting this kind of spinach. However, each time I have planted, I see white stuff and insects on the back of the leaves which render the leaves inedible. Would you please suggest a cure for the problem.

  2. Growing Mustard and Spinach: Mustard, spinach, and cabbage family crops grow best in cool weather. Grow these crops starting in early to mid-spring or in mid- to late summer for a fall crop. Grow these crops so they come to harvest when the weather is cool, before summer heat comes. Place floating row covers over the bed before the plants emerge or after transplanting–a floating row cover will protect the crop from flea beetles, small black insects. To prevent disease problems, rotate crops regularly; do not plant mustard or cabbage family crops where other members of the family have grown during the previous year. The white you see may be white mold which can lead to rot. If diseases persist, remove all of the infected plants from the garden as soon as you notice them. Remove all crop debris from the garden at the end of each season as well. Improve the drainage in your soil by adding aged compost on a regular basis–twice a year. Space plants widely to increase air circulation. Keep the garden weed free to prevent pests and diseases from hanging around.

  3. I have been planting this kind of spinach for three years in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia during winter only. The plant grow well with the exception of being attached by Leaf miners and Aphids, Is there any safe insecticide that I can use with these plants?

    • The safest pest control is to simply wash insects off plants with a strong spray of water. Plant in the fall or coolest time of the year to grow spinach when the weather is least hospitable to insect pests. A lightweight horticultural oil can be used to smother pest insects.

      • I have been using the bonsai growers insecticide spray with great success for a couple of years now.
        It consists of a tablespoon of methylated spirits for 3.5l of water and a squirt of kitchen liquid soap.

    • You can make home made pesticide which can made very easily just take neem tree leaves and stems crush the stems and boil them in water till the water goes green for like 25-30 mins on light flame. Cool down and use water to spray on plants.
      Pulkit Mewara,

    • Natural or organic fertilizers should give you very good results when growing mustard. Organic fertilizers are generally mild and slow release which is just what most crops need.

    • Perhaps by “border method” you are referring to growing mustard in a perennial border–that is as a stand-alone plant or in a plant grouping. As discussed in the How to Grow Mustard article–soil rich in aged compost and sufficient plant spacing is all that is necessary for success. Space mustard 12 to 18 inches apart–the space one plant would need at maturity.

    • Mustard greens at maturity will be about 18 inches tall and about 12 inches wide. The roots will be about 18 inches deep at maturity. You can harvest mustard leaves when they are small; you do not need to grow the plant to maturity to harvest the leaves.

    • Small seeds such as mustard can be lightly pressed into moist soil then lightly covered with peat moss or a light potting soil then moistened again. This is usually enough to facilitate germination.

    • You can plant mustard greens outdoors without protection in Zones 9-11 in December. In colder zones, protect the plants under a plastic tunnel or cold frame. The seed will need soil at about 60F to germinate. Growth will be slow until mid-January. You can also wait and plant in mid-January or spring.

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