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How & Why To Include Mustard Greens In Your Fall Garden!

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Mustard greens are a beautiful, nutritious, and easy addition to your fall garden. Here are a few tips for growing them well…

When it comes to fall greens, fewer options are hardier and more nutritious than vibrant, spicy mustard greens!

Mustard is an incredibly healthy addition to your diet, boasting an impressive amount of Vitamins K, C, and A, as well as calcium, copper, iron, and more. This makes mustard greens great for your bones, as well as your teeth, eyes, and immune system.

Mustard does best (and tastes best) during cool weather, so it is best suited for fall, winter, and spring gardens. During hot weather, it tends to bolt, and may become unpleasantly bitter and spicy.

One of my favorite tips is to cook mustard greens in bacon grease and apple cider vinegar with dried fruit or a spoonful of honey – you won’t believe how good they are!

Besides their nutrient value, here are a few other reasons to grow mustard greens, according to The Grow Network:

Easy to Grow

You can have sprouts in days, baby greens in just a couple weeks, mature plants to cut from in 45–50 days, and your own seeds to save and replant in 90 days.

They are vulnerable to certain pests and diseases, but these can be almost completely avoided by growing mustard during cold-weather months.

Mustard can grow in almost any soil type, withstand drought conditions almost as well as wheat, and self-seed to produce a continuous crop with almost no work on your part.

Help Control Pests and Diseases in Your Soil

When chopped and incorporated into your soil just prior to flowering, mustard greens act as a biofumigant. They suppress pests and diseases through the release of inhibitory chemicals created when water and soil enzymes break down the glucosinolates in the greens.3)

(For more details on mustard as a biofumigant, check out this publication.)  

When Allowed to Flower, Make Great Winter Forage for Pollinators Like Honey Bees

Until I discovered the wonders of growing mustard, I had a shortage of bee food for our coldest winter months.

Now, by starting mustard in waves about every two weeks, cutting greens until my new plants come in, and then allowing my old plants to flower, I have another pollen source for those brave foragers that venture out on sunny, slightly warm days.

You can also allow the mustard to flower and set seed, and then collect the seeds to make your own homemade mustard-based condiments! (See recipe here.)

Here are some tips for growing beautiful, healthy, and nutritious mustard greens in your garden:

Soil Preparation

Mustard is pretty forgiving of poor soil quality. However, if you want faster growing times and really tasty mustard, then plant mustard in loamy garden soil with a pH of about 6.5-6.8.

If you don’t have that, don’t fret—just incorporate a few inches of good compost into whatever soil you have, add a handful of granite or other stone dust, and water deeply a few days before you transplant or seed. Note: This will not give you the best garden soil ever, but since mustard is much less picky than other cole crops, it will get you started.

Seed Starting

Mustard can germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40°F. That means that, depending on your climate, some of you may even be able to start some in your garden now.

Keep in mind that things grow slower when days are short, so you may have to wait a while for seeds to sprout and plants to mature.

For those who live in marginal climates, you can try to start seeds under cloches or cold frames.

Failing that, starting under grow lights and growing out until plants have a few true leaves, then transplanting and protecting under cloches or row covers can also work. If it is just too cold where you live to grow winter mustard, then consider using mustard seed for microgreens to tide you over until you can grow some in the garden. 

You can start your seeds in planting, potting, or straight-up garden soil. As far as I can tell, mustard doesn’t care as long as your seed-starting medium is disease free, loose enough for young roots to grow in, and kept moist.

Young Plant Care

If you are growing mustard in cold conditions, juvenile plants may need some additional protection during extended cold or frost periods. Cold frames, cloches, or row covers can all help protect plants until they develop strong roots and even after if you live in extra cold areas. 

Though mustard is drought resistant, for the best results in winter, you really want to water regularly until the plants are at least 6 inches tall.

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Mature Plant Care

For best flavor and frost resistance, continue to water mature plants. Water at the root rather than the leaves for best cold resistance. Harvest leaves regularly and cut off any flower shoots that form until you are ready to let your plant flower and seed.

Harvesting

You can cut baby greens for use in salads with a pair of scissors. Be careful not to disturb the roots. You can also cut mature greens to chop up and eat raw, sauté, or steam. In addition, flowers can be tossed into salads.

To harvest seeds, dry your seed heads in a paper bag, then shake the bag until the seeds fall out of the pods. Sift or use a fan to blow off the chaff. 

Read more about growing mustard greens at TheGrowNetwork.com

 

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