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Mustard Greens: 8 Steps to Planting This Leafy Green for Better Health

Mustard greens are nutritious fast-growing leafy greens from the Brassicaceae family, which also includes cabbage, broccoli, and kale.

Like other greens, they’re low in calories but high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fiber.

They thrive in most climates, growing best in the spring and fall–an ideal cool-weather crop. Mustards grow equally well in a container or in the ground and don’t require much space. Although relatively easy to grow and care for, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a healthy crop.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mustard Greens

Below are the answers to some of the commonly asked questions about these leafy greens—before we get to the step-by-step growing guide.

How long does it take to grow mustard greens? Or better put… How long does it take to grow mustard greens from seed?

This will depend on the mustard variety you choose to grow.

Some cultivars like Osaka Purple, take as little as 35 days from seed to harvest, while others can take up to 60 days.

What month do you plant mustard greens in?

For a spring mustard crop, sow the seeds two to four weeks before your area’s last expected spring frost. This plant will germinate in soil above 40° F.

If you want the greens as part of your fall garden, start the plants in early fall, as the summer heat will cause the plants to bolt.

Is it too late to plant mustard greens?

It’s not too late to plant mustard greens if the weather is still warm enough in your region.

Mustard greens can tolerate some frost, so in cooler climates, they may still survive if planted in the late winter or early spring.

Do mustard greens come back every year?

No, mustard greens are an annual plant, meaning they only last for one growing season.

Can mustard greens be transplanted?

Yes, mustards can be transplanted. However, plan to move them when they’re still young.

How do you transplant mustard greens?

While some ask, ‘How do you transplant mustard greens from seedlings?’ others wonder, ‘How do you transplant wild mustard?’

The truth is that the transplant process is pretty much similar to when you start your own seeds or buy starter plants.

And so, for a successful transplant, begin by choosing a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil.

Then gently remove the plant from its current location, ensuring to get as much of the root system as possible. Replant it in the prepared area and water well. Keep the soil moist but not soggy until the plant is established.

Are mustard plants invasive?

Mustards are generally considered non-invasive; however, they can self-seed and spread rapidly if left unchecked.

To tame this behavior, be sure to remove spent plants and flowers before they go to seed.

Are mustard greens anti-inflammatory?

Yes, mustard greens are rich in vitamins A and C and potent antioxidants (quercetin and kaempferol), all of which have been shown to help fight inflammation.

Are mustard greens poisonous? And, Can you eat mustard greens raw?

Mustard greens are safe to eat—both cooked and raw. They have a slightly peppery taste that becomes more intense when the greens are cooked.

While most people enjoy them cooked, many people enjoy them in salads or as wraps.

Just be sure to wash them thoroughly first to remove any dirt or impurities.

Can you eat wild mustard plants?

Wild mustards are edible, except that some are tastier than others.

The strong-flavored varieties are generally used as spices. Use the young leaves raw in a salad and cook the older leaves before enjoying them.

The seeds can be roasted and used as a flavoring or ground into a powder to use as mustard.

Are mustard greens hot?

Mustard greens vary in heat, with some varieties more savory than others. To avoid the spicy kick, taste a leaf before adding the greens to your dish.

If it’s too spicy for you, try blanching the leaves in boiling water for a minute or two before adding them to your recipe.

How do you get the bitterness out of mustard greens?

Simply blanch them!

Boil a pot of water and add the greens.

Let them cook for two to three minutes, then remove and place them in a bowl of ice water. This will help to stop the cooking process and preserve the flavor. You can also add a bit of sugar or honey to offset the bitterness.

Can you overcook greens?

Yes, it’s possible to overcook greens—and this, in most cases, rips the plants off their nutrients and rich color.

The best practice is to cook the greens just until they’re wilted and still bright in color.

What is the difference between mustard greens and collard greens?

Mustard greens and collard greens are both leafy green vegetables commonly used in Southern cooking.

And though similar in appearance, mustards are generally smaller, tender, and more flavorful than collards. 

They’re also more peppery as opposed to collards, which are milder.

The 8 Easy Steps to Growing Healthy Mustard Greens

Begin by selecting your preferred mustard greens variety. The plant comes in different shades, textures, and leaf shapes. To ensure a good head start, purchase high-quality nursery transplants or grow your own from seed about six weeks before you plan to move them.

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1. Pick and prepare a planting site

  • Mustards grow best in rich, moist, slightly acidic to neutral soils with a pH level of 6.0-7.0.
  • Therefore, prepare the soil by spreading organic compost over the planting area, approximately three to six inches thick.
  • Use a digging fork to carefully turn the compost into the top eight or ten inches of soil. This will help to improve drainage while still providing the much-needed moisture for the plants.
  • Water the prepared bed thoroughly a few hours before transplanting or sowing seeds to help boost moisture levels.

2. Sow the seeds

  • Timing is everything when it comes to planting mustard greens.
  • For best results, sow the seeds as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.
  • Plant directly into the prepared bed, spacing the seeds out evenly (about a half inch apart); then cover with a thin layer of soil.
  • If you’re planting transplants, wait until all danger of frost has passed.

3. Thin the seedlings

  • Once the seedlings sprout and develop their first true leaves, thin them out to a spacing of six to twelve inches apart, depending on the variety. (Always check your seed packet for specific recommendations).
  • You can either snip the weaker seedlings at the soil line with scissors or carefully pull them up by the roots.

4. Watering

  • Mustard greens need about one to two inches of water per week, applied evenly throughout the growing season.
  • Irrigate early in the day, so the leaves have time to dry off before nightfall, which helps to prevent disease.
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5. Fertilizing

  • Though not quite heavy feeders, mustard greens will appreciate a light application of fertilizer every few weeks.
  • Use a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10, and apply it according to the package directions.

6. Harvesting

  • You can start harvesting your greens as soon as they reach six to eight inches tall.
  • Cut or tear the leaves off at the base of the plant, taking care not to damage the roots.
  • Mustards will continue to produce new leaves throughout the growing season, so you can harvest them multiple times.
  • To encourage continued growth, only harvest about one-third of the plant at a time.

7. Watch out for pests and diseases

  • Mustard greens are relatively pest and disease-free, but may occasionally suffer from Alternaria leaf spot, white rust, or downy mildew.
  • Common pests include aphids, caterpillars, and flea beetles.
  • To prevent pests and diseases, keep the planting bed free of debris, water early in the day (so the leaves have time to dry off), and space the plants out adequately to encourage good air circulation.
  • If you notice any pests or diseases, remove affected leaves and toss them away.
  • You can also try using an organic insecticide or fungicide.
  • If you decide to use a row cover fabric to keep the bugs off the plants, be sure to constantly monitor the moisture levels and temperature therein. This watchfulness will ensure it doesn’t get too hot for the greens.

8. Storing your mustard greens

  • Mustard greens are best used fresh, but you can still keep them in the fridge for up to a week.
  • Wrap the greens loosely in a paper towel and store them in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer.
  • Alternatively, blanch and freeze for longer-term storage.
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The Takeaway: Mustard Greens Are a Healthful, Easy-Growing Addition to the Garden

Mustard greens are quite easy crops as long as you provide them with the right environment and care. They’re perfect for beginner gardeners and make a great addition to any home garden. Now that you know how to grow this healthy addition to your garden, it’s time to flex your green thumb and get started!

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