by Jennifer Poindexter
Do you enjoy raising mustard greens in your early spring or fall garden? Did you know this plant can be used for more than eating?
Mustard greens make an amazing cover crop. If you’d like to try growing this plant as a way to protect your garden area, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to walk you through each step of planting, caring for, and terminating this crop. I’ll also share the benefits of growing mustard greens as a cover crop.
We have a great deal to discuss, so let’s get started. Here’s what you should know about growing mustard greens as a cover crop in your garden.
Growing Conditions for Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are considered a cool weather crop. Therefore, you can grow them in early spring or fall, depending upon how cool temperatures get in your planting zone.
Mustard greens can germinate in temperatures which are 40-degrees Fahrenheit and warmer. They prefer temperatures below 75-degrees Fahrenheit when growing.
Once the temperatures dip to, and stay, around 20-degrees Fahrenheit and cooler, the plants will die off. Take these temperatures into consideration when deciding the correct time to plant this crop in your planting zone.
After understanding the temperature needs, we must discuss two other basic necessities mustard greens require of their growing space.
First, this plant must be planted in well-draining soil. It won’t hold up well if left in consistently soggy conditions.
The next thing is mustard greens should be planted in full sun. A little shade might help protect the crop if the temperatures are becoming too warm.
However, in most cases, full sun is your best option. If you can provide these growing conditions, mustard greens should grow well in your garden area.
How to Plant Mustard Greens
Planting mustard greens is a simple process. Begin by tilling up the soil in your garden plot. Ensure the soil is aerated and ready to receive seeds.
When the soil is ready, cast the seeds over the garden plot. Mustard seeds are tiny. Therefore, trying to plant them in neat rows would be torture.
Instead, gently toss them over the soil. Once they’re sprinkled all over the growing space, use a rake to lightly cover them with dirt.
Be sure to not cover them with more than an inch of soil. If you plant the seeds too deep, they’ll rot before they can germinate and make it to the surface.
Sow the seeds heavily in your garden space. They germinate easily and should provide ample coverage to your garden area within a month of planting.
Now that you know how to plant mustard greens, it’s time to learn how to care for this crop to ensure you receive all the benefits it can offer.
Caring for Mustard Greens
When growing mustard, it’s important you provide basic care to the crop. This means understanding when to fertilize, how to water the crop properly, and how to terminate the cover crop effectively.
To begin, mustard will only need to be fertilized if your soil quality isn’t the greatest. It’s better to amend your soil prior to planting than grow in subpar soil.
However, if you must plant in an area without nutrient-dense soil, fertilize your mustard crop one time during its growing period.
Remember, mustard greens reach full maturity in one month. Therefore, if you fertilize them halfway through their growing cycle, this should provide your plants with all the nutrients they need.
The next step in caring for mustard greens is to water adequately. This crop does best when watered deeply.
This means you water the plants for longer periods of time but for fewer days of the week. In watering this way, it allows the roots, and the ground around your plants, to become saturated.
As the days go by, the plants dig their roots deeper into the ground to find more water. This creates stronger, healthier plants.
The final thing you must do to properly care for mustard greens, as a cover crop, is to terminate them effectively.
Mustard greens are easy to terminate. All you must do is run over them with a tiller. Be sure to terminate the crop one month prior to planting your next garden.
This will provide the cover crop with enough time to break down and add its benefits to the growing space.
You should also terminate the crop before it begins to flower and produce more seeds. Otherwise, you could end up with mustard greens growing where you don’t want them to.
It doesn’t take much, from the gardener, to grow mustard greens as a cover crop. Be sure to follow the tips above to give the crop the greatest chance at succeeding in your growing space.
Pests and Diseases Which Could Impact Mustard Greens
Mustard greens do have a few enemies in the garden. Most plants must look out for pests and diseases wherever they grow.
Understanding what could harm your crops, provides the best chance at locating such issues before they bring destruction to your greens.
When growing mustard greens, the biggest concern for disease is fungal diseases. The most common fungal diseases to impact this crop are downy mildew, leaf spot, rust, and mosaic virus.
Most of these diseases can be treated with a fungicide. You can also decrease the amount of water provided to the crop, and increase airflow surrounding the crop, to reduce ideal conditions for fungal issues.
However, there is no cure for mosaic virus. This is a disease that lives in the soil. If your crop develops this disease, remove it from your garden and destroy it. Do not compost infected crops.
On a more positive note, mustard greens only have one common pest which could impact it in the garden, and this pest is the flea beetle. At the first sign of flea beetles, treat your crop with an insecticide.
You now understand the greatest threats which exist in your garden area. Stay on top of them, by checking on your garden daily, and your plants should be provided the opportunity to thrive under your care.
Benefits of Growing Mustard Greens as a Cover Crop
Now that you understand all that it takes to produce mustard greens as a cover crop, let’s talk about why you might want to consider doing this in the first place.
The benefits for growing mustard greens are unique in comparison to other common cover crops. The first thing mustard greens bring to your garden is weed control.
If you sow the plants thickly in your growing space, they smother out other weeds. This is great news for your garden and your back. It could help reduce the amount of weeding you must do the next gardening season.
The other reason you should consider growing mustard greens, as a cover crop, is to rid your garden of unwanted pests.
Mustard greens are a natural pesticide. They contain a component known as glucosinolates. After you terminate your crop, ensure it gets rained on.
If there’s no rain in the forecast, wet your garden thoroughly. This will encourage the plant to break down and the plant’s glucosinolates to enter your soil.
Once released, it kills many unwanted pests and can even help control some soil-borne diseases. If your garden soil needs to be cleaned, consider growing mustard greens to accomplish this task.
You’ve now been provided with a great deal of information to help you on your gardening journey of growing mustard greens as a cover crop.
Though growing cover crops might seem time-consuming to some, we hope this information will help your garden and make your efforts worthwhile.