The Benefits of Growing Mustard
The autumn garden can always be bursting with greens, some of which may be sharp flavoured mustards.
Mustard, as we all know, comes in a pot and is quite sharp to taste but were you aware that the humble mustard plant also assists in cleansing the earth of certain pathogens, together with certain fungi. Therefore the humble mustard is effectual in the garden.
Mustard widely used in the kitchen which is very easily grown, dresses up the autumn garden with its frilly colourful leaves. It is always best as an autumn crop unless you want to grow seeds for grinding into spicy condiments. Growing mustard for seeds is best done in spring because lengthening days trigger mustard plants to produce flowers.
Growing Mustard Greens
Technically, many popular Asian greens including Mizuna and Tatsoi are mustards but varieties with broader leaves are synonymous with garden mustard.
The ‘Southern Giant’ or ‘Green Wave’ mustard varieties are popular for their beautifully curled leaves whilst ‘Florida Broadleaf’ has a strong track record of out producing other mustard varieties grown for greens.
And then there are the red mustards like ‘Red Giant’ and ‘Osaka Purple’ which are among the best edible ornamentals for the autumn garden. Simply scatter the seeds over a renovated bed and pat them in with your hand or the back of a rake. Within two weeks the planted area will be transformed into a sea of green with very few weeds. Thin the plants being grown for greens to a hand’s distance apart and use the young greens pulled whilst thinning in stir fries.
Mustard greens that grow in warm weather usually have very strong flavour which calms down considerably as nights become longer and cooler in the autumn. Fortunately, mustard plants are very willing to re-grow. Within two weeks a flush of tender new leaves will emerge from the plant’s centre.
Mustard greens have no problem with light frosts but temperatures below 20⁰F (−7⁰C) usually kill plants back to the ground. Before this happens, chop down the old plants and mix the chopped roots and greens into the soil because rotting mustard tissues suppress nematodes and several common soil diseases. If this is the main benefit you want from mustard, simply grow your mustard as a cover crop.
A warning from a Reader
If any of the mustard type plants are left to flower and seed the whole site would be covered in mustard weeds, especially if it is used as a green manure and not cut down and dug in when it is very small. This applies to all the green manure crops which can be more of a pernicious weed than our usual weeds.
Salad rocket can cause the same problem since one seed falling in the wrong place could cause the greenery to spread over a very large area in a couple of years. Even chopped up roots can grow stronger and deeper than the seeds.
A lot of plants are in this category but the reason for growing mustard is as a cleanser of the earth. If plants are not managed they will proliferate and one of the most dangerous ones being Japanese Knotweed.