Midwest Regional Reports

How to Grow Mustard Greens for an Easy, Early Harvest

This cool-season annual edible offers a quick, easy, and tasty spring option for your garden and your plate

Mustard greens look great in containers when planted with other cool-season gems, like wine-colored pansies (Viola spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9). Photo: Mark Dwyer

As gardeners, we long for the summer months and picking our first cucumber, zucchini, or tomato. However, you don’t have to wait that long if you grow mustard greens (Brassica juncea and cvs., annual). Mustard greens have a 5,000-year history of consumption that was thought to originate in the Himalayan region of India. Add this easy-to-sow-and-grow food to your early garden for a healthy and tasty addition to your diet. The myriad selection of mustard greens like the cool weather and will grow quickly from either seed or transplants. One of my favorites is the maroon-foliage selection known as ‘Brazen Brass’, which is truly an ornamental edible. With dozens of selections available, this cool-season annual can be utilized in your April and May vegetable garden and containers in the Midwest.

mustard greens planted on a border
‘Brazen Brass’ mustard greens (Brassica juncea ‘Brazen Brass’, annual) adds stunning color and texture to spring plantings. Photo: Mark Dwyer

How to Grow Mustard Greens

  • Germination is very quick from seeds sown just under the soil surface and later thinned to 3 inches apart in rows 6 to 8 inches apart.
  • Mustard greens prefer full sun (6 to 8 hours of direct sun) and can be sown 3 to 6 weeks before the last frost date as long as the soil temperature is over 40°F.
  • Successive sowings can be made every 3 weeks, although mustard greens don’t thrive in the heat of summer and get more bitter tasting as daytime temperatures reach 75°F.
  • This plant tolerates light frost but not a hard freeze, so consider your timing for planting, and make sure your greens are getting between 1 to 2 inches of water every week.
  • These same greens can be sown in late summer for a fall harvest.

Conditions Needed for Growing Mustard Greens

Well-drained, amended soil is ideal for the best growth and establishment. Mustard greens are ready to be utilized within 40 to 45 days from sowing and can be harvested by either taking the outer leaves or cutting back the entire plant. Rotate your mustard crops to new areas each year as you would other cabbage family members. This gives the soil a break but also helps keep soil-borne diseases and detrimental insects from becoming established in the area. Flea beetles, aphids, whiteflies, and slugs are occasional problems, but the cooler growing conditions tend to favor the vigor and growth of mustard greens.

Enjoy as Mustard Greens as Microgreens or at Full Growth

This edible is also a popular microgreen that can be harvested in 9 to 10 days. Consider tasting a few bites of your mustard greens at all stages of growth to experience the progression of that spicy flavor. Research the many ways of processing, saving, freezing, and dehydrating this great-tasting, nutritious, and beautiful addition to your cooler season garden.

—Mark Dwyer is the garden manager for the Edgerton Hospital Healing Garden in Edgerton, Wisconsin, and he operates Landscape Prescriptions by MD.

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