Are you looking for a plant that can survive whatever winter throws at it? How about one that is not only edible but highly nutritious and fairly low maintenance? Suppose you’re also searching for something that’s somewhat decorative and can be thrown into that empty container that once held snapdragons or tomatoes? Yes, these plants really do exist. They’re called mustard greens and they’re perfect candidates for both your container garden and winter stir-fries. Read on if that sounds good and you want to add growing mustard greens to your list of gardening skills.
Growing Mustard Greens – Basic Supplies
Mustard Green Plants
I bought a 6 pack of mustard green starts for about $4.25 at the local gardening center. You can grow them from seeds if you like. But it’s just quicker and much easier to begin with starts, particularly if you’re the impatient type that
The plants I grew did fairly well in soil that was about 6 inches deep. Although the roots are somewhat shallow, mustard greens aren’t small plants. They get rather large and so you want something that’s 12 inches or more in diameter. I had good results with both medium sized Smart Pots and terracotta planters marketed as ‘azalea planters’. However, the Smart Pots were regularly priced at around $18 while the terracotta planters were only about $6 a piece several years ago. Another option here would be to go for the plastic 10 inch containers that are marketed as ‘pepper pots’. They’re about $4 each.
The mid-range potting soil is generally a good option. Most bags run from about $6 to $8. Miracle Grow is good if you don’t mind using chemicals, and the bonus is that it generally contains enough fertilizer to get gardeners through a growing season.
If you’re not using Miracle Grow soil, adding some fertilizer to your plants is generally a good idea, but it’s optional. Use whatever you have on hand. Just make sure to read the directions on the package in order to avoid any disasters. However, I did this project without any fertilizer and my plants turned out just fine.
Assembling the Containers
Mustard greens get much larger than you think they will. They also don’t play nice with other plants. Mine ended up smothering the onions that I’d mistakenly thought I could grow around them. I’d recommend about 2 plants in a 12 inch, circular terracotta pot. I had three in a slightly larger Smart Pot and this worked just fine, but they all started looking a bit cramped at the end of the season.
Once you have the containers, you can begin the assembly process for growing mustard greens. If the plants that were previously living in the pot in question died of disease, you’ll want to disinfect it and dump the remaining soil. Gardeners can reuse soil that didn’t previously contain diseased plants. If you do that, you will probably need to add compost and/or fertilizer to revamp the dirt’s nutritional qualities.
As for empty containers, simply wash them if they are dirty and let them air dry. Then add potting soil, if needed, and mustard greens. Squish the plant roots apart gently before placing them into their new homes so that the roots don’t end up being root bound. Water the plant until liquid runs out the bottom of the container. Make sure to keep watering them throughout the growing season. Mustard greens don’t seem to need a lot of moisture, but they will quickly start to droop if they aren’t getting enough. Just keep an eye on them over the winter months and they should be fine.
More Notes on Growing Mustard Greens
In warmer climates such as zone 8b where I garden, growing mustard greens doesn’t usually require any protection from the cold weather. Mine did perfectly fine without mulch, despite the random snowstorm that happened here this winter and probably won’t happen again for another 20 or so years. If you’re in a colder area, you may want to look at using mulch or cold frames to protect these plants, but they are pretty hardy.
Gardeners can eat the outer leaves of mustard greens on an as-needed basis during the winter. The inner portion of the plant will continue to grow and provide you with edible leaves. However, you’ll want to harvest your mustard greens before the weather in your area turns warm and stays that way. Like most leafy greens, these plants will become bad tasting in the heat. Before that happens, chop the whole plant down and eat them up. If you have too many to eat yourself, find a few friends or relatives to help you with this endeavor. They’ll probably thank you for the goodies. Happy gardening!