Mustard is easy and quick to grow.

Mustard (also known as mustard greens, spinach, leaf mustard, and white mustard), is a quick-to-mature, easy-to-grow, cool-season vegetable for greens or salads. Although mustard is often associated with the southern states, it is also suitable for gardens in the central and northern United States in the cool parts of the growing season. Mustard greens are high in vitamins A and C.


Growing Mustard

When to Plant

Plant early in the spring (3 weeks before the frost-free date) and again 3 weeks later. Plant from midsummer on for fall harvest. Fall plantings are usually of higher quality because they mature under cooler conditions in most locations.


Spacing & Depth

Sow seeds 1/3 to 1/2 inch deep and thin seedlings to 3 to 5 inches apart. Thinnings can be eaten.



Mustard should grow rapidly and without stopping. Fertilize, weed and water during dry periods.


Common Problems

Aphids: Watch for a buildup of colonies of aphids on the undersides of the leaves.

Cabbage worms: Three species of cabbage worms (imported cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and diamondback moth worms) commonly attack the leaves and heads of cabbage and related cole crops. Imported cabbage worms are velvety green caterpillars. The moth is white and commonly is seen during the day hovering over plants in the garden. Cabbage loopers ("measuring worms") are smooth, light green caterpillars. The cabbage looper crawls by doubling up (to form a loop) and then moving the front of its body forward. The moth is brown and is most active at night. Diamondback worms are small, pale, green caterpillars that are pointed on both ends. The moth is gray, with diamond-shaped markings when the wings are closed. The damage caused by diamondback larvae looks like shot holes in the leaf.

The larval or worm stages of these insects cause damage by eating holes in the leaves. The adult moths or butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves but otherwise do not damage the plants. The worms are not easy to see because they are fairly small and blend with the cabbage leaves. Cabbage worms are quite destructive and can ruin the crop if not controlled. They are even worse in fall plantings than in spring gardens because the population has had several months to increase. About the time of the first frost in the fall, moth and caterpillar numbers finally begin to decline drastically.


Harvesting Mustard

Harvest the leaves when they are young and tender. Do not use wilted or yellowed leaves. You can cut the entire plant or pick individual leaves as they grow. The leaf texture becomes tough and the flavor is strong in summer.


Selection & Storage

Also known as mustard greens, mustard is especially popular in southern states. Mustard is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. It shares the same cancer-preventing benefits as broccoli, cabbage, and kale. Mustard is a pungent winter vegetable, abundant when other vegetables are not in season.

Mustard greens can be eaten raw or cooked. The whole plant can be cut at once or individual outer leaves can be picked for a cut-and-come-again harvest. The young leaves, four to five inches long, are mild-flavored and can be eaten raw in salads. The older leaves taste better when prepared as cooked greens. Avoid yellow, over-mature mustards with seeds or yellow flowers attached.

Store unwashed greens in plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They will keep for about three days. Wrap in moist paper towels for longer storage, up to five days. The flavor may intensify in the refrigerator during the longer five-day storage.


Questions & Answers

Q. What causes flowers to develop in my spring mustard?

A. Mustard is a cool-season vegetable that naturally flowers during the long, warm days of summer. Pull and compost (or chop and work the spring planting back into the soil) when hot weather arrives and preferably before flower stalks develop.


Q. What causes mustard leaves to have yellow blotches and be misshapen?

A. This condition is caused by downy mildew.