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The Benefits of Mustard in the Garden

July 9th, 2012

“The advantage of sowing mustard are that it disinfects and regenerates the soil, it stimulates the life of the soil and curbs nematodes, especially potato root eelworm, which is why it is so useful to sow the seed. It gives the feared nematodes very little chance in the garden. Its effect on all plant life, including the crucifers, is not negative but positive.”

Gertrud Franck (Companion Planting: Successful Gardening the Organic Way)


‘Idagold’ mustard is what is used here at Chiot’s Run. A large bag was purchased from Johnny’s Seeds last spring and now it’s sown whenever I have bare soil that won’t be planted for a month.

Mustard is said to help suppress weed growth and providing a living mulch. That’s one reason I use it, I have had pretty good luck using it this spring/summer so far. I like to let mine grow to about six inches tall then I pull it and use as a mulch around the larger main crops like zucchini and potatoes.

I also overseed the areas where I plant potatoes. The book Managing Cover Crops Profitably, extols the benefits of mustard for mitigating lots of potato problems including blight. I let the mustard grow to about 6 inches then it’s pulled, laid around the potato plants and covered with straw.
Idagold Mustard
Another benefit of mustard is that it’s easy to pull and doesn’t really self-sow much or become invasive (at least not the yellow variety I grow). Mustard will also winter kill in areas with cold winters, making it a perfect fall cover crop for a nicely prepared and mulched spring planting area.

I’d highly recommend looking into a few cover crops for your small garden. Not only will you increase the health of the soil, you’ll save money by growing your own mulches. You can find a cover crop that will suit just about any need you have, from weed suppression and soil building to disease mitigation. I’d highly recommend starting with mustard, it’s a great initiation in to the cover crop world.

Do you use companion planting methods in your garden?

For more reading on cover crops in the garden, I’d highly recommend these books:

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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