Mustard Greens & Mizuna: Piquant Greens

radicchioIt doesn’t seem so long ago when Alice Waters and others developing California cuisine started introducing us all to arugula and mizuna. No longer just in specialty shops, piquant mixes (including kale, chicory and mache) have gone mainstream and are even available packaged! But why buy these greens when you can grow your own? This time of year it’s simple to get spicy greens in the ground (and maintain them) for harvest throughout the cool season.

Leaf vegetables (like arugula, mustard greens and mizuna) are shallow rooted so they require a soil that is loose and holds moisture. They are well adapted to either “in the ground” or container culture.

In the ground, prepare soil by blending Sloat Loam Builder or Planting mix 50/50 with the native soil. Incorporate EB Stone Sure Start and Agricultural Lime according to directions. Rake the bed to a fine crumble. If you are planting in containers, use Sloat Organic Potting Soil and Sure Start.

When seeding greens, you can either plant them in rows or broadcast them. Broadcasting works best with the smaller seeds of lettuce, arugula, mustard, and mache. Water the seedbed in the morning and afternoon for the first week to ensure the germinating seedlings do not dry out. Germination takes 5 to 10 days.

When the seedlings have reached an inch in height, thin to 3” apart. Feed your plants monthly with a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion or Maxsea All Purpose.

Planting white alyssum with your greens will help keep troublesome aphids in check. The alyssum flower is a food source for beneficial insects such as syriphid fly and parasitic wasp.