Companion Plants for Mustard Greens | Good and The Bad

Mustard greens are a nutritious versatile leafy green that can add an extra peppery note to salads or can be wilted and eaten warm much like spinach.

These delicious greens are a great choice for gardeners with milder growing conditions supplying tasty leaves throughout fall and even treating those growers in areas with no heavy frosts to mustard greens all winter.  

Mustard greens are fast-growing and can be grown in pots or containers for those who are short on space.

To improve the chances of a successful harvest and enhance the health of the green you grow, it’s worth considering companion planting. 

This simple but effective approach is easy and in this article, I’ll give you the help and advice needed to put this method into practice to ensure a maximum mustard green harvest this year.

What is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is a popular method of gardening where plants of one or more species are grown together to benefit one or both crops. By creating plant communities in this way it supports the whole growing environment. Happy and healthy plants will produce the maximum yield possible in a completely organic and natural way.

By practicing companion planting you can ensure better space utilization by intercropping different plant varieties in the same space.

Companion planting has been used by rice growers in Asia successfully for centuries to improve their rice plant yields. Rice plants thrive in flooded growing conditions which gardeners in China take full advantage of. They do this by encouraging an aquatic mosquito fern called Azolla which is used as a companion plant. 

The Azolla plants act as a water filter keeping harmful bacteria at bay. These ferns may be small but multiply quickly creating a weed-suppressing blanket around the rice plants and preventing the growth of competing plants. 

The ferns also release nitrogen into the water which encourages faster and healthier rice plant growth.

What are the Benefits?

Companion planting benefits gardeners who want to grow in an organic and natural way. This age-old method positively influences and boosts biodiversity – encouraging natural predators, pollinators, and other beneficial insects. 

Some additional benefits of companion planting are:

Pest Control: Many gardeners are choosing more natural methods of managing unwanted pests rather than using pesticides or chemicals. Completely eradicating pests can have severe effects on the natural balance of biodiversity which makes companion planting the perfect alternative. 

The inclusion of specific companion plants helps reduce insect populations by acting as sacrificial plants. Essentially these plants attract pests to themselves and away from food crops. Plants with strong odors or fragrances such as herbs or onions are commonly used in this way to deflect pests. 

Mustard Greens with Pest Infestation - Companion Plants for Mustard Greens

Provides Support, Shade, and Protection: Companion planting can be used effectively to help support climbing plants in a completely natural way. Tall sturdy plants such as sweetcorn can be utilized by plants such as climbing beans. 

The corn will grow unhindered and will mutually benefit thanks to the bean plants fixing nitrogen in the soil. 

Taller plants can also be used in hotter climates as a shade barrier, creating dappled shade for crops that have a lower tolerance for direct sun or too much heat.

Improved Soil Health: Plants thrive in nutrient-rich soil which can be actively created and achieved thanks to companion planting. Bean plants, for example, are a very popular choice amongst gardeners thanks to their natural ability to absorb nitrogen from the air which is then converted and released into the soil. 

Consideration When Selecting Companion Plants

Whether a seasoned gardener or a complete beginner; there must always be some consideration when selecting companion plants.

There can be a number of reasons each companion plant has been chosen. Whether it is to boost the vigor and yield of main crops, attract or deter pests or provide shade – it is worth noting that any plant can work in direct competition. This could be competition for moisture in the soil when water is scarce during dry spells or in hotter climate zones or it could be for precious health-boosting nutrients. With this in mind, it is always a good idea to consider implementing a regular watering and feeding routine for all plants and not just for main crops.  

Be sure to consider the amount of growing space available and if the plant pairing is right for the size of the garden. Think about what planting combinations are being used and how large the final matured plants will be and if they are annual plants or perennials. Spacing and plant choice are key because cramped growing conditions can impact negatively plants.

Think about the individual growing conditions each partner prefers and ensure all plants in that particular planting combination will be happy. For example pairing plants that thrive in hot and arid growing conditions such as sage or rosemary with plants that prefer a moist, cooler environment like onions would not be a good idea. 

Best Companion Plants for Mustard Greens

Just like most other edibles, mustard greens are susceptible to pests and will always benefit from a little extra help to combat them. This can be achieved using certain companion plant combinations. 

For example, using fragrant, flowering plants such as herbs can deter pest attacks whilst encouraging natural predators at the same time.

Mustard greens have a preference for temperate growing conditions and grow best when the temperatures do not exceed 75°F. Using taller plants as companions is a great way to provide dappled shade for them during hotter periods. 

A cool and shaded environment will help prevent these plants from going to seed or ‘bolting’ which can have an impact on the flavor of the leaves.

Bolted Mustard Greens

Here below are some excellent companion plant examples that I use to improve overall health and growth rate when growing mustard greens: 

Vegetables

Celery: When planted in close proximity to mustard greens celery makes a good growing partnership thanks to the length of time each plant takes to reach maturity. Mustard greens are ready for harvest in around 30 days after germination whereas celery can take up to 120 days.

The benefit here is that when you plant these vegetables together, it maximizes the amount of growing space being used and allows more products to be harvested. The mustard greens will be grown and eaten before the celery is anywhere near to maturity.

Sweetcorn: Mustard greens and sweetcorn thrive in soil with a neutral pH so can be grown together with no issues. 

Additionally, corn plants are slow growing and will not produce cobs until very late into the growing season so using space in and around sweetcorn plants utilizes the garden more efficiently. The tall sturdy corn plants also create the perfect sunscreen providing dappled shade for the mustard greens to shelter behind.

Sweetcorn

Garlic: This allium is a great choice for a companion due to its ability to repel pests from mustard greens thanks to its strong smell. Garlic not only keeps away insect pests, it is also thought to keep rabbits at bay due to their dislike of garlic’s pungent scent.

Onions: Much like garlic, onions can help deter pests such as cabbage worms and aphids. Keeping insect attacks to a minimum allows the plant to use its energy to produce lots of strong healthy leaves rather than recuperating and recovering. 

Onions also enjoy the same growing conditions as mustard greens which means both will thrive in the same space without competing for nutrients.

Onions

Herbs and Flowers

Chamomile: Using chamomile as a companion will attract lots of natural predators to the garden such as hoverflies and ladybugs which will help keep pest populations at bay. Chamomile flowers will also encourage extra pollinators. 

Dill: This cool-weather herb prefers the same climate as mustard greens. Much like chamomile – dill is perfect for attracting beneficial insects. Using dill as a companion plant will attract hoverflies and ladybugs which in turn prey on aphids and cabbage worms

Sage: This extremely useful companion can be partnered with lots of different plants thanks to its strong fragrance. Growing sage as a companion to mustard greens will help deter passing pests such as cabbage moths looking for leafy greens to lay their eggs.

Sage

Bad Companion Plants for Mustard Greens

Some planting combinations can have a detrimental effect on mustard greens and are best avoided. 

A few examples of these are:

Tomatoes: These heavy-feeding fruits work in direct competition for nutrients in the soil when partnered near to Mustard greens. 

They are also prone to disease which can be transferred to mustard greens resulting in a spoiled crop.

Strawberries: Unfortunately, strawberries suffer from the same pests and diseases as mustard greens which means growing them as companions can increase the risk of infection or attacks on one or both plants. Strawberries will also compete for the same essential nutrients in the soil as Mustard greens.

Sunflowers: Sunflowers are susceptible to diseases such as mildew or rust which – if infected – will stunt the growth of mustard greens and I don’t recommend y using them as partnering plants.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.