Wild Mustard Fills Fields

It’s a glorious sight in February–fields and vineyards brimming with yellow mustard. Some people call it a weed because it grows in ditches, roadsides, and other unwanted places. Others call it a wildflower because it’s wild and it flowers. And some folks, like me, call it a habitat plant because it attracts bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. But serious growers call it a cover crop or “green manure” and deliberately plant it to suppress other weeds and to organically improve the soil’s health by tilling it in to add nitrogen. Here, it’s a winter annual and now at its most beautiful and brilliant, filling in between the marching rows of grapevines or blanketing fields as far as you can see. What everyone agrees on is that it’s not native to the U.S., likely coming from Europe. It could have been mixed in with other cereal grains or its seeds hitch-hiking rides on the coats of farm animals belonging to early immigrants. However it arrived, it’s here to stay, no matter how often invasive plant councils warn that it can take over and is difficult to eradicate. Personally, I love wild mustard and encourage it to grow in my garden. It fits in with the natural (wild?) look I strive for, and yellow is a warm and optimistic color. Mustard is in the Brassica family and related to cabbages, turnips, radishes, sweet alyssum, and the pink and white tiny-flowered wild radish that I also like to grow. With only two or three plants each, perhaps I’m lucky, but so far neither wild mustard nor wild radish has obliterated my garden!

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About writersandy

Writer, Gardener, Crafter
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2 Responses to Wild Mustard Fills Fields

  1. I love the golden wild mustard. It glows on a dark, rainy day and it absolutely radiates on a sunny afternoon. It’s especially beautiful along the fields that border Lakeville Highway, outside of Petaluma. I have a friend who use to take her toddlers there, every Spring, to roll and frolic in the mustard. It always goes away too soon.

  2. Sandy Baker says:

    Jeanne,
    You are as affected by it as I am. There’s something special about seeing those rolling hills blanketed in yellow.

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