Improving Soil and Resisting Disease

Here’s our good friend, HerbDoc, with another interesting post, about (not surprisingly) another herb! 


Caliente Mustard

Over the years visitors to my gardens have wondered aloud why I seem to have little in the way of disease and pest problems and an abundance of pollinators. I always ascribe it to the plethora of herbs that are grown everywhere!

New research has proven that one excellent way to preserve an organic garden and also support disease is to plant mustard. A specific blend called “caliente” when planted as a green manure improves the soil fertility and structure by adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil. It also increases soil biodiversity by stimulating the growth of beneficial microbes while suppressing soil-borne diseases (Verticillium and Schlerotinia) and a range of nematodes! It does this through biofumigation by producing isothiocyanate (ITC), a natural gas released when plant cells are crushed through mowing or clipping.

Note that the research points out that the Caliente 199 Mustard blend is bred specifically to perform specific functions. It isn’t the simple green manure or pickling product that Grandma grew!

In order for the process to work, the Caliente seeds are sown in the late summer and kept moist throughout the growing cycle. Mustard grows vigorously in a short period of time; it will be ready to chop and till into the soil in about 100 days.

Some hints for growing:

  • Plant in well-drained soil with a high level of organic matter, 6.0 – 7.5 pH;
  • Seed ½” deep, 3” apart in rows one foot apart;
  • Grows best in temperature between 32 and 75 degrees;
  • Water to maintain soil moisture;
  • In order to reap the benefits, cut and chop plants and till into soil. A weed whacker works wonderfully in raised beds.

If gardeners have been suffering through the early and late blight problems with their tomatoes, this might provide a weapon in their arsenal. The seed is relatively inexpensive, and although I haven’t had a blight problem, I plan to use Caliente as a green manure this year. I’m a bit behind the curve this year, but I will plant it early in the spring, as mustard is tolerant of a light frost.



About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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