In recent years, the use of cover crops in Mediterranean olive orchards has increased due to serious soil erosion problems and surface water contamination by herbicides. In these areas, the annual precipitation regime is strongly seasonal, with dry summers that require killing the cover crop before it competes with the trees for water. Cruciferous species are being introduced as cover crops in southern Spain, and their management by mowing could reduce the use of herbicides. However, the use of mowing as a management system requires an understanding of the phenology of these species to identify the most suitable mowing date to derive the greatest possible soil water content. The aims of this study were the following: (1) to assess the susceptibility of cruciferous species to mowing, their regrowth ability and the persistence of their residues on the soil surface after mowing, and (2) to identify the best mowing date for the cover crops in relation to the soil moisture content in the environmental conditions of southern Spain. For these purposes, the emergence, ground cover, biomass and regrowth after two mowing dates of common mustard (Sinapis alba L. subsp. mairei), rocket (Eruca vesicaria), radish (Raphanus sativus) and Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata) were evaluated in field trials during 2001/2002. In addition, during 2002/2003 and 2003/2004, the moisture content of soil sowed with common mustard and rocket cover crops was assessed at different mowing dates and compared with a bare soil control. Common mustard was the most favourable species for management by mowing due to its lack of regrowth after mowing. Early mowing (March 10th) reduced soil moisture due to the regrowth of the cover crop, fast decomposition of cover residues and weed proliferation. Late mowing (April 24th) led to little or no regrowth of the cover crops, large biomass and high persistence of cover residues, which provided effective soil ground cover, avoided the emergence of spring-summer weeds and helped retain soil moisture, reaching a similar water content to bare soil. These results suggest that cruciferous cover crops killed by mowing in late April can be used to replace no-tillage bare soil management systems to reduce the use of herbicides and preserve soil and water quality.