Growing arugula is a wonderful way to incorporate different types of greens into your garden and daily diet. The leafy green, also known as “roquette” or “rocket lettuce” for its peppery flavor, is a popular ingredient in Italian cooking and can be used in a variety of ways, including salads and sauces or simply steamed on its own.
There are a few different varieties of arugula available through commercial plant and seed sellers. Arugula is typically sold in seed form, but many commercial garden centers are recognizing the growing popularity of this plant and are selling young arugula plants, which are easy to transplant into the home garden. Pre-started arugula is a good option if you are a novice at growing plants from seed, or if you are impatient with sprouting seeds yourself.
Arugula grows quickly and is a fairly easy crop to grow. It is important to prepare the planting area for optimal growth. Like many vegetable plants, arugula requires full-sun exposure, 8-12 hours of sun exposure daily, in order to thrive. Ideally, arugula should be planted in soil that is well drained and fertile. It may be planted directly in the ground and its compact growth habit makes it an ideal crop for container gardens.
If you purchase your arugula as pre-started plants, your job is pretty easy. You’ll simply need to dig a hole in the ground or container that is large enough and deep enough to accommodate its root ball. One plant per 8-10-inch container is ideal. Cover the root ball with a thin layer of soil and water in with a balanced fertilizer, such as 20-20-20, if you wish.
Growing arugula from seed is not a very difficult project. If you live in a colder climate, you may choose to start your seeds indoors, or in warmer climates, the seeds can be sown directly into the soil outdoors. If you choose to start your seeds indoors, you’ll need potting soil, small containers, and a warm, well-lit area to get the seedlings off to a strong start. Ideally, arugula seeds should be planted evenly with at least 15 inches of space between rows. Cover the seeds with a light layer of soil (no greater than ¼-icn thick), and water in lightly after planting.
Arugula is best grown when the weather is cool. It can be planted in the spring as early as the soil can be worked.
Arugula seeds will typically begin to sprout within 7-14 days of being sown. In the early stage of growth, your main task will be to make sure that they stay well watered and that the soil is allowed to dry between watering. Do not let the seedlings wilt.
When the seedlings are approximately 3 inches tall, it is a good time to thin your crop. If you allow all of the seeds you planted to grow, the plants will eventually crowd each other out, resulting in a failure of the crop. Thin (remove) the seedlings so that they are about 6 inches apart.
Arugula has the most intense flavor when it is harvested young, and it can be harvested as soon as 35 days after sowing. At this time, you may pluck the outer leaves of the plant and leave the remaining inner leaves to continue producing later in the season. Or, you may harvest the entire plant at once by cutting it off at the stem. You may continue to harvest from your arugula crop until the plants begin to flower. Once the arugula begins to produce flowers, the leaves become quite bitter.
To add some variety to your garden greens, consider planting arugula. It is quick and easy to grow, and it makes an ideal addition to soups, salads, and sauces.