With a distinct peppery taste, most people either love or loath arugula. This leafy green is similar to lettuce, however, and can make for a fresh addition to any salad. Find out when to plant arugula so you can have a salad brimming with flavor.
When to plant arugula: Also known as rocket in some parts of the world, arugula is a great addition to a salad thanks to its peppery taste and somewhat rough texture. Arugula grows best in cool temperatures and as such, you can actually grow it twice a year. Aim to plant in the spring once the soil is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be as early as February or as late as April, depending on where you live. For the fall, give your arugula enough time to grow before there is a threat of frost. This is usually sometime in September. Arugula will germinate quickly and can be ready in as little as six months. Plant arugula seeds in your garden every week or two so that you have a continuous harvest. If you don’t like the bitter taste of the leaves, be sure to harvest them early, when they are about 2 inches in length.
Planting Arugula in Different Climates
Arugula is a cool-weather crop that needs cold temperatures to grow. A tropical climate is far too warm for this plant.
When growing arugula, you want there to be continuously moist soil. While the cool temperatures of a dry climate may sustain arugula, you will need to be vigilant about watering it on a steady basis.
Arugula is perfect for a temperate climate. The mild winter means you may be able to get this crop into the ground as early as February.
The wet spring conditions are also ideal. However, just make sure the soil you plant your arugula in can drain well, or else the roots will start to rot.
You can definitely grow arugula in a continental climate but you may have to exercise a bit of patience. Wait until the winter is definitely over, which might not be until April before you can reliably plant this crop.
Unfortunately, arugula will not grow in a polar climate.
What is arugula
As more and more people are turning to healthy eating options, finding diverse foods is becoming like a hobby. One addition to many salads is arugula.
If you haven’t heard of arugula before, you might be more familiar with its other name, ‘rocket.’ Where you live in the world will usually determine which term you use as the rocket is more common in parts of Europe.
Even though arugula looks like lettuce, it is actually part of the mustard family and is a distant cousin of broccoli, cabbage, and kale. It makes for a great addition to any salad or, if you don’t mind the powerful taste, you can even make a side dish of it all on its own.
Choosing Arugula Seeds
- Garden variety – Grows mild-tasting leaves that taste a little like radishes
- Italian rocket – Leaves have a sharp flavor
- Astro – Leaves grow quite fast and have a nice, mild flavor
How to Plant Arugula Seeds
Preparing the soil
One of the great characteristics of arugula is that it can grow in many different soil conditions. While you should plant it in an area that has well-draining soil, this can be in your garden, a raised bed, or even in a container.
If you have limited space and only have the opportunity for container gardening on your patio, arugula is a great choice. The soil should be slightly acidic, but there is a bit of leeway here.
Always try to plant your arugula in an area that gets full sun. This will help the plant grow larger and faster.
While you may be able to get away with partial sun, your arugula will not grow as well and you may end up disappointed with your crop.
Rotate your crops
Once you get a bit of experience gardening, you will find out that a lot more thought goes into where to plant a crop than first imagined. Plants that belong to the same family are susceptible to the same types of diseases.
When planting your arugula, make sure it is in an area where other members of its family, such as cabbage or brussels sprouts, have recently been planted. This way, if there were diseases in the previous plants, they won’t have the chance to spread to this next crop.
Arugula is a cool-weather crop which means you can get it into the ground relatively early in the spring. In fact, as long as your temperatures are consistently above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you can direct sow the seeds.
Another option is to grow a second crop of arugula in the fall. For best results, plant in early fall so you can harvest before the ground freezes.
Sow the seeds
Once all the growing requirements have been met, it’s time to get your seeds into the ground. Due to its hardiness, it’s best to simply direct sow your seeds outside rather than taking the time to start them inside.
Arugula seeds are tiny so they only need to be placed in the soil about ¼-inch deep. Each seed should be spaced out by 1 inch and rows should be about 10 inches apart.
If you love a good salad, be sure to grow other types of lettuce at the same time as your arugula. You can also plant new seeds every week for the first month. This way you will have a continual supply of arugula.
How to Water Arugula
Water is key for arugula. Water every other day unless there is rainfall.
How to Grow Arugula
Your arugula needs moist soil to grow and if you aren’t getting the results you expected, this is the first problem to diagnose. Continuous moist but not overly saturated soil is key.
The problem is that, while most areas have wet springs, not everyone does. You may think that just because the temperature is cool that your soil is moist but it can quickly dry out.
The last thing you want after the effort you’ve gone through to grow your arugula is to have it bolt. This is the process in which the plant skips the leafy stage and instead produces small white flowers.
Bolting can make the whole plant inedible so you want to prolong this event as much as possible. Moist soil is the best way to prevent bolting. And, if you see flower shoots in the middle of the plant, be sure to pinch these off right away.
You can also provide shade to your arugula as the spring temperatures start to warm up. Even though arugula needs full sun to grow, very hot temperatures in the afternoon can cause it to start bolting.
Thin the plants
As your arugula starts to grow, you will want to consider thinning it. If the arugula grows too close together, you won’t get very large leaves.
These smaller leaves that you pull can still be used for salads so they won’t go to waste.
Watch for pests and diseases
Arugula grows close to the ground so you want to be on the lookout for cabbage worms. They will eat large holes in the middle of the leaves.
To get rid of cabbage worms, be sure to use row covers and add more native plants that will attract insects that are beneficial. You can also grow thyme which acts as a natural deterrent.
One fungus to be on the lookout for is called downy mildew. This will produce yellow and brown spots on the leaves.
Be sure to remove infected leaves from your garden and thin out your plants to promote air circulation.
Arugula is known for its pepper taste but some people find that it can be too bitter. If you are tempted to try arugula again, know that the earlier your harvest the leaves, the less bitter they will be.
Older leaves can also be quite tough and have a rough texture to them. Aim to harvest when the leaves are about 2 to 3 inches long.
How long does arugula take to grow?
Overall, arugula does not take very long to grow. In only a week the seeds will germinate and you will see tiny sprouts.
If you want to speed up the process, you can always soak the seeds in water overnight. Also, if it gets a bit colder outside, the growing process can take a bit longer.
In just six weeks your arugula should be ready for harvest. The earlier you pick your arugula leaves, the less bitter they will be.
Adding some excitement to your salad can make it a lot more appealing. Arugula provides a peppery, slightly bitter taste and a rougher texture that will add some depth to your dish. Plant arugula in early spring or early fall to take advantage of the cool temperatures.