Growing Crops: Arugula

Arugula, otherwise known as Rocket or Salad Rocket, is a tangy addition to green salads and cold pasta dishes. It is a cool season crop that will bolt with too much heat; however, do not be dismayed if your arugula bolts – while the leaves will be too bitter to eat, the edible flowers will make a colorful and flavorful addition to your dishes.

Best Climate to Grow: Spring and Fall cooler weather. As long as it is protected it can survive early Spring and late Fall frosts. Can be grown through the winter in climates with mild winters that don’t go below 25 degrees F.

Light Requirements: Lots of sun during the cool season; light shading will help protect it from the heat of late Spring/early Summer and late Summer/early Fall days.

Soil Requirements: Light soil that retains moisture.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Soil must be kept moist at all times. Drip irrigation combined with mulching is ideal for maintaining moisture.

When to Plant: Early Spring and 6-8 weeks before the first frost during the Fall. Arugula does not transplant well, so do not start the seeds indoors. Plant in 1-week intervals to avoid a glut of arugula all at once.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Plant seeds directly in the ground, ½ inch deep. If planting in rows, make the rows 1 foot apart and thin the plants to 6 inches apart. If broadcasting, thin to 6 inches apart in all directions.

Container Requirements: Any container or windowbox at least 4 inches deep will do. Arugula is ideal for container gardeners.

Harvesting and Storage: Snip off outer leaves as the plants grow, which encourages more growth. Arugula will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, if rinsed and kept moist by wrapping it in paper towels. Best eaten fresh.

Seed Harvesting and Storage: After your arugula bolts, seed pods appear along the length of the flower stems. Don’t pull up the plants just yet…stop irrigating and let them dry up. The trick is to collect the seed pods when they are completely dry (otherwise they won’t germinate next year) but before they burst open (otherwise you lose the seeds).

Over a shallow tray carefully cut the dried stems and take them inside. Gently crumble the pods with your fingers, removing the chaff from the seeds by lightly blowing it away or by shaking the mixture in a mesh strainer that will let the seeds through but not the chaff. Label a clean, dry glass jar (now would be a good time to start saving any glass jars you may have, such as jams and jellies, pickles, spices, etc.) with the seed name and the date harvested, and store the seeds in a cool, dry place.

Pests to Monitor: Flea beetles, slugs, and snails. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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