Arugula is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. Over the years, these peppery leaves with a tart taste have become a characteristic part of Italian cuisine. In a salad, bright green arugula leaves are a perfect addition for an extra punch of flavor. And if you grow arugula at home, you will have a constant supply!
Historians believe that arugula was once called “oroth”, a green leaf referenced in the Old Testament of the Bible. Indeed, this beautiful plant was cultivated throughout the Mediterranean in Roman times.
Also popular in the Middle Ages in Britain, it was then called a rocket or garden rocket. The French called it roquette, which may have inspired the name rocket.
It’s a fascinating plant, and we think you’ll enjoy growing and consuming these greens!
Quick Maintenance Guide
All About Arugula
Eruca vesicaria is the botanical name for arugula. At one time it was also called Eruca sativa. In fact, there are almost 40 different botanical names that have been used over time to refer to it. But if it sounds confusing, you can also call it garden arugula, arugula, cauliflower, arugula, arugula or even just arugula.
Its origin is in the Mediterranean Sea, which stretches from Turkey, Syria and Lebanon in the east to Portugal and Morocco. As a member of the Brassicaceae plant family, it shares its genetics with other cruciferous vegetables, ranging from kale to cabbage, mustard to broccoli. Leaning more towards the mustard side of the family, these green salads have exploded on the international market.
This leafy annual is often between a foot and two feet tall, although it can be anywhere from 8″ to nearly 40″ tall. The leaves are pinnate and often 2-3″ long, attached to slender stems. They are often described as a longer and narrower lettuce leaf. Rocket produces inflorescences of white flowers with purplish veins running through them. When the flowers go to the seed, they form long, tight pods.
There is no doubt that you want to give your rocket a good start. How to grow follows below!
When To Plant
For most growers, two seasons are ideal for growing arugula. Plant arugula seeds as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring for an early-year harvest. If it pass away in the summer, wait until the weather cools down and replant in the fall for a second harvest. As soon as the soil starts to freeze, it will pass away again, so harvest before the frosty conditions arrive.
If you want a continuous harvest, sow every 2-3 weeks throughout the season to eat an endless supply of fresh leaves.
Where To Plant
You need an area of the garden that is protected from extreme heat or cold, but receives at least some of the sun. This plant tolerates slightly shaded conditions as long as there is bright ambient light, but will not work well in scorching heat, so choose your location accordingly.
Container cultivation is also an option. Growing in containers allows you to move your plant to optimize its placement according to your local weather conditions. It will grow well indoors and outdoors as long as it has enough bright light.
How To Plant
Sow the seeds about ¼” deep and about an inch apart. If you are planting several rows, space the rows at least 10 inches apart for proper outward development and leave enough space for healthy root development.
From the moment of germination, the seedlings thin out. Keep arugula plants 4 inches apart if they are growing for young leaves, 6 inches if they are going for mature leaves or seeds.
It is possible to pre-sow arugula, with or without other greens, to create a thick and lush bed for harvesting. This technique works best for curly lettuce, mustard lettuce or other related plants. Be sure to harvest regularly in these beds to allow more plant development.
Pre-starting seeds and transplanting young seedlings is not impossible, but can be tricky. It is easier to sow where you plan to grow your arugula.
So now that you know how arugula planting works, what conditions do you need to grow arugula in your garden for the best spring or autumn harvest? Let’s discuss what your plants need.
Sun and temperature
Full sun to partial shade is preferable when growing arugula. Six to seven hours of sunlight a day are needed to grow. They can accept indirect, but bright lighting, rather than full direct sunlight, which makes them an excellent choice for some of your partially shaded garden areas.
A cool-weather plant, arugula thrives best at temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the weather in the garden reaches the 80s or higher, it will regularly bolt to the production of flowers and seeds. As soon as it produces seeds, the plant pass away.
Arugula tolerates mild frosts, but can be damaged and pass away in the event of a real frost. If you are in a mild climate, you may be able to grow it all winter to have a constant supply.
Water And Humidity
Uniform and constant humidity is best for growing arugula. Water the plants in the morning, as this will give enough time for the leaf surface to dry in the sun. Mulching the garden can also help maintain soil moisture and reduce the frequency of watering. A drip irrigation system or a soaking hose under the mulch can make watering easier.
A humus-rich, well-drained soil is what your plants will prefer. However, they tolerate a wide variety of garden soils, as long as they retain moisture.
If you have sandy soil, change it abundantly with compost and horse manure or cow dung to retain additional moisture. Worm castings can also be applied for additional moisture retention.
Hard clay also needs to be broken down by a lot of compost or manure. This reduces the likelihood that it will become hard and prevents the easy development of roots.
Provide a balanced fertilizer to your arugula plants to make sure they have what they need to develop healthy young leaves. A dry granular formula can be applied once or twice during the growing season (spring or autumn). Use diluted liquid fertilizers alternately at the base of the plant as needed to keep the greens healthy.
Arugula does not need to be pruned, because you will harvest it regularly to eat it! But if you end up eating too much, squeeze out all the yellowing leaf matter. Make sure that your older plants have a space between them, at least a few centimeters apart, to allow good air circulation around them. If they are grouped too close to each other, you can experience various problems with plant ailments.
At the end of the growing season, your plants pass away from heat in summer or from freezing cold in winter. Then remove the plants and prepare the bed for another crop, or cover it until it’s time to replant.
Arugula seeds from unreliable sources can be carriers of certain fungal ailments. Be sure to buy seeds from reliable sources or those that have been treated with fungicides. This will prevent these fungal problems from spreading to your soil.
Since this is a plant that usually thrives only in a mild climate, it is best to start with seeds. Although it is theoretically possible to grow arugula only from the base and roots of the plant, the arugula will be stressed by the loss of its leaves and will often begin to bloom. Instead of taking cuttings, plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches apart.
Whether you opt for a spring or autumn harvest, you will use the same methods for harvesting. Try to harvest a third of each plant or less if you want to use a cut and repeat method to extend the productivity of this plant for longer. A younger and smaller leaf will be softer and more tender than the older one.
You can harvest arugula when it is very young for baby vegetables, and they are a great addition to any salad. As the leaves age, their taste is more pronounced, reminiscent of mustard green with a slightly peppery bite.