How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Arugula Plants

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

Got a spot in your garden and wondering what to grow that’s both easy and packs a punch in the flavor department? Why not give growing Arugula a whirl? This peppery little leaf, also known as rocket, isn’t just a salad green—it’s practically a superfood that’s skyrocketed in popularity for good reason.

Arugula’s not fussy about where it grows, making it perfect for beginners. Plus, it brings a spicy kick to any dish, from pizzas to salads, without needing much from you. And here’s a bonus: it’s loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, along with calcium, potassium, and several other minerals that make it a health powerhouse.

So, if you’re up for adding a zesty twist to your meals and want to do your body a solid, stick around. We’re diving into how you can turn a tiny seed into your new favorite leafy green. No fluff, no faff, just the good stuff on how to get your Arugula from the soil to your plate.

how to grow arugula rocket

Quick Guide to Growing Arugula

Alright, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of growing Arugula in your own space, be it a sprawling garden or a sunny windowsill. Here’s a straightforward guide, no fluff or faff, just the essentials to get those green thumbs working.

StepDetailsTips & Tricks
Choosing SeedsGo for organic or heirloom seeds to start your arugula patch.Heirloom varieties pack more flavor and are often more resilient.
Sowing SeedsPlant seeds in well-draining soil; sprinkle them lightly on top, then cover.Arugula loves cool weather. Start in early spring or fall for the best yield.
WateringKeep the soil moist but not waterlogged.A light sprinkle daily does the trick. Avoid heavy watering to prevent rot.
SunlightFull sun to partial shade is perfect for arugula.If you’re in a hotter climate, aim for more shade to keep it from bolting.
HarvestingSnip leaves when they’re young and tender, about 4-6 inches long.Regular harvesting encourages more growth. Don’t be shy to pick!
Pest ControlKeep an eye out for leaf munchers like aphids and caterpillars.A gentle spray of water or mild soap solution can keep pests at bay.
BoltingArugula can bolt (flower) when it gets too hot.Harvest early and often, and maybe plant a bit of shade to keep it cool.
EatingFresh in salads, on top of pizzas, or as a spicy addition to sandwiches.Younger leaves are less spicy, so pick according to your taste buds!

Understanding Arugula

growing arugula

Arugula, a leafy green with a peppery punch, isn’t just another salad ingredient. It’s a nutritional powerhouse with roots going back to the Roman times. Whether you’re a foodie or a health nut, there’s more to this green than meets the eye. Let’s break it down, shall we?

A Brief History and Origins of Arugula

Arugula isn’t a newbie in the world of greens. This plant has been around since the Roman era, where it was not only eaten but also used for its supposed medicinal properties.

Fast forward to today, and it’s a global favorite, adding a spicy kick to dishes from salads to pizzas. But don’t let its fancy appearance fool you; this green has humble beginnings and is surprisingly easy to grow, making it a gardener’s dream.

Varieties of Arugula: Wild vs. Cultivated Types

When you’re at the seed aisle, scratching your head, you’re likely deciding between wild and cultivated arugula. Here’s the lowdown:

TypeCharacteristicsFlavor
Wild ArugulaSmaller leaves, more drought-resistantPeppery with a nutty aftertaste
CultivatedLarger, more tender leavesMilder than its wild counterpart

Choosing between wild and cultivated depends on your taste buds and garden space. Wild types are tougher and can handle a bit more neglect, while cultivated varieties might need a bit more TLC but reward you with tender leaves perfect for a fresh salad.

Nutritional Profile: Vitamins, Minerals, and Health Benefits

Arugula isn’t just about adding a zing to your meals; it’s packed with good stuff for your body. Low in calories but high in vital nutrients, it’s like nature’s multivitamin. Here’s what you get in a serving of arugula:

NutrientBenefitWhy It’s Good for You
Vitamins A, C, KBoosts immunity, vision, and bone healthEssential for overall well-being
CalciumGood for bones and teethKeeps the framework of your body strong
PotassiumHelps with blood pressure and heart healthVital for heart function
FolateImportant for pregnant womenSupports fetal development

Incorporating arugula into your diet isn’t just a treat for your taste buds; it’s a boost for your health. Whether you’re whipping up a quick salad or garnishing a gourmet dish, you’re doing your body a favor with every bite.

Getting Started with Arugula

So, you’ve decided to add a bit of zing to your garden or balcony with arugula, eh? Great choice! Whether you’re looking to jazz up your salads or just want to try your hand at growing something new, arugula is a solid pick. It’s easy to grow, quick to harvest, and brings a peppery punch to the table. Let’s dive into the basics to get you started.

Best Time of Year to Plant Arugula

Timing is everything when it comes to gardening, and arugula is no exception. This green prefers cooler weather, making early spring or fall the perfect seasons for planting. If you plant it when it’s too hot, arugula will bolt – that’s gardener speak for “flower and become bitter” – faster than you can say “salad.”

SeasonTemperatureWhy It’s Ideal
SpringBelow 65°F (18°C)Cooler temps slow bolting
Fall60°F to 65°F (15°C to 18°C)Warm soil, cooler air

Choosing the Right Location: Sunlight and Soil Requirements

Arugula isn’t too picky, but it does have its preferences. A spot that gets full sun to partial shade with well-draining soil is arugula’s happy place. If you’re working with a balcony or windowsill, just make sure it gets enough light, and you’re good to go.

SunlightSoil TypeWhy It Matters
4-6 hours of direct sunlightLoamy, pH 6.0-7.0Ensures growth and prevents rot

Seed Selection: Organic, Heirloom, or Hybrid Seeds

Now, onto the seeds. You’ll find organic, heirloom, and hybrid varieties out there, each with its own perks. Organic seeds come without any chemical intervention, heirlooms offer that “tried and true” genetic lineage, and hybrids might give you more disease resistance or uniformity.

Seed TypeCharacteristicsBest For
OrganicNo synthetic chemicals usedEco-conscious gardeners
HeirloomPassed down through generationsFlavor enthusiasts
HybridBred for specific traitsThose seeking reliability

Picking your seeds is like choosing your adventure. Want the full eco experience? Go organic. Looking for a taste of gardening history? Heirloom’s your bet. Or maybe you just want something that’ll grow without too much fuss? Hybrid it is.

Starting your arugula journey doesn’t need to be complicated. Just remember, like any good relationship, it’s all about finding the right balance. Give your arugula the right mix of sun, soil, and care, and you’ll be rewarded with a bounty of peppery greens that’ll make your salads the talk of the table. And who knows? You might just find yourself falling in love with gardening along the way.

Planting Your Arugula

Diving into the world of gardening with arugula is like starting a new adventure. It’s straightforward, rewarding, and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the idea of harvesting their own peppery greens for a fresh salad? If you’re ready to get your hands a bit dirty and your garden green, here’s your go-to guide for planting arugula.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Plant Arugula Seeds

Getting your arugula seeds from the packet to the soil doesn’t require a green thumb, just a bit of enthusiasm and following these simple steps:

  1. Choose your spot: Arugula isn’t picky but loves a sunny to partially shaded spot with well-draining soil.
  2. Spread the love: Scatter the seeds over your chosen spot. No need for precision; arugula grows well even when it’s a bit crowded.
  3. Cover lightly: Gently sprinkle a thin layer of soil over the seeds—just enough to cover them.
  4. Water wisdom: Give them a good watering, but don’t drown them. A misting bottle can be your best friend here.
  5. Patience pays: In 5-7 days, you should see tiny sprouts. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Soil Preparation: pH Level, Compost, and Mulching

The secret to any successful garden is in the soil. For arugula, you’re looking at a soil that’s like a comfy bed: rich, well-draining, and at just the right pH level.

ComponentIdeal ConditionPurpose
pH LevelBetween 6.0 and 7.0Ensures nutrients are easily available to plants
CompostMix in before plantingAdds nutrients and improves soil structure
MulchingAfter seedlings appearHelps retain moisture and controls weed growth

A sprinkle of compost before planting gives your arugula a head-start by adding essential nutrients and improving soil structure. Mulching after the seedlings have popped up helps keep the moisture in and the weeds out.

Spacing and Depth Guidelines for Sowing Seeds

Arugula seeds aren’t fussy about space, but giving them a little room to breathe ensures they grow healthy and strong.

Spacing Between SeedsSeed DepthRow Spacing
1 inch (2.5 cm)1/4 inch (0.6 cm)6 inches (15 cm)

This doesn’t have to be exact; just aim for roughly these measurements. Arugula is forgiving and will grow even if the seeds are a bit closer or deeper than recommended.

Watering Needs During the Germination Phase

Water is the lifeblood of your arugula during its early days. Keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged is key to germination success.

FrequencyAmountTip
DailyLightlyUse a misting spray to avoid disturbing the seeds

Remember, the goal is to keep the soil moist, not create a miniature lake. Overwatering can drown your seeds or lead to fungal diseases.

Caring for Your Arugula Plants

Once your arugula seeds are happily nestled in the soil and beginning to sprout, it’s time to switch gears to caring for your burgeoning plants. Arugula is pretty low-maintenance, but like any garden veggie, it thrives with a bit of TLC. Let’s walk through the essentials of watering, thinning, pest management, and fertilization to ensure your arugula grows up strong and peppery.

Watering Regimen for Arugula Plants

Water is crucial, but too much or too little can spell trouble. Arugula likes to stay hydrated but hates wet feet. Here’s how to strike the balance:

When to WaterHow Much to WaterTip
Early morning or late afternoonEnough to keep the soil evenly moistUse a watering can with a sprinkle nozzle to avoid disturbing the plants

A good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Regular, even watering encourages steady growth and prevents the leaves from becoming too spicy.

The Importance of Thinning Seedlings for Optimal Growth

Thinning might seem counterintuitive—why remove plants you’ve worked hard to grow? But it’s all about giving your arugula room to thrive.

Why ThinHow to ThinResult
Prevents overcrowdingRemove extra seedlings to leave about 3-4 inches between plantsStronger, healthier plants with room to grow

Thinning ensures each plant has enough space, light, and nutrients. Plus, you can use the thinnings in your salad—they’re perfectly edible and delicious.

Pest Management: Identifying and Controlling Common Pests

Pests can be a nuisance, but with a little vigilance, you can keep your arugula safe:

Common PestsSignsControl Methods
Aphids and flea beetlesVisible bugs or damage on leavesA gentle blast of water or organic insecticidal soap

Check your plants regularly for unwanted guests. Early intervention is key to preventing a full-blown invasion.

Fertilization Needs and Recommendations

Arugula isn’t a heavy feeder, but a little nutrition boost can help:

When to FertilizeWhat to UseWhy It’s Important
Every 4-6 weeksBalanced, organic liquid fertilizerEncourages lush, leafy growth without overwhelming the plants

A balanced N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) fertilizer is your best bet. Look for organic options to keep your garden and your greens as natural as possible.

Caring for your arugula plants is a bit like nurturing a budding friendship. It doesn’t take much—just some regular check-ins, a bit of space, and the occasional helping hand—to see them flourish.

With these simple care tips, you’ll be on your way to a bountiful harvest of fresh, peppery arugula leaves ready to spice up your salads and sandwiches. Remember, gardening is a journey, not a race, so take your time, enjoy the process, and savor the rewards of your hard work.

Harvesting and Storing Arugula

Reaching the point where you can harvest your arugula is like hitting a mini jackpot in the gardening world. Those peppery leaves not only add a kick to your dishes but also mark a rewarding milestone in your green thumb journey. Here’s how to know when it’s time to harvest, the best way to do it, and how to keep those greens fresh for as long as possible.

Signs Your Arugula is Ready to Harvest

Arugula grows at the speed of light. Well, not really, but it’s pretty quick, going from seed to salad in just a few weeks. Here’s when to start picking:

Growth StageLeaf SizeHarvest Time
Baby arugula2-3 inches long2-3 weeks after planting
Mature arugula4-6 inches long4-5 weeks after planting, before it bolts

When the leaves look lush and are the size of a credit card (or a bit bigger), they’re ready to join your salad bowl.

Techniques for Harvesting to Encourage Continuous Growth

The art of harvesting arugula is simple yet strategic. It’s all about encouraging more growth while enjoying the fruits of your labor:

MethodTechniqueOutcome
Cut-and-come-againSnip leaves from the outer edges, 1 inch above the soilPromotes new growth from the center
Whole plantHarvest the entire plant if it’s starting to boltPrevents bitterness and seeds from spreading

Using a sharp pair of scissors or a knife ensures a clean cut that doesn’t harm the plant. This way, your arugula can keep on giving.

Tips for Washing and Storing Arugula to Maintain Freshness

After harvesting, the next step is to keep those greens crisp and fresh:

StepMethodStorage
WashingGently rinse under cold water; use a salad spinner to dryRemoves dirt and bugs without bruising leaves
StoringIn the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in an open plastic bagKeeps arugula fresh for up to a week

Avoid washing your arugula until you’re ready to eat it. This prevents moisture from shortening its shelf life. When you do wash it, be gentle. Those leaves are tender!

Harvesting and storing your arugula properly turns all that hard work into delicious, fresh salads for days to come. Remember, the key to a long-lasting harvest is gentle care—from the garden to the fridge. By following these simple steps, you can ensure your arugula stays as fresh as the day you picked it, adding that perfect peppery punch to your meals.

Common Problems and Solutions

Gardening is a bit like being a detective: you’re always on the lookout for clues that something might be amiss. With arugula, a few common culprits can turn your gardening success story into a mystery case. Let’s break down the usual suspects—bolting, yellowing leaves, pest infestations, and plant diseases—and how to address them.

Addressing Common Issues: Bolting, Yellowing Leaves, and Pest Infestations

When it comes to arugula, the plot can thicken with a few plot twists like bolting, leaves turning yellow, and uninvited pests. But don’t worry, we’ve got the gardening equivalent of a detective’s handbook to help you solve these mysteries.

IssueSymptomsSolution
BoltingPlants flower and leaves taste bitterHarvest early, provide shade, and keep soil moist
Yellowing LeavesLeaves turn yellow, possibly from overwatering or poor nutritionImprove drainage, reduce watering, and consider a nitrogen-rich fertilizer
Pest InfestationsVisible bugs, damaged leavesIdentify pests (like aphids or flea beetles), use water spray or organic pesticides

Bolting is like your arugula deciding to sprint to the flowering finish line, leaving you with bitter leaves. Beat it by keeping things cool and harvesting early. Yellowing leaves can signal distress, often from waterlogged roots or a diet lacking in nitrogen. And pests? They’re the usual suspects in any garden crime scene, but with some detective work, you can send them packing.

How to Deal with Plant Diseases Affecting Arugula

Just when you thought you had all your bases covered, plant diseases can emerge as the plot thickens. But fear not, for every problem, there’s a solution waiting in the wings.

DiseaseSymptomsPrevention/Treatment
Downy MildewYellow patches on leaves, white or gray mold underneathEnsure good air circulation, water in the morning, and remove affected leaves
Powdery MildewWhite, powdery spots on leavesUse fungicide if necessary, and plant in full sun to reduce humidity around plants

Prevention is key to keeping your arugula healthy. Downy mildew and powdery mildew are like the Moriarty to your Sherlock Holmes—they’re crafty but not unbeatable. Keeping your plants well-spaced, in the right light, and properly watered can help you stay one step ahead.

Enjoying Your Arugula

arugula salad

After the adventure of growing your arugula, comes the best part: enjoying the fruits, or rather, the leaves of your labor. Arugula, with its peppery kick, transforms any meal from ordinary to gourmet with just a sprinkle. Let’s explore some simple yet mouthwatering ways to make arugula a star in your kitchen.

Simple and Delicious Ideas for Using Fresh Arugula in Recipes

Arugula’s versatility in the kitchen is unmatched. Its peppery notes can enhance a wide range of dishes, from the simplest of salads to the most elaborate meals. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Dish TypeIdeaWhy It Works
SaladsToss with olive oil, lemon juice, and shaved ParmesanThe peppery leaves balance the richness of the cheese and the acidity of the lemon
PastasStir into pasta right off the heat with cherry tomatoes and mozzarellaAdds a fresh, spicy contrast to the warm, creamy pasta
PizzasAdd on top of pizza after bakingProvides a fresh, crisp texture against the melted cheese

From a simple side to the main dish, arugula adds depth and excitement to every bite, elevating your dining experience with minimal effort.

How to Incorporate Arugula into Salads, Sandwiches, and Other Dishes

The beauty of arugula lies in its ability to mingle with a variety of flavors and textures, making it a powerhouse ingredient for creative dishes.

Meal TypeIncorporation TipsResult
SaladsMix with other greens for a complex flavor base, or let it shine solo with a bold dressingA salad that’s anything but boring, packed with flavor and nutrients
SandwichesUse as a leafy base or a peppery addition to sandwiches and wrapsTurns a simple sandwich into a gourmet delight with an extra crunch
BreakfastTop off your avocado toast or stir into scrambled eggsStarts your day with a peppery zing, adding both flavor and color

Whether it’s the star of the show in a salad or playing a supporting role in sandwiches and breakfast dishes, arugula brings a unique flavor profile that can transform your meals. Its versatility means you can experiment freely, finding new favorite combinations and dishes that highlight its distinctive taste.

Conclusion

Wrapping up our green journey, growing arugula at home has been nothing short of a leafy adventure. This peppery green not only spices up our meals but also our gardening skills. The satisfaction of crunching into a leaf you’ve grown yourself is unbeatable. It’s about the freshness, the flavor, and the joy of connecting with what you eat in the most direct way possible.

From the tiny seeds to the lush green leaves ready for your salad bowl, every step in the growth of arugula brings its own joy. It’s not just about the end product; it’s about watching those first sprouts push through the soil, about tending to your plants, and finally, about harvesting your very own greens.

The benefits? They’re huge. You get a stash of nutritious, flavor-packed greens right at your doorstep, knowing they’re grown with your care and free from unnecessary chemicals.

But why stop at arugula? The world of leafy greens is vast, each with its unique flavor and health benefits. Spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are just a few more you can try your hand at. They’re not just good for you; they’ll make your garden a vibrant tapestry of greens.

So, take this encouragement to branch out. Experiment with other greens. Mix them in your garden plots or pots. Each has its personality, growing habits, and taste profiles, enriching your garden and your plate.

Growing arugula and other leafy friends is more than gardening. It’s a way of life that brings freshness to your table and green to your thumb. Here’s to the leafy greens that keep on giving and the gardeners who grow them. May your gardens flourish and your salads be ever varied and delicious.

Resources

Books

  1. “The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible” by Edward C. Smith
    • Why It’s Great: Smith’s extensive experience shines through in this comprehensive guide, offering everything from cultivating techniques to specific advice on growing a wide variety of vegetables.
  2. “Salad Leaves for All Seasons: Organic Growing from Pot to Plot” by Charles Dowding
    • Why It’s Great: Dowding, a pioneer in organic gardening, shares his expertise on year-round salad leaf production, emphasizing no-dig methods for healthier soil and plants.
  3. “The New Organic Grower” by Eliot Coleman
    • Why It’s Great: Coleman’s classic text is a must-read for anyone interested in sustainable, organic vegetable gardening, packed with insights on small-scale farming that’s applicable to home gardens.
  4. “Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening” by Willi Galloway
    • Why It’s Great: This book is perfect for foodies who garden. It not only provides tips on growing your veggies but also includes recipes to turn your harvest into delicious meals.

Websites

  1. Gardeners’ World (gardenersworld.com)
    • What It Offers: A treasure trove of gardening advice, how-to guides, and inspirational garden tours from one of the UK’s leading gardening magazines.
  2. The Old Farmer’s Almanac (almanac.com/gardening)
    • What It Offers: Planting calendars, gardening tips, and detailed guides on growing various plants make this a go-to resource for gardeners seeking wisdom that spans generations.
  3. GrowVeg (growveg.com)
    • What It Offers: Particularly useful for planning your garden, GrowVeg offers garden planning tools and a wealth of articles on crop rotation, pest control, and growing different veggies.
  4. Dave’s Garden (davesgarden.com)
    • What It Offers: An extensive plant database and vibrant community forums make Dave’s Garden a helpful resource for both identifying plants and connecting with fellow garden enthusiasts.