Arugula is an easy-to-grow salad green that adds a slightly peppery kick to salads and mesclun mixes. Arugula is known by other names such as Italian cress, rocket, roquette, rucola, rugula and garden rocket. Its leaves look like radish leaves because they’re also dark green and deeply lobed.
How to Grow Arugula
Planting and growing arugula is similar to growing leaf lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard, except arugula forms rosettes that can grow 10-12 inches wide and tall.
Plants grow best when they have plenty of moisture and can mature in cool weather. If temperatures turn too hot, arugula can bolt or go to seed prematurely. The small white flowers that form are edible, too.
You can plant arugula from seed or transplants. If you prefer to grow from transplants, either buy transplants from the Garden Center or start seeds indoors in early spring. Plants take about 4 weeks to reach transplant size. Time the planting before the last average frost date for a spring harvest. A fall harvest can be planted in mid-to-late summer.
- Arugula grows in amended and well-drained garden soil. Before planting either arugula seed or transplants, prepare the planting bed (or large container) by digging in compost or well-aged manure.
- Plan to keep soil moist with drip irrigation or a soaker hose set up along the garden rows.
- Wait for the garden soil to warm to at least 35 degrees before planting. The best weather for growing arugula is when days are warm and nights are cool. Hot daytime temperatures can cause arugula to become bitter or bolt (go to seed prematurely).
- Plant arugula seeds about ¼ inch deep and several inches apart in rows. Other alternatives are to broadcast (spread seed alone) or mix with other salad green seeds or plant from transplants.
- Thin plants to about 10-12 inches apart and use the thinnings to top early spring salads. After thinning, sidedress with a nitrogen fertilizer or add a water-soluble fertilizer to a watering can.
- A layer of organic mulch placed around plants will reduce weeds and help keep soil moist.
- Make sure plants receive adequate water. For a continuous supply of arugula, continue planting seeds or transplants every 2-3 weeks. A fall crop can be started in mid-summer.
- Arugula will continue to grow after leaves are trimmed.
- Baby arugula can be cut at any time they leaves reach several inches in size; snip just the outer leaves so the plant can continue to grow. Harvest leaves often until the weather turns hot or the plants sends up a flower stalk.
- Wash, dry and store arugula in airtight bags in the refrigerator and use as quickly as possible, either fresh in salads or steamed like spinach.
Plant arugula with these companions:
- Bush beans
Avoid planting where cabbage family crops have grown in the previous few seasons.
Materials for Success
- Soil thermometer
- Soaker hose or drip irrigation
- High-quality compost and manure
- Light-weight mulch
- Dry fertilizer or water-soluble fertilizer
- Small scissors for cutting arugula leaves
To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.