Growing Arugula

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Arugula seeds and plants in containers

It’s easy to love arugula (Eruca vesicaria), also known as rocket or roquette. The leaves add spicy flavors to fresh salads, stir fries and scrambled eggs around our house, and that’s just for starters. Whether we’re growing it in our garden, or buying a bunch from the farmer’s market, arugula is a favorite food for our family.

Shown growing above is ‘Apollo’ arugula from Seed Savers Exchange, the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States. But there are other varieties to try, such as the new ‘Wasabi’ arugula from Renee’s Garden Seeds, which has what the company calls a “complex spicy flavor of freshly made wasabi paste.” Ouch! Consider yourself warned; this one sounds hot.

Arugula is a cool-season plant that grows best when planted directly in moist, well-drained soil in early-spring or fall.  You can buy transplants of arugula at your local gardening center, but you’ll probably find a larger selection of arugula varieties in seeds. Plus, you’ll get many more seeds for the price of a few plants.

This leafy green thrives in rich soil amended with compost and other natural soil amendments. Keep the soil moist as the seeds are germinating.

Feed arugula with a well-balanced fertilizer designed for salad greens. You can plant arugula alongside ornamental plants, as well as in raised beds or containers. Make certain your containers have good drainage and are planted with potting soil, not regular garden soil. Depending on where you’re growing arugula, you can either sow it thinly in rows or in bunches as I’ve done in this container.

 

Pruning Arugula

 

Keep your soil moist while the seeds are germinating, and within a few weeks you’ll have tasty leaves to enjoy. Arugula is a cut-and-come-again vegetable. That means you can prune the leaves back to nearly ground level, and they will grow again. Often, we’ll enjoy three small harvests from one plant.

In hot temperatures, arugula will begin to flower and set seeds. The flowers are edible and can be added to salads and casseroles for a mild spicy flavor.  If you want to keep the plant performing, prune off the stems and flowers so the arugula can focus on producing tasty leaves.

According to ancient wisdom, eating arugula will bring you luck. Although I can’t promise good fortune, I can assure you that arugula is an easy food to grow, which will really spice up your meals.  No wonder it’s considered lucky!