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Learning how to grow arugula in your garden is so worthwhile if you want to start harvesting food really early in the season.
Arugula also called rocket or roquette is a fast-growing green vegetable that loves cool weather. Direct sow it in your garden 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date and you can start harvesting fresh greens just a few weeks later!
With its spicy flavor, it’s a favorite to add to salads or use as a garnish.
It’s commonly found in mesclun mixes to add zest to salads and sandwiches early in the year.
But it’s also an amazing addition to stir-fries and casseroles to add some spice to your favorite dish.
How To Grow Arugula
You can start planting arugula by seed in your garden once the temperatures are staying 40F (4 C). This is normally 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date in the spring.
If you really want to get a jump start on the growing season then make sure to use a cold frame or hoop tunnel.
This extra protection from the extreme cold lets you start arugula 8 to 12 weeks before your last frost date.
Plant the seeds 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart and no more then 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) deep spacing rows 4 inches (10.16 cm) apart if you are planting in beds.
If you are growing in rows then space them at least 10 inches (25.4 cm) apart for easy weeding.
Make sure to keep the seeds well watered and they will start to sprout quickly.
When the weather is warming up you’ll often find arugula sprouts in just 2 days. But it’s normal for germination to take 4 to 8 days depending on soil temperature.
Once the plants have grown a few sets of leaves you can start thinning them down to being 4 to 6 inches (10.16 to 15.24 cm) apart.
But don’t toss the plants, use them in your salads, or as a garnish.
Sow a new planting every 2 to 3 weeks from March to early May for a longer harvest.
Start your fall garden plantings of arugula in mid to late August depending on your growing zone and temperatures.
Arugula can be grown in full sun to part shade. Plantings in the early spring and late fall will sprout and grow better in the full sun.
But once the summer heat starts to move in you’ll want to start growing arugula in the shade. The hot weather causes arugula to bolt quickly.
Planting in the shade or using a shade cloth can keep the plants just a bit cooler and delay bolting.
Arugula like all green vegetables prefers well-drained soil rich in compost. But it’s a very forgiving plant and will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.
For best results add 1 to 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) of good compost to your garden before planting.
Make sure to give the plants 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water per week if you haven’t been getting enough rainfall naturally.
But don’t keep the soil soggy and risk causing root rot or mold.
Mulching your garden can help to retain moisture, suppression weeds and reduce the amount of watering you need to do.
You can start harvesting arugula when the plants are just a few weeks old.
To get the most out of each plant the best way to pick arugula is to pick 1/3 of the outer leaves from each plant.
This leaves the inner leaves to keep growing and harvest a few days to a week later.
If you think the plants are going to bolt (flower) then you can harvest the entire plant. This is also a good way to thin the plants if they start to become overcrowded.
Younger leaves are more tender and have a milder flavor while older leaves have a stronger, peppery taste.
You can also eat the flowers, they have a sharp flavor much like the mature green leaves.
This common garden pest loves to feed on arugula. They overwinter in the soil and come out just when you are starting to plant in the spring.
You’ll recognize the damage as small round holes in the leaves.
There are many ways of controlling flea beetles on arugula plants from natural sprays to floating row covers.
Learn more about controlling flea beetles.
Slugs are another garden pest that can do a lot of damage to greens quickly.
Learn more about natural slug control in your garden.
Birds although great to have in the garden for all the insects they eat can also be a pest because they love to feed on greens.
If you start to have a bird problem try using a row cover to keep them off your plants.
Growing Time 21 days
Total Time 21 days
Select an area of your garden in full sun to part shade for planting. Arugula prefers to grow in rich soil so add 1 to 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) of compost to the garden before planting.
Direct sow seeds in your garden 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date when the temperatures are consistently staying at 40F (4C). Plantings can be done 8 to 12 weeks before your last frost date if you use a cold frame.
Plant seeds 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) deep and 1 inch apart with rows 4 inches (10.16 cm) apart for garden beds or for traditional rows space them 10 inches (25.4 cm) apart. Germination will happen in 2 to 8 days depending on the weather conditions.
Once the plants have 2-3 sets of leaves on them thin them to being 4 to 6 inches (10.16 to 15.24 cm) apart.
Don’t let arugula dry out, provide 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water each week and mulch to help keep the soil consistently moist and to reduce weeds.
Start harvesting the outer leaves when the plants are just 2-3 weeks old. Picking 1/3 of the utter leaves while leaving the smaller ones to grow will give you a longer harvest.
If you see any signs of bolting then harvest the entire plant.
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