Like many plants, arugula isn’t all that fussy, but some preparation will mean better growth. Arugula prefers loose, fertile, well-drained soil. It doesn’t need a lot of supplemental fertilizer. Just work in some aged manure, well-rotted leaf mold or good compost. Ideally, do this in fall, as you’ll plant arugula early in spring. You can grow arugula in beds or containers.
You can choose domesticated garden or wild varieties of arugula.
- Rucola Selvatica – the original wildling, pungent and slower growing.
- Rustic – more of a wild variety.
- Garden – tasters report a zingy radish flavor.
- Italian Rocket – also known as Wild Italian Rocket.
- Astro II – more mild-tasting than other arugula varieties.
- Even’ Star – crossed from several European heirloom strains, this has a spicy bite.
Germinating Arugula Seeds
Arugula seeds prefer cool temperatures for germination. Soil temperatures of 40 to 55°F (4 to 13°C) are in the ideal range, although you may still get some germination outside those temperatures. Arugula really doesn’t like heat, though, and will sulk in hot soil. It takes about five to seven days for the seeds to germinate. Be sure to keep them moist.
Arugula germinates and grows best in a temperature range of about 40 to 50°F (4 to 10°C) – typical early spring conditions. However, the plants are very hardy. If you plant it in late fall, you may be able to keep arugula going well into the winter by protecting it with row cover. If the plant does freeze, wait until it thaws out to harvest.
Planting and Thinning
Since the seeds are small, it’s often best to sprinkle seeds in a row and thin to six inches apart. Plant about ¼ inch deep in pre-moistened soil – the shallow depth makes it easy to wash them out. Begin thinning as soon as plants are a couple of inches tall. It’s better to cut the seedlings off at ground level with a fine-pointed pair of sharp scissors.
Planting in Containers
Arugula grow well in containers if you make sure to give it enough water. You should also make sure the container drains well – arugula doesn’t like wet feet. Roots may grow 12 to 18 inches, so your container should be at least that deep. Container growing might help you keep arugula going as the weather warms; just move it into a shady spot.