Arugula is one of the fastest-growing plants in the garden. You can have some varieties ready to harvest in 21 days. This fast growth means soil preparation is important. Arugula prefers a light, fluffy soil that is fast-draining. Work in plenty of aged manure, well-rotted leaves or organic compost, preferably the fall before you plant this spicy herb. Direct seed – transplants aren’t necessary.
Choosing Arugula Rarities
There are lots of varieties; maturity dates run about21 to 50 days.
Buckingham – flavor is described as spicy but not hot.
Even Star – very cold-hardy; has a spicy taste.
Italian Rocket – finely cut leaves with sharp flavor.
Runway – fast-growing.
Spring Planting Arugula
Early spring is the ideal time to plant arugula. Once the outside temperature is consistently around 40°F (4°C), you can get the seeds in the ground. Pay close attention if you have heavy rains right after planting, as the tiny seeds are easily washed out; you may need to replant. Your seeds should germinate within seven days.
Fall Planting Arugula
Arugula doesn’t like hot weather, so skip summer planting. Once the days begin to cool you can plant for a late fall/winter crop. Make sure the soil is really moist prior to seeding and apply damp burlap over the seeds to help cool the soil. A bit of shade is a good idea, especially if the afternoons turn hot.
Since arugula has such a short maturity span, succession planting is a good way to grow it. Trying to hold arugula past its maturity date usually means it will bolt to seed. The leaves are also more likely to become bitter or much more pungent than most people like. Plant a few every 10 to 14 days. Once daytime temperatures hit 70°F (21°C), stop planting.
Arugula in Winter
Arugula is very frost-tolerant and typically hardy down to about 6°F (-14°C). However, it won’t take extended freezing weather without some protection. Planted in late fall, it will slowly mature despite the cold. It does well in a cool greenhouse. In the garden, apply row covers or cloches for protection.
Arugula likes plenty of water. If you short it on water, no matter when you plant it, the spicy taste may become downright bitter. Give arugula plants a minimum of one inch of water every week, with more in warm weather. A soaker hose or drip irrigation is a good choice for consistent moisture.