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Arugula Seed Starting Tips

Arugula seedlings
Arugula seedlings

Arugula grows best in the cool weather of spring and fall. Arugula is also known as rocket and roquette. The leaves and flowers of arugula resemble those of the radish or turnip.

Direct seed arugula in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked or start seed indoors 12 to 8 weeks before the last frost in spring protected by a plastic tunnel. Seeds germinate quickly even in cold soil and light frost will not harm the seedlings.

Avoid growing arugula during the summer. Warm temperatures cause arugula leaves to become bitter and pungent.

Arugula matures in 40 days; thinnings can be used sooner.

Arugula Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Arugula can be grown from seeds or transplants.
  • Seed is viable for 5 years.
  • Direct seed arugula in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked—as early as 8 weeks before the last frost in spring. Seeds germinate quickly even in cold soil and light frost will not harm the seedlings. Start indoors 12 to 8 weeks before the last frost or sow into the garden 2 weeks before the last frost.
  • Sow seed ¼ inch (6 mm) deep.
  • Sow seeds 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) apart; later thin seedlings 6 inches (15 cm) apart. Make sure there is good air circulation around maturing plants to avoid disease.
  • To grow arugula for harvest as small salad leaves, broadcast seed across the planting bed and then thin and harvest as soon as leaves are 3 inches (7.5 cm) tall or larger.
  • Arugula grows best in full sun but can tolerate light shade.
  • Prefers a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
  • Seed germinates in 5 to 7 days at or near 60°F (7°C)—but the seed will germinate in soil as chilly as 40°F (4°C).
  • Keep the soil evenly moist until seeds germinate then keep the soil moist until seedlings are well established.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of sowing; compost will feed the soil and aide moisture retention.
  • Avoid planting arugula where cabbage, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts have recently grown.
  • Make successive sowings every few weeks for an extended harvest.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Aphids, flea beetles, snails, and slugs can attack endive radicchio.

More tips at How to Grow Arugula.

Interplanting: Interplant arugula with lettuce or other fast-growing crops or plant beneath slower growing crops.

Container Growing: Grow arugula in a container at least 12 inches (30 cm) wide and deep.

Arugula Recommended Planting Calendar

  • 8 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame.
  • 8 weeks before the last frost in spring: start seed indoors for transplanting later.
  • 2 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct sow in the garden.

For Fall Harvest and Winter Harvest:

  • 6-5 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in the garden for a fall crop.
  • 5-3 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame for winter harvest.
Arugula growing
Arugula Seed Starting: Direct seed arugula in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked or start seed indoors 12 to 8 weeks before the last frost in spring protected by a plastic tunnel.

Arugula Recommended Varieties

  • ‘Astro’ and ‘Runway’ are early varieties.
  • ‘Rocket’ and ‘Italian Wild Rustic’ are standards.

Botanical Name: Eruca sativa

Arugula belongs to the Brassicacea (Cruciferae) or cabbage family; other members of the Brassicacea family include cabbage, kale, collard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and turnips.

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