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How to Have Great Success With Arugula

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Isn’t it wonderful that we can grow an abundance of delicious and nutritious leafy greens in a small space? In fact, arugula, the slightly bitter and spicy leafy green grows exceptionally well in a container. As a bonus, if you don’t pick your arugula, it will grow beautiful flowers that you can harvest and eat right along with the greens. Here are some tips to help you successfully grow arugula in a container as well as in your garden.

Arugula is a fast-growing, cool-season green that you either love or hate. It has a slightly bitter and peppery taste that adds a snap of interest to salads but can also be a turn off if you are not into bold greens such as this. 

Choosing a container

Arugula has a relatively shallow root system, which means that you don’t need a huge or deep container to grow it. However, it is a good idea to consider the amount of arugula that you will be eating and let this dictate the size of the container that you choose. If you want some help keeping your greens watered, choose a self watering container. If you are going to reuse a container, be sure to clean it completely.

Planting seeds

Arugula seeds are like most salad greens; they are quite tiny. Because of this, you have to be careful not to plant them too deep.

  • Fill your pot up with lightweight potting soil and gently flatten it with your hand.
  • Distribute seeds uniformly onto the potting mix.
  • Gently pat the seeds into the soil using your palm.
  • Cover seeds lightly with a bit of potting soil and gently pat again.
  • Gently spray some water on top of the seeds. Don’t just pour the water as it may disrupt the seeds.
  • Place your pot in full sun – in really hot locations, provide some afternoon shade.

Growing arugula in the garden

As soon as all danger of frost has passed, you can plant arugula seeds in the garden in well-draining soil. Sow seeds every two weeks for a good supply. Scatter seeds evenly and cover with a light layer of soil and pat down. Be careful not to plant too deep. 

Arugula is not a big fan of high heat, so provide some shade if you are in a scorching region. Keep the soil evenly moist until the seedlings emerge. This will take 7 to 14 days. When the seedlings are about an inch or two tall, thin them so that they are 1 to 3 inches apart. 

Harvesting arugula

Arugula is usually fully grown and ready for harvest in about three to four weeks. If you want to enjoy the younger and sweeter leaves, you won’t have to wait that long to start picking them. 

When the seedlings reach 3 to 4 inches, you can either pull out the whole plant or just cut or tear off the leaves if you want the plant to continue to grow.

Enjoying the flowers

Arugula flowers are sweet and a touch spicy – but not as spicy as the leaves. The flowers will appear after the leaves reach maturity and are too bitter to eat. Pick the flowers and add them to a salad or even enjoy them on an open-faced sandwich.

-Susan Patterson

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