Arugula: Direct Sow Vegetable
How to Sow
- For optimum flavor, grow in cool weather.
- Sow in average soil in sunny to partially shady area as soon as ground can be worked.
- In rows 15 inches apart, sow seeds evenly and cover with ¼ inch fine soil. Firm lightly and water gently.
- Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days depending on soil and weather conditions.
- Arugula also grows well in containers. Use a commercial potting mix rather than garden soil.
- Thin gradually to stand 6 inches apart starting when seedlings are about 3 inches high.
- Sow again in late summer in a protected area where the temperature is below 75°F.
How to Grow
- Protect spring plantings with floating row covers to keep flea beetles away.
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating. Avoid disturbing the soil around the plants when weeding.
- Keep plants well watered during dry periods to promote rapid, uninterrupted growth. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
Harvest and Preserving Tips
- Tender young leaves have a robust flavor, they should be ready to use about 30-35 days after sowing.
- To harvest, pick off the outside leaves at the base of the plant. Leave center intact for future harvesting. Younger leaves, 2-3 inches long taste best.
- You can also harvest whole plants by cutting off just below the crown.
- Stop picking once plants flower as the leaves will become bitter-tasting. Flowers are also edible.
- Wrap the leaves in a clean, wet tea towel, or damp paper towel and place in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate.
- Arugula is best when consumed within a 3-6 days of harvest if possible.
Common Disease Problems
Alternaria leaf spot: Small, round reddish brown spots with white to gray centers for on the upper surface of the leaves. The lesions may encircle the stems and cause wilt. This disease is worse in warm, wet or very humid weather. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish gray patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.
Black Rot: This bacterial disease thrives in warm and humid conditions and attacks the leaves. Yellow-orange V shaped lesions occur on the edges of the leaves and eventually dry out and the leaves fall. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet. Control weeds where the disease can overwinter.
Bacterial Leaf Spot: This causes brown water soaked spots on the foliage which eventually makes the foliage turn yellow. It thrives in cooler temperatures. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants. Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Do not work around plants when they are wet.
Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seed emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water & rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different plant family. Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
Leafminers: These insects bore just under the leaf surface causing irregular serpentine lines. The larvae are yellow cylindrical maggots and the adults are small black and yellow flies. They do not usually kill plants, but disfigure the foliage. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected foliage.
Cabbage Looper: These worms are green with a white stripe on either side, about 1-1.5 inches long. They tunnel through the heads. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick. Floating row covers can help prevent their laying eggs on the plants.
Are the flowers of arugula edible? Yes, in fact they are edible! They make a great garnish in a salad. When plants begin to flower it is best to pull them up as the leaves will be bitter.
Should I use arugula fresh or cooked? The young foliage is best used fresh in salads, but more mature leaves may be cooked like spinach.
Is arugula available as plants? We recommend growing arugula from seed as it is very quick to germinate and mature.
Does arugula self-sow in the garden? Yes, it is not uncommon for arugula to self-sow in the garden if the flowers are allowed to go to seed.
Is arugula the same as roquette? Yes, long favored in Europe, arugula is also called rocket or roquette.