If you are a complete salad person, then you need to know that nutritious and tasty greens like arugula can be grown easily in your home garden. This is possible even when you have very less floor space. Today we are going to discuss about the details of growing arugula in containers so that you can enjoy this slightly bitter and slightly spicy vegetable without having to run to the departmental store time and again. We are also going to share some first hand tips which will help you maximize the yield of this nutritional powerhouse.
While thinking of indoor gardening, people usually consider herbs and succulents. But with proper technique, you can even grow arugula in a pot and place it on your windowsill. If you don’t harvest the seeds in time, then arugula flowers grow which are both edible and beautiful in terms of aesthetic value.
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What Is Arugula? (Are arugula leaves edible)
Eruca sativa or arugula is a leafy green annual which is popularised by the name of salad green. While some people commonly grow arugula in outdoor gardens as a cool-season crop, it can also be grown indoors throughout the year as microgreens. Arugula is a member of the mustard or Brassicaceae family.
This tasty green is characterized by unparalleled crisp and peppery flavours. This has led to its global popularity as a favourite salad green. You can also enjoy the wonderful flavours of homegrown arugula even on not having access to any in-ground garden. Growing arugula in pots can serve as an easy way on enjoying fresh salad without having to leave the comfort of your home garden.
Arugula resembles baby lettuce although it packs a zesty flavour. It grows about 3-6 inches long unlike other mustards. You can use it for garnishing other foods like pasta and pizza. The seed pods, flowers, leaves and mature seeds pf arugula are all edible.
Unlike most house plants, arugula yields best results when placed in north-facing windows. Cooler temperature prevents arugula from bolting. During winter months, the container should be shifted to a south-facing window where it will receive ample sunlight. However, the plant should be kept away from heat sources as they will tend to dry out the soil and retard the growth rate.
Every arugula seed shall produce one thin stem and leaves shall grow out of it. Cutting them back will cause the leaves to regenerate and after once or twice it will attain a woody, spicy and bitter taste. For harvesting you need to cut arugula at the base of each leaf once the leaf seems big enough.
Ideally the plant should be harvested when the leaves are about three to four inches if you wish for a spicy and mellow flavour. Harvesting once the leaves grow about five to six inches leads to a stronger flavour along with a crunchier stem. You should never pull the stems as arugula grows back on being cut once.
Arugula tends to bear flowers on being exposed to heat. In such cases, you can strip the leaves from the stem and use it along with the flowers in preparing the salads. Arugula stems taste delicious when chopped neatly to make a pesto.
Arugula plants should be kept evenly moist for enhancing their growth metrics. You can add aged compost into the planting beds once during the onset of planting and again during midseason for best results. Usually arugula plant falls prey to pests like flea beetles. In such cases you can either use a floating row cover over your plants or yellow sticky traps for controlling the pests.
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Best Arugula Varieties
- Garden which is a fast-growing plant variety producing leaves and having a radish-like flavour.
- Runway is very fast-growing variety forming large-lobed leaves.
- Astro is a fast-growing variety carrying a mild flavour.
- Sylvetta is a slow-growing variety forming small-lobed leaves.
- Italian Rocket or Wild Italian Rocket carries a sharp flavour and finely cut leaves.
How to Grow Arugula Indoors?
While arugula leaves carry a spicy taste, its flowers are comparatively sweeter. The flowers appear once the leaves attain full size and seem too bitter to eat. Chances are high that you will see arugula flowers if you don’t harvest timely. The arugula flowers can be consumed alone or added to your favorite salad. Usually arugula plants should be harvested within three to four weeks. The tenderness and sweetness of leaves remain higher when they are younger. You shouldn’t delay the process if you wish to enjoy the most delicious arugula salads.
Once the seedlings attain a height of 3 to 4 inches, it can be either pulled out in its entirety or thinned out. Cutting or tearing the plant leaves off towards the base helps in continuing with its growth. But chances are high that dirt shall get on the leaves if you pull out the plants. Before planting the seeds, you need to prepare the containers and place them properly.
You can layer the bottom 1-2 inches using small rocks or gravels as this helps with optimum moisture control. This will help in increasing aeration and promoting drainage. After you have inserted rocks inside the container you need to fill it up using soil and follow it up with the tips mentioned below for the best yield:
- Start sowing the arugula seeds at least one month prior to your average last frost date. The seeds shall have to be planted at a depth of ¼ inch and watered carefully. Adequate moisture will lead to a quick germination within 3-10 days. For best results, you should sow as less seeds in a container as possible.
- On sprouting of arugula seeds you need to thin them out for the strongest ones to remain intact.
- Over watering should be avoided at all cost as this can lead to root rot. You should water on alternate days or once the top inch of the soil dries out.
Arugula is ideally a cool-weather crop which should be sown at least 2 to 3 weeks prior to the average date from last frost. It thrives in temperatures ranging from 10-18-degree Celsius. You should plant it at such a time that the harvest months fall once the mercury takes a dip. Succession arugula crops can be sown on the passage of every 2 to 3 weeks if you plan on a continuous harvest.
You can continue planting one month prior to the average first frost date if summers do not get very warm. If you reside in a place where summers are hot and long while winters are mild, you can plant arugula seeds during late autumn for enjoying a harvest during winter and spring season.
Arugula plant should be kept on a south facing window where it can receive four hours of complete sun exposure on a daily basis. You can also grow it indoors in the presence of ample natural lighting or make provisions for a fluorescent grow light fixture. This can serve you well if you plan of growing arugula during winter months as the days start getting shorter. You can opt for a timer in such a case and keep the lights on for about 10 to 14 hours daily.
Growing Arugula in Container/Pots
Arugula roots are relatively shallow and thus you won’t require a deep or giant container for growing the plant. But if you wish to indulge your taste buds in this delicious green every now and then, then you need to opt for a wide container. While arugula can be grown in almost anything, it is advisable to opt for a self-watering container for best results.
Soil preparation (Mixing)
Fill up a small pot or a tray with moisture-retentive potting mixture. You need to opt for a 4-inch-deep container as that will have adequate room for the development of roots. For best drainage possibilities you should opt for the ones having holes in the bottom.
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How to Grow Arugula Seeds in Containers?
Arugula seeds shall have to be planted once the danger of frost passes away. You can maintain a constant supply by sowing it either once a week or every two weeks. Arugula doesn’t produce best yields in hot climatic conditions and tends to grow bitter when it is grown in a steamy climate.
The soil has to be kept moist till 7 to 14 days and this is when the seedlings shall emerge. You will have to thin them so that they grow to 1 to 3 inches apart once they attain a height of one to two inches. Although thinning is advised, arugula might grow even when it is left crowded.
Prior to sowing you will have to thoroughly water the soil to keep it evenly moist. Next you need to scatter the arugula seeds on the soil surface about ½ inch apart and follow it up with ¼ inch soil scattered over the seeds. Once the sowing is done you will have to gently water the soil without causing any disturbance to the seeds.
Arugula seeds have a quick germination time. In favorable scenarios, the seedlings might emerge within one week. You can thin the seedlings once they attain a height of a few inches to keep the remaining ones 4-6 inches apart from each other.
The soil’s moisture level is another important factor which you need to consider while growing arugula in containers. The plant should be regularly watered although you should refrain from over-watering as that might make the soil soggy. Experts prescribe setting the pot in a tray having 1-inch water or sprinkling water on the plant from above. If you are going with the water-tray option, then you shouldn’t allow the pot to remain in standing water once the soil gets saturated.
You will have to begin with the fertilizing routine once the plants attain a height of 4 to 6 inches. For doing this, it is best to opt for the balanced ones like a liquid fertilizer diluted with water to 50% of the recommended rate on its label or maybe 10-10-10 fertilizer. In case of the fertilizer-water mixture, you should use it for watering the soil every two weeks.
How to Plant Arugula in Container? (Transplanting Arugula Seedlings)
Arugula can tolerate partial shade but yields best results when grown in full sun. The seeds should be planted in a soil having high quantities of aged compost. Additionally, you need to add some aged garden compost prior to growing in the planting beds. A soil pH level of 6.0 to 7.0 is most preferred by arugula plants.
This hardy, cool-season crop can be grown during early summer and spring months in cold areas. However, if you reside in a moderately cold region, then you can grow it during fall and water months. Arugula seeds will have to be sown in the garden two to three weeks prior to the last frost date in spring.
Cool temperatures lead to sweetest tasting arugula. Arugula should always be planted at such a time that it can be harvested during the winter months. This helps in avoiding bolting and also ensures the best flavour. It requires about 40 days for arugula to harvest depending upon its variety.
When given adequate room, the plant can easily attain a height exceeding two feet. But if you wish to consume the leaves for salad, then you should grow it in a small container. The long and narrow containers can be easily placed on a ledge or windowsill.
Although arugula doesn’t require deep soil for its growth, you can plant them in deep soil for attaining larger leaf size. Baby arugula leaves can be easily produced by planting the seeds in a four-inch-deep container. The leaf size in this case is similar to the ones which can be found in the bagged salad greens which we buy from grocery stores.
How Much Spacing in Rows?
At the beginning, arugula seeds should be sown 1 to 2 inches apart from each other. Later on, you can thin them 6 inches apart once the seedlings attain a height of 4 inches. The best thing about arugula is that, even the thinning is edible.