I always look forward to growing arugula. I just love it’s tender, slightly peppery taste and aromatic scent in my salads. And I also appreciate it’s one of the first vegetables I sow, and, more importantly, harvest in the spring…
This leafy green vegetable grows incredibly fast when conditions are right. You could have it in your salad bowl in less than two months after sowing!
But what are the right growing conditions for arugula, you may ask?
The weather conditions definitely matter. If you miss the right timing and plant it too late, you may not get any harvest from it. The summer heat may ruin it’s taste and force it to start flowering and forming seeds instead of new leaves. The same is true for autumn plantings. Do it too late and the winter freeze may kill it off while the vegetable is still in it’s baby stage.
What’s also important is the soil you grow it it. If the soil is poor, the arugula grows sluggishly. It never reaches the harvest size. However, if the soil is rich, this leafy green flourishes. It develops new leaves rapidly and you can harvest same plant more than once!
Now let’s see how to prepare the soil in the garden for growing arugula so you can start harvesting it as soon as possible…
Add organic matter to the soil before you plant arugula in it…
First of all, I can’t stress how important it is to grow arugula in rich soil. I learned this the hard way the first time I tried…
What I did was took some soil from the molehill in the nearby meadow and put it in a large container. Then I planted some arugula seeds in it. The seeds did sprout after a week or two and the plants grew for a while. However, they soon stopped growing completely. When it happened, the leaves were still small, too small to harvest them. I had no choice but to throw them on my compost pile.
Later on, after a detailed research, I realized exactly what happened. The soil I got from the meadow just didn’t have the nutrients this vegetable needs to grow to the size at which I could harvest them!
I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake once again. So after some more research, I discovered the solution for my problem. And I grow more arugula leaves than my family can eat ever since…
You see, arugula (as well as all other leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, lamb’s lettuce, chard, spinach and others) needs nitrogen-containing nutrients to grow. These help them perform photosynthesis and grow big, green leaves rapidly. Obviously, the soil I got from the nearby meadow lacked such nutrients!
Now let me explain how I make sure my arugula has enough nitrogen-containing nutrients available so it can grow vigorously and I can harvest it many times…
It’s simple. All I have to do is add organic matter to my garden soil. The finished, well-aged compost is the best. However, other things like fresh grass clippings, plant residues, crop residues and coffee grounds do the trick as well.
You can incorporate these into the soil. Or you can simply spread them over the surface like I do sometimes. Such fresh organic material is full of nitrogen arugula and other leafy greens need to grow leaves which you then harvest.
Do it months in advance
so the organic matter has enough time to decompose and release beneficial nutrients…
The method I describe above works. It gives arugula the food it needs to grow rapidly. In addition, it also improves the water retention and drainage of the soil, which is also very important for this leafy vegetable.
However, one thing is for sure. It doesn’t work overnight. You can’t do it today and expect it to work tomorow…
You see, before organic matter releases nitrogen-containing plant food into the soil, it has to decompose first. And this decomposition process takes time. That’s why you have to do it early enough to make it work. I’d say at least three months prior to sowing. Or even sooner if possible!
I would also recommend you add some dry leaves or sawdust to the soil at the same time. This helps speed up the decomposition of the fresh organic matter I mention above.
Perhaps the best time to incorporate organic matter into the soil would be in autumn once the gardening season ends. This way, you can start sowing as soon as the soil becomes workable in spring.
I’d point out that finished, well-aged compost is the exception here. It works even if you add it just weeks prior to planting. That’s because the organic matter in it is already broken down to the point where arugula can use it for it’s growth.
What about animal mannure? Can it work as well?
Yes, it can. Animal waste from cows, chickens, horses, rabbits, goats and sheeps is rich in nitrogen too. I personally don’t use it because I don’t have the sources. If you plan to use it, compost it thoroughly first. This prevents the spread of any potential harmful pathogen to the vegetables in the garden.
I forgot to mention store-bought organic or even chemical fertilizers to provide food for arugula. These do work almost immediately. However, they don’t improve the water retention and the drainage of the soil. And they may also do more harm than good to the soil in the long run. So I avoid them.
Once you prepare the garden and enrich the soil with organic matter, you are all set and ready for growing arugula. You can now move on and discover when to plant it as well as how to plant and grow it!