Growing Rocket

Growth habits and planting needs

Rocket can be grown for the most of the year but is best grown from August to the end of November and March to the end of  May in Sydney’s temperate climate.

Rocket can be succesfully grown both in raised garden beds or in large pots.

Choose a sunny location that gets at least 6 hours of full sun a day.

Rocket needs a rich soil with a pH of 6.0-6.8 that drains well but holds some moisture. Prepare the bed well by digging in well rotted compost and aged chicken manure, digging the soil well to a depth of 30 cm and remove any clods from the soil.

Rocket is a leafy green and so should follow legumes in the crop rotation because, as a leaf crop, it needs lots of nitrogen to help leaf development and a strong stalk development.

Sow the seeds thinly in rows 30 cm apart, covering the  seeds with some fine soil. Keep the seeds moist until germination. Rocket germinates in 6 days.

Make repeat sowings every 3-4 weeks to maintain a continuous supply of rocket.

arugula-762557_1920- rocket plants
Rocket seedlings just germinated.

When the seedlings develop their true leaves thin to 20cm apart to allow the plants space to mature to their full height.

arugula-477090_1920-rocket 2

As a leafy plant, rocket needs a continuous supply of water to grow quickly and be tender. Mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and to keep weeds at bay. Keep the plants well watered throughout the warmer months. When it gets too hot the rocket will bolt to seed. The leaves will become strong flavoured but are still palatable though less tender and even the flowers are edible.

Feed with diluted fish emulsion every two weeks to keep the plants growing quickly. Leafy plants are hungry plants and need the nitrogen to grow well.

Rocket can be grown with lettuce as a companion plant.

IMG_20160123_092312 (2)-rocket in garden
Young seedlings ready to be thinned out.

Harvesting

Harvest by clipping the young outer leaves when the plants reach maturity in 21-35 days and the leaves are 7-10cm long. If you prefer the leaves to be milder harvest when the plant is still young and about 50 mm tall.

The young leaves will be mild but as the plant matures the leaves will become more peppery and hot. Try some leaves and harvest according to your own taste. Many people appreciate the kick of strong flavour that the more mature leaves develop.

Rocket makes a lovely salad on its own or in a mixed salad of many types of greens.

Save some plants to allow the seed to mature and the plant is fully dry. Then the seeds can be placed in a bag and collected for future planting. The seed remains viable for 3-4 years.

Rocket_seeds
Rocket seed pods still green. Source: Dave Whitinger, CC BY-3A.0  Wikipedia

Recipes:

IMG_20160119_103215-Eggs and rocket

Curried Egg Salad

 

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