Planting rocket: location, sowing & mixed cultivation

Verena
Verena
Verena
Verena

I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

Favorite fruit: Even if a bit boring - apples
Favorite vegetables: Bell peppers, red beets, zucchini, white cabbage

The bitter taste of rocket adds that certain something to many Mediterranean dishes. If you plant it as a salad, you can always use the spicy herb fresh from your own garden. Find our best tips for planting rocket here.

rocket harvest
This is how you can always harvest arugula fresh from the garden [Photo: EQRoy/ Shutterstock.com]

The Germanic tribes once brought the wild rocket across the Alps to northern Italy, where it spread rapidly. Thanks to the popularity of Italian food, there has been a resurgence in the cultivation of rocket. In supermarkets, it is mainly varieties of garden rocket (Eruca sativa) that are on sale. Less common is wild rocket (Diplotaxis tenulifolia), which can be recognised by its distinctly narrower and smaller leaves. The two species also differ in taste and growth rate, with salad rocket growing faster and having a much milder and nuttier taste.

As already mentioned, the cultivation of rocket in the garden is becoming more and more popular, it can also be easily planted in a raised bed or in pots on the balcony. And for those who do not want to do without the spicy salad all year round, rocket can be grown indoors. Growing rocket yourself is very simple and recommended. The amateur gardener only needs to decide which cultivar to grow. Garden rocket can usually only be grown as an annual, while wild rocket can be grown for several years.

Planting rocket: the right location

Both types of rocket prefer a location with sunny to partial shade and should preferably have humus-rich, loose soil that does not tend to silt. Furthermore, a steady water supply and good aeration of the soil are important for planting rocket. This applies whether the lettuce is cultivated in a pot, in the garden or on the windowsill. Below, we have listed some specifics about the location for the different types of cultivation.

A growing rocket plant
Rocket feels most at home in sunny locations, with humus-rich soil [Photo: vaivirga/ Shutterstock.com]

Rocket in garden beds

If the soil in your garden is too clayey, you can mix in some sand and, for example, our Plantura Organic Enriched Compost to loosen and aerate the soil. Due to the extra portion of compost, our compost soil has a high proportion of organic matter, which also has a long-term positive effect on the water-holding capacity of the soil. In the bed, it is also best to make sure that no cruciferous plants (Brassicaceae), such as cabbage (Brassica oleracea), have been grown there in the previous four years. In fact, rocket belongs to the same plant family, and thus can be affected by the same diseases, which often survive the winter in the soil.

Planting rocket in raised beds

Growing rocket in a raised bed is usually even easier and is particularly suitable in the spring, as the soil warms up more quickly here and water can drain away better. Also in this case, a suitable medium for filling the raised bed is our is our Plantura Organic Enriched Compost, for example.

Growing rocket in pots

Since rocket also manages with a small volume of soil, it is well suited for cultivation in pots or balcony boxes. As for raised beds, you should choose a humus-rich, loose and permeable substrate.

Planting rocket on the windowsill

If you do not want to do without the tasty herb during the winter, you can plant rocket on the windowsill. However, it is important to make sure that the plant in any case gets enough light, located on a sunny windowsill and that the soil does not dry out. Ideally, rocket should be placed in a room with a temperature of about 20 °C, although it can be a little cooler for germination at a temperature of around 15 °C.

Rocket growing in an outdoor planter
Rocket feels at home and grows in abundance in balcony boxes and planters [Photo: Peter Turner Photography/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Unlike garden rocket, wild rocket usually survives the winter well and can therefore be cultivated perennially. This should also be kept in mind when choosing a location.

Sowing rocket seeds

Sowing rocket directly into the bed or pot usually works without problems. Of course, you can also pre-grow it on the windowsill and then plant it out. However, since new rocket must be sown again and again for a longer harvest period, growing it in advance is comparatively time-consuming and thus not recommended in the home vegetable garden.

The right time

Most cultivars can be sown outdoors from April to September. Garden rocket can only be harvested two to three times before it flowers. Therefore, it is convenient to sow them in sets every three weeks. This way you can enjoy fresh rocket from spring to autumn.

Preparation before sowing

Preparing the bed includes removing weeds, loosening the soil with a hoe, for example, and making a fine-crumb seedbed. Also make sure that there are no other cruciferous plants (Brassicaceae) near the rocket bed. Otherwise it is easy to have problems with ground fleas in the spring.

Seeds of the rocket plant
As rocket seeds are very small, particular attention should be paid to a fine-crumbled seedbed [Photo: UncleFedor/ Shutterstock.com]

Sowing rocket seeds

Draw shallow seed furrows about 15 cm apart and sow your rocket in them. To be able to distribute the seeds evenly, the seeds can also be mixed with sand. Then the rocket seeds should be covered with a maximum of 0.5 cm of soil and both well pressed and watered vigorously.

Tip: If you grow rocket in a mixed cropping system, it can also be sown in small clusters.

How to proceed

Keep the soil constantly moist, avoiding waterlogging at all costs. At optimal germination temperatures, which vary between 10 and 20 °C depending on the variety, the first seedlings should be visible after 10 to 14 days at the latest. If necessary, you can thin out the seedlings after they have emerged to a distance of about 5 cm. But even without this measure, rocket grows profusely.

Rocket seed sprouts
After about 2 weeks at the latest, rocket seedlings should be visible [Photo: schankz/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: If you have purchased young rocket plants in the store, they will eventually have to be planted out. Young plants can also be moved into the bed between April and September – in spring, in regions with cold winters, it is better to protect them under a layer of garden fleece. The seedlings should be planted directly to 15 cm apart and kept moist, especially in the first week, while they spread their roots in the surrounding soil. Keep your rocket plants away from other cruciferous plants to keep them healthy.

Good companion plants

Rocket is suitable as a mixed cropping partner for many plants. For example, other types of lettuce, celery (Apium graveolens), onions (Allium), basil (Ocimum basilicum), and marigolds (Calendula officinalis) are good neighbours for rocket. Planting rocket and tomatoes together is also good because rocket stays small and has low nutrient requirements.

Rocket and chives planted together
Onion species and other lettuces are good planting companions for rocket [Photo: Nadzeya Pakhomava/ Shutterstock.com]

Less good neighbours for rocket, however, are spinach (Spinacia oleracea), coriander (Coraindrum sativum) and peas (Pisum sativum). Also all types of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage (Brassica oleracea), radishes (Raphanus sativus var. sativus), cress (Lepidium sativum), or mustard (Sinapis alba, Brassica spec.).

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