A is for Arugula!

This post kicks off Portland Edible Gardens’ blog, which aims to provide practical and reliable information, hints, and tips for home vegetable gardeners here in the Portland metropolitan area.  Climate and geography play a significant roll (one of many!) in how and when we grow what we grow in our gardens.  The information that follows comes from my own years of experience farming and gardening here in the Portland area.  With dedication, observation, and the right kind of information, we can all have vibrant and abundant edible gardens that brings a richness to our tables, our families, and our lives.  Wishing you and your gardens all the sweetest sunshine.

                            - Ian Wilson, Owner, Portland Edible Gardens, LLC

And now, on to Arugula...

I say this sort of thing a lot, but truly, Arugula is one of my very favorite vegetables to grow in my garden.  And I have my reasons.  It is easy to grow, it can be planted very early in the spring, and it can be grown both from seeds and from starts.  It is also very quick to mature, which is a big plus in the spring when we are all as eager as ever to eat from our gardens!

Arugula Germinates!

Arugula Germinates!

A salad of baby arugula leaves with thin sliced radishes is often one of the very first meals of the year I can gather from my garden.  The freshness and vague spice of young Arugula is always a welcome shift from the winter staples of root vegetables, winter squash, and hardy winter greens like Kale and Cabbage.

Arugula is in the “Brassica” or Cabbage family, along with a whole bunch of other vegetables that are very well suited to our temperate climate including Broccoli, Cauliflower, Radishes, Kale, Turnips, Choi, Collards, Mustard, Mizuna…  All of these vegetables love our cooler spring and fall seasons, and struggle with our hottest summer months.

I prefer to plant Arugula from seed, in part because I always find plant health to be best with plants that live their whole lives in one place and don’t suffer the shock of being transplanted.  Planting from seed is also considerably cheaper than planting starts.  Finally, when I plant things from seed, I get to plant my favorite varieties instead of being at the whim of what my local nursery has in stock!

Though there are dozens of wonderful arugula varieties, my favorite variety is "Astro."  It is fairly heat tolerant (as arugula goes) and has a very mild  and even sweet flavor when it is young.  It is available from Johnny's selected seeds online and can often be found at local nurseries.  

Planting from starts has the benefit of yielding earlier maturing plants, which may be helpful for the very first plantings in order to assure the earliest spring harvest.  Even so, with proper planning, you can have the arugula planted from seed rolling in right on schedule throughout the season.


Teenage arugula after a spring rain

Teenage arugula after a spring rain

When planting Arugula from seed, plant in rows with 2-3 seeds/inch at ¼”-½” depth.  When planting multiple rows, leave 6” between rows.  Mature leaves can either be harvested selectively, from the outside allowing inner leaves to mature between harvests, or all leaves can be cut with scissors.  When cutting whole plants, leave 1-2” of each plant at harvest time and plants will grow back for 2nd or even 3rd harvest!

When planting from starts, plant in rows leaving 4-6” between plants and maintain 6” between rows.  Arugula can be planted as early as March 1st or even earlier if proper frost protection is provided.  It can be planted as late as September 1st for fall harvest.


From Seed...

Spacing in row: 2-3 seeds/inch Planting Depth: 1/4"-1/2" Spacing Between Rows: 6" Earliest Planting Date: 3/1 Latest Planting Date: 9/1 Days to Maturity: 30-45 Harvest Window: 2-3 weeks

From Starts...

Spacing in row: 4-6" Spacing Between Rows: 6" Earliest Planting Date: 3/1 Latest Planting Date: 9/15 Days to Maturity: 20-35 Harvest Window: 2-3 weeks