Rocket

Rucola leaves isolated on white

Introduction

Rocket is an easy-to-grow crop which adds a lovely peppery flavour to salads. The younger leaves are milder, more tender and palatable. Older leaves can also be lightly cooked as a delicious spinach substitute, added to sauces, stir fried or sautéed in olive oil. It’s rich in potassium and vitamin C and flourishes in a warm, sunny, position. Even the flowers are edible.

Seeding

For a constant supply sow in a sunny site, every 2-3 weeks, from April to early September in rich, fertile, well-drained soil.

Sow thinly, 0.5-1cm (¼- ½in) deep in rows 15cm (6in) apart.

Thin to 15cm (6in) apart, when the seedlings are large enough to handle, use the thinnings in salad.

Allowing some plant to set seed, rather than sowing, is an easy option.

Sow autumn and winter crops in August and September, in a cool greenhouse or under cloches or fleece.

Growing

Keep the soil moist and the plants growing well to prevent premature running to seed (bolting).

Plants need some shade in hot weather to prevent the leaves from becoming tough and unpalatable.

Keep crops weed free and the soil moist. Do not overwater as this dilutes the taste.

Troubleshooting Growing Problems

Flea beetle: Leaves are covered in small holes and damaged areas turn brown. Seedlings are particularly susceptible.

Remedy: Grow plants under horticultural fleece and keep the soil moist. Water in nitrogen-rich fertilser to help the crop outgrow the pest.

Bolting: Plants flower and set seed prematurely.

Remedy: Unless growing for seed sow bolt-resistant varieties. Sow or plant at the correct time and keep the soil or compost moist.

Harvesting

Lettuce is ready to cut when a firm heart has formed, or the for loose-leaf varieties when leaves are big enough to be worth eating. Harvest lettuces by cutting rather than pulling.

Companion Planting

Plant with: beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, chives, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, onions, radishes, strawberries

Recipes

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