Successfully Growing Arugula From Seed Indoors
Growing Arugula in Containers Allows for Continuous Fresh Greens
My girlfriend and my quest for continuous, fresh greens evolved in the summer of 2015 from our CSA garden and into our home, where we built a stand, bought a grow light and began growing arugula from seed.
Arugula, if you’re not familiar, is a jagged-edged, leafy green with thin stems, and is known for being one of my favorite and what I believe is one of the best vegetables for container gardening. I jest, but it’s true. There’s nothing like walking over, snapping off a fresh stem of arugula and enjoying a snack.
Okay, there are a lot of things better than that, but I was trying to set the mood, so forgive me.
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Let me tell you how I started. Again, my aim for growing arugula was to maintain a steady source of leaves for our dinners and snacks around the house. Growing arugula is better than growing lettuce in containers because of flavor. While butter lettuce can add a crisp, refreshing bite to a sandwich, arugula adds more dimension, half-herb, half-green. We enjoy it with spinach in a blend for wraps and salads, and find it more enjoyable and useful than growing lettuce. In containers, I felt like we could control the density a little more and defend them from bugs, which had partially destroyed our efforts in the CSA garden.
Planting lettuce seeds of any sort requires a microscopic eye, and arugula is no different. The seeds are tiny, and I spaced two per hole about a ¼-inch deep and 4 inches apart in my Garland Grow Light Garden. The Garden works on a water osmosis system, with fabric that drinks water from a water well and transports it into boxes, which are filled with your planting soil and seeds. It also allows you to grow the plants more densely. The lights are energy-efficient, too, and run with less energy usage than a normal light bulb.
If you’re planting and growing arugula in a less controlled area, plant at least 6 inches apart to give the leaves a chance to really spread out. In my case, I knew light would reach all parts of the leaves, no matter how dense, and I would be harvesting frequently enough when they were fully grown to achieve a lower density plant, as well. I programmed my light to turn on at 5 a.m. and turn off at 8 p.m., which gave it 15 hours of sunlight per day.
I did fertilize lightly with a dry organic starter, which went in the bottom of each hole, which I made with a thumbprint in medium-dense and nutrient-rich soil. Within three days, dozens of little sprouts broke the surface, and within seven, it looked like a little rainforest. At first when growing arugula from seed, when the plants are about 1-inch tall, you will need to select the healthiest and remove the rest. For fun, I kept my arugula sprouts in water and used them, just in case one of the early growers dies. Turns out, two of them did, so I used the spares and planted them back in the soil, and voilà, new growth, and we’re back on schedule.
I keep the arugula well watered, and I have yet to reapply any fertilizer since the initial dose. I have had the latest batch of arugula plants growing in my office for about 30 days now, and they are about 3 to 4 inches tall. The advantage of growing arugula from seed in my office as opposed to the garden, I’m finding, is that I can also go on vacation, fill the water tank, set the light remote, and not worry about a thing.