Monty Don urges you to sow rocket now – to protect it from this garden pest

His advice will leave you with a hole-free spring salad – but you need to act now

Rocket leaves
(Image credit: GettyImages)

Monty Don has revealed that now is the best time to sow rocket leaves – to prevent an attack from flea beetle. 

One of Monty Don's tips for growing rocket in his latest blog revolved around the importance of sowing rocket leaves this month – so you can enjoy a flavorful salad in early spring unaffected by irksome flea beetles.

While flea beetles infrequently cause fatal damage to established plants, they have the potential to spread bacterial diseases (including wilt and blight), and – at the very least – they make the leaves harder to eat.  

Monty Don's rocket sowing advice – to avoid flea beetle

Rocket leaves

(Image credit: GettyImages)

'Now is the best time to sow it [rocket] as it germinates very fast and will grow in relatively cool weather, whereas most lettuce needs warmer conditions to grow well,' The Gardeners' World Presenter explains.

Sharing his kitchen garden ideas, the gardening expert explained that sowing your rocket now will allow you to avoid flea beetle who pinprick the leaves with scores of tiny holes. 'Each one of [the holes] callouses and makes the leaves tough to eat,' he adds. 

Planting in late winter will help avoid the pesky garden pest because flea beetles begin to appear in spring after hibernating around the garden over the colder season. 

However, if you miss the February sowing window, don't fear. Mindy McIntosh-Shetter, known as the Outlander Botanist, suggests planting basil and catnip alongside your rocket plant as a flea beetle repellent. These strong-smelling plants can work a treat for companion planting, as flea beetles don't like the scent.

Flea Beetle on a leaf

Flea Beetle

(Image credit: GettyImages)

If you're sowing rocket after February (and risking the prospect of flea beetle), Mindy's ideas will help keep the pest at bay. She also recommends growing radishes and nasturtiums to create living traps that attract flea beetles. 

'For this latter technique to work, make sure to plant away from your garden space and remember that these are favorites of flea beetles. What does this mean? Well, they will go for their favorite food before they start on the rest of your garden,' she explains.

With their advice, you can continue to enjoy rocket – even after these pests emerge from hibernation. 

Megan Slack

Megan is the News and Trends Editor at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Gardeningetc, Livingetc, and Real Homes. As the News Editor, she often focuses on emerging microtrends, sleep and wellbeing stories, and celebrity-focused pieces. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.