There are many salad leaves you can harvest from your own garden, but rocket has to be a must for its many fans. With a distinctive peppery taste, rocket is also a nutritious choice, offering health benefits along with flavor.
Gardener and broadcaster Monty Don calls rocket ‘an essential leaf to grow’ in a garden, and we were delighted when he revealed his tips on doing so. Be inspired to plant it and you’ll have delicious super fresh food for your table in just a few weeks.
For Monty’s unmissable advice on growing rocket, just scroll down. And if you’re interested in growing other crops alongside your rocket, head over to our guide on how to create a herb garden too.
Monty Don’s tips on growing rocket
Monty Don revealed the secrets of growing rocket successfully on his website. Now we’re sharing his top tips along with advice of our own.
1. Grab the opportunity to get going if you want to grow rocket. If you don’t plant it now, you’ll really need to wait until autumn, Monty reveals. That’s because in the warm weather it quickly bolts (runs to seed), he says. The good news? Rocket is easy and quick to grow.
It’s Eruca sativa that Monty grows, by the way, so you’ll probably notice the difference between it and the leaves in many a supermarket bag.
2. Rocket needs rich soil and plenty of water, Monty explains. Rocket should be grown in well-drained soil and a sunny position although it will tolerate some shade.
3. You can choose between sowing rocket seeds directly into the soil, or growing plug plants, Monty says. Sow direct and you’ll need to thin the plants out ruthlessly to ensure they’re healthy and you get a good harvest, he says.
The other route to growing your own rocket is to follow Monty’s method of using two or three seeds per plug. He waits for at least two to germinate, then thins down to one seedling. When the plants are 5 to 8cm tall, they can be planted out 15cm apart, he says. Our guide on how to transplant seedlings has more advice.
4. Stay on top of the weeding around your growing rocket, and keep the soil moist as well to stop them running to seed too soon. We've got plenty of tips on how to weed a garden in our guide.
5. You can harvest the leaves once they’re a size that’s large enough to handle, from around four weeks after sowing, and you’ll be able to pick from each plant a few times.
6. Holes in the leaves of your rocket plants? The culprits are likely to be flea beetles. If this happens, growing the plants beneath horticultural fleece is a solution. Don’t be too perturbed, however, as the leaves are still edible.
7. Bear in mind that by mid to late May the plants will start to bolt and flower, according to Monty. There will be fewer leaves and they’ll taste much hotter. On the bright side, you’ll have seeds for next year, he reveals, plus the flowers can be eaten and look attractive in salads.
Not got much space but still want to grow your own fruit or veg? Follow our guide to growing vegetables in pots and you can enjoy homegrown crops in even the smallest of spaces.
Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper.
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