Rocket grows like a rocket! It is so fast that only two weeks after planting, the leaves will be ready to pick for salads and sandwiches. It’s definitely worth growing in the vegie patch and because it self seeds, once it is planted there will probably always be a crop.
The small jagged leaves of salad rocket have a mild peppery flavour which is delicious. It can be mixed with other salad greens or served on its own.
Rocket can be grown all year round though does prefer weather that is not too hot because this can make the leaves a bit tough. Still, this can be overcome by growing in in part shade in summer and making sure that the soil always stays moist.
Prepare the garden bed by removing the weeds and then digging through plenty of compost. Water the soil and then use a dibbler or large stick to make small holes about 20cm apart. Place one seedling in each one and gently push the soil around the roots. Water lightly.
Rocket is perfect for growing in large containers that are at least 25cm deep and can be grown on its own or mixed in with other salad greens such as lettuce or English spinach. Fill the pots with premium potting mix, plant the seedlings and water them lightly. Make sure that the pots get at least 6 hours of daylight and don’t let the potting mix dry out.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Water the seedlings regularly so that the soil doesn’t dry out and apply liquid fertiliser every two weeks. Mulch between the rows to prevent weeds from growing and keep an eye out for snails which can eat several leaves in just one night. If you start to see holes, get a torch and go out at night as this is when you are most likely to catch the snails.
Old or yellow leaves should be removed and given to the chooks or thrown in the compost.
Salad rocket sometimes ‘bolts to seed’ at the end of its life cycle or if the whether gets suddenly hot and the soil dries out. Bolting means that the plant sends up flower stems which drop their seed in the garden just before the plant dies. Fortunately this can sometimes mean that rocket seedlings will pop up in the garden that will be ready to harvest in just a few weeks.
Salad rocket needs to be harvested often as this will encourage new leaves to shoot up. To harvest, break off the outside leaves leaving the younger ones to grow from the centre. By growing several rocket plants, leaves can be taken from each one so that they don’t become too exhausted.
HOW TO EAT
Salad rocket is eaten raw and is mixed through tossed salads or included in sandwiches to add a delicious peppery flavour. It is also fantastic when it is served with a hot steak on top!
Check out the Smarty Plants Kitchen for great recipes.
HOW THEY GROW
Salad rocket is a leafy green which starts with small, oval shaped leaves. Within a few weeks, the shape of the leaves change to look a bit like a feather and they can be harvested at any stage along the way. After a few months, the plant will bolt to seed which is when it sends up yellow flowers on hard stems. The flowers then drop seeds in the soil and these will probably germinate and produce more salad rocket seedlings.
Botanical Name: Eruca sativa
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Grow: All year round
Height/Width: 30cm x 20cm.
Requirements: Plant in full sun (or part shade in summer) and water every day unless it rains. Liquid fertilise fortnightly. Keep a look out for snails.
Nutritional Benefits: Being a leafy green, salad rocket contains some vitamins and minerals though you would have to eat a lot to get any benefit.