Saturday, May 13, 2006

Garden Journal 5/13/06: Bolting Arugula and Some Arugula Growing Tips

Arugula in the homemade greenhouse getting ready to flower

Realization Of The Day:
No matter what your excuse—and since I live on a farm I always have a really good one—arugula waits for no one. You get harvestable greens in less than a month, but once they mature, these babies love to bolt.

That didn't stop me from making another batch of arugula pesto today and finalizing the recipe. If you're in a desperate, verge-of-bolting, really-wanted-to-make-this-pesto situation—which I totally understand—just let me know, and I'll be happy to email you the recipe. Update: the arugula pesto recipe is up!

It was a surprising 36°F this morning!

Got (or want) arugula? There are some growing tips in the comments below, and you might find this post helpful, too: Lettuce and Arugula in the Garden, with Step-by-Step Photos Showing How To Grow Arugula from Seed in Less than a Month.


  1. My arugula is just getting it's first real leaves, but the wild stuff that volunteered from last season is going strong. I nee to get more seed for the wild stuff.

  2. How does one know if the argula is going to bolt? I am going to be planting salad greens in August (in Florida) and I am really curious....=)

  3. Hi Steven,
    I just read about somebody basically keeping a separate, permanent arugula plot in the garden. They just let the last of it flower every year, and it reseeded itself. That's my kind of gardening.

    Hi Ruthee,
    Good question. First of all, baby arugula leaves are definitely milder and tastier than bigger ones. As the plants mature, that nice peppery flavor continues to get a lot stronger.

    As far as when it's going to bolt, I don't know why I'm blanking out on what to say here. Seems like I should just be able to type out a perfectly straightforward, simple answer. (But when was the last time that happened, LOL?)

    Okay, I just went out and looked at my bolting arugula bed. This is what's going on out there. When the leaves are young, they are basically smooth around the edges. The older (and obviously larger) leaves start to look more like oak leaves, if that makes any sense. And they get stemmy. Then of course a central stem 'bolts' up and that produces a flower.

    I hope that helps. Basically I guess I'd say eat your arugula when the leaves are just two to three inches long. But let some keep growing so you can see exactly how/when it starts to bolt. And if you let those go to seed, you'll have your next crop come up all on its own. If you're in Florida, I bet you could grow and harvest arugula all winter long.

    You could also do succession plantings--sow some seeds every week or two so everything isn't ready at the same time.

    And if anyone has anything to add to this, by all means please do so.

  4. So I left my arugula unattended for a few days, and it "bolted" and flowered. Is there any turning back if I cut back the plant, or shall I simply pull it out completely if I want the space to reseed? ( i am hoping to do so with the buds from the plant that have yet to flower)

  5. Hi Anonymous,
    I've never cut back a bolting arugula plant, so I'm not sure what would happen. If the leaves are already tasting really strong, I would suspect even any new growth might taste that way, too. But maybe not. And I'm not sure if the plant would even continue to put out more leaves like lettuce does.

    However, if you're wanting to grow another crop of arugula in that same spot, don't pull up the flowering plants! The seed pods form after the plant has flowered. There will be numerous long and narrow green pods on the stems, and then they'll turn brown and dry. There will be several seeds inside each dry pod. Eventually the pods break open, seeds fall to the ground, and with a little water they'll sprout. But you can hasten the process, as well as do a "better" job, by either opening up the pods and harvesting all the seeds, then planting them, or pulling up the dried plants and shaking the pods over your soil. Or you can just scatter the entire pods on the soil. You might experiment and see what works best.

    I do know that arugula is very good about self-seeding. I have some sprouting in my greenhouse now where I recently cleared a space to put in a couple of tomato plants. And the other side of my greenhouse has pretty much been taken over by arugula.

    Hope this helps. Happy growing! (And if you're the person who left a comment about flowering arugula recently--my apologies for not getting back to you.) : )

  6. Hi! So, I'm not quite sure I understand how to *keep* the arugula from bolting. I just planted 4 small plants, and already most of them have bolted. To prevent this, am i supposed to keep harvesting the leaves when they start to grow? Thanks!

  7. Hi Dina,Unfortunately there's no real way to keep arugula from bolting and going to seed, which is of course its main goal in life. Since it's a very fast growing plant, this happens quickly.

    In my garden it often seems like the arugula will go from ready-to-eat to ready-to-flower in a matter of hours. Warmer temperatures definitely accelerate the process. In winter, my arugula plot in the greenhouse will stay harvestable for several weeks, but when the weather warms up the plants immediately take off and head skyward.

    I have two recommendations:

    1) When your arugula is at the size you want to eat it, go ahead and pick it all. Wash and dry the leaves, pack them in a sealed plastic bag, and put them in the fridge. I've had mine last in there for up to two weeks - which is a lot longer than they'd stay that way in the garden.

    2) If you're going to grow a good sized plot of arugula, do what's called succession planting: plant just one section, then a week or two later plant more, and so on, for as long as the weather stays on the cool side. That way you won't be overwhelmed by bounty all at once, though you might want to be if you're hoping to make a big batch of arugula pesto (you'll find my easy recipe here) - which can then be frozen.

    Hope this helps. Happy growing! : )

  8. Please share your arugula pesto recipe and also what you have found it goes well with. Sounds yummy.

  9. Anon,
    Arugula pesto is yummy! You'll find my recipe along with lots of ways to enjoy it here. And you'll find 120 more of my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes - including a quick and easy, hard to stop eating All Purpose Arugula Cottage Dip/Sauce/Spread in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index. Enjoy!

  10. I found this conversation extremely useful for my first timer garden. Thank you.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

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