If you’re sowing rocket outside, it is best to wait until April but you can extend sowing October though to March if you have a greenhouse, polytunnel or cold frame. For germination the seeds need a minimum temperature of 7C. Sow seeds 5mm deep in fine soil or compost. If your soil is stony, you can give it a top dressing of multi-purpose compost to give the seeds a good start or simply make the drill a little bit deeper and sprinkle in a layer of compost.
Aim to sow thinly – ideally, 3cm between seeds and then thin seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart when big enough to pick. Rows should be 30cm apart. Don’t worry if you sow some too close together as young seedlings can be picked to make space for others and used as a garnish i4 in salads.
Rocket grows best in partial shade and in moisture retentive soil. As it is a member of the brassica family, don’t sow where brassicas have been growing in the previous two years. Sow successively every two weeks – you’ll find that seed packets of rocket usually contain quite generous quantities.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR PLANTS
There is not much you have to do with looking change rocket. Weed between the plants and rows themselves, and water during dry spells. You can also add a mulch of organic matter between rows to help preserve moisture in the soil. If growing rocket outside, cover with a cloche from autumn onwards.
Rocker can be ready as quickly as four weeks after sowing depending on conditions. With rocket you have the option to use it as a cut-and-come-again crop or to pick plants entire. If plants start to flower, nip the buds so that they continue to produce leaves. Alternatively, let them flower – not only are the flowers edible, they have a beautiful star-shaped formation, and they are a great plant for attracting garden-friendly insects and butterflies.
WATCH OUT FOR
FLEA BEETLE: These can be a bother, creating holes in the leaves and influencing on seedlings particularly. Protect your plants with insect netting for example Enviromesh. Waving yellow sticky cards (available from garden centres) above the harvest will catch the pests as they jump up.
BOLTING: If watering is irregular, the rocket has a tendency to bolt so don’t let the soil or compost dry out. Keep these moist but don’t overdo the watering either as this will reduce the flavour of your leaves.
VARIETIES TO TRY
Wild rocket varieties (Diplotaxis) have a stronger peppery flavour than standard, sweeter racket varieties (Eruca sativa).
“APOLLO”: This is a fast maturing, standard variety with a peppery flavour. More suited to cut-and-come-again and for eating when the leaves are still young.
“SKYROCKET”: A strong peppery flavour – a standard variety but having some of the punch of wild rocket. Slow to bolt and high-yielding.
“VOYAGER”: This is a wild rocket variety, with dark green ‘oak-leafed’ edges. Slow to bolt.
“WASABI”: This is a new variety and hot. Can be grown as a cut-and-come-again or to full maturity.
Top Tip: If you let your plants flower they will self-seed, providing you with a new crop the following year.