Rocket for life
Once established, rocket is very hard to get rid of. It’s not quite as bad as horseradish but it’s close. My first plant eventually took over a garden, and the seedlings are also invasive.
Rocket is also a good name for this fastgrowing herbal vegetable. In a rich, deep, moisture-retentive soil, it literally rockets away. These are the conditions it needs for salad growing, where it will grow long, lush, toothed basal leaves for about a month, with the first pickings available in just a few weeks.
Regular picking delays flower formation, but eventually it will shoot to flower with a long 75cm stem. The four-petalled flowers are in the shape of a cross and are yellowish or cream, with deep violet veins.
In hot, dry soil rocket is more restrained. It may grow to just 20cm, concentrating its strong oils with a pronounced/strong hot, peppery flavour, and then send up an erect flower stem. This is when it is gathered for medicinal purposes.
Rocket can be grown year-round, although the cooler temperatures in spring and autumn produce the best crops. It’s easy to germinate and quick to grow, great for filling the ‘greens gap’ in the cooler seasons, yielding thick prolific greens within weeks.
Rocket can be grown in the smallest of gardens, or even in a pot in a windowsill, as it will tolerate low light. Here in inland Canterbury, I find rocket an excellent choice for growing in our greenhouse over winter and into spring. If you don’t have a greenhouse, cloches or plastic-pipe hoops covered in frost cloth will do. In warm-temperate and subtropical climates it is better as an autumn or winter crop, as spring-sown crops tend to run to seed. In warmer weather, it is best treated as a cut and come again crop. Lots of watering and a little shade can
lots of watering and a little shade prolong harvest