Rocket for life

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Plants with a purpose -

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

pro­long har­vest.

lots of wa­ter­ing and a lit­tle shade pro­long har­vest

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