8 tips for grow­ing and har­vest­ing rocket

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Plants with a purpose -

• Be­fore sow­ing, en­rich soil with or­ganic mat­ter or well-rot­ted ma­nure. • The ideal tem­per­a­ture for ger­mi­na­tion is 15-20°C, but rocket will ger­mi­nate down to 5°C. Di­rect sow­ing is pre­ferred, as the long thin tap­root does not trans­plant well. • My seeds al­ways strike far too well, re­sult­ing in masses of seedlings, per­haps some­thing to do with me not be­ing able to see them with­out glasses.

• The seed is fine, and it is easy to over­sow. This isn’t re­ally a prob­lem as long as you re­mem­ber to thin them. Un-thinned, they can be­come weak and spindly, and can rot or bruise more eas­ily on pick­ing. Thin suc­ces­sively to 2cm apart, then to 10-15cm and fi­nally 20cm when plants are well es­tab­lished. The thinned seedlings make de­li­cious ten­der ad­di­tions to sal­ads. • Plants should be kept grow­ing rapidly with plenty of mois­ture and oc­ca­sional liq­uid feed­ing. Pests and dis­eases are rarely a prob­lem – per­haps it’s a tad hot for them! • The de­gree of ‘pep­per­i­ness’ of the leaves de­pends on their age, so start har­vest early when the leaves are small, just 7-10cm. These can be cut or whole plants pulled for the salad bowl. The flow­er­ing stem should be re­moved as soon as it ap­pears, as the leaves will quickly be­come hot and strong. • Plants re­spond well to be­ing cut right back to a short stump (2cm) pro­duc­ing fresh crops of leaves. • The leaves can bruise eas­ily, so har­vest and wash them care­fully and spin or pat dry. Once picked, they will store in a cov­ered con­tainer or plas­tic bag in the fridge for sev­eral days.

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