Rocket is a perky addition to sandwiches, salads and soups with its peppery, fresh juicy tang. It can also be used as a pesto ingredient and is often chucked onto pizzas. Rocket is cheap, easy and fast to grow in both beds and containers.
Lamb’s lettuce is halfway between lettuce and spinach in taste and texture. Its leaves can be used raw in salads or cooked as you would spinach. It’s big draw is that it grows through winter when its delicate, mild taste makes a pleasant alternative to the more robust flavour of spinach, winter cabbages, broccoli, kale and cauliflower.
Companions Valerianella locusta, Mache, Corn salad.
Quantity 2 plants per person as a successive sowing.
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As always with rocket, it adds a perky kick to the curried caulifower
Arugula/Rocket nutty, peppery addition to spring and autumn dishes
Runway (Rocket) open pollinated variety with leave that are deeply cut like dandelions. Slow to bolt and go to seed. Sow from early spring to late autumn.
Verte de Cambrai (Lambs Lettuce) heirloom variety, easy to grow with a pleasant sharp flavour. Only a few weeks between sowing and harvest.
Dutch Large Seeded heirloom variety with upright habit and larger leaf. Good for harvesting entire plants at a time.
You can grow rocket outdoors, countrywide, most months of the year. It grows best either side of high summer whose extreme temperatures can cause it to bolt (go to seed) and become unpleasantly bitter. The same goes for mid winter in colder parts where planting should be avoided during frosty periods.
Lamb’s lettuce is best sown in autumn countrywide. In warmer areas it can also be sown in early spring.
In cooler areas grow rocket or lamb’s lettuce in a sunny position. In warmer areas if your plot gets full sun all day then try and offer a little shade during the hottest part of the day or plant rocket and lamb’s lettuce between other vegetables. Rocket and lamb’s lettuce also grow well in containers - which allows you to choose your spot.
Soil should be fertile and hold onto some moisture. It should have visible particles of rotted organic material through it – kitchen compost, rotted manure and the like – which helps to hold onto water. Give your soil a good digging through before you sow or plant and rake to a level so that there are no big lumps that might hinder sprouting seeds.
Sow directly into your garden beds or containers or into trays or punnets to get a head start. This gives winter and spring-sown seeds more of a chance of withstanding slug and snail attack (These slimy salad fans can take out a small seedling overnight).
Drag your finger, stick or trowel handle across the surface of your soil to make a channel or ‘drill’. This should be about a half finger-tip deep and about the same width. Alternatively scatter seed over your chosen area if rows aren’t your thing. Group two or three seeds every hand’s length in rows or hand’s length apart all round if sowing a patch. Brush soil back across your seeds and gently firm with light hand pressure – as if you are pressing on a rocket, cheese and pesto sandwich before cutting it. If you are planting seedlings from punnets or trays, space them a hand’s length apart. Then water with a watering can fitted with a shower rose fitting.
As your seedlings develop keep soil moist with additional watering if conditions are dry. Mulch to suppress weeds and retain constant moisture levels. If you are planting in rows they should be around a foot away from each other. Depending on how well you have composted the soil you might want to give your developing plants an extra boost with some liquid seaweed/worm juice. Avoid using liquid feeds on plants you aim to eat within 24 hours as you might ingest bacteria that – whilst good for your garden might not receive a warm welcome from your digestive system. In winter protect plants from more than the lightest of frosts with plastic cloches.
Rocket is most tender when young so start picking individual leaves and try to do so regularly to keep plants producing fresh foliage. Pinch out any tips that start to grow taller than the main body of the plant. These are otherwise likely to flower and turn foliage bitter.
Lamb’s lettuce can be harvested as soon as plants have four or more pairs of leaves. Pick leaf by leaf or you can cut an entire plant of at ground level.
Sow every few weeks and to prolong your salad days. Let a few rocket plants flower and go to seed so you can enjoy self-sown rocket hereafter.