Arugula (Eruca vesicara) makes a spicy addition to salads and fresh topping to traditional Italian pizzas. A relative to mustard, this green is a good source of vitamin A and calcium. As a cool-season crop, arugula grows and tastes best in the spring and fall. From the time you plant your seeds, you can harvest leaves in as little as four weeks.
Planting the Seeds
You can plant your arugula seeds outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in late winter or early spring. You can also start them in containers using fresh potting soil if your soil is too wet to till. Choose a spot for your seeds that receives full sun or is slightly shaded. Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep. Once the weather cools in the fall, you can plant a fall crop of arugula.
Seed to Sprout
Kept moist -- not wet -- your arugula seeds will sprout within four to six days. Thin your seedlings so there is at least 4 inches in between each plant. To have a continuous harvest of arugula, plant more seeds every three weeks. Stop planting once daytime temperatures average 70 degrees in the spring. If planting in the fall, stop sowing seeds about a month before your region's first frost date.
Sprout to Harvest
Begin harvesting arugula once the leaves are about 4 inches long. This can take as little as 30 days. During this time, pick only a few leaves from each plant so your arugula can continue to produce more leaves until it reaches maturity.
Arugula reaches maturity in 45 to 60 days. At this point, the plant will flower and go to seed. Because mature arugula leaves have a bitter taste, you should harvest the entire plant before it flowers. Heat and lack of water will also force your arugula plant to bolt (flower quickly), making the leaves bitter.
Based in Portland, Ore., Tammie Painter has been writing garden, fitness, science and travel articles since 2008. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as "Herb Companion" and "Northwest Travel" and she is the author of six books. Painter earned her Bachelor of Science in biology from Portland State University.