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I sowed arugula/rocket in an outside pot 2 months ago. As it was my first sowing of rocket, it turned out to be too dense so I have thinned it out.

It was growing nicely, but all of a sudden it started sending out long shoots that now have flowers on top of them. Beside this, the leaves are too tiny and cannot be used, and the lower leaves are turning yellow.

rocket flowering rocket's tiny leaves

I think the plant is trying to make seeds and then it will die away.

Should I sow new seeds? Is it better to sow them in my garden or in a pot? The current pot is in a really sunny position that can get really hot in the afternoon.

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It's called bolting because it happens so fast. You may get another crop in the fall if you plant later when it is starting to get cool. Some lettuces are more likely to bolt than others - you may want to look for some greens that are happier in your climate. –  Kate Gregory May 23 '12 at 0:07

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Yes, your arugula's crop season is coming to an end, as bstpierre notes. Mine finished going to seed and dried out completely by last week (I live in southern California, so you can compare the weather here with your location).

You certainly have planted them very close to each other, which is why they aren't tall/the leaves aren't bigger (in comparison, mine's about 3-4 feet tall). Next year, try to give them some more space (depending on how much you can spare), ideally about 10 inches apart. The plants will support each other as they grow, just like some varieties of peas. I don't try to collect the seeds, but instead let the pods dry out, pop and spread it on its own. When it grows again the next season, you can pull them from wherever they are and plant it neatly in a row/grid.

One thing that I did notice that was different from other greens in my garden, is that the leaves of arugula still remained edible right till the very end and do not increase in bitterness like lettuce does. The reason for this is that in lettuce, the bitterness is a defense mechanism against pests, especially during the final bolting phase. On the other hand, arugula is inherently bitter and most insects avoid it, so there is no need for an additional defense mechanism. Since arugula is an acquired taste anyway, there is no discernable change in bitterness. So for now, the green leaves are perfectly fine to eat.

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Yes, generally any salad green's leaves get tough and bitter when they start flowering / setting seed. At this point, you should pull them up and plant something else.

I don't know about rocket specifically, but warmer weather and/or longer days often trigger flowering. If your garden provides more shade or a cooler environment, your rocket may grow better. But if you can't provide an ideal environment, you may want to try growing something more adapted to warmer weather and replant rocket as cooler weather approaches in late summer / autumn.

Salad greens that work better for me in the summer would include beets, chard, or some heat-adapted varieties of lettuce.

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You have to cut down the flowers: this will force the plant to send out more leaves.

Also make sure to contain the plant, because when it grows above 18" it tends to lean to the side. It will eventually touch the ground and will not produce so many leaves.

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