Arugula and Rapini

Spiro, OK(Zone 7a)

I recently moved to Utah and the grocery stores here are SEVERELY lacking in the produce department (actually, they stink all around). My produce guy has never even heard of rapini (or Broccoli Rabe), and he tried to sell me arugula in a "fresh herb" packet. I wanted a salad! Anyway, I want to grow both, but haven't the foggiest clue about them since I've never tried them before. One lady who overheard me in the store told me I could come pick some arugula at her house because it had overtaken her garden. Is there a good way to contain it so it doesn't consume my yard? Also, what variety of Rapini is the best for eating? My Italian family makes it blanched with olive oil and garlic and then served warm or cold with bread. I was thinking Tuscany, but I'm not sure. I want to plant tomatoes, peppers, peas, carrots, zucchini and maybe watermelon and pumpkin. I haven't done a garden in forever, so I'm fairly clueless. My plan is to start my plants from seed so I can do organic heirlooms, so I'm hoping I can start them at the beginning of March when we get into our house. I've never had much luck with seedlings, so I'm crossing my fingers and reading as much as I can. Any pointers would be welcome. Thanks!

Madison, WI(Zone 5a)

Hi mevnmart, I feel for you - life without arugula would be unbearable! Here in Wisconsin (zone 5a) I start broccoli raab & arugula from seed about April 1. I start them outside at that time, in drills right where they will grow. You can thin them out later (the thinnings are delicious too). Arugula is very easy to grow - it grows fast, and you can just cut it down or harvest a few leaves and it will keep on growing until the weather gets warm. I haven't had any problems with the broccoli raab either. I do cover both of these (and all brassicas) with row cover, in order to avoid the onslaught of flea beetles. I'm not quite sure how arugula would overtake a garden though - I think it's an annual, isn't it? Maybe the lady you talked to lets it go to seed, and it reseeds itself on her. Or maybe she's confusing arugula with sorrel, which looks similar (but tastes very different!) and is very invasive. Anyway, best of luck with your garden plans!

Spiro, OK(Zone 7a)

Thanks for writing, Rebecca! I actually found a grocery store that carries Arugula so at least I know I'll have it during the winter when I can't grow it myself! I'm in 5b so I imagine maybe I have to start a "little" sooner? I seriously just have no clue, it just been so long. What (material?) is row cover? I've never used one.

Madison, WI(Zone 5a)

Yep, I assume you'd be a little earlier than me - I usually start spring greens about 5 weeks before the last frost date, which is about May 10 here. If you know when your last frost date is you could probably make a guess, and then experiment and see what works for you.

Row cover is a material that you put over plants to exclude insects. I use the summerweight fabric from Gardener's Supply because it's lighter, and you can use it longer into the warm weather than regular row cover. It's available from lots of garden sources, but here's a link to the one I use:;pgid=8BH4FB4H00000000000000000000aydD6Ko2;sid=qbjoOBdW4uEFBFKPfJfJOhdcxCoHjL1kLHg=

I don't know if you have a problem with flea beetles where you are, but I've found the row cover to be absolutely essential for brassicas here.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

half the time, the store wants to sell me red radicchio as red cabbage, at onetenth the price, I should stop correcting them. but the funniest was the girl who started counting the radishes in the radish bunch, to charge me 99 cents each orwhatever....

Spiro, OK(Zone 7a)

Yeah, I correct my grocery cashier every time (they sell me regular limes as key limes, santa fe peppers as jalepenos, etc) but they don't seem to care. I used to manage a grocery store and we had a word for that "SHRINK"! The radish thing would have had me rolling.

Thanks for the link, Rebecca, I'll check my local extension for frost dates and info on flea beetles. I've seen a ton of beetles with orange spots on their back (like thousands at my current house) but I don't know what they are. They don't seem to hurt flowering plants.

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