How to grow rocket from seed -

Young, freshly picked rocket leaves are one of the summer's secret pleasures. The trouble is that when you purchase rocket from the supermarket, sealed in its protective environment, it never tastes as crisp or a sweet as the home-grown alternative. Luckily enough, rocket in all of its guises is extremely easy to grow from seed.

Rocket seedlings
Rocket seed can be sown as soon as the threat of late frosts have passed and right up until September. Rocket plants will prefer a rich, fertile well-drained soil in full sun.

Using a prepared seedbed, mark out a straight line with a suitable board or strong twine. Then using a hand trowel or draw-hoe make a channel no more than 1 inch deep and probably no longer and a couple of yards long. You can always make subsequent sows as the season progresses in order to ensure a fresh supply of rocket throughout the year.

Thinly sow the seeds along the row at a rate of 1 seed every 1 1/5 inches, then back-fill the channel with the resulting spoil. Gently water the seeds in and you can expect to see your rocket seedlings emerge in a week or so. Thin out the weakest seedlings to leave one plant every 6-10 inches. For subsequent crops re-sow every three to four weeks.

How to grow rocket from seed
Keep the soil moist throughout the growing period as this will help to keep the plants growing well. Be aware that if the crop is kept too far on the dry side the plants will run to seed (bolting), and the leaves will become tough and unpalatable.

Always keep the seedbed free of weeds and avoid overwatering as this can lead to root damage which in extreme cases will kill off your crop. You can begin harvesting rocket leaves roughly 4 weeks after sowing. Regular picking will keep the new growth young, tender and tasty.

Remove flower buds as they appear to extend the life of your crop, however once the leaves begin to lose their flavour discard that particular plant.

Rocket plants can be prone to attack from flea beetles. While the beetles themselves can be difficult to spot the mottled damage on the leaves is quite recognisable. To control flea beetle damage organically grow your rocket crop under horticultural fleece.

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