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Arugula in the High Desert (California)

 
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I'm in the high desert/ southeastern Sierra region of Southern California.  my ground is sandy but has caliche hard pan and drainage is poor in some areas.  i have mulched my yard with woodchips from a local arborist and have been planting trees and a small garden which are slowly evolving over the last few years

I've been growing arugula the last few winters.  It did so well i threw the seeds anywhere that nothing else will grow.  It grows everywhere, starting small in late summer and growing through the winter up to 4 feet high, if you let it.  The flowers have a subtle light and sweet fragrance.  In February and March i have fields of white blooms covered in bees.  The hummingbirds also like it.  I pull out large bundles of arugula and feed it to my chickens.  

After it goes to seed but before the seed pods dry and spread, I chop and drop it to other areas of the property for the next winter where I have trouble growing anything .  The worms come where I have arugula growing and will eat the roots of what is left behind.  It gets quite bitter so I eat it sparingly myself or find younger plants.  

Mostly i love to have the flowers in the garden through February and it acts as a natural mulch.  I find it surprising that more people aren't talking about arugula in dry climates.  Any thoughts?
arugula.jpg
[Thumbnail for arugula.jpg]
 
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Cool! How many inches of rain a year do you get? Does it get extra water beyond that?
 
Madeline Breeze
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we get about 5 inches of rain.  i suppose the last two winters have been fairly wet.  
on east side of house they get afternoon shade and indirectly get some irrigation from other plants, they do grow faster and fuller.  on the west side of my property the arugula gets afternoon sun and no supplemental water at all. they  grew more slowly but are still probably 3 feet tall and have filled out nicely.
 
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Very cool. When did you seed? I am buying a Nevada nigh desert property and want to spread as much seed as I can as soon as I get it to get the biomass growing.
 
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Hugelkulture beds would help with that caliche if you can add lots of decaying wood.

Though the wood chips you mentioned would help.

I have caliche so we made the dirt that went into our raised beds using store-bought soil, leaf mold, and well-aged manure.
 
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Thanks for this thread Madeline!
Arugula grows very reliably here in New Mexico (zone 7). Some years ago, a friend from Italy gave me a little bag of the tiny round, blackish seeds. We were talking about gardening here and she said that arugula is the only thing she grows. She told me that she eats it daily and in any dish that calls for spinach. So I spread the seed and sure enough I always have arugula growing somewhere: near the house drip line, next to flagstone, at the margins of the compost pile, between bricks. I'm really grateful to have it!
I noticed in your photo that the flowers are 4 petal white. Some of mine are white and some are 4 petal yellow when they go to seed. The leaves are similarly shaped in both varieties but some leaves are much bigger in their early days. I'm not clear on the specific types of arugula but I understand there are several.
Both varieties get very pungent as the weather heats up. When they are too strong for me, I mix them with lambs quarters (or other mild greens) to tone down the bite.
If anyone is wondering what else to do with arugula, pesto and chimichurri are outstanding!
 
Madeline Breeze
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most of the seeds are dropping now and they start coming up again at end of summer or whenever you get your first rain.

i planted rocket arugula - probably one or two packets - a few years ago. now it's everywhere.  i haven't tried any other varieties.  the flowers are white and cream colored.

i wanted to update this because now that it's end of april and im trying to cut the arugula back i realize i have way too much of it.  and after you trim it, it grows back immediately and goes to flower.  it gets completely out of hand and is probably invasive.  next year when it sprouts everwhere i'm going to try to trim it down regularly and make pestos from it.    it's hard to not let it flower because it's so beautiful in february and march and the bees love it, but i must not let it go to seed.   it is completely unmanageable!   that being said, there are worse problems.  like all these locusts...

 
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Hi, invasive species are your best friend. Lots of organic matter for your other plants!!

I wouldn't worry too much. Eventually, the balance restores itself.
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