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Arugula Companion Plants: Good Growing Buddies

Arugula, also referred to as rocket or roquette, is a savory salad green that is packed full of flavor and nutrients. Its peppery leaves infuse a spicy zing to salad mixes, sandwiches, pesto, pizza, and sauteed dishes. Not only is arugula a delectable ally to many recipes around the world, but it is a valuable partner in the garden.  Let’s find out more about arugula companion plants!

Arugula, Eruca sativa, belongs to the mustard family which includes brassicas.  There are many familiar brassica vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, and collard greens that are related to arugula.  All of these fibrous vegetables hold nutritional properties, and planting arugula is collecting interest for gardeners for its natural health benefits but also for its ability to grow quickly.  Many may find arugula in mesclun seed packets or prepared salad bins, which complements the baby salad greens it is mixed in with.

Arugula is a nourishing superfood.  It is high in fiber and rich in vitamins A, C, potassium, and the mineral calcium. This a heart-healthy plant that is beneficial for weight loss and has cancer-fighting properties. Regular consumption has also been shown to improve complexion and increase energy levels. 

Are you ready to make arugula plants a staple in your garden?  Let’s explore why companion planting should be considered, and what are ideal plants to grow with arugula, and which plants we should avoid planting arugula next to. 

What Is Companion Planting?

Arugula companion plants
Choosing good arugula companion plants can be quite easy. Source: adactio

There are many benefits to companion planting.  By diversifying with friendly plants, you can improve the overall vigor and production of the garden. With companion planting, you are finding plants that associate well in close proximity and provide mutual benefits to each other. 

This differs from monocropping in a garden bed.  When you are sowing arugula by themselves, they are competing with the same nutrients.  This can cause growth weakness in the arugula and make it more susceptible to insect infestation.  In contrast, companion plants can occupy different spaces in the garden and yield more food in the same space. Good arugula neighbors can attract pollinators, discourage pests, deposit nutrients and create microclimates to shelter the arugula. 

For pest management, compatible aromatic plants may be naturally repellant. The intercropping may even confuse the pests and deter them from investigating closer.  There are even some companion plants that can attract beneficial insects to handle pest problems. For example, marigolds are an excellent companion to plant by basil and tomatoes. It holds qualities that attract pollinating insects and repel garden pests. 

Other companion plants such as beans help replenish nitrogen in the soil and enhance the health of their neighboring plants. You can play with the vertical layers of your garden to maximize space by guiding the beans on a trellis or grow companion root vegetables. Root vegetables are beneficial by helping break up the soil. 

Planting low-lying companions can act as a living mulch and ground cover. This will retain moisture in the soil, keep the soil intact, and reduce competition with weeds.  Taller plants can act as a nurse for seedlings, and provide shelter from the sun and wind. These are microclimates that you can easily develop to enhance the health of your garden.  

Companion planting with fast, mid, and slow-growing plants can assist in the organization of your garden.  For example, fast-growing plants such as radish or spinach can be used as living markers in the garden so that you don’t accidentally double-plant over a slower-growing variety like corn, cabbage, or cauliflower.  Now let’s explore what plants are recommended to grow with arugula and which ones to stay away from. 

Good Arugula Companion Plants

Arugula sprouts
Young arugula can use a little neighborly protection from pests. Source: SrslyKris

Arugula is a fast-growing plant that thrives in cooler weather.  It is a resilient plant and has only one main pest, flea beetles.  Flea beetles love to eat the tender leaves of the arugula plant and will leave tiny holes in the leaves.  So let’s make it difficult for the flea beetle to find arugula with companion planting!

First, let’s consider cool-season companion varieties for planting arugula.  There are root crops such as carrots, beets, onions, and garlic that prosper in cooler weather.  These root crop companions can maximize your garden space since they primarily occupy growing zones below ground. The leafy tops of carrots and beets can provide shade for the arugula plants. Additionally, the pungent aromas of alliums such as onions and garlic deter garden pests and are common companion plants for arugula and brassicas. 

Other cool-weather crops to grow arugula next to are leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, and swiss chard.  When planted together, you have an instant salad garden bed.  Some gardeners will broadcast the seeds of these leafy greens rather than deliberately spacing them out.  This will provide a dense crop of salad greens, which you can thin to enjoy the young baby leaves.

Some companion plants such as the aromatic rosemary may repel pests from arugula.  Herbs discourage and may confuse pests from discovering your arugula.  You can sow arugula with other herbs such as dill, thyme, mint, chives, parsley, coriander, sage, basil, oregano, and borage. Anything in the mint family is a great deterrent for garden pests. Additionally, dill is another great companion plant for brassicas and is frequently used for pest management. 

If you would like a pop of color in your garden, consider growing arugula with flowers such as chamomile, nasturtium, and petunias.  Chamomile will attract pollinating insects and its strong fragrant smell can conceal arugula from garden pests.  Additionally, nasturtium can be used as a ground cover.  Other ground-covering plants include borage and cucumbers.  These plants can shade the ground around arugula and minimize evaporation in the soil.  Borage attracts pollinators, deters curious wildlife like deer, and repels cabbage moth caterpillars. 

Some companion plants are nitrogen-fixers by replenishing nitrogen in the soil and enhancing the health and flavor of the arugula plants.  Since bush beans are tall, they also provide shade.  Other tall-growing companion plants to include with arugula are corn and peas.  One last vegetable to consider as a companion is celery, as they require similar needs in sunlight and water.  There are even recipes that incorporate celery and arugula.  You’ll find that when you are growing these arugula companion plants, many of them complement each other in various recipes. 

You can start small with companion planting by beginning with one other plant variety such as carrots and arugula. Or you can be adventurous and experiment with multiple companion varieties like beans, arugula, spinach, onions, and rosemary. The great thing about companion planting is that it is not an exact science and there are many possibilities.  By companion planting with arugula plants, you are maximizing the space and vitality in your garden while minimizing the competition of weeds and the need for pesticides. 

What Not To Plant With Arugula

Arugula plant
An arugula plant may like a little friendly shade from larger plants. Source: stgermh

There are some garden plants that do not mutually benefit arugula.  Let’s explore this shortlist of bad neighbors.

Although strawberries are a fun ground cover, they are not good companion plants for arugula and will impede growth.  This is true for all brassicas.  If you are planting strawberries, you will want to plant a row or two away from arugula. 

Most plants in the nightshade or solanum family are incompatible with arugula plants.  This is because nightshades prefer a more acidic soil pH of 5.5-6.5 while arugula prefers a more neutral soil pH of 6.5-7.  It is not recommended to grow arugula next to eggplant, peppers, potatoes, or tomato.

Keep in mind that if you grow brassicas together, it may attract their common pests and insects, and make them more susceptible to infestation. This includes planting in an area that formerly grew a brassica.  For example, it is recommended to not plant arugula in a space that was recently occupied by cabbage. 

Another tip, some arugula companion plants may not be good neighbors to each other.  Dill and carrots are not compatible but on their own, are great companion plants for arugula. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How far apart should you plant arugula?

A: Arugula seeds can be planted an inch apart in 10-inch rows.  When young leaves are 4 inches tall, you can thin to 4-6 inches apart.  

Q: When can I plant arugula outside?

A: Arugula is a cool-season annual that is perfect when you are eager to grow before your last frost date in early spring. You can also grow arugula in late summer or early fall to extend your garden harvest. Arugula can tolerate light frosts with its optimum growing conditions ranging from 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit.  For continual harvests, it is recommended to stagger planting arugula every 2-3 weeks. Be wary, once the weather gets hot, arugula will bolt and the leaves will turn bitter.