The Endless Arugula Bed


Let’s face it, buying fresh veggies in the dead of winter after growing your own all summer is a bummer. But what if we told you that you could extend your season, save time, AND save money?

Ben Falk, author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead, experimented with overwintering a bed of arugula using a simple structure of quick hoops and greenhouse film. According to Falk, not only was his experiment a success he also harvested the sweetest, most flavorful arugula ever as early as mid-March! Don’t believe us? Follow his advice to produce your own endless bed of arugula or experiment with another crop of your choosing – either way, you’ll be left with fresh, ready for the picking produce. We promise.

The following excerpt is from The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk. It has been adapted for the web.

The power of overwintering plants so they can begin growing again in the spring was fully realized at the WSRF in the late winter and early spring of 2012, beginning with a late September 2011 sowing of arugula from seed in a 3’–8′ raised bed. This bed was established in September 2011 with a local college course group that was visiting the farm for the day. The students and I filled a slew of newly built raised beds on the south side of the WSD workshop and seeded them immediately, most with cover crops, one with garlic, and one with arugula. The remaining days in September and much of early October were mild and rainy—perfect to start the arugula, which had been broadcast and spread by hand.

By the time the real cold of winter set in around mid-December (late compared to normal), the arugula had reached about three inches in height and filled the surface area of the bed. At this point the plants stopped growing. They went through the winter in this condition covered by one layer of greenhouse film draped over metal “quick hoops” (one-eighth inch or flexible metal rods bent into a half hoop over beds). During the coldest time of the year, the arugula died back to near the surface of the soil. Although I thought they might have died, by February the tiny plants had greened up.

A heat wave in March (seemingly more common each year now) caused the plants to begin rapid regrowth, and by mid-March we were eating the sweetest, most flavorful arugula I’d ever tasted. We then proceeded to harvest this bed in cut-and-come-again style about eight times, taking a week or less between harvests. Finally, at the end of May, the arugula began to become slightly bitter and very spicy—perfect for pesto. We then harvested the whole bed at once and ran it through the food processor with olive oil, sunflower seeds, pepper, and some green garlic pulled from the burgeoning garlic beds.

Looking back, I figure that this bed produced the equivalent of $250 to $350 worth of leafy greens if bought from the local co-op at the going late-winter/ early-spring rate of $8 a pound. Beyond those savings is an equal or greater value: These greens tasted far better than arugula from the market—and of course they did! Every time we ate these greens, they were mere minutes old. Fresher, nearly free, and from the remineralized soils we made, such greens are guaranteed to be nutrient dense. The value of taking five steps out the kitchen door to harvest a salad while the rest of the meal is on the stove is also immeasurable.

Arugula - Resilient Farm and Homestead

Silvetta arugula is almost impossible to beat for
an early- and late- season crop in this very cold climate.

Pesto - Resilient Farm and HomesteadPesto—heavy in garlic—one of our favorite ways
of using arugula

Recommended Reading

How to Extend the Growing Season

The Winter Harvest Project


Share This:

Read The Book

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach


Recent Articles

8 Must-Read Books for Your 2019 Reading List

Are you new to the Chelsea Green community and aren’t sure which book to read first? Or maybe you’re a long-time fan and want to continue your binge-reading but need some fresh ideas. Regardless of how you got here, we can help! From the enlightening and thought-provoking to the quirky and fun, we, the Chelsea…

Read More

Car Survival Tips for Severe Winter Weather

Now that temperatures have started to dip below freezing, and most folks living in colder climates have witnessed their first snowfall of the season, it’s time to get serious about winter preparedness. Especially when it comes to driving! The following is an excerpt from When Disaster Strikes by Matthew Stein. It has been adapted for the…

Read More

Making Massive Small Change

For generations, we’ve worked collectively as a society to build our cities into vibrant communities where we can progress and flourish together. Over the years, however, we’ve lost the art of collective and community evolution as our governments step in with their big ideas for urban growth – many of which come at a steep…

Read More

Resiliency: Becoming an Adaptive Human

They say history is bound to repeat itself if we don’t take the time to learn from the past. Our decision-making skills are essential for survival but, for some, it’s difficult to connect the dots between the cause and effect of said decisions. However, in this day and age, it’s important to recognize our strengths,…

Read More

How The Great Migration Led to Urban Farming

For centuries, humans have been migrating in search of better land, opportunities, and quality of life. For some, those migrations were voluntary while others were forced to move due to far more sinister circumstances. The Great Migration is one such case. During the 1900’s through 1970, over six million black people left the rural south…

Read More