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The watercress myth!


Many believe you need flowing water to grow this fantastic and healthy perennial -but that’s not the case and growing it at home is easy and straightforward with excellent crop results

It’s one of the great gardening myths that watercress needs flowing water to grow.

Growing watercress at home is actually easy.

Although it will grow with better overall results in clean flowing water such as a stream or a river flow, many gardeners have grown their own watercress in containers or ponds with great results.

There are very few situations in which watercress will not grow. All the plant needs to grow and thrive is just water and light but as the name suggests, watercress does need more water than other plants, but can be grown in pots and containers.

You will be surprised as to where you can grow watercress. There’s also the added benefit that once you have got started it is a perennial plant and should last at least three or four years.

It’s a great perennial to grow for health reasons. Watercress contains isothiocyanates which have antibiotic benefits, explaining its long and historic use as a tonic and health giving plant. It also contains high levels of vitamin C and minerals.

Watercress just needs a permanent moist –to-wet soil.

So first buy your watercress, and here again the solution is a fairly simple one-just go out and buy a bunch as you would normally for use in the kitchen.

The best place to find watercress is a farm shop who generally sell freshly cut watercress that still has roots on.

Try and select the stems with the most roots. These will be your main stems for planting as they will be the strongest and you will get far better results. But even stems that only have small roots are still worth planting. They just take

a little longer to establish. Insert the stems in water and leave them to soak for three days.

This soaking period encourages more roots to form.

Any deep plastic container will do, even a bucket, but try and use a plastic container as terracotta will dry out too quickly. Just make sure your container has some drainage holes in the

Watercress is a perennial brassica which has been used for food since at least Roman times. It is often eaten now as it used to be in years gone by - raw in salads and in sandwiches or in hot or cold soup.

Country Gardener 49

bottom to prevent the damp compost going stagnant. If the container cannot drain, then your watercress will not grow but will rot instead.

Once you have a deep container with drainage holes, you will need to fill it with some compost.

Basically watercress will grow in any compost.

As long as the compost is rich in nutrients, you can’t go far wrong. Once you have mixed your compost and filled your container, try and leave at least three to four inches from the top of the compost to the rim of the container as this will help contain your growing watercress.

Firm the compost down and give it a really good watering until the compost is literally saturated.

Once your container has drained a little but is still very wet, you can plant out your selected watercress stems. Gently firm the soil with your fingers to help hold the stem upright. Water the watercress thoroughly. The watercress will probably look wilted, but this is no cause for alarm. It will bounce back in a short time.

When the watercress stems have established themselves into growing plants and are producing new shoots, begin to feed them any good quality plant feed. Feeding once a week or every 10 days should suffice, just remember to water your plants every day to keep the compost damp.

Watercress does not like stale or stagnant water.

Place the container and the pot of watercress in a shady location. It usually takes about two weeks for the watercress to become established.

Once it is established, harvest the watercress by cutting the shoots regularly.

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