Gardening with Children

Family Zone

Grow your own Watercress in a pot

Date Posted: 01 June 2012

Watercress is one of the Herbs that to me says ‘Summer’ its lovely peppery flavour is delicious in sandwiches, salads, dips and made into soups.
Watercress is one of the healthiest foods available being rich in Vitamin C, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, pro-vitamin A and Vitamins B1 and B6 and counts towards your five a day fruit and vegetables.
Perhaps considered a luxurious salad crop Watercress is very easy to grow and does not need running water as you might expect.
You will need
Watercress Stems
Large Saucer or Tray (to fit underneath the pot)
Watercress stems can be bought from the supermarket or from farm shops; some stems may already have small roots on them, if not, or to encourage more, place your stems in a container of water. Change the water daily and throw away any stems that turn yellow, removing any yellow or soft leaves too.
When your stems have lots of healthy roots it is time to plant them. Fill your pot (a plastic one is best as a terracotta one will dry out too quickly) with Compost and water well, make holes in the compost with a dibber and carefully insert your Watercress stems approximately 4/5 to a 30cm pot. Make sure that your pot has drainage holes at the bottom as if not it will become stagnant, and then place it on a saucer or tray and fill the saucer/tray with water. Position your pot in the shade or partial shade but ideally not in the sun all day as it may dry out.
Keeping the compost moist and replace any water in the saucer/tray daily with clean water. Harvest regularly to prevent the plants from flowering, removing any flowers as soon as they appear. Once the plant is allowed to flower the leaves will become bitter and lose their lovely flavour. If your plants are looking a bit tired start off some more new plants by choosing healthy non flowering stems, rooting them in water to begin the process all over again. Watercress can be over-wintered if the weather is mild or if given protection from frost but I would recommend starting new plants every year as they become pot bound, and the compost can harbour pests and diseases and become exhausted, producing an inferior crop.
Let your newly planted stems grow and become established before harvesting. To harvest just snip the tops of the Watercress stems to allow the remaining stem to produce side shoots, avoid pulling the stems as this can damage the roots, leave some stems on the plant to grow. Pick your crop when you intend to eat it as Watercress does not store very well and once picked will soon start wilting.
Growing from seed
Watercress can be grown from seed. Sow in pots/trays indoors or in a Propagator during April and May. Prick out seedlings when they are big enough to handle into larger pots to grow on and plant outdoors as above, protecting from frost with fleece.
Why not give it a go, nothing is more satisfying than picking and eating your own home grown Watercress and for a fraction of the shop prices. If you have a glut I am told that Guinea Pigs love it too!

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