How to grow Watercress at home
Growing watercress at home is actually Very easy despite the myth that watercress needs flowing water in order to grow. Although watercress will grow with better overall results in clean flowing water such a a stream or a quiet river flow which is the watercress’s natural habitat, I have grown my own watercress without flowing / running water in containers at home with great results.
Growing Watercress At Home
There are very few situations in which watercress will not grow. All the watercress plant needs to grow and thrive – is just water and light (like most plants); but as the name suggests, Watercress does however need more water than other plants, but CAN be grown in pots and containers.
Almost anyone can grow their own Watercress at home. You will be surprised as to where you can grow watercress.
Watercress can be grow virtually anywhere so long the watercress plant/s have light and water. Whether you have watercress in a flower pot on a window sill, planted in a pot in your garden, or if even if you are lucky enough to have a flowing stream at the end of your garden, watercress is actually very very easy to grow.
Watercress is not only a source of fibre but it is also high in vitamin C. Watercress has a peppery taste which can be used in salads, as a garnish, in a soup or just on its own.
In this article I will take you through the process of how so very easy it is to grow watercress at home.
The way I personally discovered how to grow water cress at home was a relatively simple one by way of experimenting. I bought some freshly cut watercress which had roots on the stalks, and picked out each of the stems with roots on and planted them like another plant and gave them water … after all they are just plants like any other which grow. These plants took hold within a pot that I watered well and within weeks I had Watercress plants that were providing regular crops for our salads during the summer months.
I have later found out that you don’t even need to source watercress plants with roots on.
Within a number of weeks I had and abundance of fresh watercress that I put in sandwiches, eat in salads and even made watercress soup.
Without any previous knowledge of how to grow watercress. I began to grow my first watercress plants in March.
So onto the main subject… how to grow watercress at home for the first time:
Step 1 – Find some watercress first!
The best place I have found to find/buy watercress from is notfrom your local supermarket, but better still from a farm shop or similar. I say this for two reasons:
- It’s good to buy locally and support local shops
- Farm shops or similar, generally sell freshly cut watercress that still has roots on (although roots are not necessary at this stage)
You can of course get your watercress from your local supermarket, but for me buying watercress locally i.e. a farm shop or local market/veg supplier seemed a more the best way tp go for many reasons.
If you want to buy your watercress from a supermarket you may find that generally the cut watercress has less or no roots at all on the stems. (As it was pointed out to me in a comment below)… you can buy watercress by the bag from your local super market and place the watercress stems in jar of fresh water for a few days and change the water every day and discard any that turn yellow. In a short time you should find new roots appear. I have tried this and it does work from watercress bought from a supermarket.
However, for this article I got mine from a local farm shop… this is what a fresh bunch of watercress looks like bought from my local farm shop.
So, once you have found some watercress with roots on the stems (or used supermarket watercress and placed it in water for a few days), you will need to select the stalks that have roots – as these are the ones that you will be planting.
Try and select the stems with the most roots. These will be you 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. I have had a lot of success with planting cut watercress stems with few or small roots. They just take a little longer to establish.
Step 3 – Find a suitable container (with drainage holes VERY IMPORTANT) and fill it with rich compost
The container pictured below is one I had lying around which I actually drilled a few more drainage holes in, nothing major, just a few extra holes of around 5mm in diameter. (About 5mm across but 5 – 10mm will do… any latger and the compost will fall out).
Any deep plastic container will do even a bucket, but try and use a plastic container as terracotta for example will dry out too quickly. Just make sure your container has some drainage holes in the bottom to prevent the damp compost going stagnant. If the container cannot drain, then your watercress will not grow but will rot instead. In the container below, I drilled about 10 holes 5mm in width to allow for water drainage.
Once you have a deep container with drainage holes, you will need to fill it with some compost. Watercress grows naturally in flowing streams. Flowing streams provide a constant supply of fresh minerals and food for the watercress to grow, so I used half and half mix of shop bought compost and well rotted home made compost which is rich in nitrogen and nutrients. Basically watercress will grow in any compost (I have tried). 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 3-4 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 REALLY good water… until the compost is literally saturated.
Step 4 – Planting your Watercress
Once your container has drained a little but still very wet, you can plant out your selected watercress stems.
Use a dibber a little larger than the size of the watercress stems to make holes in the compost.
Repeat making holes and inserting your watercress stems into the wet compost. When established, each watercress stem will take up a lot more space, so in this container I planted each stem about 4 inches (9-10cm) apart.
Step 5 – After Planting Watercress
After the stems have been planted and watered in, I placed the container in a cool and shady spot out of the sun.
You will probably find that soon after planting, the stems will have wilted… but do not despair! this is only temporary. After I planted mine and saw that they had wilted, I gave them some more water.. after all watercress naturally grows in flowing streams.
Water the container everyday to keep the compost wet. I used rainwater from a water butt, but tap water will do.
Step 6 – Established Watercress Plants
Providing your watercress stems had healthy roots, and you have kept the compost damp, you should after about 4-5 weeks have well established watercress plants.
Step 7 – Looking after your watercress
When and only when, the watercress stems have established themselves into growing plants and are producing new shoots should you begin to feed them. I used miracle grow as per the instructions on the packet, but any good quality plant feed should be fine. Feeding once a week or every 10 days should suffice, just remember to WATER your plants every day to keep the compost damp. IMPORTANT Watercress does not like stale or stagnant water.
Step 8 – Keeping your Watercress growing
Like most plants at some point they will produce flowers and watercress will also do the same. If your plants are healthy, you may notice that in time (once your watercress plants are established and you plants have been growing well and you have been reaping the rewards by cutting shoots regularlary), that the leaves become smaller and you may begin to see small buds forming… sorry I don’t have photo’s but hope to soon. If you see any one of these two things… this is what is going on.
- Your Watercress has is lacking in nutriments – your have not fed it enough.
- Your plants are wanting to produce flowers and goto seed.
- If your watercress plants are flowering, a way to stop this is to pick off the flowers to encourage more growth.
- Or let your watercress go to seed and wait for the seed pods to ripen, dry the pods (hope to have photos later) and then collect the seeds for next years sowing. After all watercress produces seeds just like any other plant.
Good luck in growing your very own watercress at home.. it really is very easy.
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