Growing Watercress Without A Stream
Growing watercress is certainly easier if you have a small stream on
your property (how about beside a pond waterfall?).
But moving water is not critical for success.
The easiest way to start this plant is to lay a paper towel in a
shallow bowl and moisten it. Lay the seeds on the towel and keep the
towel quite damp (a quarter inch of standing water should do it). If
you keep it damp and approximately 60F, the seeds will germinate in 10
days. The tender roots are quite fibrous. Transplant into individual
peat pots and grow for three weeks before setting outdoors.
If you start them early indoors – it will be necessary to grow them on
in individual pots but the soil in the pot must be kept soggy because
if you let these seedlings dry out, they'll get tough and new growth
will not be succulent. After all danger of frost, set outdoors
approximately 8 inches apart, in the full sun. Keep damp and harvest
regularly until the summer gets too hot and growth starts to get
spindly and soft.
I've also seed the seedlings put in a shallow saucer (the kind for
underneath flower pots) and the saucer filled (and kept filled) with
water. The seedlings grow like mad if they are kept damp.
Harvesting is as simple as taking a few cuttings of the leaves. You'll
see the mature plants sending runners off the mother plant and starting
to mound up. Trim these older plants back to 4 inches and they'll leaf
out again. The runners of this rapidly growing watercress can be
allowed to grow and be harvested.
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Sowing In Garden?
Seed can be directly sown in the garden but unless the area is quite
damp and slightly shaded, I suspect you'll be disappointed. Sow and
barely cover the seed about the middle of May for harvests in July.
Taste Is Better
You'll likely find the taste is better in the cooler season of spring
and fall and it deteriorates in the heat of summer. Let me suggest you
cut the plant back to 4-inches when the taste starts to deteriorate in
the spring and when the temperatures cool down in the fall again,
you'll have excellent plants waiting for you.
I note that leaves kept in a bowl of water in the refrigerator are
useful for 7-10 days.
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