A lot of gardeners refrain from planting watercress because it thrives in clear, slow moving water. Watercress is very adaptable and the plant cultivation can be attained in a number of different ways at home. Continue reading to learn how to grow watercress in the home garden.
Watercress Plant Cultivation
Watercress plant is a perennial plant that is cultivated for its clean, slightly peppery tasting leaves and stems. Watercress plant grows partially submerged in running water and flooded areas in moderately cool climates. If you actually have a water feature in your landscape, that is the great place to cultivate watercress plant, but don’t despair if not. Watercress plant can also be grown in consistently wet soil with a soil pH of 6.5-7.5 in full sun, or you can mimic the natural conditions by growing the watercress plants in a bucket or other container. In the garden proper, you can easily dig out about six inch furrow, line it with four to six mil polyethylene and then fill with about two inches of composted soil or peat moss. If you have a running stream on your property, growing watercress is as simple as it gets.
Growing Watercress Plants in Garden
Watercress plant can be easily grown from seed, transplants or cuttings. Watercress plant varieties abound, but the most common home grown variety is the Nasturtium officinale variety. Prior to planting, make sure you choose a sunny location and amend the garden soil with about four to six inches of composted organic matter down to a depth of about six to eight inches. The watercress seeds are tiny, so the seeds need to be lightly broadcast over the prepared site. Sow the seeds 3 weeks before the frost-free date for your area. Watercress plant germinates best in cool conditions (fifty to sixty degrees Fahrenheit) but not frigid. Make sure you keep the planting area moist but not covered with water. The container grown watercress plants can be placed in a saucer filled with water to retain moisture. The seedlings will appear in about 5 days. If you are transplanting, space the plants about eight inches apart once all chance of frost has passed.
Watercress Plant Care
Consistent moisture is actually the number one concern in the care of watercress plant. The container grown watercress plants can be placed in a bucket filled with about two to three inches of water so that the roots will stay submerged. Although the watercress plant does not have high nutrient requirements, cultivated cress may show signs of potassium, phosphorus or iron deficiencies. A complete soluble fertilizer applied at the recommended rate will actually mitigate any of these issues. In the garden, make sure you keep the area around the watercress plants free from weeds and also mulch to aid in water retention. Some pests like snails love watercress plant and they should be removed by hand or trapped. Whiteflies also like watercress plant and they can easily be controlled with soapy water or insecticidal soap. Spider mites can also cause leaf discoloration and general deterioration of the watercress plant. Some natural predators like lady beetles, predatory mites or thrips can help control these pests.
Actually the flavor of watercress plant is best during the cool months of the year. Once the watercress plant blossoms, the flavor is compromised. Watercress plant harvesting can commence about 3 weeks after emergence. Cutting or pruning the watercress plants will encourage them to be thicker and lush. Cut the watercress plants to a height of about four inches. Wash the cuttings thoroughly and then store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for as long as a week. Harvesting of the plant can continue year-round, adding a boost of vitamins A and vitamin C, along with niacin, thiamine, ascorbic acid, riboflavin and iron to your ho-hum salad or an added zing to compound butter or sauces.