Watercress is a leafy green vegetable that can be grown in moist soil or water. It prefers a pH of 6.5-7.5 and partial shade. Keep it well-watered.
IN THIS GUIDE
Watercress is a delicious, nutrient-rich, leafy green vegetable that can be quickly grown in your backyard or indoors. Its peppery taste makes it an excellent addition to salads, sandwiches, and even soups.
With a few simple steps, you can have a fresh supply of this healthy superfood at your fingertips. Whether you choose to grow it in soil or water, make sure to keep it moist and in a shaded area.
You’ll have a bountiful watercress harvest with proper care and attention in no time!
What are watercress
Watercress is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which includes other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage.
It is known for its peppery taste and high nutritional value, being a rich source of vitamins C, A, and K, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, and potassium.
Watercress grows in shallow streams and pools, commonly cultivated in water gardens or hydroponics. It is often used in salads, sandwiches, soups, and as a garnish for various dishes.
It can also be blended into smoothies or juices or used in herbal remedies due to its reported medicinal properties as a natural diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant.
Watercress has been consumed for centuries and is considered one of the oldest leafy vegetables eaten by humans.
Watercress Plant facts
|Botanical name||Name (Common)||Native to||Sun levels||USDA zones||Soil||Plant size|
|Nasturtium officinale||Watercress||Europe, Asia, and North Africa||Full sun to part shade||6-9||Moist, fertile soil||Up to 12 inches tall|
Watercress can be propagated through seeds or cuttings. Here are the steps for each method:
- Fill a seed tray or pot with a good-quality potting mix.
- Sprinkle watercress seeds on the soil surface and cover them with a thin layer of potting mix.
- Keep the soil consistently moist at around 60-70°F (15-21°C).
- The seeds should germinate within 7-10 days.
- Once the seedlings are large enough, transplant them into individual pots or directly into the ground.
- Cut a 4-6 inch (10-15 cm) stem from an existing watercress plant.
- Strip off the lower leaves, leaving a few leaves at the top.
- Place the cutting in a glass of water and change it every few days to keep it fresh.
- Once roots have grown about an inch long, transplant the cutting into a pot filled with potting mix.
- Keep the soil consistently moist at around 60-70°F (15-21°C).
- Once the cutting has established roots and new growth appears, it can be transplanted into the ground or a larger pot.
How to grow watercress
Watercress is a great leafy vegetable to grow at home, as it is relatively easy to cultivate and provides a continuous harvest throughout the growing season. Here are the steps for increasing watercress at home:
- Choose a location: Watercress prefers cool, moist conditions, so choose a place that receives partial shade and has access to running water. If you don’t have running water, you can grow watercress in a pot or container filled with soil and water.
- Prepare the planting area: Watercress can be grown in soil or water. If growing it in soil, prepare the planting area by mixing compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage and fertility. If growing it in water, use a container at least 4 inches (10 cm) deep and fill it with clean water.
- Plant the watercress: If growing in soil, sow the seeds directly into the prepared soil and cover it with a thin layer of compost. If you are growing it in water, you can either sow the seeds directly in the water or plant cuttings from an established watercress plant.
- Care for the plants: Watercress requires consistent moisture to thrive, so moisten the soil or water. If you are growing watercress in soil, water it regularly and mulch around the plants to retain moisture. If you are growing it in water, change the water every few days to keep it fresh, and add liquid fertilizer every two weeks to keep the plants healthy.
- Harvest the watercress: Once the plants have reached a height of around 4-6 inches (10-15 cm), you can start harvesting the leaves. Pinch off the outer leaves and leave the inner leaves to continue growing. Watercress can be harvested continuously throughout the growing season.
Following these steps, you can quickly grow watercress at home and enjoy fresh, delicious greens all season long.
|Growing medium||Can be grown in soil or water|
|Soil conditions||Moist, fertile soil with a pH of 6.5-7.5|
|Water conditions||Water pH of 6.5-7.5, with a temperature range of 50-68°F (10-20°C)|
|Sun exposure||Prefers partial shade, can tolerate full sun in cooler climates|
|Planting||Sow seeds in early spring, keep moist and weed-free|
|Growth rate||Fast-growing, can be harvested in as little as 4-6 weeks|
|Harvesting||Cut leaves at the base of the stem, leaving some leaves behind for regrowth|
|Maintenance||Keep soil or water consistently moist, fertilize every 2-3 weeks|
|Common pests and diseases||Aphids, whiteflies, and fungal diseases such as downy mildew and water mold|
Watercress prefers partial shade to full sun, meaning it needs protection from the hottest sun during the day. Watercress should receive around four to five hours of direct sunlight daily, preferably in the morning or late afternoon.
If you live in a hot climate or during the hottest months of the year, watercress may benefit from some shade during the hottest parts of the day. You can provide shade by using a shade cloth or by planting taller plants nearby to provide some natural shade.
It’s important to note that watercress requires consistently moist soil and air to thrive, so it’s essential to provide adequate moisture and humidity levels in addition to the appropriate level of sun.
Watercress is a cool-weather crop that prefers temperatures between 50-70°F (10-21°C). It can tolerate some frost, but too much heat will cause the plant to bolt (produce flowers) and become bitter.
Therefore, growing watercress in the spring or fall when temperatures are cooler is best. In warmer climates, watercress can be grown in shaded areas or partially submerged in cool water to keep the plant cool.
Watercress prefers slightly alkaline soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. The soil should be moist and well-draining, as watercress needs a constant water supply.
If the soil is too dry, the plant will wilt and die. Adding compost or other organic matter can improve soil texture and fertility.
As its name suggests, watercress needs much water to thrive. It can be grown in a container filled with water, a stream, or a pond.
The water should be cool, clean, and free of pollutants or chemicals. If using a container, change the water every few days to prevent stagnation and algae growth.
Watercress doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer, but adding some can improve its growth and flavor. A slow-release fertilizer can be added to the soil or water to provide nutrients over time.
However, be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive leaf growth and a decrease in flavor.
Watercress can be harvested in as little as 4-6 weeks after planting. It’s a fast-growing plant that can produce several crops in a season if the water and temperature conditions are right.
Once the plant reaches a height of 3-4 inches, it’s ready to be harvested.
To harvest watercress, use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the leaves and stems at the base of the plant. You can harvest the entire plant or just the leaves as needed.
Watercress can be used in salads, sandwiches, soups, or garnish. Make sure to wash the leaves thoroughly before eating to remove any dirt or debris.
How to store watercress once harvested
Watercress is a delicate leafy green that should be stored properly to maintain freshness and flavor. Here are some tips:
- Clean the watercress: Before storing, rinse the watercress thoroughly in cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Shake off any excess water and pat dry with a clean towel or paper towel.
- Wrap in a damp paper towel: Wrap the watercress in a damp or kitchen towel. This will help keep the watercress hydrated and prevent it from wilting. Avoid using plastic bags as they can trap moisture and cause the watercress to rot.
- Store in the fridge: Place the wrapped watercress in a plastic bag and store it in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator. The cool temperature will help slow the deterioration process and keep the watercress fresh for a few days.
- Use as soon as possible: Watercress is best consumed within a few days of harvesting as it tends to wilt and lose flavor quickly. If you cannot use it immediately, you can blanch it in boiling water for a few seconds, drain it, and freeze it for later use.
Following these simple steps, you can store your freshly harvested watercress and enjoy its crisp, peppery flavor for several days.
Disease and pest control of watercress
Like all plants, watercress is susceptible to various diseases and pests that can damage or kill the plant if left untreated. Here are some common diseases and problems that affect watercress and how to control them:
- Damping off: Damping off is a fungal disease that can cause young watercress plants to wilt and die. To prevent damping off, avoid overwatering the plants and keep the soil well-draining. You can also treat the soil with a fungicide before planting.
- Downy mildew: Downy mildew is a fungal disease that can cause yellowing and curling of the leaves. To control downy mildew, remove infected plants and treat them with a fungicide. Avoid overhead watering and keep the plants well-ventilated.
- Root rot: Root rot is a bacterial disease that can cause the roots of watercress plants to rot and die. To prevent root rot, avoid overwatering the plants and ensure good drainage. You can also treat the soil with a bacterial fungicide before planting.
- Aphids: Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that can feed on the leaves and stems of watercress, causing stunted growth and yellowing of the leaves. To control aphids, wash the plants with a strong stream of water to dislodge the insects. You can also use insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat the plants.
- Flea beetles: Flea beetles are small, black beetles that can feed on the leaves of the watercress, causing small holes and yellowing. To control flea beetles, use insecticidal soap or neem oil, or cover the plants with floating row covers.
- Slugs and snails: Slugs and snails can feed on the leaves and stems of the watercress, leaving large holes and slime trails. To control slugs and snails, use bait traps or copper tape around the plants to prevent them from crawling over. You can also handpick them and dispose of them.
By taking preventive measures and treating diseases and pests promptly, you can keep your watercress plants healthy and productive.
Common questions and answers on growing watercress
Here are some common questions and answers on growing watercress:
Can watercress be grown in containers? Yes, watercress can be grown in containers with a depth of at least 6 inches and a diameter of 12 inches or more. Ensure the container has drainage holes filled with a rich, loamy soil mix.
How often should I water my watercress plants? Watercress must be kept consistently moist, so water the plants deeply whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot.
How often should I fertilize my watercress plants? Watercress is a heavy feeder and requires frequent fertilization. Apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks during the growing season.
How long does it take to grow watercress? Watercress can be harvested in as little as four weeks after planting, but it can take up to eight weeks to reach maturity. Continuous harvesting can extend the growing season.
Can watercress be grown year-round? Watercress can be grown year-round in a greenhouse or indoors with the right growing conditions. However, it may not grow as well during the hot summer months.