Even if you don’t have a large garden or green fingers, you can still grow some edibles at home. Growing watercress is easy – all you need is a few pots or containers, light and some water.
High in fibre and vitamin C, it’s a great ingredient for salads, sandwiches, soups and garnishes many dishes prettily. Watercress is also a rapid grower and will thrive inside or out.
Growing watercress from roots
You’ll usually find a better root network on a watercress plant from a farm shop rather than a supermarket and this is also a nice way to support your local economy. If that’s not an option, even bagged watercress from the supermarket can be rooted in a jar of water within a week.
Select a couple of stems with a good root network – the more roots that are established, the quicker it will grow. Choose a container with lots of drainage holes – plastic is best as it retains more moisture than terracotta. You can add some gravel and some extra holes to the bottom of the container to improve drainage if you like.
Fill the pot with a good quality growing compost, leaving a few inches clear at the top so the stems can grow up neatly. Tap the compost in firmly and give it a good drink – watercress likes plenty of moisture.
Make some planting holes in the compost a little larger than your rooted stems then plant them in neatly, firming gently around the base. Leave a good 10cm between stems so the plants can spread. Give the pot another good watering.
Leave in a cool, shady spot and water every day – the compost should always be moist. Within about a month your watercress should be strong and healthy. Crop the leaves regularly to avoid producing flowers, or let the buds grow to generate seed.
Growing watercress from seed
You can of course buy a packet of watercress seeds, but if you already have some established plants you can produce your own seed by allowing them to flower.
Again use pots with good drainage facilities and choose an alkaline compost. Soak the soil and plant the seeds about an inch deep. Place the pots in a container of water so the compost can stay wet, and in a bright spot away from direct sunlight. Change the water in the container every day. Seedlings will emerge after about a week and will be ready for pricking out a couple of weeks later.