Watercress (revised Oct.2007)

If you've found the information on the seed packet to be sadly lacking, this is the place to find out more, or add your comments!

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Allan
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Watercress (revised Oct.2007)

Postby Allan » Sun Dec 10, 2006 4:36 am

Here is an extract fom Sutton's Seeds online re. watercress which illustrates very well the need for 'Technical Data'
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A delightful salad plant either by itself or tossed with other salad ingredients and delicious with cheese sandwiches or with a cheese dip - it even makes superb cold soups. The dark green peppery flavoured leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and iron. Although usually grown commercially in water it can be grown in the garden soil provided it is given plenty of water and will crop from early summer till around Christmas if protected with cloches etc. You can also grow it in a container stood in a saucer of water.

Sowing Instructions
Sow in mid spring when the soil has warmed up in very shallow drills spread 7.5cm (3in) apart, and cover with a light covering of soil. As regular watering is necessary you may wish to have your drill at the bottom of a small trench approximately 8-10cm (3-4in) deep for easier watering.

To grow in a container, plant 3-4 to a 30cm (12in) tub or pot and stand in a container with about 2-3in of water, in the shade. Keep the water constantly topped up to this level.


You may ask what's wrong with that. Here is my answer
1. If you sow in spring it will grow but by July it will all go to seed as programmed into the plant
2. With the abundance of summer vegetables you don't really need to grow watercress for the summer.
3. On the other hand watercress can be available under cover for most of the winter when its high vitamin and mineral content is invaluable in maintaining health through the difficult winter days.

Subject: Grow your own watercress
First posted 30/11/02
Edited Jan. 2007

One of the most nutritious salad crops is watercress. It has been eaten
for many centuries by man, originally from natural crops but it became
convenient to manage the crop in prepared beds. There is a hazard in that
if there is drainage into the water source from stagnant water it is
possible to get infection from the liver fluke
However it is not difficult to get good results from beds in soil or other
growing medium provided that you never let it get too dry, and under such
a regime there can be no possibility of liver fluke infection.
Seed can be obtained from many seedsmen or you can save your own seed, it will keep for several years.and in August or September it is
sown shallowly on seed compost then lightly stirred into the surface.As the seeds are tiny take care not to sow too thickly. As soon as the seedlings are big enough to handle easily
single plants are selected or potted up and grown on. A similar result can be obtained
from sprigs of bought watercress potted up, it is not necessary to pre-root these in water.
This gives quicker results than from seed.
Once the watercress is established it is useful to start the next batch of plants.Three beds about a month apart can thus be established.
When the plants are big enough plant out in rows at about 9 inches to a foot apart with enough space between rows to permit access when the plants
are spreading. something like 2 ft. apart. It is also possible to plant in containers in which case you will not need the access space. I have used
large polystyrene fishboxes usually obtainable from fishmongers or chippies for the asking. As long as the ground is reasonably fertile further feed is not usually required, a little balanced feed might be
useful.
Gather the shoots as required, preferably selectively or cut across everything
leaving sufficient on the ground to re-grow.You should get 3 or 4 cuttings
before growth gets too small and crowded, but before this point is reached
select some rooted cuttings to establish the next bed so that it is ready
to take over. Better results are given by rooting the cuttings in small pots of multipurpose
compost and kept permanently moist in a waterproof tray.
Eventually in late spring the plants will flower and seed and you can keep a number of plants to yield seed for the next season's sowing.

Question:- will it grow in shade?

Reply:-
I don't see why it shouldn't grow in the shade but like all living plants
that depend on photosynthesis there is going to be a cost to restricting
the light supply in terms of slower growth and it might also affect the
colour. On the other hand the place where I got my starting watercress
from was a stream in a wood and it was doing quite well there. You might
like to experiment with reflective panels covered with aluminium foil to
redirect extra light onto the leaves but don't expect miracles.

Question:-
I have never tried growing watercress as I thought it needed to grow in
running water but I have grown landcress in trays and it looks and tastes
very similar to watercress.
Reply:-
I find land cress relatively tough and it tends to either just sit or go
to seed. You should find watercress easier to manage as long as you follow
the 2 rules of keep it wet enough and keep up sequential plantings.
Last edited by Allan on Tue Oct 16, 2007 8:03 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby John » Sun Dec 10, 2006 7:40 pm

There seems little point in growing this stuff from seed when you can buy a 99p bag in the supermarket or a bundle from the greengrocers to get more than enough tips for rooting up and have loads left over for a w'cress sandwich. You only have to show it some moist compost and it produces masses of tiny roots!

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Postby Allan » Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:09 am

Supermarket stuff i.e. ready-prepared,is only worthwhile if you have none other, it has been managed to remove the very stuff we needed. As to bunches at the greengrocers, there are none in the non-existent greengrocers in Hereford except what we sell. The health food shop used to buy in, too expensive and old when they get it so they rely on what we can supply but we have others wanting ours too!
I now keep stock plants outside, by far the best.
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Postby Allan » Mon Dec 11, 2006 6:34 pm

The reason that it is here is because on the seed packet Which is quoted it gives what I consider false data.
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Land cress

Postby cevenol jardin » Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:53 am

I have not grown watercress - so waiting for Alan's expertise to find out more about it.

I have grown Landcress which tastes very similar.

I agree with Alan that it is daft to aim for a summer crop. Landcress self seeds and is all over the place here. It naturally produces leaves for picking in wet late summers and over autumns and winter and into early spring. Where ever possible i try to follow the natural rythm of the plants.
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Postby Compo » Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:04 pm

Alan I am not clear what you are saying about planting live watercress, I have a successful bed which has two purposes, providing all year round vitamin rich food, and filtering my pond as it grows in a gravel bed pumped out of the pond and then back in again, very effective filter. Are you saying I will get a better product from seed? This stuff came from Waitrose and it is prolific, and very tasty and peppery. I look forward to your view

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Postby peter » Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:17 pm

Allan, you old tease, any chance now that a full month has passed since you told us you would give us your "expertise" that you might actually do so, preferrably before the seeds we bought cease to be viable. :?
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Postby Allan » Sat Jan 13, 2007 4:22 am

The project has started. If you are in a tearing hurry how about you doing a search, ref: Allan AND watercress, you will find everything that I have already said on the subject. The only addition that I would make is that on harvesting technique. Some plants will grow a large main shoot and eventually sideshoots, I am experimenting on how many of these sideshoots to harvest or whether to let them root naturally in the soil for planting new beds for continuity, tests will be going on for at least one season to optimise technique. I am now certain that for much of the time cuttings potted individually and brought along in the greenhouse are the best way to propogate once you have any stock plants.
Regarding those seeds, they keep at least 5 years, no point in sowing before July or they will only go to seed in May and you can always get a bag from a shop for rooting.
On the subject of seed, mostly you are dealing with a plant species in its natural wild state so there isn't any 'best' about it. Cultivars do exist but who's to know where they are except the specialist and it cannot be that vastly different except maybe in yield.
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Postby cevenol jardin » Mon Jan 15, 2007 1:02 pm

Allan
I did the search as you suggested but was not able to kobble together a decent how to about watercress. I don't mind I guess its an issue of expectation and your frequent comments such as
"watch out for a further mailing on this topic" which is what i came across when i did the search.
Also i really don't see the point of quoting mis information surely that does not help anyone.
I'm not criticising you i just found it a bit frustrating that's all.

best CJ
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Postby Allan » Mon Jan 15, 2007 1:53 pm

THe idea that I see in the existence of this technical information section is to correct not only lack of information but also misinformation and I had both of those in mind in my preamble It serves no good to merely repeat what is given in every book and on every fancy seed packet.
The information given by Suttons is generally right, it's just the timing that is silly for the reson that I gave but I had to quote in its entirety to be fair.
If you have searched and got nowhere I am sorry, you will have to wait. This watercress topic pre-dates the current version of this website and I probably have enough already typed somewhere. Meanwhile get some watercress from in the wild or at greengrocers and grow it on for planting under cover, you should get some pickings before it inevitably goes to seed.
I have potted up 30 pots this morning, it took about half an hour, they should be ready to plant in a month. If it does go to seed you will get masses of seed free.
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Postby peat » Tue Jan 16, 2007 7:27 pm

what size pots do you use, Allan? I potted up 32 1.5 litre pots today, are they big enough and how many cuts should I expect off them? and how often to set up new pots?
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Postby Hannabusses » Wed Jan 17, 2007 11:55 am

Quck question. I recently moved into a new house with a spring that looks clean (further than that i dont know). I have masses of water cress that grows in it. So much infact that every month i have to take a wheelbarrow full down to the compost heap. I would like to see it as another crop but im not sure especially after the liver fluke issue suggested at the top of the first post. How can i tell or should i simply not risk using it? Soup?
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Postby Allan » Thu Jan 18, 2007 4:04 pm

Peat, I don't crop any watercress in pots for cropping so cannot advise.

Hannabusses
I cannot vouch for the cleaniness of your spring. Either trace it back to see if there is any source of contamination or approach your local food standards authority for advice, maybe testing. The usual contaminant is stagnant pools with livestock access draining into the spring. As we don't use spring or stream we haven't that to worry about.
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Postby Tigger » Thu Jan 18, 2007 5:51 pm

We have a stream that runs past the house and yields a good crop of watercress. Severn Trent come each year to test the water to make sure no-one upstream is using it as a method of disposal. i assume we make some contribution to the cost of that via our metred water charge, but we certainly don't get a direct bill.
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watercress

Postby GIULIA » Fri May 11, 2007 10:48 pm

I've had good success growing watercress from a greengrocer's bunch,rooted and planted into a tank of limey compost and grit placed under one of the greenhouse roof downspouts. We started it off last September and it kept us well supplied until early spring. It's flowering now - should I give it a haircut and wait for more leaves (ti is a perennial isn't it) or rip it out and start again at the end of this summer? I gather it's not likely to do much through the summer months.
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