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How to grow watercress

Watercress getting harvested

Watercress is an easy and cost-effective crop to grow at home
Image: Fecundap stock/Shutterstock

The peppery leaves of watercress can be expensive to buy at the supermarket, but you can easily grow your own fresh leaves at home at a fraction of the cost. Contrary to what you might have heard, you don't need a stream running through your garden to grow watercress. You don't even need a garden - a large pot and a shady spot is all you'll need for regular harvests of these vitamin-rich leaves throughout the summer.

Where to grow watercress

Watercress in a coconut coir pot

Grow watercress in pots of soil in the garden
Image: eyepark/Shutterstock

Growing watercress in containers is a safer option than growing it in water - commercial growers know how to keep the water fresh and bacteria-free, but this is much harder to do in a garden situation. 

As long as your watercress plants are kept well watered they’ll thrive in a pot of good quality compost. To provide the right growing conditions for watercress, simply stand your pots in deep trays or dishes that are kept topped up with water. To prevent any stagnation, make sure to flush the pots heavily twice a week with fresh water. Mixing charcoal with the compost will also help to keep things fresh.

How to grow watercress from seed

Watercress seeds from Thompson & Morgan

Watercress is easy to grow from seed
Image: Watercress seed from T&M

Don't go chasing around looking for watercress plug plants - growing watercress from seed requires no special skills or equipment. Simply sow the seed directly into containers during March and April, or as soon as the average daily temperatures reach 8-15°C. Germination should occur within 14 days. 

There’s no need to cover your seeds. Just sprinkle them over the surface of moist compost and they will sprout happily. Sow regularly through spring and early summer for a constant supply of fresh leaves.

How to grow micro watercress 

Microgreens including watercress on windowsill

Microgreens, including watercress, can be grown on a windowsill
Image: ronstik/Shutterstock

If you want to grow watercress seed as a microgreen on your windowsill, simply sprinkle seeds over the surface of pre-saturated soil in small seed trays. Once growth is underway, keep the trays on saucers of water and harvest your watercress microgreens with sharp scissors when the plants are about 5cm (2") high.

Top tip: If you have a surplus of fresh leaves through summer, don't let them go to waste. Rabbits and guinea pigs eat watercress and will enjoy this tasty treat whenever you have some to spare. Pet birds may also appreciate the fresh leaves too.

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