Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is an aquatic plant that thrives with its roots in water and its leaves in the sun. It is grown as a food crop for its peppery leaves, which are used in salads and soups. The BBC website reports that a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating watercress reduced DNA damage in white blood cells and may even reduce the risk of cancer.
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The ideal location for growing watercress is a gently-sloping bed on the inside bend of a stream, but watercress can also be grown in a purpose dug bed or container. Prepare a bed by lining a 6-inch deep basin with waterproof polythene sheeting. Watercress can also be grown in an existing water feature.
Watercress will grow as a perennial plant in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Map Zones 5 and above.
Watercress plants grow fastest in bright light and will grow in full sun provided they are not allowed to dry out.
Plant stream-grown watercress in water about an inch deep. Container or bed-grown plants need water about 2 inches above the soil line. Keep watercress pots on a dish of water to maintain the water level, but change the water regularly.
Use standard potting compost mixed with perlite for bed and container plants. For beds a 2-inch layer of compost is sufficient.
Stream-grown watercress obtains its nutrients from naturally occurring minerals in the water. Container or bed-grown plants can be fertilised with 1 cup of standard gardening fertiliser per 25 feet of soil surface. Fertilise after harvesting the crop.
Sow watercress seeds thinly in very moist compost at a depth of 1/4 inch. Once the seeds germinate, after five days, raise the water level gradually until it is 2 inches above the soil line. Watercress can also be grown from stem cuttings laid on top of the compost with 6 inches between plants.
Harvest watercress once the plants are 12 to 15 inches above the water's surface. Cut off the stems 4 inches above the water line to allow side shoots to grow and produce the next crop.
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- Utah State Unuversity Cooperative Extension: Watercress In The Garden
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Watercress --- Nasturtium officinale
- United States Department of Agriculture: Crop Profile for Watercress in Hawaii
- BBC: Watercress May Cut Cancer Risk
- Michigan State University Plant Encyclopedia: Nasturtium Officinale