Watercress is a highly underrated salad crop, rarely seen in the supermarkets, and yet is considered by many to be a super-food! In ancient Greece watercress was so venerated that the physician and father of modern medicine, Hippocrates (460 – c. 370 BC) is said to have deliberately located his first hospital beside a stream so that he could grow a plentiful supply of watercress to help treat his patients!

With the aid of modern technology we know that watercress is packed fill of nutrients and vitamins A and C, and contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, iodine, and folic acid. While eating fresh watercress is undoubtedly good for you just be aware that if you collect watercress that has been growing in the presence of manure it can be infected with parasites such as the liver fluke - nasty!

Of course to ensure a healthy crop of watercress you can grow your own from seed. In fact while commercially grow watercress is usually grown submerged in a constant supply for fresh, water it can also be grown in any ordinary garden soil so long as it is given plenty of water. You can even grow it in a container stood in a saucer of water.

Direct sow watercress seeds in mid-spring, which is usually around April in Europe when the soil has warmed up. First create some very shallow drills with a 3 inch spacing between each drill. Sow the seed sparingly and then give a light covering of soil. Water regularly, but it cost is an issue then consider creating your drills at the bottom of a small trench. It won't need to be any deeper than 4 inches for this purpose.

Once the emerged seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 4 inches apart. Water regularly throughout the season, there is no need to worry about the rots becoming waterlogged, just make sure that the soil does not dry out over the growing season otherwise you will lose your crop.

Keep the drills weed free as this will competed with the watercress and reduce your crop.

When growing watercress seeds in containers use a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No 2' and start off with pots or tubs approximately 12 inches in diameter. Plant the seeds just below the surface of the compost at a rate of 3-4 seeds per pot. Stand the container in a deep saucer which can hold approximately 2-3 inches of water, and place outside in a shady position. Keep the water levels constantly topped up.

You can begin to harvest watercress once the plants have become well developed. All you need to do is trim off the tops of the shoots with a pair of sharp, sterilized scissors. Don't cut back too far as you will need to allow the stems to produce new side-shoots for your next harvest.

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