How to grow watercress in Australia

How to grow watercress in Australia

Watercress (nasturtium officinale) also known as garden cress and broadleaf cress is an evergreen perennial which grows naturally along banks of creeks in the cooler parts of Australia.  This water vegetable is part of the Brassicaceae family (mustard, radish and wasabi) and makes a great garnish and addition to salads, I also like to make a watercress chimichurri with it. For some reason, watercress plants have the reputation of being difficult to grow which couldn’t be further from the truth. The high content of Calcium, Iron and Vitamins make watercress a super food for your health.

Watercress is a perennial, but it can be easier to grow it like an annual. It loves cool weather, so it’s best planted in autumn and the plants will grow throughout winter in a sunny position in the garden. Watercress can be grown during summer, but it’s important to keep it cool by growing in the shade and you’ll need to water it daily. If you have a pond, or an aquaponics setup you can try growing watercress as a marginal plant.

English expats will often ask does watercress grow in Australia? The answer is yes, but there are much fewer varieties here. If you have ever wondered how to grow watercress in Australia then look no further. A difficult herb to grow there are a few tricks to successfully growing watercress in Australia, but get these right and you will be laughing.

When to plant watercress in Australia:
Wondering when to sow watercress in Australia? Well the answer is any time you want. Watercress is fairly robust can be grown throughout Australia, in order to thrive however, plant it in a position that gets at least a couple of hours of morning sunshine. In general watercress prefers cooler climates.  As the name suggests watercress thrives on water so important to regularly water it no mater the time of year.

Types of watercress in Australia:
There are many different types of watercress around the world. In Australia there is just one main variety of watercress.

  • Watercress – Peppery soft leaf for garnish, salads, soups and smoothies. Plenty of seeds to sow all year round. Related to flowering nasturtiums, which also have edible peppery leaves.

How to grow watercress at home:
Growing watercress from seeds is one of the most common methods. Watercress is easy to start from seed, or you can take some rooted watercress cuttings from a gardening friend and plant them out.  Watercress seeds are easy to find in Australia so this is the method most used. Watercress will do just fine in soil or potting mix that is never allowed to dry out.

  1. Choose a sunny or part shade spot in your garden with well drained soil to plant watercress. Enrich with soil improver and plant fertiliser.
  2. Sow watercress seed direct, planting them in clumps of 2-3 seeds in 20cm interval. Cover watercress seeds lightly with a seed raising mix and water well.
  3. Water watercress regularly. Once watercress seedlings emerge, thin seedlings feed weekly with a liquid plant food.
  4. Harvest watercress by cutting with scissors above ground level – this will also help encourage more leafy growth.

How to grow watercress in a pot:
Growing watercress in a pot is a great option. You can easily move it about and put it in a water bath to keep the soil moist.

  1. Choose a pot at least 300mm wide and deep and position in a sunny or part shade. Fill with quality potting mix.
  2. Sow watercress seed direct, planting them in clumps of 2-3 seeds. Cover lightly with seed raising mix and water well.
  3. Water regularly. Once watercress seedlings emerge, thin seedlings and feed weekly with liquid plant food.
  4. Harvest watercress by cutting with scissors above ground level – this helps encourage more leaf growth.

When to harvest watercress:
From planting to harvest is typically around 3 – 4 weeks. Harvesting watercress is simple, just snip off leaves as required. Sow successive crops every 3-4 weeks for continuous supply. Some chefs believe that the younger leaves have more spice than the older leaves so pick and choose according to your palate.

Storing watercress at home:
The best way to store your watercress once cut into a bunch is in a glass of water, cover loosely with a plastic bag, and store in the fridge. Watercress should last close to a week like this. The best way to enjoy watercress however is fresh so if you can snip it straight off the plant and use it right away, even better.

Watercress care and common problems:
Watercress’ green leaves make it a target for many pests keep an eye out for snails, lady beetles and whiteflies. To keep them under control simply remove the pest by hand and then spray your watercress with a natural insecticide repellent.

You will also want to control any weeds which grow in the area as they will zap the nutrients from the soil.

Submerge the pots in water to keep the soil moist.

Check out our other how to grow in Perth guides:

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