Monday, 16 April 2012

Landcress lifecycle

My little patch of Landcress has recently come to the end of its life so I thought I should write a few words about this most tolerant of salad vegetables.

Living as I do in Hampshire, the UK's main Watercress-producing area, it's a bit ironic that I should choose to write in praise of its soil-based cousin, but the fact is that Landcress is a lot more tolerant than the aquatic version and much easier to grow. Yes, I know you can grow Watercress in soil, but it much prefers running water. In Hampshire it is grown in huge beds a bit reminiscent of padi-fields, except that they are arranged in such a way that streams run through them, keeping the water moving all the time. Landcress likes moist soil, but it definitely doesn't need running water.

Last April I sowed some Landcress seeds in a plastic seed-tray. When the seedlings emerged, I progressively thinned them out so that I eventually had 12 plants.

I grew them on in the seed-tray for quite a long time - longer than I should have done, really. To be honest, I hadn't thought enough about where they were going to live, and at the time when they were ready for planting out there just wasn't any space left.

It was soon after the picture above was taken that I started cropping the Landcress. It has a pleasantly peppery flavour and you don't need a lot of it - just a few leaves in amongst other salad ingredients. And of course you should pick individual leaves, not the whole plant.

Landcress with Rocket and Lettuce "Romana Rossa"
Much later, at the end of Summer, after a few things had been harvested, a tiny space became available in one of the raised beds, and the Landcress was transplanted. By this time all the roots had become inextricably tangled, so I didn't try to separate the individual plants, I just put the whole mass into the soil in one go. Here it is, between some Celeriac (lower left) and a Cavolo Nero.

Against all the odds, this tiny patch of cress continued to yield a small but steady crop of leaves for the next six months or so.

During the worst of the brief but bitterly cold Winter, I covered the cress with a big cloche.

Which enabled it to survive into the Spring.

A couple of months ago, after all the other plants surrounding it had disappeared (mostly consumed by humans!), the Landcress had to go in order to make room for Broad Beans. Since the little patch of cress was still healthy and productive I hadn't the heart to just tip it into the compost bin, so I "parked" it in an old washing-up bowl.

So here it is, still soldiering on and now running to seed:

Although very small, the flowers are actually very beautiful too.
So there we are, we've come full circle. Next time I grow this plant I think I will give it its own dedicated container so that it doesn't have to live such a nomadic life!


  1. I want to have a go at watercress - I have heard that the water doesn't actually need to be running - is that true? We had watercress growing in our pond that arrived from somewhere. Even though we were 99% sure that it was watercress we didn't dare eat it.

    1. I grow watercress in the ground and it grows well. I keep the ground reasonably moist but not waterlogged and it seems happy with that. It grows well in our winter and is definitely what you would know as watercress.

  2. I have never grown watercress or landcress. Very interesting.

  3. You have a gift, you can make a simple little salad look like the most beautiful thing you could ever eat. Wonderful.

  4. My dad has a very similar plant growing in his veggie patch - its self seeds and has been there for years - I will have to tell him I think its land cress.

  5. I've never grown landcress but I've grown watercress in a container stood in water and it was perfectly happy. It sounds like the landcress is a real doer, something a bit different to perk up a salad.

  6. Interesting story of its lifecycle. You could almost write a children's book!

  7. I grow vegetable but I still avoid eating them raw.

  8. My patch of landcress (bought for a quid in the 'remainder' sale in a garden centre last year) survived the snow and ice without a cloche! I kept just one plant as I need the space this year and it's growing quite happily in a pot at the moment. No rush to find it a new place yet :-)

  9. Nomadic perhaps, but seems you got a good yield from it nonetheless!

  10. Aah ! I found your notes on growing watercress very interesting , since this is what I will be growing next . I did grow it a few years ago...but I wanted to remind myself what to do . Just waiting for the postman to come with my seeds glad you left this on your journal , thankyou ! : )


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