How to Grow Winter Cress

Growing Winter Cress is enjoyable for gardeners interested in an edible, low-maintenance plant.

How to Grow Winter Cress
Growing Winter Cress - Photo by Jay Sturner CC BY 2.0

Known for its hardiness and ability to thrive in various soil types, Winter Cress is perfect for those who want to try to grow something new.

To begin growing Winter Cress, choose an area with full sun and moist soil, whether sandy or loamy.

Though this plant has naturalized in certain regions where foraging is a valid option, cultivating your own can provide you with a steady supply of this versatile, nutritious green.

About Winter Cress

Winter cress (Barbarea vulgaris), also known as yellow rocket, is a biennial herbaceous plant belonging to the mustard family.

It is native to Eurasia and has been introduced to North America, where it is commonly found in the New England states.

Types of cress include land cress, watercress, upland cress, and garden cress (Lepidium sativum).

This plant produces yellow flowers and has leaves similar to kale and spinach in appearance.

It thrives in moist soil, near rivers and creeks, and grows well in sandy or loamy soils in full sun.

Winter cress is an edible herb with a sharp, tangy mustard-like flavor, making it a popular choice for salads and garnishes; it is also known for its nutritious content and can be foraged year-round, with spring and summer being the best seasons to harvest the tender leaves.

Growing Winter Cress

To grow winter cress, select a spot in your garden with full sun and fertile soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8.

Enrich the soil with compost and organic matter, ensuring it is well-draining but consistently moist.

In early spring or fall, sow the seeds in rows, planting them about 1/4-inch deep and about 10 inches apart, covering lightly with soil.

Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate, and within a week or two, you should see sprouts emerging.

If you're considering container growing, choose a container that provides adequate space for the winter cress roots.

Ensure it has sufficient drainage holes to prevent waterlogged soil.

Succession sowing is recommended for a continuous supply of winter cress; plant a new set of seeds approximately every two weeks.

In colder growing zones, you may want to add a layer of mulch around the base of the plants to protect them during frosty weather.

Remember to keep the soil moist and provide ample sunlight for the best results in growing winter cress.

Caring For Winter Cress
Caring For Winter Cress - Photo Wolfmann CC BY-SA 4.0

Caring For Winter Cress

Sun and Temperature

Winter Cress thrives in full sun, but if you live in a hot climate, plant it in partial shade for protection during the day's heat.

The ideal growing temperature for this plant is around 65°F (18°C).

Water and Humidity

Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.

Finding the right watering balance without causing root rot is crucial, so be sure not to over-water the plant.

Soil

Winter Cress grows best in fertile soil rich in organic matter. The optimal pH level for this plant ranges from 6.0 to 7.0.

You can improve your soil by adding compost or other organic matter to enhance fertility.

Fertilizer

Use an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer following the package instructions for your Winter Cress plant.

Fertilize periodically to ensure the plant gets the nutrients it needs throughout its growth.

Repotting

If you're growing Winter Cress in a container, ensure the pot has adequate drainage to prevent root rot.

If it outgrows its current container, you may need to repot your plant, choosing a larger one to provide more space for the roots to develop.

Pruning and Propagation

Prune Winter Cress by removing old or yellowing leaves to encourage healthy growth.

For continuous harvesting, employ the cut-and-come-again method, which involves cutting a few leaves at a time and allowing the plant to regrow.

To prevent bolting, pinch off any flower stems as they emerge.

Troubleshooting Plant Problems

Growing Problems

Wintercress can experience issues like bolting or struggling in containers.

To prevent bolting, ensure consistent watering and consider succession sowing for a continuous harvest.

Choose a large pot with adequate drainage for container growing, and keep the soil consistently moist.

Pests and Diseases

Some pests and diseases, such as flea beetles, may affect your winter cress.

To protect your plants, use floating row covers or apply diatomaceous earth around the plants.

Regularly check for pests and diseases, remove affected leaves, and maintain proper spacing to prevent the spread.

Companion Planting

Companion planting can help deter pests and diseases as well as improve growth. Good companion plants for wintercress include lettuce and radish.

However, avoid planting winter cress near beans or peas, as they may compete for nutrients and potentially attract pests.

Conclusion

Growing winter cress in your kitchen garden is an excellent way to introduce a nutritious and versatile green into your diet.

As a microgreen, it makes a delightful addition to sandwiches, salads, and garnishes, providing a slight mustard-like taste and a fresh, crunchy texture.

Choose a location with light, moist soil rich in organic matter to grow your winter cress.

Regularly sow small patches every couple of weeks to maintain a steady supply of this delightful green throughout the season.

With just a little effort, you'll enjoy the benefits of home-grown winter cress as a fresh, easy-to-grow superfood in your kitchen garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I plant winter cress seeds?

Choose a location with moist, rich soil and light shade to plant winter cress seeds.

Broadcast the seeds over the area and gently press them into the soil. You don't need to worry about thinning, as winter cress grows well in dense stands.

What are the ideal growing conditions for winter cress?

Winter cress thrives in moist, organic-rich soil and can tolerate light shade. It is not highly particular about soil pH and can grow under various conditions.

Winter cress can also grow in slightly damp soils and often be found between taller crops, benefiting from their shade.

How do I care for winter cress plants throughout the season?

Water winter cress regularly to maintain soil moisture. Add compost or organic matter around the plants to maintain soil fertility and enhance their growth.

Prune any dead or damaged leaves to keep the plants healthy and attractive.

When is the best time to harvest winter cress?

The best time to harvest winter cress is in the spring when the leaves are tender and flavorful. Use a pair of scissors to cut the leaves close to the base.

Harvesting the leaves before the plant matures will ensure a continuous supply of flavorful greens.

Is winter cress suitable for container gardening?

Yes, winter cress is suitable for container gardening. Choose a container with good drainage and fill it with a high-quality potting mix rich in organic matter.

Place the container in a location with partial shade to ensure proper growth.

What are common pests and diseases affecting winter cress?

Winter cress is relatively low-maintenance and not highly susceptible to pests or diseases. However, it can occasionally be affected by aphids, slugs, and snails.

Keep an eye on your plants for any signs of infestation and employ natural or organic methods to manage these pests if they occur.