It's time! January is over. Now is the time to finally rip out the first strip of seed-paper and kick off your 2022 home garden with The Growable Calendar!
Here's what's ahead:
Quick tips at a glance:
Germination temperature: 20-24 °C
Sowing depth: just press down
Germination time: 2-3 days
Planting distance: close
Sow outdoors: March to September
Sowing indoors: all year round
Type: Weak Eater
Root depth: 5 mm
If you are sowing in a bed, be sure to keep a rotational gap of 3 years between cress and other cruciferous plants
So let's get to some of the main points straight away:
Yes, growing cress is so easy, a child could do it.
And yes, a slice of bread can actually hold 1.5 times its weight in cress. (We are a big fan of buttered cress on bread…more on that later though!)
Because the cress seedlings are so easy to grow on a window sill, you can use them all year round as a vitamin-rich bread topping.
Whether you sow your cress in an outdoor garden or in a large pot and want to harvest large leaves or seeds, you should sow them directly from March to October.
So let's get started with your January Jack of All Trades seeds from The Growable Calendar.
Here's what you'll need:
For winter sowing: you need a container with drainage hole and a plate/coaster
For spring/autumn sowing: loose bed for large plants; a flower box, pot or seed tray will also do
Garden soil / potting soil or cotton wool
Shower ball, fine watering can, or other preferred watering device
First, tear your seed paper into pieces with one seed each. You don't have to remove the seeds, as the paper will dissolve in the soil as you water it!
For winter sowing on the windowsill: choose a nice, comfy container to serve as the new home for your baby cress. Of course you can also make one yourself – preferably with holes on the underside and a plate or coaster underneath, so the water does not leak everywhere. Fill the container with potting soil, or simply with some cotton wool to control the moisture. You can place the paper shreds on top of the soil, seed-side down and close together. Water it generously, and place the pot on your window sill.
As your seedlings grow, you can harvest them after about a week. In this case, you now have all the information you need to know to grow a nice, large, cosy family of cress!
Pro-Tip: If you have a cress strainer, put the scraps of paper directly into it and keep them moist. That way you can eat the whole sprouts including the roots.
For spring sowing: If you not only want to harvest seedlings, but also large leaves or even seeds, the cress has to be sown a little differently and later moved to a large pot or to the garden. To do this, sow the seeds from March in a seed tray filled with potting soil and keep a distance of 2 cm between the seeds. Never let the soil dry out until germination, and be sure to prick and transport the plants into individual pots as soon as the first proper cress leaves have formed.
These little guys can go outside from mid-May onwards. They should have enough space to grow (distance in the bed: 10 cm, pot diameter 12 cm). If the seedlings are a bit long, you can plant them a bit deeper when transplanting.
For direct sowing: From March you can also sow the cress directly. Loosen the soil a bit, and keep a distance of 10 cm between the seeds. For direct sowing in a pot, the distance can also be slightly smaller. The diameter of the seed pot should be at least 12 cm, with a depth of about 15 cm. Never let the soil dry out until germination, but also avoid water-logging. If the seeds have sprouted too close together, you'll need to thin them out a bit to achieve the 4 inch (10 cm) spacing. You can eat the plants as soon as you pluck them!
Winter: a windowsill in a cool room with plenty of light, or in a greenhouse
Spring-autumn: outdoors in a partially-shaded to shaded location. Don't choose a sunny spot on the window sill during summer and autumn months; this could cause the delicate leaves to dry out.
Soil: For larger plants you need humus-rich, loose and well-drained soil.
Good and Bad Neighbours
Good: lettuce, tomato, fenugreek
Bad: cabbage, turnip, radishes, radish, arugula and other cruciferous vegetables
Just a few things to consider as you plan to care for your cress-babies.
Loosen up the bed before sowing and, if you're sowing outdoors, remove any weeds you might find
Water regularly, irrespective of whether you are growing in pots or outdoors. However, be sure to avoid water-logging
No fertilisation necessary
Remove dried plant parts
Diseases and Pests
Cress belongs to the cruciferous plant family. This includes, radishes, cabbage, broccoli and rocket. Although not as susceptible to illness as many other members of the cruciferous family, cress can also be affected by typical cabbage pests such as flea beetles. That said, it's not hard to keep the seedlings on your windowsill safe from those pests. It helps to stretch a tight crop protection net over the young plants.
Best to keep an eye on any fungus gnats in the ground, as those are the bad guys that will really ruin Christmas dinner for your cress family.
Cress tends to grow more slowly during the wintertime, since there generally isn't enough sunlight available for photosynthesis and cell respiration. How would you like to be locked in a cupboard under the stairs with no food and only stuffy air all winter? We didn't think so. Anyway, if you make sure your cress has its basic needs met, you will be able to harvest the first seedlings after about a week.
With fully-grown plants in the garden or on the balcony, it is best to always cut off a whole shoot, including the edible stems.
Storage: Freshly harvested cress does not keep for long. Better to harvest as needed and sow several times a few days apart.
Due to their comparatively mild taste, the garden cress seedlings go particularly well with winter salads, especially with Asian salads such as the Red Giant or with colourful Swiss chard.
With its mustardy essential oils, the cress not only boosts your immune system – particularly helpful in pandemic times – but it adds a little kick to your sauces or egg dishes with its mustard aroma.
You can also use the larger leaves of more mature cress in a fried wok dish. Your cress will add a special type of spiciness to the chili heat. Be sure to only put the leaves in the wok after you've removed the wok from the heat, otherwise the valuable vitamin C will be lost.
For a delicious cress-infused egg salad, you need:
5 hard-boiled eggs
2 tbsp mustard
Depending on taste 2 tablespoons mayonnaise or cream cheese
a dash of vinegar
a dash of oil
salt, pepper and sugar
Cut the hard-boiled eggs into small pieces, mix the remaining ingredients with a whisk, pour over the eggs and season to taste. Scatter the cress sprouts on top and watch as your egg salad becomes a flavourful spread – and with a supercharge of vitamins as well!
So let's talk about it! What do YOU think about cress? Are you a seasoned gardener, or a fresh-faced beginner! Let us know in the comments below how you find your experience growing this first Jack of All Trades seed as you officially kick off your 2022 gardening with The Growable Calendar!
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