sowing-indoors

Watercress and garden cress have two things in common: a spicy, tingling flavor and their last names. Otherwise, these two salad garnishes are very different. 

Watercress, a perennial, needs soaking wet soil. The best place to grow it is along the bank of an un unpolluted stream. Practically speaking, you can grow watercress in a pot of sandy soil set in a basin of water. (Change the water weekly to keep it fresh.) Some gardeners also grow watercress in a coldframe or trench that’s kept constantly wet under a dripping hose or spigot. 

Start watercress from seeds. Sow the tiny seeds thickly, then thin out and transplant the seedlings when they are a few inches tall. You can also root sprigs of watercress in a glass of water. 

Annual garden cress - also called curly cress and pepper grass - is a sprinter. You can sow its seeds indoors and harvest a crop in 10 to 14 days, or make repeated sowings outdoors to harvest every 2 to 3 weeks. 

Sunset Vegetable Gardening © 1987

Brassica oleracea acephala
(Flowering Kale) H.
Brassica oleracea capitata
(Ornamental Cabbage) H.

Uses: Bedding, carpet and pattern beds, pot plant, specimen.
Color: Foliage is composed of thick, blue-green leaves with centers of white, pink, red, magenta, or purple.
Height: 10 to 15 inches.
How to Start: Sow indoors 6 to 8 weeks before setting out in February or March for spring display, or June and July for fall and winter effect. Ornamental cabbage seed should be sown and chilled in refrigerator for 3 days, then kept at 65°-70° until germination takes place. Light is required, so don’t cover seeds. Flowering kale seed requires neither chilling nor light to germinate. After germination, both should be grown at 60° for 3 to 4 weeks, then hardened off for a week before being placed outside. 
Where to Plant: Moist, well-drained soil and full sun. Flowering kale performs better and more colorfully if grown int he cooler temperatures of fall. 
Spacing: 15 to 20 inches.
Care: Easy. Keep soil evenly moist
Native to: Eurasia

Flowering kale and ornamental cabbage fit the “horticultural oddity” category, and seldom fail to elicit the most interested conversation. Although often touted as “ornamental edibles,” the leaves of ornamental cabbage are tough and bitter enough to defy any tastes. Flowering kale reputedly is edible, but hardly more palatable. And both usually shock the curious cook when their leaves turn deadly gray in boiling water. It’s best to keep these plants in the garden.

As cabbage and kale have a tendency to bolt in hot weather, producing inconspicuous flowers at the expense of their colorful foliage, they are regarded as temporary, cool season annuals. They withstand a few degrees of frost before injury occurs, and in mid-winter regions often remain attractive from fall until spring. Winter crops are spared the cabbage worm, a warm-weather pest. 

They are best as fall crops, when their colors have time to develop fully. Crops for late spring color must be started very early indoors to get large plants for setting in the garden in early spring. 

Considered a favorite for pattern bedding (floral clocks, spelling out the school name, and the like), cabbage and kale also make fine, colorful bedding and edging plants. If nothing else, grow a few in pots for the patio. Your neighbors may be amazed. 

All About Annuals © 1981