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