One of the easiest crops to grow, even if you don’t have a garden at all is salad cress. These rapidly growing edible shoots are great in salads, sandwiches and mixed with egg mayonnaise. The best part is you don’t even need to have compost to grow them in as a piece of kitchen roll will work equally well. The crops will be ready to harvest only around 4 to 6 days after planting. The speed these crops mature in makes them ideal for a small home based business (cottage industry), and even a child can grow these to top up their pocket money with very little outlay required.
Before you go rushing out to buy copious amounts of cress seeds it is wise to ensure you have a market for the resulting crops as they will need to be sold as soon as they are ready and will not wait around for you to then find a buyer for them. I suggest visiting the Head Chefs of hotels or restaurants, or the buyers for small shops in your neighbourhood and asking them if they would be interested in purchasing the cress from you. If you are lucky you may well find one very busy restaurant or shop who will happily buy your entire crops on a regular basis. Find out what they are willing to pay for the produce, and keep this in mind when you begin to purchase the trays/punnets, seeds and kitchen roll/compost to begin production.
The next stage is to go on to the Internet and search for a appropriate containers to act as your seed trays/punnets. These will need to be as inexpensive as possible because they will be sold on with your cress still growing in them, and therefore unless your customers are hotels or restaurants who agree to keep the empty trays/punnets for you to collect, you will need to continue buying further containers week by week. The size of the containers will be determined by who your customers are. For small shops you will probably need small (approx 5″ x 4″) plastic punnets to grow the cress in because most families will only need small quantities on any one shopping trip. For restaurants or hotels you will be better off growing full size seed trays of the crop as they will naturally consume far greater amounts when supplying a large number of meals to their guests. I found that a large number of lightweight seed trays can be purchased at very reasonable prices on Ebay (and therefore no doubt on Amazon too, although if you are in the UK I found B&Q even cheaper as they do 8 lightweight seed trays for under £2.00). The punnets I failed to find on Ebay or Amazon, but that could easily change (plus there must be many other suppliers or plastic moulding companies online who sell these containers in bulk). In the end I bought punnets from a local garden centre at £0.90 for ten.
Buying the Cress Seeds
Cress seeds are extraordinarily cheap to buy, and here in the UK they are only about £1.00 a packet even from a garden centre. You can reduce this cost even further by buying them in bulk amounts, and I discovered that Amazon and Ebay again, were doing some excellent deals on “School Size” quantities of around 50g per packet.
What else will you need?
Once you have your seeds trays and your cress seeds, all you need is kitchen roll (or a small amount of compost), old newspaper, cling film (if using seed trays), water, and a bright warm windowsill or table out of direct sunlight to place your seeds trays on.
Let’s get started…..
1) Firstly line your seed trays with cling film to avoid the water draining out of the holes in the base of the trays (if you are using punnets they don’t usually have drainage holes so the cling film lining is unnecessary).
2) Cover this with a double thickness layer of kitchen roll (or alternatively half an inch of compost).
3) Gently pour enough water onto the kitchen roll (or compost) to ensure it is thoroughly dampened, but not saturated.
4) Scatter a fairly thick layer of cress seeds over the surface.
5) Cover tray with newspaper and place in a warm location for about 24 – 48 hours (keep moist using a plant mister).
6) Remove newspaper from seed tray and place on a sunny windowsill. Gently add further water if the kitchen roll or compost is showing any signs of drying out.
7 ) Turn the trays daily if the seedlings show signs of leaning towards the light and keep moist until seedlings are approximately 2″ tall, and then deliver to your buyers immediately. Total growing time is around 4 – 6 days, although it could be as long as 8 days in the cooler months of the year.
(if you intend to eat the crop yourselves then harvest as required using clean kitchen scissors, and rinse the cress in cold water before consuming).
Why this makes a great home based business.
There are obvious advantages to growing cress as a business venture for profit.
1) The crop matures in around a week ensuring a fast return on your small investment.
2) You can grow the crops indoors and do not need to have a garden, yet you can still grow considerable quantities depending on your home.
3) The crop is very inexpensive to grow.
4) The crop is very easy to maintain and will not take up much of your time.
5) The resulting crop is in demand and is healthy and organic.
6) Your children can grow cress to earn extra pocket money.
7) You can grow cress 365 days a year.
You might also want to consider growing mustard seeds the same way. Everything I have described for growing cress applies to mustard too, the only difference is that mustard takes up to 14 days to reach maturity so is best grown in separate trays to your cress seeds.