Why Grow Microgreens?
In the gray cold days of winter you can still enjoy fresh organic greens by growing microgreens. These little powerhouses can be grown just about anywhere and any time of year. Microgreens are not sprouts – they grow in soil and are harvested fresh while still small.
All you need to grow microgreens is a source of light and a tray with sterilized seed starting mix. And, of course, seeds. For instance, basil, carrots, spinach, radishes, lettuce, swiss chard, and any other edible greens all are delectable microgreens.
Why grow microgreens rather than sprouting? It’s because these tiny plants are packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. They are some of the most nutritious super foods, and many are ready to harvest a mere two to three weeks after sowing the seeds.
Directions for growing microgreens will vary, depending on the variety of seeds. Use only seeds that are labeled as “seeds for sprouting”. At the end of this article, you’ll find a list of plants that are often used for growing as mini greens. Follow the planting instructions on the seed package. Some seeds prefer to be sown on the surface of the soil, while others need to be covered. Note the germination time on the package, and if you plan to mix them, choose ones with similar germination times.
How to Grow Microgreens
Ready to get started?
- Select a shallow container. It could be a germination tray, recycled plastic containers from salad mixes, or even a home made seeding flat. Just make sure it has drainage in the bottom.
- Sterilize the equipment you plan to use by washing it in hot soapy water, rinsing it with vinegar, and re-rinsing it with hot water. Drain well.
- Spread 2 to 3 inches of sterilized soil in the container. Alternatively, you can use hemp or coir fibre mats. Microgreens are harvested when small, so you don’t need room for much root growth. The soil should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Keep a sprayer handy so the soil doesn’t dry out.
- Rinse large seeds (peas, beans, sunflower) well before starting, and drain in a colander.
- Sow the seeds quite densely and mist the surface area.
- Caution: Microgreens require proper air ventilation or mold may occur. Place a clear plastic cover to retain soil moisture, but keep it above the tray, not fitted onto it. Many germination trays come with one, or you can improvise.
- You can place this onto a seedling warmer to speed up germination. The temperature at soil level should be above 60˚F. Once the seeds have sprouted, lift your tray from the warmer (providing you’ve used one) . Remove any cover you may have used.
- Ensure your new sprouts have sufficient light to grow – use a full spectrum grow light if your natural light is not sufficient.
- If the plants look spindly, they need more light or man need increased humidity. Increase the humidity by spritzing them lightly three times daily.
If you’re planting indoors, you will need bright supplemental light. You can find several grow light systems on Amazon. My favorite is the Aerogarden Grow Light panel. I like this one because it is small enough to fit on my kitchen counter.
How to Harvest Microgreens
Now comes the best part. Microgreens are ready to eat as soon as the first two true leaves are fully opened and have turned bright green. These first leaves are the richest in nutrients. Either cut them off at soil level with scissors or pull them up, roots and all. Rinse any soil from the roots and eat them, leaves, stems and roots! Let some of your new seedlings grow larger and harvest them as needed.
Follow the same steps in growing microgreens outdoors in flats or trays, with the trays placed in a sunny and protected spot. You will have a continual supply of healthy greens by staggering the planting of several growing trays. Make sure you keep them moist!
What to Grow as Microgreens
The options are almost endless – everything from sunflowers to cress and broccoli can be grown and harvested as microgreens. Microgreens grow quickly and can be grown almost anywhere, so experiment with different types and combinations.
Here’s a list of possibilities:
- Pac Choi and other Asian greens
- Pea shoots
- Sunflower greens
- Swiss chard
Where to Buy Microgreen Seeds
Several seed companies offer mixes of seeds specifically for microgreen growing. Here are a few seed producers to explore online:
- Mumms Sprouting Seeds
Have fun with this and enjoy this healthy and nutritious versatile food!