How to Grow Microgreens – The Ultimate Guide

In recent days, microgreens are gaining popularity. Microgreens are the younger versions of the fully grown vegetable plants. They are harvested when they are very young, and this gives them unique properties that are different from their fully grown counterparts.

Unlike traditional gardening, growing microgreens do not require a large outdoor area to grow them. You can easily grow enough microgreens for yourself and your family right at home. Even if you live in an apartment, you can still grow microgreens. If you are looking to grow microgreens at home, this is the guide for you.

Microgreens Growing Supplies

  • Seeds
  • Grow Media
  • Microgreens Tray
  • Light Source
  • Water

Optional Supplies

  • Warming Mat
  • Aerator
How to Grow Microgreens
How to Grow Microgreens

How to Grow Microgreens

Buy Microgreens Seeds

There are many different types of microgreens. You can grow microgreens from almost all vegetables. Different microgreens can be used for different purposes. Most commonly, microgreens are grown as a fresh source of nutrition dense food. They are cultivated for their high vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content. Others are grown for their unique aroma and taste that it provides. This explains why many chefs have incorporated microgreens in some of their best dishes. In Japanese cuisine, kaiware-daikon is very popular. These are Daikon radish microgreens which are used in a wide variety of dishes for their spicy flavor. They are great for garnishing dishes as well.

Since microgreens can be grown in a small space, it is very easy to grow multiple varieties. Even from home, many people can grow multiple microgreen varieties simultaneously. Some popular microgreens varieties that are easy to grow are arugula, broccoli, buckwheat, cabbage, cauliflower, chia, and kale.

Seeds for microgreens should be of high quality. The seeds should not be treated with any harmful chemicals. Keep in mind that when you are consuming microgreens, the seed to plant volume is much higher. In addition, since the plant is smaller, it will be in close proximity to the seed. Lastly, you will be consuming the microgreens in a matter of weeks, if not days. In contrast, it would take months for a vegetable to reach harvest.

Once the seeds are purchased, it important to store the seeds properly in order to maintain the quality of the seeds. Until the seeds are used immediately for planting, they should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. Keep the package sealed tight as well. Some seeds store better than others, but the viability of all seeds will decline with eventually. While it may be tempting to purchase seeds in bulk, in order to get the best germination percentage, it is best to purchase only enough seeds that you will be using in the next year or two.

Choose Your Microgreens Growing Medium

There are many different ways to grow microgreens. However, they can be categorized into two major methods of which are microgreens grown in soil and microgreens grown hydroponically. Which growing method should you choose?

The best growing method will vary depending on the type of microgreens you wish to grow, the equipment you have, and the amount of experience you have.

Most types of microgreens will grow in both soil based and hydroponic settings. However, there are certain varieties of plants do better in one over the other. For example, some microgreens such as kale may grow hydroponically without an issue. However, other microgreens such as buckwheat, peas, sunflower, cilantro, beets, and lentils may perform better in soil. These are considered dirt crops.

Consider how you are going to source your grow media. For most people, soil is readily accessible. Even organic soil, can be purchased at many local garden centers. Therefore, it may be easier to start and maintain a soil based grow system. On the other hand, growing hydroponically involves a growing pad or sponge. It is important to find a good source of growing pads because this will be a recurring cost after every batch of microgreens that you cultivate. While the growing pads may be more expensive than soil, there are advantages. The most significant advantage is that it’s easier to get a clean harvest when they are grown without soil. With a grow pad, it would be easier to harvest closer to the base of the plant without disturbing the soil media below.

If you are an experienced grower, you may have no issues growing microgreens in soil or growing hydroponically. However, beginner growers may find higher rates of success when growing in soil. While there are exceptions, maintaining proper humidity is generally accomplished easier on a soil media than a synthetic grow pad. Hydroponic grow system are prone to getting too wet, which can cause various issues without incorporating proper air circulation.

It’s worth mentioning that some growers choose to use a soil-less grow media. These growers typically make a blended media consisting of a coco coir, vermiculite, and/or perlite. These grow media enable growers to have a cleaner harvest than a typical soil media, lower the cost, and maintain a proper humidity levels. This is a nice compromise between a traditional soil media and a hydroponics system.

Every environment has different variables, and the outcome can vary widely. The best way to identify the best growing method is to try it. Once you have chosen a growing method try, it’s time for you to dive right in and give it a try!

Grab Your Microgreens Tray

You will need a tray to grow your microgreens. It does not have to anything fancy. You simply need something to hold the water and soil.

Plastic food containers are actually great for microgreens. Holes can be drilled on the base of the food container for drainage. The lid portion can be placed below the container to hold the water.

Glass jars and other tall containers will also grow microgreens. However, draining water when needed may be a challenge. In addition, it is easier to harvest from a shallow container. In a tall container, you will be forced to use the knife or scissor in an awkward position that is vertical to the plant. In a shallow container, you would be able to cut closer to the base of the plant more easily. This will also allow you to harvest only what you need, rather than uprooting the entire content of the container.

If you intend to grow a lot of microgreens, it is worth investing in durable 1020 trays (10” x 20”) that will last multiple harvests. For efficiency and maximum yield, shallow rectangular trays are commonly used by commercial growers.

Prepare the Seeds

Before you start sowing your seeds, prepare the seeds for sowing. Not all, but there are certain microgreens that should be soaked for prior to sowing. The general rule of thumb is that larger seeds such as sunflower and peas should be soaked. Generally, smaller seeds such as arugula and broccoli do not have to be soaked. Since most seeds will be soaked for 12-24 hours, you can soak them overnight and drain the seeds in the morning.

Cold water should be used to soak the seeds. In warmer weather, keep the soaked seeds in a refrigerator.

The water pH should be in a range of 5.5-6. If the pH is out of this range, it should be adjusted.

Sowing the Seeds

Once you have your materials and seeds ready, it is time for sowing.

  1. Start by filling the tray with a shallow layer of soil. All you need is 1-2 inches of soil. Since you are only growing the microgreens in the container for only a couple weeks, there isn’t too much soil required. This is the same reason why fertilizers will not be required to grow microgreens.
  2. Apply light pressure on the soil without compacting it.
  3. Water the soil and let it drain.
  4. Spread the seeds evenly on the soil. This step is important to get a good result during harvest. If seeds are sown too thin, the microgreens will fall over because it will not have the neighboring plants to support it. If the seeds are sown too thick or clumped together, it will be a cause of mold.
  5. Gently water or mist over the seeds.
  6. Place a cover over the seeds place it in a dark place that is not too hot or too cold. 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is idea.
  7. Maintain soil moisture. Most prepared soil are designed to hold the moisture. Therefore, it will not dry out very quickly. However, if synthetic grow mats are used, the seeds may need more frequent monitoring. If the grow media is starting to dry, give it a few mists.
  8. Once the cotyledons, the baby leaves, of the plants start to appear, give it one more day. After one day, uncover the tray.

Lighting for Microgreens

Once the seeds sprout, give it some light. Lighting is important for microgreens, because it will directly affect its growth. Without lighting, microgreens be unable to photosynthesize and they will look pale and weak.

Sunlight is free, and therefore the cheapest way to grow microgreens. It already has the full spectrum that the plants need to grow. However, sunlight can be too strong for delicate microgreens, so keep it out of direct sunlight.

Incandescent light has a wider light spectrum, but they are not very efficient. Keep in mind that you will need to keep the light on for a very long time. The incandescent light bulbs are not expensive, but you may end up paying for the difference in the electricity bill. The incandescent light bulbs are cheap, but they do not last very long either.

Florescent lights are the common choice for many microgreens growers. They are more efficient compared to incandescent lights. They require less electricity to run, and the fluorescent lights last longer as well. T5 (0.6”) and T8 (1”) florescent lights are popular choices among indoor growers.

LED lights can be more expensive than the other options. However, the advantage is that LED lights more efficient and last longer than the other options as well. Full spectrum LED grow lights are available as well.

Once the lights are installed, give it anywhere between 10-16 hours of light. Setting up the lights on an automatic timer will make this very easy.

The light should be placed approximately 10 inches away from the plants. However, the optimal distance will vary depending on the strength, intensity, and the duration of exposure. Therefore, it is good to have a setup that will allow you to adjust the height of the light fixture as needed.

Watering Microgreens

Microgreens should be watered regularly. The soil should not be allowed to completely dry out. However, if it gets too wet, it can mold and/or rot.

The best practice is to monitor the plants frequently and regularly. Most growers do not spray water over the plants. Instead, they will water directly into the soil, or add water to the water tray underneath. This will allow efficient delivery of water directly to the roots, and decrease the chance of molding.

Harvesting Microgreens

Once the first set of true leaves start to develop, the microgreens can be harvested. Most microgreens will reach this stage and will be ready to harvest in 1-3 weeks. Depending on the type of microgreens that you are growing, and the environment that they were grown in, the time it takes to harvest can vary.

Harvesting the microgreens is quite easy. Simply grab a sharp knife or a pair of scissors and cut off the stems above the soil.

You can harvest the entire tray, and store it in a refrigerator for up to a week. Wet microgreens will not store very well. Therefore, if you wish to wash your microgreens, it may be better to wash it before each use, rather than washing the entire batch before storing them.

You can also harvest what you need and leave the rest growing on the tray for a later harvest. This way, you can enjoy a fresh harvest each time. Some microgreens keep growing after a harvest, which may allow you to harvest a second time as well.

Microgreens can be grown quite easily, almost anywhere. Try it, and you will be rewarded with a healthy crunchy plant. So what are you waiting for, get the material and start sowing!

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