As you’ve walked around your local farmer’s market, you may have noticed a broad selection of Microgreens available with the fresh produce.
What are Microgreens?
In case you’re wondering what Microgreens are, they are power- and flavor-packed young versions of your favorite vegetables and herbs. Microgreens are that point in the growing cycle when the plant is about 2” to 3” tall and has 1 to 2 true sets of leaves. Bigger than a sprout, but not quite a seedling.
Microgreens are delicious additions to salads, sandwiches and so much more. They have the same nutritional content as their full-grown versions but in a smaller, more concentrated form. Plus they give a bigger flavor punch. Some of the more popular microgreens include broccoli, spinach, peas, basil, dill, kale, chives and cilantro.
Why grow Microgreens?
Microgreens tend to be sold at the market in large bunches. Since they tend to have a short shelf life once harvested (only about 2 weeks), it may be more practical, economical – and definitely more fun – to grow your own. Plus it’s super easy!
So how do you grow Microgreens?
First, decide what you want to grow. Picking out your seeds is the most fun part because there are so many options. While you can use virtually any garden seed to grow them, you may want to choose a packet that is labeled for “microgreens.” Why? Because there are more seeds in the packet. Most garden seed packets are packaged with the idea you’re going to grow the plants a fair distance apart so you don’t need as many individual seeds. Microgreens are grown close together so you need more seeds.
1 – GATHER YOUR CONTAINERS & SOILLESS MIX
The container you choose doesn’t have to be very deep since you aren’t growing a full-sized plant. It can be a formal growing tray, seed tray or even a clean, foil cake pan. The bigger key is that it has to have some type of drainage. Growing trays and seed trays will usually have drainage holes (although you may have to pop out the plugs). If you are repurposing a container, you will need to add several small drainage holes.
2 – FILL YOUR CONTAINER
Fill the container about 1” deep with a soilless seed starting mix. (A soilless potting mix can work too, in a pinch.) Never use soil straight from the garden. Ideally, you want to pre-moisten the mix before adding the seeds to help with seed-to-mix contact and germination. No need to pack it down tightly.
3 – ADD YOUR SEEDS
Add your seeds, cover with more soil, and water. Scatter the seeds evenly on the soil. Since these will be microgreens rather that full plants, the seeds don’t have to be more than ¼” apart. That means you can be generous with the amount of seeds you use.
4 – COVER YOUR SEEDS
When the seeds are in place, cover them with ¼” of seed mix. (Some people prefer to use vermiculite as their cover layer.) Gently press the top layer down so there is good seed-to-soil contact. Then water so the seeds and soil are moist but not soggy. (Seeds won’t germinate in soggy soil.)
Place the container in a warm, sunny spot, keep the soil moist and watch your microgreens pop through.
5 – NOW WAIT FOR THEM TO GROW
Once the container is planted, it just needs a warm, sunny place for the seeds to germinate and grow. That should be in about 3 to 5 days. To help with germination, you can place it on a heat mat and cover it with a plastic dome. You can also add a grow light if a sunny location isn’t accessible. As soon as the seeds germinate, the heat mat and dome can be removed.
As the seeds germinate and grow, remember to keep the soil moist. Until germination, one way to keep the soil moist without getting it too soggy is to mist the container with a spray bottle. Once the seeds have germinated and are poking through the soil, you can also put the container on a drip tray, add water to the drip tray itself and let it be absorbed through the drainage holes.
5 – HARVEST
Harvest when the plants reach about 2” to 3” tall and have 1 to 2 true leaf sets.
It only takes about 2 to 3 weeks to grow microgreens (depending on what you’re growing). Once they reach about 2” tall and have 1 to 2 true leaf, they are ready to enjoy. You can snip them at the base or pull them out, roots and all. (You may want to gently rise them.) If you aren’t going to use them right away, harvest them, put them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator. They will store for about 1 to 2 weeks.
Since microgreens will keep growing into regular plants if not harvested at 3”, you may want to do successive plantings. That way, you can gauge how much you use between crops.
When you grow them yourself, you control the exact soil and seeds used. If your preference is something organic, there are a number of seeding mixes and seeds that fit the bill.