Growing Microgreens Indoors – Superfood In 2 Weeks Or Less!
Do you want to know what nutritious food you can grow yourself in as little as 2 weeks even if there is still snow on the ground?
Then microgreens is what you are looking for. Growing microgreens indoors offers anyone the opportunity to quickly and easily grow some of their own food, any time of year.
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What Exactly Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are “baby plants”. They are the plants that you can harvest when they are only 1-3” tall and have only their first true leaves. Most take only 1-3 weeks from seed to table.
Microgreens can be expensive to buy. But they can be grown cost-effectively at home, in a tiny space, and with simple supplies.
If you have a sunny windowsill, a shallow container, some potting mix, and suitable seeds, you’ve got all the essentials for growing your own microgreens.
This is a great crop for urban gardeners who are limited to a sunny window sill, balcony or fire escape. And if your window sill isn’t sunny, you can add a simple light and grow them right in your kitchen.
What is the difference between Microgreens, Sprouts and Baby Greens?
There are fundamental differences between these greens. Sprouts are seeds germinated in water long enough for them to form roots, a stem, and underdeveloped leaves.
Microgreens need soil or a substrate to anchor their roots and they need sunlight. The time difference is important too, as sprouts take about 4-6 days while microgreens take 7-14 days on average.
Baby greens and shoots are harvested from plants that are a little older than microgreens. There will be more than one set of true leaves and the plants are 3 inches or larger in size.
The Benefits of Growing Microgreens
- Easy To Grow: You can grow them right in your own kitchen.
- Quick To Harvest: You can start eating them in just a couple of weeks in most cases.
- Nutrient-Dense: The USDA has reported that some microgreens contain 4 to 40 times more vitamins and minerals and other health promoting properties than their fully-grown plant counterparts.
- Wintertime salads: Even when you can’t get outside to garden you can be eating fresh greens every day of the year!
Why Should I Grow Microgreens At Home?
Do you want food quickly? Then microgreens are just the ticket.
Microgreens are an excellent way to add nutrients to your diet. They only require a small investment of time and money, and they are quick and easy to grow.
You don’t need a garden either, just a small space on your counter or sunny window sill and you can be adding nutrient-dense food to your family’s diet.
Besides, have you priced these in the store? If you can find them, they cost a bundle! You can easily grow your own for a fraction of the price.
You often won’t find them in the store because they are so delicate and won’t last on the shelf.
They are very versatile. Add them to everything. They make beautiful garnishes, they are fun for the kids to grow and eat ensuring there will be no fuss about eating their vegetables.
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Nutritional (Health) Benefits Of Microgreens.
Microgreens are powerhouses of ‘good for you stuff’. These are definitely in the ‘Superfood’ class of plants.
Though nutrients vary by plant, most include large amounts of vitamins C and E and beta carotene.
Researcher Qin Wang, PhD of the University of Maryland found that red cabbage contains the highest amount of vitamin C. (forty times the amount in full grown red cabbage.)
Green daikon radish microgreens contain more vitamin E than any other microgreens and cilantro microgreens contain three times more beta-carotene than mature cilantro.
Researchers said they were astonished by the results.
“Because microgreens are harvested right after germination, all the nutrients they need to grow are there,” says Wang. “If they are harvested at the right time they are very concentrated with nutrients.”
• Peas – are a good source of vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin B2, vitamin C, protein, magnesium, and iron. (my favorite – they have a light, ‘fresh pea’ flavor)
• Basil – fresh basil holds a subtle peppery flavor that is slightly sweet. Basil also is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese.
• Arugula – contains powerful antioxidants that can decrease inflammation.
• Beets – have a special kind of sweet, earthy flavor and are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, folate, potassium, and dietary fiber. (I love beet greens)
• Cabbage (red) – has the highest amount of antioxidants, and an excellent source of calcium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber, and magnesium.
Instead of just planting one type of microgreen, you will find that the different varieties offer a wonderful range of mild to spicy flavors and an added bonus of a wide range of nutrients.
How Long Do Microgreens Take To Grow?
You can begin harvesting microgreens two to three weeks after planting the seeds. As little as one week for radishes. Harvest when each sprout has at least four leaves.
Which Seeds Work Best?
Some gardeners purchase mixes especially developed for growing microgreens or salad green mixes, but some choose to use one type of green to grow at a time.
The easiest microgreens to grow include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, chia, mustard, radish, and sunflower.
You can grow many different types of salad greens, leafy vegetables or herbs.
If you aren’t using a premixed seed pack, it’s best to grow them in separate containers and mix them after harvest, as different plants can be ready to harvest at different times.
The pre-mixed packs are selected to mature at the same time and are created with grower success in mind, so that makes them a good choice for beginners. They will also have a variety of nutrients that make them a win, win.
There are so many possibilities when you are first learning how to grow fresh microgreens that you might feel a little bit overwhelmed. If you don’t opt for a mix, here are a few recommendations to get you started. (the times are approx.)
• Amaranth – 10 days to harvest
• Arugula – 10 days to harvest
• Basil – 26 days to harvest
• Beet Greens – 14 days to harvest
• Broccoli – 10 days to harvest
• Cabbage (red) – 12 days to harvest
• Cilantro – 21 days to harvest
• Kale – 13 days to harvest
• Pea shoots – 15 days to harvest
• Radish greens – 7 days to harvest
• Sunflower – 14 days to harvest
What Kind Of Soil Do Microgreens Like?
Microgreens grow happily in compost, most potting soil mixes, or a half-and-half combination of each. Vermaculture compost (worm castings) is a great choice. You may wish to add some perlite to your mix to make sure it doesn’t stay too wet.
Sprinkle a little cinnamon in the mix (1/8 teasp. per quart of soil mix.) to help alleviate mold or fungus.
Once one crop is done, you can recycle the soil by dumping the entire batch in your compost (or worm bin) and start fresh.
What Supplies Do I Need To Grow Microgreens?
Here’s a quick rundown of what kind of supplies you’ll need before you begin growing:
- Water (best when not chlorinated- more on that below)
- Seed trays or shallow container (microgreens don’t need a lot of soil – 1″-2“ is plenty) You can even start out with some take-out dishes, but you will probably want to upgrade as soon as you see how productive your new growing endeavor becomes.
- Spray bottle
- Potting soil, compost or both
- Grow lights or a windowsill that is south facing and bright 4 or more hours a day.
- Heat Mat if your room is too cool. (below 60°)
If you want a kit that’s done for you, check out these mini sets from True Leaf Market. They also have a great selection of seeds if you just need those.
Can I Use Regular Seeds For Microgreens?
Yes and No.
There is no difference between regular seeds and microgreens seeds, Except…
Some seeds are coated in fungicides and you won’t want to eat that. Microgreen seeds are free of things you don’t want in your food.
You also will need more than the usual amount of seeds to grow microgreens. Start with an ounce or more.
One last thing. Some types of plants make better microgreens than others.
Where Can You Grow Microgreens
You can grow microgreens anywhere you have a small warm space and light.
You can grow them indoors on the kitchen counter, on a bookcase, a window sill or in a warm basement. Outdoors on a covered deck or in a shadehouse or greenhouse.
You will, however, want them where you will walk by every day, so you don’t forget to water them.
How To Grow Microgreens – 7 Easy Steps
Once you have everything you need, the steps to growing microgreens are very simple.
Step 1: It’s best to soak your seeds 12 hours or overnight – It’s not absolutely necessary, but it helps your seeds germinate quicker. Strain just before sowing the seeds.
Step 2: Fill your container 1-2” deep with moist soil mix. You don’t want your growing medium to be wet or soggy, you just want it moist.
Step 3: Spread your seeds in a single layer over the top of your soil. Try to cover the surface as thickly and evenly as possible. You’ll want them planted densely. Press gently to seat them in the soil, then with your spray bottle, mist them with water, and cover with a thin layer of soil.
Tip: The seeds sprout quicker at 60°-75° F for most types of seeds. You can use a heat mat for quicker germination of your microgreens if the room temperature gets lower than this.
Step 4: Cover your tray with a piece of wood or other weight so your seeds make good contact with the moist soil. (Professionals will stack their growing trays) Or at least place a cover on your tray to keep your seeds from drying out.
Check every day and mist as needed.
Most seeds do not need light to germinate (check seed packet). The water and heat are what the seeds need.
Step 5: When the seeds have sprouted. Remove your wood or cover. Move them to a location that gets light. This can be a window sill or your kitchen counter under a grow light if you choose. Leggy, pale green seedlings are a sign of not enough sunlight.
Step 6: Mist or water twice a day to keep the soil moist but not wet. Don’t over water.
Step 7: Harvest your microgreens when they have developed their second set of leaves. Use a pair of scissors and cut them above the soil line.
Troubleshooting microgreens problems
For the most part, growing microgreens indoors is very simple, but there are a few problems you may encounter.
• Stems are too long – not enough light.
• Mold/rot – Usually caused by too much water or too high humidity. Add a fan to blow on your plants and don’t water as much. Add cinnamon to the soil. Make sure your container is very clean to begin with.
• Not sprouting or slowly growing – can be caused by too wet or too dry or too cold.
• Wilting – seedlings are too dry or too hot
How To Water Microgreens
Microgreens require very little water, so I recommend you use a spray bottle.
The soil should be moist but not soggy. Lightly spray water 1-2 times a day, or before the soil has a chance to dry out.
Don’t allow water to pool.
Another option is to water from the bottom. Once or twice a day you can set your growing pan (with holes in the bottom) in a pan of water that comes partway up the sides of your growing tray. After 15-30 minutes remove your growing tray from the watering tray and allow your growing tray to drain.
If you have chlorinated water you will want to either use a charcoal filter or set some water out in an open container for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to off gas. This is also a good idea if you have very cold water so your water has a chance to warm to room temperature. You don’t want your babies to get a cold shock.
What Are The Lighting Requirements?
Most seeds do not need light until they have germinated. But once they sprout you need to give your young plants at least 4 hours of light a day. Up to 8 is even better. Some nutrients are developed in the plant only under light.
If you’re growing microgreens in sunlight, you need to watch to make sure they don’t get too hot and start to wilt.
During the winter when the sunlight isn’t that strong, they might need even more than that. In that case, you might want to use a grow light to supplement light levels.
A sunny, south-facing window or patio is often enough, but if you live in a dark house like I do, you will have to supplement the light by using LED grow lights (best choice) or fluorescents (second best choice).
If you’re planning to grow many trays of microgreens, then placing them all on a windowsill in your home likely isn’t feasible either and you’d need to make shelves with lights to hold them.
Using grow lights is easier for beginners as it gives you more precise control over the growth of your microgreens.
You may choose to use an under the counter fluorescent strip. You may need to leave it on for a few extra hours a day as it’s not as intense as direct sunlight or LED.
You can set your lights on a timer and you know that your greens are getting the exact same amount of light every single day, regardless of what time of year it is.
the amount of light your microgreens get will have a big impact on how they taste, and how rich they are with vitamins and minerals.
Just remember, plants need a dark time to rest, just as we do, so don’t leave the lights on 24 hours a day.
Do Microgreens Need Fertilizer
Microgreens get most of their nutrient needs met by what is stored in their seeds, but that reserve may not last all the way to harvest.
Most microgreens will have their additional nutrient needs met by the soil mix they are grown in.
Microgreens don’t need as much nutrition as seedlings that will establish into full grown plants. However, some seed raising mixes contain no nutrients at all. In this case, you can use a diluted liquid seaweed solution every day or two. This can help boost root and shoot growth.
How and When Do I Harvest Microgreens
Your microgreens will be ready to harvest around 2 to 3-weeks after planting, depending on the variety. The first leaves to emerge from the soil are called cotyledons.
The second set of leaves that unfurl are the plants “true leaves”. Once the second set of leaves form, it is time to harvest the microgreens.
Just grab your plants by the leaves (like your grabbing someone’s hair) and using a pair of sharp scissors, cut straight across your plants, just above the soil line.
Afterward, the tray contents can be added to the compost heap or worm bin.
Make sure you clean and disinfect your trays before refilling and starting again.
How Do I Store Microgreens?
Ideally, you should serve your microgreens right away for the freshest flavor. So harvest them right before meal time if possible.
Microgreens do not store well and should be consumed shortly after harvesting.
If you’ve got lots of extra microgreens, you can store them in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for a few days. Wrapping them in a paper towel first can help keep them fresher longer.
Remember they are very delicate and will start losing nutrients almost immediately.
Related: My Garden Journal – Planner
How To Eat Microgreens
When you can’t grow your regular garden, microgreens make a wonderful superfood, wintertime salad.
Harvest and serve them immediately for the freshest flavor. You can add them to soups, stir-fries, salads, sandwiches or main dishes.
Use them as a garnish to add a fresh crunch and a burst of nutrition to pretty much anything.
Microgreens are very delicate and do not do as well when heated. The best way to use them is just to sprinkle them like food confetti on your completed dishes.
They do, however, add a wonderful nutritional punch to your morning smoothie.
A Continual Harvest of Microgreens
What happens when one batch of microgreens is finished? You need to sow again!
To have a continual supply of microgreens, I sow in small batches and often. You can succession plant every week even twice a week, depending on your needs.
Some people like to sow a new container every day of just what they will eat in a single day. That will add up to a lot of small containers but ensures a continuous supply.
Start with a small quantity. Once you know what flavors you like best, you can buy bulk seeds to save money.
Can You Reuse Your Soil?
It is best to throw your used soil with the roots in your compost pile or worm bin and start fresh.
For one thing, the nutrients in the soil may be used up. The second reason is there is more of a chance of disease or fungus if the soil is reused.
After a few attempts, you’ll notice that microgreens are very easy to grow and they’re very inexpensive compared to purchasing them from the local grocery store.
Get creative and experiment with different mixes, adding the varieties you like best. Growing microgreens in containers at home is a fun indoor activity that both adults and kids will enjoy.
Here’s to Growing All Year Long!
Great sources for your seeds and supplies:
SeedsNow – Small quantities so you can try it out.
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