In addition to planting a Petomato and starting up an AeroGarden, we’ve also recently begun growing microgreens. After a couple rounds of planting and harvest, I feel ready to share some tips on how you can grow your own microgreens, too! I know they’re trendy, but don’t let that deter you – they’re popular for a reason.
In case you don’t know, microgreens are different from sprouts. Traditional sprouts are not grown in dirt (people grow them in jars or special sprouting trays and wash them daily) and are typically consumed, roots and all, once their first set of “seed leafs” appear. Microgreens are planted in soil and usually aren’t harvested until their second set of leaves, which are also their first “true leafs” appear. Some people treat sprouts and microgreens as totally different entities, but others see them as sort of shades of the same project. No matter which way you think of them, microgreens are tasty and nutritious! Microgreens are also great because you can grow them pretty much year round and they don’t take up much space. Doesn’t fresh produce in your apartment during winter sound awesome?
Supplies for growing microgreens
Containers – We simply kept the plastic clamshell containers from lettuce and strawberries. We had enough pretty quickly because Papi Chulo loves strawberries and the guinea pig munches through a lot of baby kale and spring mix! You can buy seedling flats or other containers, but we didn’t see the need since we could get what we needed for free by waiting a week or two. We set the containers down inside large reusable plastic food containers (those lasagna-pan sized Tupperware-type things) to make sure water and dirt don’t leak out and stain our furniture.
Potting soil – I know it costs a few dollars more, but look for potting soil, not generic “dirt” for filling in holes. If it’s important to you, search out organic options.
Microgreen seeds – An amazing variety of plants can be grown and eaten as microgreens, but some are easier to get started with than others. Quick-sprouting seeds give you a great sense of payoff! When looking for seeds, make sure to purchase seeds intended for sprouting or microgreen use. Don’t rush to the hardware store and buy 10 packets of broccoli and radish. You should avoid these “garden variety” (hehe) seeds for a couple reasons. First, this gets really expensive because growing microgreens requires a lot of seed compared to how much is in those packages! Furthermore, most seeds designed for planting in your garden have anti-bacterial and/or anti-fungal agents. Because you may end up eating the seeds, or at least parts of them, when you grow microgreens, it’s best to avoid seeds that have been treated with chemical agents.
A spray bottle – This isn’t totally mandatory, but I like using a spray bottle to water our microgreens. You can usually find one at a drug store or somewhere like Target for about a dollar. Just don’t repurpose a bottle that used to contain a household cleaner!
Some sort of weight – We just use rectangular glass Pyrex dishes or the plastic container lids with books stacked on top.
Things you do not need include:
Grow lights – If you’re just looking to grow a couple trays at a time, even weak window sunlight or an under-counter fluorescent/LED will work fine. Don’t go drop lots of money on grow lights just to see if you enjoy microgreens!
Gardening experience – If you’re using easy-sprouting seeds, you only have to keep things alive for about a week. Put past gardening failures behind you – you can do this!
How to plant microgreens
1. If needed, poke a few holes in your plastic container bottoms. Some containers (like ones for berries) already have holes, but other containers (like those for lettuce) do not. Just use a drill, pair of scissors, or even a hammer and nail to make at least half a dozen holes for drainage.
2. Mostly fill your container with potting soil and pat it down. You don’t need to really compress the soil, but make sure it is somewhat firm.
3. Sprinkle a small handful of seeds across your prepared soil. The first couple of times, I really over-planted my seeds. They don’t need lots of space, but there shouldn’t be so many seeds you can’t see the soil, either! You’ll just need to experiment with your container to see what words for you.
4. Lightly spray the seeds with your water bottle. You want the soil to be damp, but not sodden.
5. Cover the seeds with your weight.
6. Set your microgreen container in a windowsill, on a table near a window, under a fluorescent kitchen light, etc. We have ours in a North-facing window and our seeds seem to get ample light.
6. If you’re using fast-sprouting seeds like alfalfa and radish, you’ll start to see sprouts in under 24 hours. After 2 or 3 days, remove the weights. Remove them sooner if you start noticing lots of mildew/mold. Amazingly, our sprouts usually lift the Pyrex containers in 48-72 hours!
7. Allow your greens to grow, rotating as necessary if they lean excessively towards light. Harvest when you’re ready to eat them! Microgreens are “traditionally” harvested right after the second set of leaves appears, but you can harvest them when they only have their seed leaves. It’s up to you!
8. To harvest, simply cut the greens off at ground level using a pair of scissors. Wash and enjoy!
We usually end up cutting off/pulling out the radish greens long before we harvest the others. Radish grows really fast and towers over the other greens!
The first time we planted microgreens, we put them under a thin layer of soil. There were so many greens and they grew so fast that they lifted the dirt up as they went! Not adding soil and using a light weight really cut down on the amount of dirt we had to pull out of our greens before eating them.
Many people recommend soaking most seeds for a day before planting them in order to hasten germination. Since our mix sprouts in less than a full day, I haven’t found that necessary. If you purchase slower-sprouting seeds that specifically recommend soaking, you may want to add that extra step before planting. If you want to get into sprouting the more “difficult” seeds, picking up a microgreen book might be helpful. Some seeds, like parsley and cilantro, can take up to three weeks to sprout and can be difficult to work with. Books like Microgreen Garden and the others shown below show you how to deal with problems like mold and bacteria that are exacerbated by growing more difficult seeds and detail a variety of different seeds and what their microgreens taste like.
This is the mix we purchase from Amazon. It lasts a really long time because each lettuce continuer we use takes about a tablespoon of seed. Considering I saw “sprouts” that were more microgreen size on sale locally for a dollar an once today, I think these seeds are a pretty good deal!
What’s your favorite way to use microgreens? In a salad? On a sandwich? Or something else entirely?