Would you like to grow food but are limited on space? How about making some money from home? Ever heard of microgreens?
Surprisingly, microgreens are easy to grow no matter how much space you have. I’ll show you how to grow microgreens for the beginner and you’ll be harvesting your greens in no time.
First, What are Microgreens?
Are you familiar with the term microgreens? Microgreens are the stage of a plant right after the seed and between the sprout and the baby plant.
They are full of flavor and have a highly concentrated nutrient content. Microgreens come in a variety of colors and textures.
Many chefs use them as a garnish for aesthetics but microgreens add so much more! Specifically, nutrients and seasoning.
From Seed to Plant
First you start with the seed, then you have the sprouts, microgreens, baby greens, and finally the plant.
Sprouts–sprouts are defined as plants that have just sprouted their hypocotyl and are eaten with the root attached. You typically harvest sprouts between 4-7 days.
Microgreens– microgreens are harvested once their cotyledons are fully developed or at the first true leaf stage. Depending on the type of seeds you plant, you can harvest microgreens from 7-21 days.
Baby Greens– this would be the stage the plants develop to, if left to grow for a couple of weeks or longer, past the microgreen stage. They resemble a “baby” size of the full-grown plant.
Microgreen Nutritional Value
Microgreens are packed with nutrients. While their nutrient contents varies slightly, most varieties tend to be rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper. Microgreens are also a great source of beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants.
What’s more, their nutrient content is concentrated, which means that they often contain higher vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels than the same quantity of mature greens.
In fact, research comparing microgreens to more mature greens reports that nutrient levels in microgreens can be up to nine times higher than those found in mature greens.
One study from the National Library of Medicine, measured vitamin and antioxidant concentrations in 25 commercially available microgreens. These levels were then compared to levels recorded in the USDA National Nutrient Database for mature leaves. Vitamin and antioxidant levels varied, levels measured in microgreens were up to 40 times higher than those recorded for more mature leaves.
How to Grow Microgreens At Home?
After you’ve decided you want to try your green thumb at growing microgreens, next you need to decide where.
I admit, I’ve moved my growing location a couple of times. First, I grew them in the living room on a wire shelf unit (see picture). I loved this location because I was able to keep a really close eye on things. Not to mention it was right by our window so I didn’t need the grow lights on all day. Unfortunately, when they started to grow, no one could stand the smell of broccoli and cabbage 24/7 next to the dining table.
Second, I moved them to our outdoor storage unit. This was the perfect location until the temps rose into the high 90’s low 100’s. Microgreens are tender plants and don’t like to get baked in the heat.
Lastly, we moved the microgreens growing station to our pantry and now I’m finally happy, and they are too!
How Much Room Do You Need to Grow Microgreens?
The answer to this question really depends on how much you are trying to grow and what you’re growing them for.
Since our focus is on the beginner grower, the correct answer is just a couple of feet. Even less space if you’re just growing a tiny amount to enjoy for yourself.
For example, the 1020 trays I recommend below under supplies are 10 inches x 20 inches. You can grow several different seed varieties in that same tray. In this case, you would need a growing space that would accommodate 10″x20″. However, you can grow microgreens in pretty much any size container. I’ve even grown them in small restaurant to-go boxes.
On the other hand, if you would like to produce enough microgreens to sell on a small scale like me, you will need space for a shelf unit. My shelf unit is 36″ wide and 72″ tall. I can fit fifteen 1020 trays on it.
Ideal soil temperature for germination and growth is dependent on the specific need of each variety; for example, the optimum temperature for heat-loving crops like basil is higher than that for cooler-loving brassicas.
When you buy seeds, each seed should have the specific temperature requirements listed.
However, in general, optimal ambient temperatures are 65–75°F°. Temperatures above 75°F can inhibit germination. Moderate nighttime dips are acceptable, but steady, higher temperatures encourage full-speed production.
If your temps are cooler than what is recommended, you’ll need to purchase heat mats. They are like heating pads for your seeds and are fairly reasonable in price.
Seeds planted too close together are not able to breathe and drain. The roots will mat up as they grow too closely, preventing efficient drainage. As the tray grows, it often becomes too thick to circulate air through. This lack of circulation creates the perfect mold growing conditions.
Seeds vary in weight and size, depending on the type. Many growers determine the seeding rate by measuring out the weight of the seeds. This helps to keep the planting density consistent. For example, you can see in my picture above, I measure the seeds and write the measurement on each cup.
Seeds can also be distributed based on the number of seeds per sq. inch. For smaller varieties, this is 10-12 seeds per sq. inch. For larger seeds, it will be around 6-8 seeds per sq. inch.
What Do You Need to Grow Microgreens?
Typically, the supplies needed are pretty basic. You can get really fancy, or you can adapt items you may already have. The main thing I needed to purchase that I didn’t already own were grow lights. I bought my grow lights for less than $60.00 online.
- Seeds. Easy seeds to start with for beginners include: radish, broccoli, cabbage, kale, sunflowers, and peas.
- Potting Soil
- Trays (1020) with drain holes and solid trays.
- Grow Lights
- Heat Mat
- Fan: just big enough to circulate air over the seeds.
- Scale: any kitchen scale that measures ounces is good.
- Scissors or a knife. the sharper the better.
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Spray bottle.
How to Grow Microgreens for Beginners: Planting Instructions
- Using your scale, measure your seeds into a plastic cup. I use 1.3 ounces of seeds (smaller varieties) for a 1020 tray. You can adjust the measurement based on your needs. Larger seeds such as peas or sunflowers, I use 2 ounces.
- Soak your seeds in purified water for 24 hours.
- Drain your seeds with your fine mesh strainer.
- Refill the cup with water, add just a squirt of hydrogen peroxide to the water. This step helps sanitize the seeds and removes present bacteria.
- Let the seeds soak for five minutes.
- Drain, Rinse in the strainer again.
- Add 1-2” of potting soil to your tray(s) with drain holes.
- Place the tray with the drain holes and soil added inside a solid tray. This will prevent water from leaking out if you are growing your microgreens inside.
- Tap soil down lightly making sure it’s even.
- Moisten your soil by lightly watering or spraying with a spray bottle.
- Evenly spread your seeds over soil (see seed spacing above).
- Place an empty tray over your planted seeds and add a light weight for blackout.
- Mist your seeds once a day with your spray bottle.
- When the seeds start to push up the weighted tray, remove from blackout* and place under grow lights. They should be about an inch tall. Your seeds will be yellow but will turn green within just a couple of hours under a grow light.
- Position the microgreens 12-18” below grow lights.
- Add a fan on low for air circulation.
- Water daily so the soil is moist but not soaking.
- Cut your microgreens right above soil when they are 2-6 “ tall.
- Store in the fridge in a container. They will have a 5-10 days shelf life if stored properly once cut.
What is Blackout When Growing Microgreens?
Whenever you plant microgreen seeds, you are placing the seed on top of the soil. Whereas, if you were planting the seeds in a traditional manner, you would add anywhere from 1/4″ – 2″ of soil on top of the seed depending on what you’re planting.
To explain, since we are planting seeds on top of the soil, adding a black tray with a little weight to the top will tell the seeds they need to grow up and push through the ‘soil’. In essence, we are mimicking that effect. AKA “Blackout”
More to Learn
In order to truly live off the land, we try to grow or raise most of our own food, but in addition to that , we also try to make a living off our homestead. We’ve shared a couple more articles that may be of interest to you if you’re working towards those same goals.
- Lettuce Pots: Growing Lettuce Indoors
- How to Make Honey Straws for Fun and Profit
- Over 150 Ways to Make Money Homesteading
Lastly, I’ve included some helpful links to search for more information as well as two links to purchase microgreen seeds.