Growing microgreens indoors is a wonderfully rewarding experience that can take place year-round with extraordinarily little effort. Fresh microgreens are bursting with flavor and exceedingly popular additions to salads, sandwiches, wraps, or stir fry. The sky is the limit when it comes to choices. You can grow everything from radishes to kale to arugula. Pick the common favorites or try a few exotics.
What are Microgreens?
The term ‘microgreens’ has recently reached trendy status but what exactly does it refer to? Any sprouted edible seed instantly becomes a microgreen. The small plants grow well indoors when packed in tight trays. Harvest the young greens while they remain tender and fresh before they move on to the next stage of growth.
Are Microgreens and Sprouts the Same?
Sprouts are fully germinated seeds. When you harvest sprouts, you eat the green and the seed. Many consider sprouts the babies of the plant world. Once the seed bursts open and send out its first root and shoot then it officially becomes a sprout. Typically, the seed is still hanging tenaciously off the top of the sprout when harvested.
Microgreens are the next stage in the plant’s development. They are at the toddler stage. The germinated seeds have developed numerous tiny roots and have their first real leaves. Microgreens and sprouts have similar nutritional value, but they have more vitamins and minerals. With microgreens, you can add nutrients and minerals to boost the nutrient value even further.
Remember, sprouts are usually seeding that you would naturally eat like mung beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. Microgreens are greens like spinach, chard, cabbage, and kale. However, this is not a steadfast rule because there is a lot of crossover between sprouts and microgreens so what works for one person might not for another.
What Seeds Make the Best Microgreens
Any edible has the potential of being used as a microgreen. Choose from salad greens, herbs, edible flowers, and leafy vegetables. Some varieties grow better than others. Beginners have great success with cauliflower, mustard, broccoli, chia, buckwheat, and sunflower. You can grow one variety per tray or mix it up and grow a variety of microgreens together in one container.
Microgreens are sold as mixes that are pre-selected based on similar growth rates and flavors that complement each other. Coloring also looks fantastic when you combine several varieties that feature reds, greens, and purples. Remember, half the fun of growing microgreens indoors is the act of cultivating the small, rewarding plants so visual beauty is an undeniable factor as well as robust flavor.
Do Microgreens Grow Without Soil?
Yes, you can grow microgreens without soil. You can easily use hydroponic growing mats or coconut coir in place of soil which is notoriously messy. Remember, microgreens are only alive for about a week before you harvest and eat the munchy plants. During their short lifespan, they do not use the nutrients from the soil because they are still relying on the nutrition they gained from their seed, so they do not need soil to thrive. If you have been interested in trying your hand at hydroponic growing then microgreens are ideal as a ‘first’ crop.
Amount of Light Needed by Microgreens
Microgreens require a sunny location to thrive. Give them at least four to six hours of sunshine per day. If you do not have a south-facing window or it is wintertime then you might want to use an LED grow light to supplement.
How Long Do Microgreens Take to Grow?
Microgreens are ready to harvest in 10 days. Certain seed types can take 12 days or longer. One of the best things about growing microgreens is that they are quick and require extraordinarily little care. You don’t have to wait for months for a harvest.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Microgreens?
When you harvest microgreens, you are cutting off the top of the plant. The small plant can only be harvested once but you are cutting the microgreens from an entire tray so you can easily harvest from the tray as needed. A single tray can provide a week of microgreens before you need to start the entire process over again.
Supplies Needed to Grow Microgreens
- Seeds: You’ll need seeds that you can purchase from a garden supply store or order online. Consider a mix that contains basil, beets, kale, cilantro, spinach, or radishes.
- Soil or hydroponic grow mats
- Seed starting trays
- Light source: South facing window or LED grow light
- Spray bottle for water
Steps Needed to Grow Microgreens
- Fill the tray with soil or a hydroponic mat. Remember, microgreens do not develop an intricate root system, so they don’t’ require much room to spread out. You only need two inches of soil or a grow mat that is similar in depth.
- Spread the seeds across the surface of the soil or grow mat You do not need to worry about spacing them out. Ideally, overcrowd the seeds to create a dense mat of greens.
- Sprinkle a little soil across the top of the seeds if you are using soil. Only a light dusting will suffice.
- Press the soil down across the surface of the seeds or press the seeds gently into the hydroponic mat.
- Lightly mist the seeds with water using a spray bottle. They should feel damp but not waterlogged.
- Place the tray in a sunny place or under the grow light and wait.
- Spritz the tray with water a few times a day and avoid letting it dry out.
- Harvest when the microgreens are 10 days old or older. Ideally, they should stand two inches in height.
- Pull the microgreens up or use a pair of shears to clip off the tops of the microgreens.
Microgreens germinate when the soil temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you are growing microgreens indoors then you don’t usually have to worry about the heat. Sprouts start to emerge after three days.
Growing microgreens indoors is a great way to enjoy fresh veggies year-round. The small plants are easy to grow and wonderfully rewarding. Children especially enjoy caring for microgreens.