Growing microgreens seems to be all the craze. There are so many reasons for this, many people are starting their own microgreens farms, some are in it for the nutritional value, and others much like myself are tired of paying 6 dollars for a little clamshell only to find it in a deep dark corner of my refrigerator, engulfed in a heap of mold. This was the biggest motivation for me. I love microgreens, I love how flavorful and sometimes surprisingly spicy they can be. They are also incredibly healthy, Broccolli sprouts for instance are up to 40x more nutritional than the full-grown version of broccoli. Also, they are delicious on everything, my kids even like them because they are tiny and fun.
So how do you get your bountiful harvest of delicious microgreens growing in your own kitchen?
It's actually pretty simple, and there are many ways to get started. First, If your unsure about your love of microgreens, or feel like you may not have time to care for them, there are numerous starter kits out there, that will easily and relatively cheaply get you started. See my reviews of microgreens kits in the Forum section to get you started. If you already know that you love microgreens, and will utilize them regularly, I would pass on a microgreens starter kit and go straight for the quality equipment. There are so many options out there when it comes to equipment, and this part can be rather overwhelming. I will go into detail about how I grow my microgreens, what equipment I use, and why.
There are so many ways to do microgreens, but some ways are certainly easier than others.
First things first. The equipment. You will need trays, a growing medium, seeds, and a grow light. As far as trays go, I have used numerous types. There are trays with drainage holes and no drainage holes, deep trays, and shallow trays. Some trays are 10”x20” and 10”x10”. I use 10x20, and I have had way more success with drainage holes, it cuts way down on mold. As far as the tray depth, I use shallow trays, 1 inch deep. 2 inch deep trays work also, but you use double the amount of soil, and that amount of soil just isn’t necessary. So I use a 10x20, 1-inch shallow tray with holes, and place that into a 1-inch shallow tray with no holes (I’ll tell you all about why I put one tray inside the other in just a bit). This has been the best setup thus far.
Next is growing medium. This also has some pretty overwhelming options. I simply use a quality organic seedling mix. My favorite has been Sungro Black Gold Seedling Mix, but any seedling mix will work.
Next, you will need a grow light. This is pretty necessary unless you have a spot in your house that gets a lot of sunlight and stays fairly warm 68 – 74 degrees. I use the 2’ Sunblaster T5 fluorescent strip light, which was about 40 bucks on Amazon, and I have had no complaints.
Most importantly you need seed. There are so many options for seed types. You can grow numerous types of radish, broccoli, peas, sunflower, arugula, mustard greens, chard, beets, the options are endless. There are also numerous options for seed stores. You can pick up seed packets at your local nursery, or there are tons of options online. I try to find organic, non-GMO seeds whenever I can.
Now that you have all the equipment, let's get planting. First, as I said before, I put a shallow tray with holes, inside a shallow tray with no holes. I then fill the tray with holes with my soil. I fill it to the top. I then take a piece of cardboard or wood and compact the soil. Once the soil is compacted, I spread the seed evenly over the medium. For tiny seeds such as broccoli, radish, and arugula, I use 1 ounce of seed. For larger seeds such as Peas, I use 9 ounces and 5 ounces for Sunflower. Next, I water the seeds well. I don’t mix the seeds in the soil or even bury them. I leave them sitting right on top of the soil. This next step is the most surprising and most important. I put another tray with no holes, or a piece of cardboard the same size as the tray right on top of the seeds. On top of this, I put weight, about 10-15 pounds, or 3-4 heavy books. This weighs the seeds down, which ensures strong roots and stems, and also blacks out the seeds for germination. I keep the weight on the seeds for about 3 days. At about the 3-day mark, the sprouts are pushing up on the weights, no kidding… they are pushing up 10-15 pounds… It's quite impressive. I don’t water at all in those 3 days.
After about 3 days, I remove the weight and tray and place them under the grow light. At this point, I give them a good drink since they haven’t been watered in 3 days. I don’t just spray water over the seedlings, this mashes them down and turns them into a tangled mess. This is where the second tray on the bottom comes into play. I pour water in between the trays, this allows the soil to suck up the water as it's needed, this is called bottom watering. I start with pouring about 2 cups of water in between the trays. I check the same time the next day, and if there is still water, or if it is wet in the bottom tray, I use less water. I rarely use more than 2 cups of water per day. I bottom water once a day. I keep the tray under the grow lights for about 15 hours a day, and for this, I use a timer.
This will go on for about another 7 days, depending on the temperature. I usually let the sprouts get at least 3-4 inches tall before I start harvesting them.
You also have options when it comes to harvest. You can use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the sprouts, I don’t pull them, because that requires me to wash them thoroughly to get all the dirt off.
Also, you can harvest them all at once, or just cut what you need at the time.
I find that if I harvest them all at once, I forget them in the refrigerator, and we’re back to that moldy blob I’ve been trying to avoid. I like to harvest them as I use them. I continue to water, and keep them under the grow lights until they are gone. Keep in mind, if you allow them to get too big, and another set of leaves form, the taste and texture drastically change.
Once all the sprouts are used, I compost the soil and start over.
All in all, this is a pretty simple process, and if your family loves sprouts as much as mine, it is totally worth it, and it’s a great science experiment for the kids as well.