Today we are growing a powerful superfood called microgreens. You may have heard of these before or you may be familiar with growing sprouts, which are a close cousin to microgreens. Therefore, today we are goanna go through a process starting from very bare-bones. In this article, we will discuss a complete guide about how to grow microgreens with very minimal equipment at home.
Basic Queries About Growing Microgreens
Before we get into the microgreens growing process, we would like to clear up probably a few of the most common questions about microgreens.
The first question which is sometimes asked, are microgreen seeds different from normal seeds?
And the answer to this question is no. These are the same species, the same plants you would normally grow to their full size, except for the fact that we plant them more densely than we normally do.
The second most common question is where to get seeds.
Anywhere, local seed market or from farmers, you can buy a bulk seed and it will be a good idea to buy them directly by yourself and according to your needs.
Complete Guide to Grow Microgreens
Basic Material Needed to Grow Microgreens
Some important materials needed to grow sunflower microgreens:
- Plant growing trays (3 trays)
- Growth medium/ Soil
- Coco coir
- Misting bottle
- Antifungal spray
- Sharp Knife for Harvesting
Basic Steps to Grow Microgreens
Now without further delay, we’re going to address the basic setup for how to grow microgreens. Some of the basic steps are:
- Selection of Soil
- Seed Treatment Techniques (Soaking etc.)
- Seed Sowing
- Placing the Brick Over the Top Tray
- Consistent Watering Above and To Roots
- Blackout Period
- Light Period
Selection of Soil
So, the first thing to talk about is the soil medium. Here we generally use a very standard potting mix. It’s very fine-grained, although you can also grow microgreens hydroponically if you want.
Moreover, you can also grow them in something like coconut coir, which is an inert medium that doesn’t provide a lot of nutrition, but it does have kind of the same textural qualities.
Whatever growing media you use it’s should be fine-grained therefore buying something like garden soil or even some types of potting mix that have a lot of wood products in them would not be a good idea.
As the larger the particles the harder it is for those roots to get around. That’s why you just want to avoid that because you won’t want to lose the nice growth throughout the entire tray.
Moreover, it is recommended to moist the unmoistened soil and add about two cups of water in, however, the quantity of water may vary according to the soil condition. Along with moistening soil, it reduces the development of molds and fungal growth as water will move upward instead of downward.
Seed Treatment and Seed Sowing
Before starting seed sowing it is often needed to treat the seeds with some antifungal solution or soak them to boost their germination rate.
Moreover, soaking the seed also helps us understand the germination rate of a specific seed and separate the seed having a low or zero germination rate. You may have to soak seed from few hours to a day as it varies with the types of seed. However, you don’t want to soak them too long, otherwise, too much water gets in and they can drown or start to rot.
Wheatgrass seeds need more soaking time as compared to sunflower seeds and vice versa.
After ending up with seed treatment start sowing the seed into germination trays. While sowing seed just simply spread the seed over the soil and avoid forming clumps. As clumps can reduce the germination rate and make seedlings tangle and break during development.
After sowing the seeds go ahead and give it a light mist on the top. And that’s all it’ll need until you get some germination going on these trays.
Now another little tip here is when you’re growing your macros, you don’t want to fill the soil up to the brim because if you do that, you will have to face some issues like molds during the harvest.
However, just give it a little bit of compression to help the seeds adhere to the soil once they start to germinate.
Tip: While sowing seed in some types of microgreens you just have to spread the seed all over the tray and in some you have to align them in a fine pattern to avoid clumping and twisting of seedlings after growth.
Misting To Grow Microgreens
As you sprinkle your microgreen seeds, you must start from corner to corner and kind of come through and give it as even a distribution as possible. You don’t need to go overboard and get meticulous with it, but you just want to avoid large pockets and clumps of seed. This is why you must tamp the soil down as it will be a good idea to smooth out those ridges.
Oftentimes you’ll miss the corners a little bit because you will be afraid of spilling seeds therefore, it will be better that you should not sow seeds on the corners. So just go through, make sure that you exhaust all the seeds that you used and you’re going to be in a really good spot.
Placing the Brick Over the Top Tray
After sowing the seeds, it is recommended to place a 15-pound brick over the top tray until the roots start coming out as helps the seeds to adhere to the surface of the soil.
Once the roots start to come out, they will start to adhere to the soil by themselves instead of growing in a weird pattern under a brick weight.
After going through the initial steps now we are going to hit the trays with some water and it will be a continuous process till the harvest, however, the quantity of water will vary according to the needs of plants and soil.
Blackout and Light Period
In this phase, the plants don’t need light for germination and seedling development. As you can remember that most of the time seeds are usually buried below the soil and they can easily germinate in dark.
The major reason for that they don’t need light to make their food so far as they can easily use the stored food inside the seed to initiate germination. Therefore, here we do not need to light them.
To provide the blackout use the third tray and place a brick over it so that seeds can make a good grip as well as can have a dark period to initiate germination.
Moreover, you can also use black-out light to provide a blackout period which some seeds do prefer to germinate. Most seeds prefer a bit of darkness to germinate. But it’s also going to provide a little bit of pressure that’s going to stimulate germination.
However, this dark period will not go longer as the germination starts (usually last for 3 days) and seedlings start to propagate you must end the dark period and place the trays under the light so that they can make their food and develop leaves.
After germination and leaf development you may see some yellowy-looking leaves that are maybe yellow because they did not get enough light for photosynthesis. And that’s completely normal. Don’t think that your microgreens are unhealthy because of that.
How to Use Light for Microgreens?
So, this is the fun part of growing microgreens. When you get to turn the lights on, it’s just so fun to see them growing like this.
So, let’s talk about these lights. You can use a couple of different lighting technologies. We prefer LEDs or sunlight if possible. However, you could certainly grow microgreens outdoors. You do not need to grow them in a shed.
But the thing that you need to think about is light placement and types which is a 440-watt white LED. You don’t need to use something this extreme. It’s just what we have on hand and it has a nice footprint.
Footprint means the area that the light is cast over. It can cover one, two, three, four trays with ease and honestly even squeeze in a fifth.
However, you can also use T5 fluorescent. Thus, the difference between the both is the power draw on an LED is going to be slightly more efficient given the same voltage however, the T5 fluorescent is going to output a bit more heat.
Experiments have revealed that neither of those should be a huge deal when you’re growing microgreens, but what we find is most important is the placement of light. The closer you can get your light to the canopy of your trays, the better it impacts, however, avoid overheating plants. As microgreens are extremely light hungry.
In addition to all, a lot of people will recommend 12 on 12 off, so sort of mimicking daylight. You can get away with up to 16 on and eight off or you can get up to even 18 and six off. The lighter the better the germination.
As we mentioned above water will be a consistent process therefore, give them nice water and just make sure that they are well-hydrated till the harvest day as lights will heat the environment and will cause water loss from the plant as well from the soil.
Harvesting and Storage of Microgreens
We have here planned an actual growth in which we have sowed sunflower and wheatgrass.
Today on day 8 our sunflowers have started to green up and started to reach where exactly we wanted. However, if you want to wait until it’s a little bit thicker then you can just kind of run your hands over the top.
On the other hand, the wheatgrass is an extremely prolific and quick grower. It’s greened up and it’s grown over an inch over the last 16 to 18 hours as per our yesterday’s observation.
Things are looking good in here and we can start our harvest of these microgreens.
To start the harvest, you may goanna need is a sharp knife so that you can cut the plant in one cut instead of shaking them.
It’s all small fun little tips, pretty much common sense, and a pretty simple process.
You have to just come up with a sharp blade, grab the shoot, and give it a sharp cut. However, during harvesting, it is very important to take care not to shake the tray and plants which will result in shoot break and cause you significant loss.
After cutting the shoots, the most important part of harvesting is to store the shoots for later use and keep them fresh for a longer period.
Usually, the grower keeps them store in plastic bags which helps them retain their moisture and nutrient content intact.
If you are a new microgreens grower then we would like to do some recommendations and suggest to you some good and beneficial micros as your 1st growth. These are pea shoots, turnips, kale, kohlrabi, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Any of those would be really good options because they all grow relatively the same way and show efficient germination.
Moreover, radishes are also a very popular microgreen that a lot of people like to grow and they’re highly nutritious and also in fact may be even easier than any of the ones mentioned above. It is so, just because the seeds are large, and you won’t have to deal with any seed issues and it just germinates very quickly and grows vigorously.
Common Questions About Regrowing Microgreens
Another thing we would like to mention here is one of the most common questions that we get is can you keep regrowing?
And the answer is typically no.
However, for things besides grass-like wheatgrass, yes, you could of course regrow wheatgrass because that’s how that plant itself grows. But not for something like a pea shoot, when you’re cutting off everything and there’s nothing left.
Moreover, you may be able to get a regrowth if the soil keeps its nutrients restored, but it’s very unlikely and honestly, the soil is kind of spent anyways because we have sucked up quite a bit of nutrition from it.
Therefore, in our experience, it’s best to just start a new tray.
What do you do with current green remains? That’s the next question people will ask.
I honestly will throw these into my worm bin, if you’re doing vermicomposting, a very good green material for your worms.
Also, a little bit of extra. You could consider this soil kind of like a bedding material. This will go well into your hot compost bin as well.