Microgreen farming is a smart way to cheaply and easily add highly nutritious plants to your diet.
Luckily, this type of farming doesn’t require tools or even soil! Growing microgreens indoors is simple and highly rewarding.
Who doesn’t want more plant babies! Especially ones you can eat! (Ok, that kind of sounds wrong, but you get me).
Microgreen farming is so cool that even astronauts are doing it. Microgreens supply both emotional and nutritional boosts to astronauts during long space flights where fresh nutritious food is hard to come by. So cool!
We will cover several aspects of microgreen farming:
What is Microgreen Farming?
Microgreen farming is growing teeny tiny edible greens at home. These tiny plants are more mature than a sprout, but not yet considered a grown plant.
Unlike sprouts, microgreens have little leaves on them. Microgreens are basically baby plants! Scientifically speaking, they are cotyledonary leafy greens.
They come in a variety of colour, textures, and flavours. The most popular varieties are the ones that offer a punchy, spicy flavour to your meals.
Almost any type of plant can be used for microgreen farming. Some popular choices are:
- Pea shoots
What Are the Best Microgreens to Grow
The best microgreens to grow are the ones you will eat. Food waste is not something you want when you are putting effort into growing nutritious produce!
Figure out which microgreens taste the best to you before making any decisions about what to grow.
With that said, there are some microgreens that you may find better to grow than others for various reasons.
The easiest microgreens to grow
All microgreens are easy to grow! But there are some that are more of a sure-be than others.
- Radish microgreens. They are prolific and have large seeds that make sewing them a breeze!
- Broccoli microgreens. Larger seeds that are easy to sew and grow.
- Cabbage microgreens
- Kholrabi microgreens. Easy to grow.
- Arugula microgreens. Light coloured seeds make them easy to sew and move around.
The healthiest microgreens to grow
Microgreens are extremely nutritious. They have higher concentrations than their fully grown versions of bioactive components important for health, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In studies, they’ve been shown to contain a whopping 4 to 40 fold higher nutrient content than their older versions!
Microgreens also have higher concentrations of functional compounds like highly prized antioxidants and phenolics than mature greens or seeds do. These properties mean that microgreens are considered something called functional foods.
Functional foods are foods that fight disease and promote health above and beyond regular nutrition. Microgreens are also a rich source of bioactive components, trace elements, and amino acids.
Studies on microgreen nutrient density have shown that:
- Red cabbage microgreens have the highest concentration of vitamin C
- Green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E
- Cilantro microgreens have the most carotenoids (lutein and beta carotene)
- Amaranth microgreens have the most phylloquinone
- Broccoli microgreens contain about 50 times more sulforaphane by weight than mature broccoli.
- Baby spinach microgreens contain higher levels of phytonutrients: vitamins C, B9, K1 and carotenoids (lutein, violaxanthin, zeaxanthin, and β-carotene) than the mature leaves.
- Lettuce microgreens seedlings after 7 days of germination had the highest total phenolic concentration and antioxidant capacity in comparison to the mature leaves.
Read more: The Amazing Health Benefits of Chlorophyll
The fastest microgreens to grow
Microgreens take between 10 to 20 days to grow to harvest. They take longer than sprouts since the first true leaves need to show before they are considered microgreens and no longer sprouts.
The fastest microgreens to grow are:
- Radish microgreens — ready in 5 to 7 days
- Kohlrabi microgreen — ready in 7 days
Growing wild microgreens indoors
Wild greens contain healthy protein and fat, vitamins, sugars, and minerals. These wild greens offer a variety of phytochemicals with antioxidant effects. Some studies show wild plants contain anti-microbial properties as well as other functional medicinal compounds.
There are over 600 varieties of wild greens used in the rural Italian diet, three such are:
- Salad Burnet
- Wild Mustard
What do I need to grow microgreens indoors?
- Tray, box, baking dish, old plastic tupperware, etc.
- Soil or a root support system if you are growing without soil
- Sunny window or artificial light source (like a cheap fluorescent light, nothing special)
- Ph strips to test your water, if you want to be safe
- Spray bottle (not ever used for chemicals)
- Microgreen nutrients, if desired (you can grow them without but may get better results with nutrients)
Can you use regular seeds to grow microgreens?
Some seeds have been treated with fungicides and other chemicals that you don’t want on your microgreens. Basically any vegetable seed can be used to grow microgreens. Some vegetables make better microgreens than others.
A great option for those looking for variety is a microgreen mix. Buy a pack of mixed seeds that are specially made for this purpose.
It is probably a good idea to buy a pre-packaged mix rather than try to create your own mix because the growth rates and harvest times for each type of plant is different. These mixes should be created with this knowledge in mind.
Of course, you could do your research and create a mix, but there are many out there to choose from!
If you choose to grow your microgreens in soil, the best option is seed starting soil mix. You can really use any potting soil but seed starting mix is the best for microgreen farming.
Growing Microgreens Without Soil
Growing microgreens without soil means growing them hydroponically, with only water and air.
Growing microgreens without soil offers a ton of benefits:
- Uses less water
- More control over microgreen farming including nutrients for specific plant types
- Grow them anywhere in any season
- Better growth: some of the easiest microgreens to grow, prefer hydroponic growth
- Better for apartments and clean homes: no mess, no soil, no composting
How to grow microgreens without soil
You’ll need to provide support for the roots of your micro crop. There are plenty of options for growing mediums available for microgreen farming.
- Hemp mats — 100% biodegradable and compostable, can hold 1050% of its own weight in water
- Clay pebbles — control the application of nutrients and humidity to plants
- Coconut coir — hold water well, delivers oxygen to plants, neutral Ph, organic
- Rockwool — absorbs nutrient solution while allowing oxygen for root growth
- Vermiculite — cheap, multipurpose, great growing medium
- Jute — maximum water retention and compostable
Most seeds do not need fertilizer because the seed itself provides enough nutrition for the baby plant to grow to harvest. You can use fertilizer to help with a higher yield if you’d like to.
When seeding, be sure not to overseed too densely. The little plants need space to grow their leaves. As well, overseeding will trap in too much moisture and encourage microbes to grow including fungus.
Water for your micro crop:
You want your water to be at a Ph of 5.5 to 6.5. Testing strips are cheap and easy to use. Follow the instructions on the box.
A Ph adjusting kit usually comes with your testing kit. Use that to adjust the water.
Use rainwater or distilled water for best results. You can use tap water, but let it sit out for 24 hours to off-gas the chlorine. At this point, add your nutrients. You can buy or make your own.
Nutrients for growing microgreens indoors without soil:
- You can easily and cheaply make your own fertilizer for microgreen farming.
- Buy a water soluble fertilzer with micronutrients.
- Add two 2 Tablespoons of fertilizer per gallon of water, mix well
- Add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts (cheap and can be bought anywhere)
- Stir and use
Another option is to use kelp and epsom salts.
- 6 ounces of kelp
- 5 teaspoons of epsom salts
- Wrap your kelp in cheesecloth or old pantyhose and tie a knot
- Place it in a bucket with 5 gallons of water
- Let it steep for 5 days
- Stir in the Epsom salts (1 tsp. per gallon of water)
Now take your grow medium (like your hemp mat, etc.) and soak it in your water mixture. Drain it off and move it to whatever you are using for a tray (like an old long, flat and shallow tupperware container).
Add your seeds at the proper seed density. It should say on the package. If not, just be sure not to over crowd the little guys so they have room to grow!
Next, just mist your seeds with some of your nutrient solution or with plain water.
Wait for them to germinate
Cover your seeds and keep them in the dark to germinate. Use another light proof tray or box to cover them up. Open your tray every 12 hours to mist with your water, then cover it back up. Repeat this for about 5 days.
Microgreen farming growth stage
Your microgreens should be growing like good little babies now! Uncover them and set them in the light.
Add water directly to the tray when watering and reduce the strength of your nutrient water solution to ¼ of the original strength. Alternatively, just used Ph balanced water without nutrients to water from now on.
Do microgreens need direct sunlight?
Microgreens do need sunlight or artificial lights. Hang your lights about 4 inches away from your plants. You can also use a full spectrum light but it isn’t 100% necessary and would not be cheap!
The lights you can use for microgreen farming are T8 style fluorescent lights, which are more expensive, or T5 fluorescent lights, which work well and are cheaper.
How many hours of light do microgreens need?
Microgreens need at least 6 to 10 hours of light. You can leave them in artificial light longer if you wish; 12 to 18 hours is a safe bet. However, some people leave them for a full 24 hours in light. Try and see what works best for you!
How to harvest microgreens
- Harvest microgreens after the first true leaves have emerged
- Typically true leaves appear at about 5cm of growth, depending on the plant
- Harvest your microgreens right above the root by cutting them with a sharp pair of scissors
- Wash the microgreens after cutting and store in the fridge or under light if eating soon
Do microgreens regrow after cutting?
Microgreens don’t regrow after cutting. But they grow super quickly, so just start another batch and stagger them so you always have a micro crop available!
Become an efficient microgreen farming pro. Do this over time so you don’t overwhelm yourself! Make sure to plant only what you can eat and what you enjoy.
How to store you micro crop
Microgreens do not last very long after reaching harvest time. They are harvestable after 10 to 20 days and then only last a few days at room temperature — about 3 to 5 days.
How do you store cut microgreens?
Store your microgreens in the fridge to keep them longer, or alternatively, store them in direct light. Studies have shown that light helps to preserve certain nutrients in some plants like vitamin c, carotenoids, and tocopherols.
Storing your microgreens that you aren’t eating right away in the fridge is probably best. Choose a clean container and cover them with some plastic wrap or a lid.
You can store them in between some paper towel inside of a ziploc bag to keep things simple! Just make sure not to crush them.
Can you freeze microgreens?
Freezing microgreens is not recommended. They will wilt and the flavour will be lost.
You could freeze them in some water in ice cube trays if you want to just blend them up in smoothies or add them to soups or stir fry. It’s definitely better than having them go bad and be wasted.
How to Use Microgreens
Microgreens are super versatile. They can be added on top of basically anything or put on the side as a garnish.
Many of the most popular varieties are peppery and spicy, so they are great to add some flare to your meals.
Can you eat microgreens raw?
Microgreens are supposed to be eaten raw. The roots are not eaten like with sprouts, so discard the roots after cutting your microgreens.
Do microgreens need to be washed?
Microgreens should have been washed when harvested but if not, wash them before eating.
Try adding microgreens to:
- On top of curries
- Veggie dips
- To top casseroles
- In stir frys
- On tacos, enchiladas, or burritos
- In lemon or cream sauce for fish, chicken, or steak
Microgreen Farming is a Fantastic Hobby!
Microgreen farming can save you money if you are currently buying them, but it is also a fantastically rewarding hobby!
For those in apartments or without much space, microgreens offer a way to produce some food and grow plants without a lot of time, energy, money, or space to do so.
Microgreen farming is also a great way to get kids involved in learning about sustainability, plant life cycles, and nutrition.
Try growing microgreens indoors and you’ll discover a new hobby that you can eat!