Are you in search of the perfect plants to cultivate in your basement? Ones that can thrive year-round, unaffected by external weather conditions, including frost? Plants that are not only resilient but also incredibly nutritious? And how about options that are both cost-effective to start and allow you to avoid those $10 purchases from the farmers’ market or grocery store? Plants that you can effortlessly harvest right on your kitchen table, without creating a mess? If you answered “yes” to all these questions, then microgreens might be your ideal choice.
My introduction to growing microgreens was a game-changer when I was residing in scorching Houston and longing for fresh salad greens during the sweltering summer. Even after relocating to chilly Chicago, where winter seems eternal, microgreens have brought splashes of green to my life during the bleakest days when the outdoors remains barren.
The beauty of microgreens lies in their rapid growth; we can harvest them within a mere five to ten days. You could say these little wonders are the true “fast food” of the plant world!
Microgreens at Home
What makes microgreens even more appealing is that you can grow them virtually anywhere and at any time of the year. Moreover, they offer the easiest entry point into gardening for anyone, regardless of their experience or skills.
While grand outdoor gardens teem with ripening fruit, cascading herbs, and winding vines, they can be quite demanding to set up and maintain. This perception often discourages aspiring gardeners, leading them to believe they need to start with large outdoor gardens. In reality, becoming a gardener and producing your own highly nutritious food is a straightforward process, requiring minimal equipment and skills.
The best place to commence your gardening journey is indoors, with a straightforward setup involving seeds, soil, water, and a modest amount of light.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started with growing microgreens at home:
- A wide tray with drainage holes
- A wide tray without drainage holes (sufficiently large to accommodate the tray with holes)
- Growing medium
- Water source
- Abundant seeds
- Artificial light source
- Hand rake or small hoe for soil leveling
- Plant tags or labels
- Kitchen scissors
- Mycorrhizae (optional)
- A small fan
To begin, use a simple pitcher, watering can, or spray bottle for watering your microgreens. This setup is uncomplicated, requiring minimal effort to get started, followed by a couple of minutes of daily attention.
Here are more details on the essential components:
Trays for Growing Microgreens
If you’re a first-time microgreens grower, you can begin with basic plastic containers you likely already have in your cabinets or drawers. However, as your love for microgreens grows, investing in trays designed for microgreens or crafting your own may become worthwhile. You will need two trays: one with drainage holes and one without. Having drainage holes in the top tray is crucial because microgreen seedlings should not have their roots submerged in water for extended periods. The top tray holds the soil, and since microgreens have shallow roots, it only needs to be one to two inches deep.
Growing Medium for Microgreens
To fill the top tray, you will need growing medium. Various growing media are recommended for microgreens, but a simple organic seed starting mix is a good choice. It is lighter and more suitable for young roots to penetrate compared to regular potting soil. The seed starting mix can be combined with water in equal volumes, ensuring that the soil is sufficiently moist before spreading it evenly across the tray. After each batch of microgreens, you can discard the spent soil into your compost, where it will eventually break down into nutrient-rich organic matter for your garden.
Water Source for Growing Microgreens
A straightforward pitcher dedicated to watering your microgreens will suffice. Keep it filled with water and allow it to reach room temperature before use. You can also use a small watering can or a spray bottle.
Seeds for Growing Microgreens
Microgreens seeds are not unique; they are the same seeds used for growing full-sized plants. The only distinction is that packets labeled for microgreens contain a larger quantity of seeds. As each seed represents one microgreen that you will harvest, it is a one-to-one ratio. Therefore, purchasing a packet with only 15 seeds will yield a meager batch of microgreens. Various leafy greens and vegetables can be grown as microgreens, so feel free to experiment with different seeds for varied flavors or explore variety packs of seeds.
Artificial Light Source for Growing Microgreens
Microgreens require a minimum of four hours of strong, direct light per day to thrive. While ambient light from a kitchen window can suffice, it may not produce as consistent or reliable results as an artificial light source. Microgreens thrive when the light source is close to them, and they tend to grow leggy if the light is too far away. Therefore, a suitable lighting setup involves adjustable artificial lights that can be raised or lowered to match the tray height. Options include full-spectrum lights suspended from a shelving unit or clamp-on lights that can attach to a table or shelf. You can assemble your own setup or invest in a readily available system that suits your needs.
In addition to the essential components, it’s helpful to have a small hand rake or gardening hoe for soil leveling before seed sowing. Plant tags or labels are essential for distinguishing between different seeds if you’re growing multiple varieties. Keep a pair of clean kitchen scissors handy for harvesting your microgreens, and consider adding mycorrhizae to your organic seed starting mix to enhance your plants’ ability to obtain water and nutrients from the surrounding soil. For spaces with limited airflow, such as basements, placing a small fan nearby is advisable to increase air circulation and prevent mold growth.
Once your setup is in place, consult our downloadable e-book, “The Complete Guide to Growing Microgreens,” which covers everything from the best varieties and planting techniques to care and harvesting. This article provides a summary of one of the lessons you’ll find in the guide, making it a valuable resource to kickstart your microgreens gardening journey.
Happy gardening, from my indoor kitchen garden to yours!