Growing microgreens: The ultimate guide

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Microgreens are one of the easiest and healthiest edible plants to grow at home. They can be harvested a week after planting rather than waiting the months it takes to harvest most vegetables. Once you learn how to grow microgreens, you’ll have them growing in your kitchen all the time!

How to grow microgreens | home for the harvest gardening blog

What are microgreens?

Microgreens are the tender shoots of baby vegetable plants. These miniature versions of select edibles have a delicate flavor and are packed with nutrients. Microgreens are quickly becoming a restaurant’s mainstay as customers look for fresh options.

You might have seen microgreens mixed into a fresh salad or perched on top of a plated dish. Some popular types of microgreens include parsley microgreens, basil microgreens, sunflower microgreens, and radish microgreens.

Grow microgreens - home for the harvest gardening blog

Microgreens are very similar to sprouts but are grown with soil and light rather than just water. Microgreens have a lower risk of bacteria than sprouts because they are grown in an open-air, soil-based environment similar to an outdoor garden.

Microgreens after germination | home for the harvest gardening blog

How to grow microgreens at home?

Fortunately, microgreens are easier to grow at home than most vegetables. They also cost very little once you have the supplies. Once you get set up and learn how to grow microgreens, you can have a year-round source of healthy vegetables on your kitchen table. You simply sprout vegetable seeds (or specialty greens like wheatgrass) in sterilized soil, allow the plant to grow into a little shoot, and then harvest when they are a few inches high.

Once you’ve learned how to grow microgreens, you’ll love using them in the kitchen. Toss in some microgreens with a store-bought salad for an instant gourmet facelift. They are also perfect for sandwiches and tacos. Microgreens can also be included in smoothies, a stir-fry, or placed on top of a bowl of soup. I even place them on top of cooked fish for a pop of color.

Seeds for microgreens on store rack

How to grow fresh microgreens at home?

Supplies to grow microgreens indoors

  • Tray: Seed-starting trays or repurposed take-out trays. If you don’t want to use plastic, you can use a single baking tin or Pyrex dish (between 1″ and 2″ deep). Having a lid or cover for the tray will help with germination.
  • Mesh Strainer: Metal or plastic. Ensure the holes in the strainer are smaller than the seeds so as not to wash out any seeds.
  • Seeds: Certified Organic, Pathogen-Free Sprouting Seeds. Start with large seeds such as peas, sunflower, buckwheat, or wheatgrass (peas are my favorite!).
  • Potting Soil: Sterile seed-starting mix for a growing medium. Choose an organic mix that does not have chemical fertilizers mixed in.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (sold at drugstores and grocery stores).
  • Light: Sunny patio/window or a plant light; If you have a very sunny window or patio free from pests, your microgreens may grow well without any additional light. If you don’t have such a space or would like bushier microgreens, use a plant light.
  • Water: Filtered water is best. If using tap water, allow it to sit on the counter in a container for several hours to off-gas.
  • Spray Bottle: A misting bottle full of filtered water.
  • Knife: Sharp chef’s knife (or scissors if greens will be used immediately).

If you’re just starting, you may consider buying a microgreens kit. It may be more economical than buying all the supplies separately.

Growing sprouts with sprouting seeds | home for the harvest gardening blog

Steps: Preparing the seeds and planting the microgreens

  1. Measure out your seeds. Pour enough seeds into the tray to cover about half the available area. The small seeds should be almost touching each other, but not quite. Set the seeds aside.
  2. Sanitize all your supplies and your work area. I use my dishwasher’s sanitize setting to sanitize the tray, mesh strainer, and knife.
  3. Treat your seeds to combat pathogens/fungi. I follow the University of California method, in which seeds are immersed in a mixture of warm water and drugstore hydrogen peroxide for 5 minutes. There is an excellent, step-by-step overview of the process on page 2 of these instructions. Ensure you don’t let the seeds sit in the solution for too long, and be sure to rinse them thoroughly following treatment.
  4. Following treatment, soak the seeds in the tray for 6-8 hours in filtered water.
  5. Pour seeds into the mesh strainer, rinse, and set aside to drain.
  6. Fill the tray with sterile soil until the mix is about 3 cm (1 inch) deep. This amount of soil doesn’t have to be exact. Using less soil is cheaper, but using more soil will raise the greens and make them easier to harvest. Gently compress the soil mix in the tray as you fill it to create a flat planting surface.
  7. Water soil with filtered water so that the soil is moist but not dripping wet.
  8. Evenly distribute the rinsed seeds onto the moist soil surface.
  9. Lightly compress the seeds into the soil.
  10. Cover the tray with the lid. If your tray has no lid, cover the tray with another tray or with clear plastic wrap. It is possible to grow microgreens without any sort of lid, but the lid can help with the germination process.
Grow microgreens - home for the harvest gardening blog

Steps: Care and maintenance

  1. Once or twice daily, lift the lid and check on your seeds. If the soil has become dry, mist the seeds with filtered water to keep them moist.
  2. When the seeds have germinated and you can see a little sprout, remove the lid/covering and place the tray in a sunny warm indoor area, on the patio, or under a plant light.
  3. As the greens grow, ensure the growing medium is moist but not overly wet. Pour off any excess water to prevent fungus problems.
  4. Check the seeds daily for growth and soil moisture.  Harvest just as the second set of leaves appear (7 to 14 days after germination). Experiment with different ages of microgreens to find the stage that you like best.
  5. To harvest, cut the microgreens with a sharp knife right above the soil line. Only use scissors if the microgreens will be used within a few days. Harvesting microgreens is best done right before you cook with them.
  6. Wash the greens by fully submerging them in cold water.
  7. Spread the greens onto a clean towel to dry.
  8. To store, wrap them in paper towels and place them in an airtight container or bag in the fridge.
  9. The used soil can be composted, and you can start all over again!

Microgreens are the perfect way to learn to garden.

Microgreens are a great way to learn to garden, and can be grown indoors in the middle of winter using small seeds from your local grocery store!

You can learn the basics of how seeds sprout and grow into plants by growing microgreens with sunflower seeds or other tiny seeds. Before you know it, you’ll have your own green thumb!

Growing microgreens to start gardening | home for the harvest

Gardening often requires patience and skill. Some crops take years of investment before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor! Fortunately, not everything requires experience or a lot of time. Growing microgreens at home only take only a week or two, and it’s the best way to start gardening if you’ve never grown plants from seeds before.

Tiny, fast-growing vegetables

Microgreens are baby seedling versions of their fully-grown counterparts. Both vegetables and herbs can be harvested at their microgreen stage. Popular vegetable microgreens include broccoli, radish, sunflower, buckwheat, and peas. Common herb microgreens include basil, cilantro, and parsley.

Most microgreens can be grown and harvested in 7-10 days! That’s compared to the months it takes to grow and harvest most other vegetables. Because the time between planting and harvest is so short, you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice. You won’t lose months if something goes wrong.

Growing microgreens to start gardening | home for the harvest

Learning how seeds grow

For some gardeners, getting vegetable seeds to grow into seedlings for an annual vegetable plot can be the hardest part of the gardening season! Getting seedlings started can be tricky, but the practice of sprouting seeds regularly will make annual seed-starting a breeze.

Once you get the hang of how to grow microgreens, you’ll be seeding a new tray weekly. During this weekly practice, you’ll become very comfortable with the seed-starting process. You’ll note how the seeds swell as they absorb moisture, how the seeds sprout after they’ve been soaked, and how the root portion grows downwards while the seedling reaches upwards. Sprouting seeds is a wonderful way to connect with nature and learn about plants regularly.

Learn to garden by growing microgreens | home for the harvest

The equipment for growing microgreens is simple

To start growing microgreens, you’ll need a container, soil, germinated seeds, light and a spray bottle. The setup is inexpensive and easy to find – you may already have a container that will work for a seedling tray, or you can make a DIY tray by repurposing a convenience food tray. There are also great microgreen growing kits that include everything you need to grow nutrient-packed salad greens.

Microgreen seeds can be purchased from sprouting seed providers or from your local organic/natural bulk food store. As for the growing medium, you’ll need sterile potting soil for your microgreens. Using soil from the garden isn’t recommended, as it is both heavy and also has the potential to carry bacteria that isn’t beneficial to growing conditions. The best mixes are sterile, light, and easy to work with, providing small seeds with an even coverage across the soil level. Look for a mix that is sustainably sourced and safe for organic use.

Learn to garden by growing microgreens | home for the harvest

Fresh organic microgreens are incredibly nutritious

Growing microgreens will help you increase the nutrient density of your meals. The tiny greens can be higher in certain nutrients and health benefits than their mature counterparts. Check out these microgreen nutrition facts from microgreen technology company Urban Cultivator:

  • Red Cabbage: Microgreens have 6x more vitamin C, 40x more vitamin E, and 69x more vitamin K than mature cabbage.
  • Cilantro: Microgreens have 3x more beta-carotene concentration than mature cilantro.
  • Sunflower: Microgreens are comprised of 24% to 30% protein.

The nutrition facts alone make microgreens worth growing!

Learn to garden by growing microgreens | home for the harvest

Before you go…

Have you always dreamed of having a garden right in your own kitchen? Now is the time to learn all about having a kitchen garden, with minimal stress. Click here to find out more!

FAQs about growing microgreens

Do microgreens regrow after cutting?

Yes, microgreens can regrow after cutting harvesting microgreens. They are typically harvested as sprouts and can be re-grown multiple times by placing the cuttings in a tray with soil and providing them with light and water. However, the flavor and nutritional content of the microgreens may decrease with each re-growth

Are microgreens worth growing?

Growing microgreens can be worth your time for a variety of reasons. They are a great way to add fresh, healthy greens to your diet all year round. Microgreens are also relatively easy to grow, and can be grown indoors in small spaces. They are also very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes and cuisines. Additionally, they have high nutritional value and can be more nutrient-dense than mature greens.
In terms of commercial aspect, microgreens also have a high market value due to their unique flavors, colors, and nutritional content and they are in high demand by chefs, restaurants and supermarkets.
Overall, microgreens can be a valuable addition to any diet and are well worth growing.

How long do microgreen plants last?

The lifespan of microgreens varies depending on the type of plant and growing conditions. Typically, microgreens are harvested between 7-14 days after germination. They are usually harvested when they are still small and tender, before the first true leaves appear. After that, the microgreens will continue to grow and mature, but the flavor and nutritional content will decrease. Some microgreens, such as pea shoots, can continue to be harvested for a few weeks, while others, such as radish or mustard, will have a shorter lifespan.
It’s worth noting that microgreens are not meant to be grown to maturity, but rather for the leaves, stems and cotyledons (the first leaves that appear) that are edible and have more concentrated nutritional values than the mature plant. Harvesting microgreens should be done before they get too tall.

Resources

References

Microgreens

Microgreens are a wonderful thing and they have the ability to grow year round!! Click below to learn more!

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also a professional engineer, certified permaculture garden designer, and master gardener in training. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.

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