Are you looking for a way to supplement the vegetables you’re growing outside in your homestead garden? Maybe you want to have access to fresh greens through the winter or hot summer months. The great news is you can grow your microgreens indoors in trays all year long.
Microgreens are growing in popularity as a healthy recipe addition to add to salads, sandwiches, and hors d’oeuvres. They add nutrients to recipes as well as a splash of fresh, bright flavor.
If you have a bright window or space for grow lights, you can easily grow microgreens indoors.
Microgreens are considered nutrient dense powerhouses with up for 40 times more nutrients than when the same seeds are allowed to grow to maturity.
They sell at a premium at trendy grocery stores and farmers markets, but many people don’t realize how easy they are to grow in their own homes.
Most seeds grown for microgreens have lower sunlight requirements than vegetables grown for fruit, so they are well adapted for growing indoors.
The Difference Between Microgreens and Sprouts
There is often some confusion between migrogreens and sprouts, and it doesn’t help that the terms are used interchangeably.
They are used in a similar fashion by topping salads, sandwiches, and even some hot dishes.
They are both easily grown indoors and can be grown year round.
Microgreens are typically served raw and are enjoyed for their high levels of antioxidants as well as potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper.
Sprouts on the other hand are enjoyed cold or hot, and are typically grown for their high protein levels.
Likewise, microgreens are typically plants that are grown for their roots or leaves like broccoli, radish, mustard, and basil; while sprouts are typically grown for their seeds like beans, lentils, and wheat.
Sprouts are typically very fast to germinate and grow because the seeds are consumed almost immediately after germination, about 3-5 days after being started. Migrogreens need a little more time to grow their first true leaves, about 7-14 days after being started.
Microgreens are grown in a small amount of potting soil, while sprouts are typically grown in water.
The optimal temperature for growing microgreens is 65°-75° F, which is typically the temperature inside most homes. If your home tends to run warmer than this range, you could grow your greens in the basement or cellar with a grow light.
Microgreens need good air circulation to promote strong stems and prevent fungal disease. You may want to run an oscillating fan in your grow area.
Microgreens will need a decent amount of sunlight to prevent them from becoming overly leggy, but a south facing sunny windowsill will generally be enough. It’s a good idea to rotate the tray once or twice a day so all of the plants can receive adequate light.
If you lack enough light indoors, you can also set up a grow-light over your trays. There are some convenient grow light options that can clamp to a table, eliminating the need for a large, expensive setup.
Containers for Growing
The easiest way to grow microgreens is in 11″ x 21 1/4″ grow trays, also known as 1040 trays.
This standard size makes it easy since this is the standard in greenhouses, which makes it easy to find supplies that match.
If you eventually decide to grow on a larger scale, you will find that shelves and growlights are also designed to accommodate this size.
Grow trays are also nice for growing microgreens because they are shallow. Microgreens do not need a lot of soil depth, so anything deeper than an inch or two is just wasting money.
Grow trays also allow you to grow a large density of microgreens, which makes it easy to keep a steady supply of greens with only a few trays in rotation.
If you’re growing microgreens indoors, it’s important to have a bottom container to catch any excess water runoff. This is typically a 1040 tray that does not have any holes in the bottom.
The next layer will be a 1040 tray with drainage holes. This is the tray where you place your soil and grow your greens.
Having two trays allows you to lift the top tray out of the bottom tray to drain any excess water. You do not want your soil to sit in water. It will cause your seeds and greens to mold and rot.
The last layer is a clear plastic lid. This dome helps to heat the soil and maintaint humidity and temperature levels within the grow tray while the seeds germinate. It can be removed in a few days once the greens have started to grow.
These grow kits are typically available from your local garden center, or you can buy the individual trays to put together your own grow kit.
The Kitchen Garden Kit from Botanical Interests is convenient because it comes with all of the trays you need. All you need to do is add potting soil and seeds. It can also be used to grow baby salad greens.
When to Harvest Microgreens
Microgreens are ready to harvest 7-14 days after sowing. You will know they are ready when their first true leaves have begun to form. These leaves will look like tiny versions of the mature variety, will be bright in color, and appear more firm than the sprouting leaves.
Harvest the microgreens by harvesting them with clean kitchen scissors just above the soil line. Rinse and use immediately, or you can store them dry in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
- 1 - 1020 Growing Tray without drainage holes
- 1 - 1020 Growing Tray with drainage holes
- 1 - Clear humidity dome
- Seed starting mix
- Microgreen seeds
- Place the growing tray with drainage holes inside the solid growing tray.
- Fill the top growing tray half full with a soil good for seed starting. Water the seed starting mix until it is moist, but not soggy. It should just clump together when squeezed in your hand without any water squeezing out.
- Level the soil in the tray.
- Sow the seeds evenly over the surface of the soil. Lightly cover the seeds with additional soil.
- Place the clear plastic dome over the growing tray to maintain humidity, moisture, and consistent temperature.
- After 2 hours, list the perforated grow tray from the top and check for standing water in the bottom tray. Drain any excess water from the bottom tray.
- Place the grow tray in a sunny location indoors or under grow lights. If using grow lights, the lights should be place 1"-2" from the tops of the plants and run for 14-16 hours per day.
- If the seedlings appear leggy, or leaning in one direction, they may need more overhead lights. You can also rotate the tray 1-2 times per day to promote even light to all sides of the tray.
- Water the tray by lifting the perforated grow tray and pouring water into the bottom tray. Check the bottom tray 2 hours after watering and drain any standing water.
Microgreens are a great way to dress up your salad greens, sandwiches, and hors d’oeuvres. They can easily be grown near a bright window for year-round access to fresh greens.
How will you enjoy your homegrown micro greens?
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