Let’s begin by covering the basics when growing microgreens. But first, what are microgreens? They are rapidly emerging as a value-added ingredient in sandwiches and salads as a natural spice, or just to give both the palate and the plate a little extra zest. A number of experts go to the extent of saying that they are higher in vitamins, lutein, and many other nutrients.
Microgreen’s short processing period from seeding to harvest (sometimes as few as ten days) allows for a great chance to learn the works without a lot of investment. The other positive point is that you can grow them year-round and regardless of where you reside. You can also cash in faster if you are growing them for the purposes of selling them.
We’re going to keep it simple and list a series of tips and ideas to get started with your microgreen project!
Which microgreens to grow easily
Let’s begin by classifying just what a microgreen is. Immature seedling types can be summed up in three categories. The best recipe for your needs begins by knowing what you’re growing:
Sprouts – sprouts are categorized as plants that have just sprouted their hypocotyl, and the seed is prevalent on the mass of the sprouts to be harvested.
Microgreens – microgreens are reaped at the stage of the first true leaf.
Baby Salads – if left to grow in the chosen medium for a couple of weeks past the microgreen stage, this would be the stage the plants develop to. As the name suggests, when compared to the size of the full-grown plant, they resemble a “baby” size.
Because there is a wide variety of plants that can be grown as microgreens, you need to weigh in some factors when deciding which ones to grow. If you are just starting, you should begin with easy-to-grow varieties and the knowledge regarding which medium they grow best in. Some of the simplest ones to grow are Arugula, Pak Choi, Broccoli, Buckwheat, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Chia.
Choosing the ideal medium
Generally speaking, the growing medium may be broken down into three major classifications:
Soil-based – Using a planting mix that is free of clumps and stones, drains well, and doesn’t compress easily is important. Because you are harvesting the crop at about one to three inches in height, it’s not essential to have a lot of nutrients within the soil mix. If you must add additional nutrients, you should do so stringently. You’ll need to keep the surface layer of the soil damp, but in numerous cases, keeping the soil too wet can lead to problems with micros.
Any microgreen can be cultivated in soil, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the ideal choice. Low-growing crops such as basil, for instance, end up quite messy at the time of harvest. The nearer you can harvest your microgreens to the medium while keeping it clean, the better.
Soil-less medium encompasses different non-soil mixes. Blends of perlite and/or vermiculite with an organic amendment, Coco coir, or hydroponic lava rock are samples of the soil-less medium. They can be lightly firmed and leveled and so that you may have an uncontaminated surface, which is crucial at harvest time. This is a good compromise choice between soil and hydroponic because the surface of the soil is cleaner than a soil medium.
Hydroponic methods with microgreens at the novice level are rather uncomplicated, clean, and easy. It comprises the use of a growing ‘pad’ which absorbs and preserves water to keep the germinating seeds and emerging greens perpetually moist. When done appropriately, your crop will be more convenient to harvest. You can either pull the crop right out of the pad or cut right to the growing surface, trimming off the seeds and roots.
It is advised not to grow some crops hydroponically. A general rule of thumb is the large seeds should be grown in soil or soil-less medium. This is because they need to be enclosed in a small layer of soil for the seed coat to shed itself from the first set of emerging leaves.
SEEING THE LIGHT – BLACKOUT, EXPOSURE TO LIGHT, and the BEST SOURCES OF LIGHT
Managing lighting is very fundamental with most microgreens but rather simple to manage. For many micros, it’s vital to deliver a ‘stacking’ period for the initial few days. In most cases, this is a period of around four to five days following seeding. This will assist in maintaining high levels of humidity in and around the media to help the germination of your seeds evenly. This timeframe of imbibition (seeds engorging with water) is very essential.
Basic Blackout Dome – use an empty tray flipped over on top of the seeded tray. Keeping the lid moist, mist the seed and medium twice a day to maintain a high humidity environment. Note that most seeds don’t require a blackout, but rather benefit from being stacked for an initial period.
After four to five days, the crop is prepared to accept the light. In some crops, you can bolster the roots by tossing the blackout dome over and setting it right on top of the developing crop for one day.
If the room in which you’re growing the microgreens has decent sunlight, you may still require a minimal amount of supplemental light. Some micros need more light, while others do not. Read up on the type of crop you’re growing to be better-equipped. However, in all cases, keep in mind that you only require the crop to begin making true leaves.
If the emerging crop is ‘leggy’ it usually requires more light. If you are growing in racks stacked, then a supplemental light will be necessary for those shelves that do not possess access to natural light. If the leaves are exhibiting spots, your light is possibly too close.
If you are a beginner, make use of what you have around the house – shop lights, clamp ons with LED bulbs in combination with incandescent light, and pay attention to your plants. They’ll communicate to you how you’re doing.
Most microgreens favor a room temperature of roundabout 70° F. As you choose your microgreens, your supplier should have this data along with other growing tips to keep into consideration. Some microgreens like Cilantro prefer soil temperatures that are a bit cooler. In case your ambient temperatures are going to be too low, use your heat mat.
WATERING: PH BALANCING, PRE-SOAKING, WHEN AND HOW MUCH
Pre-soaking the seed is advisable when considering some microgreens. The advisable duration of soaking should be followed. Microgreens that require pre-soaking are sunflowers, peas, beets, buckwheat, chard and corn shoots, to name a few.
PH BALANCING YOUR WATER SOURCES
In most cases, particularly municipal water sources, your water will be too high in pH. Use a pH test kit that will allow you to test from pH 4 – pH 8 minimum. The ideal pH of microgreen water is around 6.0. Most municipal water systems will possess a pH of around 7.0. A good tip when using lemon juice to acidify is adding two teaspoons of lemon juice per gallon of water.
WHEN TO WATER AND HOW MUCH
Keeping the seeds moist is a good rule of thumb. Using a mister allows you to achieve this. Watering a soil medium can be complicated when keeping splashed soil off the leaves. Watering a hydroponic pad entails lifting the pad and pouring in enough water for it to reach the top of the ridges in the bottom of the tray. You also have to ensure it’s distributed across the entire tray. As the roots develop, you’ll find you’ll water more to keep the medium moist.
- HOW TO BEST STORE THE SEEDS
It’s typically ideal to buy only enough seed that you’ll use up during your initial few plantings. If you do have seed to store, keep it dry, cool, and dark, leaving it in the package sealed tight. Never have more than a year’s worth of supply.
Using this guide, you will be guaranteed a good harvest and a healthy batch of microgreens for all your nutritional and flavor needs!