- Author: Paula Pashby
I recently attended a Zoom meeting, ‘Kitchen Garden Chat', hosted by UCCE Master Gardener-Yolo, Treva Valentine. In this monthly class, Treva discusses and answers questions about anything edible that can be harvested or planted during the month the class meets.
I was initially uncertain about what January gardening would bring, so I was pleasantly surprised when Treva spoke about microgreens; the deliciously edible seedlings of a wide assortment of vegetables, such as radish, broccoli, celery, spinach, and more. Even better, they are packed full of nutrients. Microgreens can be used in a small salad and are a delicious complement to many other dishes, such as a chicken stir-fry, varieties of pasta, and stacked sandwiches.
I learned that microgreens can be grown outdoors in a small, protected greenhouse. However, it may be best to grow them indoors where the temperature can be controlled and more constant. Treva recommends providing microgreens with at least 4 hours of sunlight or artificial lighting. The more hours of light, the faster they will grow. If you do use artificial light, do not exceed use past 18 hours, since plants need at least a few hours of darkness to simulate natural planting and grow in length while seeking light.
To get started, Treva recommends:
- Shallow tray with a dome to retain humidity.
- 1 to 1.5 inches of lightweight, sterile growing medium, like seed starter, germination mix, or a homemade mixture of materials like perlite and coco coir.
- Seeds: begin with smaller seeds and make sure they are safe (certified organic seeds).
- If using larger seeds, soak them for at least 4-6 hours to help loosen the seed coat to begin the germination process.
- Sprinkle a lot of seeds onto the soil - the seeds can touch each other.
- Apply a light dusting of the soil medium over the seeds.
- Water the seeds using a gentle stream – a spray bottle usually does the trick.
- The soil needs good drainage, so put something underneath the tray to capture the water.
- Warming pad: put the seed container on top of the warming pad, and make sure it is plugged in and turned on since the seeds need warmth, not necessarily the sun, to propagate.
- Once the first seed begins to sprout, provide a light source, such as placing on a bright windowsill or an artificial grow light.
- Depending on the type of seeds, they usually take 2-3 days to germinate and should be ready to harvest in 2-3 weeks.
- It is time to harvest when the first 1-3 true leaves emerge after the first two leaves (cotyledon) appear.
- Cut the microgreens (cotyledon included) around one inch above the soil line and wash to remove soil.
- Unlike ‘cut and come again' lettuces that pop back up after cutting, once you clip the microgreens they are done; so, if you would like a consistent supply, plant seeds every few weeks.
- Microgreens are not the best for storing, but you can place them in an airtight resealable plastic bag or container and store them in the refrigerator. Keep dry by placing them between paper towels.
Here are some easy to grow microgreens to consider:
o Radish – grows especially fast and has a slight peppery flavor.
o Broccoli – mild and somewhat bitter flavor.
o Clover – both nutty and sweet flavor.
o Celery – strong celery flavor.
o Spinach – has a lighter taste than its mature leaves.
o Arugula – mild flavor compared to the mature leaves.
o Pea – has a wonderful, nutty flavor and tends to taste like sweet, summer peas.
Having a winter garden of microgreens is a simple task and easy to cycle through a variety of tasty choices during the month. I hope you can explore this gardening option and discover yummy combinations of flavors this season.
Treva's Kitchen Garden Chat is currently via Zoom every first Saturday, except for October, which is on the second Saturday – through November, 2022.
Zoom link: https://ucanr.zoom.us/j/98028723763. Hope to see you there!