You say you don't have a green thumb, or you don't have a yard for gardening? No problem! You can easily grow fresh, nutritious microgreens all year long in a sunny window in your home. All you need is soil, seeds, a container, and water.
Microgreens are vegetables, lettuces, and herbs that are harvested very young. It takes less than two weeks after you have planted the seeds to harvest crisp greens that can be added to salads, tacos, sandwiches, and sautés. When harvested as young seedlings the plants contain four to six times more nutrients than the full-grown variety. They contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients.
Microgreens seed packets, Kim Schwind
Microgreens are larger than sprouts and smaller than baby lettuces. They can be grown from almost any vegetable or herb seed. You can find microgreen seed packets at most nurseries and online through seed catalogues. You can use single packets of seeds or make your own mix. When mixing a variety of seeds, make sure that the germination time for each type is about the same, so they can be harvested together. That information will be on the outside of the seed packet.
Experiment to find a flavor or combination of flavors that you enjoy. Try growing some spicy herbs and vegetables like radishes, mustards, arugula, or basil. Other good options for this method of growing are beets, broccoli, kale, peas, chard, cress, and sunflowers (sunflower sprouts have a nutty flavor and crunchy texture).
A south- or west-facing window is best for growing microgreens, but they will grow in an east-facing window, if they get at least four hours of sunlight each day. In mild climates microgreens can be grown outdoors. The growing conditions they require are moist soil, sun, and water. Fertilizing is not required.
Turnips and mustard microgreens, Kim Schwind
To grow microgreens indoors start with preparing a container. Re-purpose an old plastic lettuce container or a plastic ‘flat' that came from the garden center. Kits that include a container, a soil mix, and seed are available online. Whatever you use for a container, make sure it has drainage holes and a soil mix that drains well. If you are using a plastic ‘flat' cover the bottom with burlap or weed cloth. Choose a soil mix or seed starting mix that is labeled organic or free of chemicals. The microgreens will draw most of their nutrition from the soil and water. Their green leaves manufacture carbohydrates using sunlight and carbon dioxide from the air.
Fill the container with moistened soil mix to within one inch from the top. Sprinkle seeds generously over the entire area. Cover very lightly with soil and use a spray bottle to moisten the top. You want to moisten, but not drench, the soil. Place the container in a sunny window.
If you plant microgreens outdoors in a native soil garden bed, make sure to start with a rich loosened seed bed soil. Outdoor containers should be filled with a soil mix that drains well (rather than simply your garden soil). Plant in full sun in the spring; but in the summer you will want to plant in a spot with partial shade because our summer heat is too intense for the seedlings. Keep the soil moist.
Microgreens growing, Kim Schwind
In less than two weeks you should be able to harvest your microgreens. The plants are ready for harvesting once they have two ‘true' leaves. When a seed germinates it produces cotyledons, which look like small leaves. After the cotyledons appear, ‘true' leaves follow. At this point the plants will be about two inches tall. Use a pair of scissors to snip a cluster just above the soil line. Once you have cut the microgreens you can rinse them gently but make sure to dry them with a salad spinner (or kitchen towel) to prevent them from wilting. They can be refrigerated for a short time. It is recommended that you use them right away so that they keep their crunchy texture and freshness.
Vetch at cotyledon stage, UC, ANR
Once you have snipped all the microgreens from the container the remaining roots will not grow back. These remaining roots are good sources of organic matter, so you can leave them in place and simply scatter more seed and soil on top. It is a good idea to start a new batch weekly, so you might like to use two containers; plant them one week apart, then alternate between them.
Puncturevine with true leaves, UC ANR
Growing microgreens is a simple way to add fresh, nutritious produce to your diet. They taste great and have a quick turn-around time. If you have children at home this is a fun project to do together. You can introduce the kids to the satisfaction of growing some of their own food and the fun of experimenting with their microgreens in everyday dishes.
The UC Master Gardeners of Butte County are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) system. To learn more about us and our upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area, visit our website. If you have a gardening question or problem, call the Hotline at (530) 538-7201 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salad with microgreens, Kim Schwind