Introduction: An easy-to-grow indoor crop that won’t disappoint
Do you ever get to the end of garden season and mourn that you must wait a long winter before you can enjoy fresh, homegrown food again? Maybe you desire to grow your food but lack the space to do so.
What if there was one crop you could grow 365 days a year inside, no matter the conditions? Come rain, hail, wind, snow, or even scorching temperatures, microgreens are a sure go-to crop for fresh greens all year.
These tiny baby plants are technically the second growth stage after sprouting, when plants get a true set of leaves. They are the seedlings of herbs, grains, legumes, and vegetables, the mini version of the adult plant.
Research shows that microgreens have a much higher nutrient concentration than fully mature plants.
As you probably know, most vegetables provide a wide array of nutrients. For instance, red cabbage is high in vitamins K and C, while kale is loaded with vitamins A and K.
The micro versions of these plants are supercharged with the same vitamins – meaning you get more nutrients for your bite in the micro versions of the adult plants.
This means you can easily boost your daily vitamin and mineral intake quickly without eating full servings of adult veggies. In one study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, microgreens were found to contain up to 40 times more nutrients by weight than their fully-grown counterparts.
Microgreens are not only nutrient-dense but also colorful and quite tasty, with flavors ranging from slightly sweet to spicy and everything in between. In this article, you will discover how easy it is to grow a tiny yet valuable indoor crop.
Growing Microgreens Indoors
Once you discover how easy it is to grow beautiful greens all year long indoors, you will be hooked. Growing microgreens requires minimal effort, a little water, and a little sunshine. You will be amazed at how quickly this tasty crop grows.
How to get started growing microgreens indoors
Quality microgreens start with quality seeds. Be sure to source untreated and organic seeds. Along with seeds, a few supplies will have you up and growing in no time. These include:
You can use any shallow, clean container to grow microgreens. Many people use growing or seed starting trays.
Microgreens aren’t picky; just be sure that you choose a container to support your growing media.
There are three primary categories of growing media for microgreens: soil-based, soilless, and hydroponic.
For soil-based planting, use a mix that drains well. Because microgreens are harvested quickly, there is no need to add nutrients to the soil.
Soilless media is composed of different non-soil mixtes. Many options exist, including a coco coir blend of vermiculite or perlite with an organic amendment or hydroponic lava rock. The beauty of a soilless mixture is that it creates no mess.
Growing microgreens using hydroponic methods is an excellent option for beginners.
The most basic system uses a grow pad – usually, jute emp or other biodegradable material – that absorbs and retains water to keep the germinating seeds and sprouts moist. This type of system works well for most small or pre-soaked seeds.
A blackout cover is essential to promote sprouting. The time required in the dark varies from seed to seed.
Anything that keeps the light out works – some use a tea towel, others a piece of cardboard. The blackout cover must remain in place until the seeds sprout.
How many hours of light do microgreens need?
Once microgreens have sprouted, move them into an area where they will receive plenty of sunlight – but be careful not to place them in a south or hot west-facing window where they might burn. It is vital to turn your container once a day for growth.
Once exposed to sunlight, microgreens will start growing towards the light. An alternative, if sunlight is an issue, is to use a grow lamp. Either way, give microgreens six to eight hours of sunlight daily for the best growth.
How often do you water microgreens?
Whatever growing medium you use, provide moisture for microgreens. Do not let the media dry out or the little greens droop.
Check the growing medium daily and provide water if dry. Misting with a spray bottle will help germination.
How long does it take to grow microgreens indoors?
Most microgreens are ready for harvest between five and ten days, but it varies depending on the seed type. Once your micros reach between two to three inches, harvest them using sterilized kitchen scissors.
Although it is best to enjoy microgreens immediately, most will keep for up to a week when wrapped in a paper towel and placed inside a zipper bag in the refrigerator.
5 best microgreens for a speedy harvest
One of the most incredible things about microgreens is how quickly you can go from seed to harvest. Doing so keeps you in a constant supply of these nutritional rockstars of the plant world.
Here are the top five best microgreens to grow if a speedy harvest is your goal.
- Radish: Radish microgreens are by far the quickest and easiest to grow microgreens. They are happy in any growing medium and will reward you with a full harvest in as little as five to seven days. Choose mixed types for a flavorful punch and add them to smoothies, soups, or salads.
- Arugula: These bright green, heart-shaped microgreens are very popular for recipes and easy to grow. Arugula was the microgreen of choice in the 1980s when growing micros became popular in the urban garden scene. Arugula likes to grow in soil or soilless medium best and germinate in about five days. They are ready for harvest between seven and ten days from planting.
- Beets: Although most people associate beets with their tasty root, the greens have a delightfully earthy flavor that makes them unique among microgreens. Beets do best when soaked first for eight to ten hours in cold water and prefer a soil or soilless medium. Germination occurs in about four days, and microgreens are ready to harvest twelve to fifteen days from planting.
- Cabbage: Cabbage microgreens are a great beginner crop and are ready for harvest in as little as eight to twelve days after planting. Add to salads or use them to add a kick to your favorite tacos. Red cabbage microgreens are not only beautiful but also tasty. Cabbage microgreens do well in a soilless or hydroponic growing medium.
- Sunflower: Sunflower microgreens are delicious in salads and smoothies and have a delightful nutty flavor. Because the seeds are large, it is essential to soak them in room temperature water for at least eight hours before planting. Use soil or soilless medium and mist during germination for best results.
Do microgreens regrow after cutting?
Microgreens are a once-and-done crop; they will not regrow after harvest. For a continuous supply, grow a few trays at a time on a rotating schedule.
Microgreen growing systems and kits
If a tea towel and a plastic tray are not your thing, you can choose from various microgreen growing kits. Look for all-in-one kits made from sustainable materials, including a reusable growing tray and a blackout lid.
Some kits are geared toward growing with a soil or soilless medium, while others are strictly hydroponic. Be sure to choose seeds that work best in whichever system you choose.
If you want to try a soil-free, fail-proof method to grow microgreens at home, check out The Good Box from Earthen Mamma! The Good Box is made to be organic and non-toxic, as well as soilless (so there is no mess!)
Microgreens are a healthy and fun indoor crop
If having fresh food all year long is your desire, microgreens are the crop for you. They are easy enough for any novice gardener, take up very little space and offer endless opportunities to experience the joy of growing and supercharging your diet with the goodness of plants.