Microgreens are trendy. Chances are good that if you watch cooking shows regularly, you've seen these diminutive greens as garnish or as part of a salad. Chefs love them, but it's possible that gardeners, especially urban gardeners, love them even more. Learning how to grow microgreens is easy, and once you know how, you can have a continuous harvest of these tasty, nutrient-dense greens growing on your windowsill.
Materials for Growing Microgreens
Growing microgreens is so easy; it requires very little in terms of materials and cost. Honestly, your biggest investment will likely be seeds.
Microgreens are best grown in shallow, wide containers.
- You only need an inch or two of soil, since they won't be growing for very long before you harvest.
- This is a good place to reuse containers.
- Think carryout boxes, the bottoms of rotisserie chicken pans from the grocery store, and trays cut from the bottoms of plastic milk jugs.
- If it can hold an inch or two of soil, and you can poke holes into it for drainage, it'll work perfectly.
A good, well-draining, preferably organic potting soil is the medium of choice for growing microgreens.
Choose any variety of microgreen seeds you like. Author Peter Burke recommends amounts of seed based on the size of your container in his book Year Round Salad Gardening.
- If you're growing in a four-inch round container, for example, he recommends using two teaspoons of seeds, spread evenly over the surface of the soil.
- For a six-inch diameter container, use two tablespoons, and for a larger, ten-inch diameter container, he recommends four tablespoons of seeds.
- You can use these approximate measurements for whichever containers you end up using.
You'll need a small watering can or a spray bottle that will allow you to gently water your trays. You don't want something that will deliver a lot of water at once and end up washing your seeds out of place.
Where to Grow Microgreens
Grow them in a bright windowsill. Microgreens need about four hours of sunlight per day. If you don't have a window that offers that amount of light, use a small LED grow light.
How to Grow Microgreens
Planting microgreens is simple, and the fact that it's so quick and easy makes it even easier for you to grow multiple trays and keep a succession of them going.
- Make sure your chosen container has drainage holes. Poke or cut a few into the bottom of it if it doesn't already have them.
- Fill your container with potting soil to a depth of one to two inches. There's no need to make it deeper than that, since the plants won't end up producing large root systems.
- Gently moisten the soil. It's best to get it evenly moist before you add your seeds. This will ensure there are no dry pockets in the planting medium.
- Evenly scatter seeds on top of the soil. A nice, even dispersal of seeds will result in even, lush growth.
- Gently press the seeds in. Burying the seeds isn't necessary.
- Mist or gently water to settle the seeds in.
- Label with the variety and date. This is especially important if you're growing several varieties or mixes, so you can keep track of which ones you liked most to grow in the future.
- Place in a sunny spot or under lights. If you have a clear plastic cover or clear plastic bag to cover the container with, this will help maintain consistent moisture and humidity while the seeds are germinating. You can still start microgreen seeds without this humidity cover, but it gives a little added protection from drying out in the very early stages of growing. If you do cover it, remove the cover as soon as you see signs of sprouting.
- Keep the soil moist as the microgreens start growing. You won't need to worry about feeding or fertilizing, since you'll be harvesting them so quickly.
As your microgreens grow, they'll produce their first set of leaves, called cotyledons, also known as "growth leaves." After that, they'll produce their second set of leaves, which are their first true leaves. Once they've grown this set of leaves, it's time to harvest! This process can take anywhere from one to three weeks, depending on variety.
The easiest way to harvest is to use scissors or garden shears.
- Gently grasp the leaves of a clump of the greens in the fingers of one hand, while cutting the stems a bit above the soil line with your shears.
- Do this until you've harvested as many microgreens as you need.
- Give them a gentle rinse before you eat them, just to rinse off any soil or dust.
Microgreens won't keep long after harvesting, so it's best to harvest right before you plan to eat them. If you need to try to keep them for more than a couple of hours, you can cut them and place them with their stems in a shallow container of water in your refrigerator, but in general, this is more trouble than just harvesting and rinsing them right before use.
What Are Microgreens?
There are basically a few stages of growth at which you can eat plants:
- As sprouts, which are ready when the seeds sprout their first leaves (the cotyledons)
- As microgreens, which are harvested and eaten when the first true leaves appear
- As baby greens, which are harvested when the true leaves are a couple of inches tall, and are quite tender and delicate
- As full-sized greens, which is the size you usually see in grocery stores
Choosing Microgreen Seeds
Not every edible plant is appropriate to grow as a microgreen. In general, the seeds for greens, brassicas, herbs, and certain root vegetables work well as microgreens. You wouldn't, for example, want to try to eat tomato microgreens, since the leaves of plants in the nightshade family aren't edible.
You can find seeds for microgreen and microgreen mixes in most garden centers and seed catalogs. It's important to buy seeds specifically labelled for growing as microgreens; many retailers coat their regular seeds in fungicides and pesticides, which makes them inappropriate for microgreen production. Since you're eating the plants at such an early stage of growth, these compounds are more concentrated than they would be in full-grown plants.
It's also important to keep in mind that you'll be sowing microgreen seeds much more thickly than you otherwise would, so you need a lot more seed. Many seed catalogs offer microgreen seeds by the ounce, and that's often a more cost-effective way to buy them.
Best Varieties to Grow as Microgreens
While there are definitely some plants you don't want to grow as microgreens, there are plenty that make delicious additions to salads, sandwiches, soups, or wraps.
You can find a wide variety of flavor profiles, and it's a good idea to both grow trays of a single variety and experiment with mixes suited to your tastes and how you plan to use your microgreens.
Sweet or Nutty-Flavored Microgreens
If you want a sweet bite in your salads, consider these delicious microgreens:
- Pak Choi
Mild, Earthy-Flavored Microgreens
If you prefer something with earthy flavors, then these microgreens are a good bet:
Strong, Intensely Flavored Microgreens
Looking for something with a bit more flavor? Try these:
- Lemon balm
Will Microgreens Regrow After Harvest?
Once you've harvested your microgreens, it's time to replant. They will not regrow after you harvest them. You can use the same soil, just lightly rake it up and maybe add a bit of organic fertilizer to give the existing soil a boost, then start the planting process all over again. If you start a tray of microgreens every few days to every week, you'll get to a point where you'll always have microgreens ready to add to a salad or sandwich.