Microgreens include a variety of small edible greens, harvested less than one month after they have germinated. In essence, they are baby plants that have been sown densely with the aim to harvest the first set of true leaves. Microgreens are not sprouts, as you harvest them with scissors and don’t eat them root and all, they are just tiny nutrient-rich plants that have not been allowed to mature.
All microgreens can be grown in the same way, into shallow compost, placed in the light, you can also grow them using hydroponics. In fact, some microgreens grow better in hydroponics.
Tiny microgreen plants can grow all year round on a windowsill indoors, in almost any shallow container, so they can form part of a productive indoor edible garden. Microgreens are normally ready to harvest within one or two weeks after sowing and sowing them successionally every week will mean you have a constant supply of greens to harvest. Most are ready to pick within seven days of sowing and will have the same taste as their fully grown versions, giving you concentrated bursts of flavour within your favourite dishes. Microgreens can be especially tasty in summer or winter salads.
Why Grow Microgreens?
Microgreens are so easy to grow, especially if you have limited space. The crops are quick to turn around and it takes little time and resource to grow greens in this way.
Studies have shown that they contain considerably higher concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids than their mature counterparts. You will also find less nutrient loss from harvesting to serving as these are generally eaten within a few hours of harvest.
The whole process is relatively inexpensive and provides a great way to have a continuous supply of fresh greens. It’s also a great way to learn how to garden and can be a wonderful project to help children understand the growing process while reaping the rewards quite quickly.
Which Plants Grow Well as Microgreens?
Most leafy greens and herbs with a relatively strong flavour work well as microgreens and will be even more intense when they are baby plants. Below is a list of greens and herbs that is a good place to start as they grow well as microgreens along with links for the seeds:
A beautiful quick-growing microgreen with red stems and a peppery flavour. Radishes should be ready to harvest within roughly seven days.
These leaves have a mild flavour and are packed with nutrients such as iron. Your spinach will be ready to harvest within 10 days of sowing.
Coriander / Cilantro
These fragrant herbs take a little bit longer to germinate, so just be mindful when you do decide to grow them. Coriander should be ready 14 days after germination.
Micro broccoli has a spicey flavour and is one of the healthiest and easiest to grow. Sow them quite densely for high yields. They will be ready to harvest within seven days.
Tiny rocket leaves are packed with the same peppery flavour as the full-grown version. They are quite delicate so handle them with care and don’t sow too densely so that they have space to rout. You’ll be able to harvest them within 7-14 days.
As a microgreen mustard tastes like mustard, there is no better way to describe the flavour. They don’t need a lot of care other than a good watering and are ready within 7-14 days.
There are so many varieties of beetroot, but when grown for their leaves you can choose any of your favourite varieties. Packed full of goodness, they can be harvested within 10 days.
If you like the taste of aniseed then fennel is a great option. They grow fairly quickly and should start to mature as a microgreen within 10 days.
Small basil plants are much easier to grow and packs the same flavour. They are ready to harvest within around 10 days.
Cress is one of the fastest-growing microgreens you can choose. Sow thickly, you don’t even need to cover with soil, but do cover the container with a lightproof lid and harvest within 7 days.
Choosing Your Seeds
The ideal microgreen seed must be from organic seed producers to make sure they don’t contain any fungicides or pesticides. You’ll need a larger volume of seeds for continuous production, so looking into seeds sold in bulk is a wise choice as they are more competitively priced.
Supplies Needed to Grow Microgreens in Compost
- You’ll need your chosen organic leafy vegetable or herb seeds as outlined above.
- Growing medium such as a multi-purpose compost or coconut husk. Farm manure can be too strong for small germinating seeds, so an organic multi-purpose compost or husk will work perfectly in this instance. If you are using coconut husk note that it swells up a lot so you don’t need that much to start.
- A seed tray, preferably a non-plastic version. You can even use reusable tin foil food trays as these are non-toxic and inexpensive. If you’d like to follow a more structured process you can use specifically designed microgreen growing trays with clear lids that will help to retain moisture. A container that is roughly 2.5 cm deep is more than enough space growing.
- A watering can, spray bottle or mister with smaller holes for watering. It’s important to choose a watering option that won’t wash all your seeds away as some larger watering cans can bee too ambitious and will potentially wash your soil away
- Grow lights are optional but will give your greens the right amount of light to grow more quickly. Lights used for hydroponic growing will be perfect if you’d like to look into these. However, if you’re just testing the process a sunny windowsill will work perfectly.
Step 1 – Prepare Your Trays
Fill your trays with one 2.5cm of moist compost or your chosen growing medium, level the compost so that it is spread evenly within the tray.
Step 2 – Soak and Sow Your Seeds
Larger seeds can benefit from soaking between 8 and 10 hours as it will activate the growing process. Spread your seeds evenly over the soil surface and sprinkle a bit of growing medium/compost over them. Things like cress and mustard don’t really need a soil cover and can be grown using a lidded container, carefully read the seed packs for specific planting instructions.
To ensure good contact with the soil, lightly press down on the freshly sown area with your hand. Water the seeds lightly, being careful not to flood and wash the soil away. You can cover the trays at this point to retain moisture and heat until the seeds germinate.
Step 3 – Water as Required
Mist your seed trays with a small watering can, spray bottle or mister at least once a day. It’s very important to keep your seeds moist but not soaking wet until they germinate. Once germinated spray once or twice a day to keep the soil watered and moist.
Step 4 – Harvest
Once your microgreens have grown a few inches high and have developed their first set of true leaves, you can start harvesting them. Use sharp scissors to cut the stems directly above the soil. Rinse as needed and use in your favourite dishes.
Step 5 – Continue to Sow for Ongoing Crops
Continue to sow new seed trays weekly to ensure you have continuous crops. You can either keep sowing your favourite seeds or experiment with alternatives to see which options work best for you.