It’s not too difficult to grow microgreens indoors. They can flourish on a windowsill and be ready to harvest quite quickly as you don’t have to wait for them to become fully grown.
Tiny microgreen plants can grow all year round on a windowsill, in almost any shallow container, so they can form part of a productive indoor edible garden or an apartment 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.
What are Microgreens Exactly?
Microgreens are 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.
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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 resources 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 Indoor 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:
- Radishes – A beautiful quick-growing microgreen with red stems and a peppery flavour. Radishes should be ready to harvest within roughly seven days.
- Spinach – 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.
- Broccoli – 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.
- Rocket – 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 root. You’ll be able to harvest them within 7-14 days.
- Mustard – 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.
- Beetroot – 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.
- Fennel – If you like the taste of aniseed then fennel is a delicious choice. They grow fairly quickly and should start to mature as a microgreen within 10 days.
- Basil – Small basil plants are much easier to grow and packs the same flavour. They are ready to harvest within around 10 days.
- Cress – Cess is one of the fastest-growing microgreens you can choose. Sow thickly, you don’t even need to cover with soil, but cover the container with a lightproof lid and harvest within 7 days.
Choosing Your Microgreen 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 good idea as they will be more affordable over time.
Tools You’ll Need
- Vegetable or herb seeds – organic and leafy are the best pick 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, any shallow container should work. 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 for growing.
- A watering can or spray bottle or mister with smaller holes for watering. It’s important to choose a watering can that won’t wash all your seeds away as some larger watering cans can be 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.
How to Grow Microgreens Indoors: a Step by Step Guide
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.
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.
2. Soak and Sow Your Seeds
Larger seeds will germinate a bit better and faster if you soak them for 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.
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.
4. Remove the Lids
After a few days, once the seeds have germinated, you can remove the lids and place your trays in a windowsill. They will look a little pale as above as they’ve not seen much light, but will soon become green and lush.
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 pair of scissors to cut the stems directly above the soil. Rinse and use in your favourite dishes.
6. 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 keep things interesting and avoid culinary boredom!