Growing Microgreens

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz about microgreens lately—but what exactly are they? A microgreen is essentially a tiny version of a vegetable plant that is harvested while still young. You might be thinking, why not just grow a plant out to its intended size instead of plucking it out when it’s only a couple of inches tall? There are many benefits to eating microgreens, but the two major reasons are they are very nutritiously dense and they also have the greatest flavor intensity at this size, so a little bit goes a long way.

Recently I learned how to grow microgreens from my friend Christopher at Horne Family Farms. He’s been perfecting this process for a while now and agreed to share what he’s learned along the way. His current specialty crops include a spicy greens mix (arugula, mustard, Asian greens), sunflowers, peas, and basil.

Here’s what you need to do to grow your own:

Start by filling a tub with soil and completely saturate the soil with water and mix. You want it to be significantly wetter than you’d expect so that the seeds will stick to the soil. It’s also important that the seeds get moisture right away after being sown. Place the saturated soil into an open 1” x 10” x 20” germination tray and pack it down until it is flat and evenly covering the whole tray. Fill all of your trays and stack them on top of each other as you go (to really press down the soil). Note: This process of preparing the soil works well for small-scale seedings of a few trays. If you are seeding many more trays at once, consider filling the trays with soil first and then saturate them all together once they are all filled and the soil is pressed down.

Use a kitchen scale and zero it to the weight of a small plastic container to hold your weighed seed. Weigh out the amount of seed needed for seeding one tray. The seeding amounts are as follows:

Microgreen: Seed Amount/Tray: Days until Harvest:
Spicy Mix 10 grams of seed ~15 days
Sunflowers 6 oz of seed ~13 days
Peas 11 oz of seed ~13 days
Basil 6 grams of seed ~20 days

Weigh out your seed and pour some into your hand from the container while using your other hand to sprinkle in a snake-like pattern. Hold your hand down close to soil level to keep seed from bouncing around. Slightly overlap the current row with the previous row to ensure adequate coverage. Start with half your seed in the container and try to make it halfway across the seed tray to ensure an even seeding. After you use all the seed in the container, press down with hands to improve soil to seed contact.

Preparing the sunflower and pea seeds require a tiny bit of prior planning, as they need to be soaked in water for at least 12 hours before seeding into a tray. This is because the seeds are much larger and soak up significantly more water than smaller seeds. Soaking them ahead of time gives them a much bigger head start and will help them germinate often within a day. When seeding the sunflowers and peas just dump the entire bag, water and all, onto the seed tray and spread around evenly.

After your trays are ready, place them in a warm sunny spot. Microgreens prefer 70-80 degrees, not too hot/not too cold. Ideally don’t move them around at all until they germinate as the soil will form cracks and seed will fall down the cracks. If space is limited, you can stack the sunflower and pea trays on top of one another and wait for them to be popped up by the tray below and then spread them out.

Harvest quick tips:

  • Harvest the same way you harvest cutting greens, cut as close as possible and parallel to the soil.

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  • Lightly brush tops to knock dirt but no need to wash them right away as they will come out pretty clean.
  • You can get two cuts off the peas!
  • Harvest in cooler weather (or first thing in the morning in the summer) and put right in cooler.
  • Harvest everything right after the first true leaves just start to appear. This is especially important for the sunflowers which get furry after their first true leaves emerge. Also you want to ensure you harvest before cotyledons (the initial leaves that grow before the first true leaves) turn yellow.
  • Use the 80-20 rule when harvesting. Once 80% of the work is done you should leave the last 20% because it’s not worth your time. So don’t worry about getting every single stem during harvest, it’ll take too much time.

Other helpful tips:

  • Use microgreens within 4 days ideally but can last a week or more.
  • Consistent water is important, must always have a moist environment (esp. for peas!)
  • Basil will do better on a heat mat if it’s a bit cooler but all will need a heat mat in cold weather.
  • Store microgreens with air access with perforated bag or open top to allow moisture to evaporate.

2017_06_14 Microgreens Blog Post Photos (26)

Happy Growing! ~Amber