Micro Greens 101
I promised you a blog about micro greens.
Immediate disclaimer—I don’t grow micro greens in containers—but I do grow lots of cut and come again greens in the hoop house.
Similar to the seed sprouting I wrote about, there are many ways that you can grow micro greens. In fact, if I’m direct sowing a small patch of broccoli, red or green cabbage or bok choi or other greens that need some space to mature, thinning out the seedlings is a way of harvesting micro greens.
What are micro greens?
Micro greens are small seeds that have been sprouted and allowed to grow to 5-7cm (2-2.5 inches). The seeds are sown closely together because the plants are never allowed to grow to their full genetic potential.
Micro greens are packed with nutritional punch, quick to grow and a satisfying and simple crop for new gardeners to grow.
Where can I grow micro greens?
Pretty much anywhere there is soil, sunshine and warmth. At this time of the year (it’s the middle of winter here in New Zealand) everyone’s more inclined to be curled up in front of their computer, or with a good book, rather than braving the winter wind and cold. So, experimenting with sprouting or growing micro greens on a sunny windowsill is a great option for new-growth-starved gardeners.
Some people (mainly commercial growers) like to grow micro greens in trays on racks under artificial light. This is absolutely not my thing, but there are a number of people online who boast about making a very reasonable living for themselves growing racks of micro greens under lights in their basement.
Search ‘growing micro greens’ on YouTube—you’ll be amazed!
I know which thumbnail appeals to me—and I guess that’s why I’ll never be a millionaire!
What can I grow micro greens in?
The ground (like me in my hoop house)
In garden beds (thinnings are great as micro greens)
Small pots on a sunny windowsill
Trays under artificial light.
As long as you have drainage and good soil, you can grow micro greens in a shallow container—seed sowing trays or containers are often used. They’re small, convenient and can be reused.
If you don’t have any seed sowing trays available, a plastic takeaway meal container, or a butter/margarine container with a few holes punched in the bottom for drainage will do.
Wide, shallow containers that maximise growing area are best.
If you want a great aesthetic, pick a pretty dish and colourful seeds to grow. Rainbow Chard make beautiful micro greens (I pick these often from the garden when thinning and use them on the top of roast vegetables, soups and salads).
What seeds can I use to grow micro greens?
You can use pretty much any edible for growing micro greens. Kings seeds here in New Zealand recommend:
Basil (Dark Opal & Sweet Genovese)
Remember to stay away from the solanaceae (nightshade) family as they can be poisonous, so avoid sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomato and potatoes (yes, they do have seeds!) for micro greens. Also don’t try growing rhubarb for micro greens. If you’re unsure, do your research.
If in doubt, don’t!
How to grow micro greens
Select your container (or growing position);
Use quality potting mix or seed raising mix (if you are growing inside);
Fill your container 1cm (1/4 inch) short of the top and pat the growing medium down;
Soak your sowing medium with water;
Sprinkle seeds thickly across the top of the growing medium;
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of growing medium (just covering tiny seeds);
Cover the growing medium with a layer of damp paper (paper towel or newsprint) and press firmly. The seeds need to be in good contact with the damp soil to germinate;
Stand your container in a tray of water. It’s important that the seeds do not dry out when they begin the germination process. If they begin to germinate and then dry out, they will die. If you don’t like the idea of a small moat of water lying around, you can spray the paper on the top of your seeds with a light spray daily. I prefer the moat method—I’ve forgotten to spray on occasion and lost a whole batch of seedlings;
Check your seed trays once a day by pulling back the paper to see if the seeds are beginning to sprout. As soon as they begin to sprout, remove the paper and tip out any water in the tray below. If the seeds stay too wet at this stage, they will begin to damp off and grow mould. NB If the seeds do look like they are growing fuzzy while mould when they first sprout, do not despair and do not throw them away. This is a normal part of the ‘growing process’ and the fuzzy while will disappear after a couple of days;
Keep your micro greens in a warm, sunny spot. If your micro greens begin to ‘grow on a lean’ simply turn them around. They will naturally grow towards the light. This is the reason that commercial growers like to grow under lights, so that their micro greens grow straight;
When your micro greens reach 5-7cm (2-2.5 inches) (anywhere between 10 days to two weeks dependant upon your choice of seeds and when you prefer to cut them) they’re ready for you to cut and use;
Because you are taking the whole growing tip of the plant, micro greens can only be harvested once. I get many crops of cut-and-come-again asian greens and mesclun (mixed loose-leaf lettuce) but you will not get another of micro greens.
If you are growing indoors, compost your seed raising mix (and roots of the micro greens) and begin another crop after washing out your seed tray.
If you want a continual harvest of micro greens, then you should stagger your sowing and begin a new tray every couple of weeks. This, of course, is also dependant upon how many you are using. You’ll find your own rhythm. That’s the wonderful thing about gardening—it’s all open to experimentation!
So there you have it. Micro greens 101.
Oh, and micro greens are a fantastic idea for children to grow. I have fond memories of growing mustard and cress seed on trays of damp paper towel on the window ledge in the kitchen.
Draw a face on half an egg shell, pop some soil inside and plant some seeds. Your kids (or grandkids!) will have ‘hairy’ friends before they know it.
Give it a go.
Whether you grow micro greens in trays, or sprout a few seeds in an old glass jar, there’s no excuse for not having fresh, nutritious greens to throw in (or on) your meals.
Love & lettuce,