If you’re looking to grow vegetables at home, but don’t know where to start, then try growing some of the easiest vegetables around.
Microgreens are a great place to start because they’re easy to grow and also really good for you!
Some microgreens for beginners that are especially easy to grow to include basil, cilantro, beets, radishes, and sunflowers.
You can find these in most grocery stores, but you will pay a premium price.
The great news is growing them at home is easy and inexpensive!
Let’s take a look at how you can grow them yourself at home.
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- What Are Microgreens?
- What are the differences between Microgreens, Sprouts, and Baby Greens?
- Nutritional Benefits of Microgreens
- What Are Microgreen Seeds?
- Why Should I Grow Microgreens?
- What kind of soil do microgreens like?
- What supplies do I need to grow microgreens?
- How long does it take for a microgreen to grow?
- How to Grow Microgreens
- Replanting More Microgreens
- Storing Microgreens
- Do microgreens need fertilizer?
- Troubleshooting microgreens problems
What Are Microgreens?
You have seen these tiny plants mixed into salads and topping plates as a garnish, but what exactly are microgreens?
They are the young plants of various vegetables and herbs including arugula, basil, beets, and wheatgrass.
There are more than 25 varieties of microgreens.
Microgreens are the tiny, edible plants that sprout up in your garden when you plant seeds.
They are harvested while the seedling is still very tender, usually between two to four weeks old—so pretty young!
Many of them are harvested before they even reach one inch tall.
Some commonly known types include broccoli, alfalfa, sunflower greens, and radish microgreens.
What are the differences between Microgreens, Sprouts, and Baby Greens?
Microgreens are the baby leaves of fully grown vegetables and herbs.
These tender greens can be harvested within two to four weeks.
Sprouts, on the other hand, come from germinated seeds that have just begun growing. They usually only have the very beginning of immature leaves.
Sprouts are eaten at this stage because they are at their highest protein content.
Baby Greens are even older than microgreens.
They are harvested when the first leaves of the plant mature, but the seedling still has a lot of growing to do. Baby greens can be eaten fresh or cooked like spinach.
Most salad mixes you purchase from the grocery store are actually baby greens.
Nutritional Benefits of Microgreens
Of course, we love to grow microgreens because they are dainty and beautiful on leafy greens.
More importantly, research has shown that microgreens are packed with essential vitamins like lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamins C, E, and K.
The minuscule seedlings contain up to 40 times more nutrients than mature plants. The best part is that their complex flavors are also delicious.
The reason microgreens pack a big nutritional punch is because they’re harvested so young.
At this stage in their lifecycle, the plants are still tiny, tender leaves growing from their stalk or root system.
They have not formed a full leaf structure, which allows them to absorb more nutrients from the soil, plus they are still retaining some nutrients from their seeds.
Microgreens are also an excellent source of amino acids and antioxidants.
They contain phytonutrients that fight inflammation and lower your risk for heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
What Are Microgreen Seeds?
Microgreen seeds aren’t any different than the vegetable and herb seeds you would typically plant in your garden, although some growers choose to treat them with a disinfectant to reduce the chance of food-borne illnesses.
You will want to make sure your seeds haven’t been treated with any fungicides or pesticides.
If you happen to have an abundance of untreated radish or sunflower seeds on hand, you could use those to grow your own microgreens. You can also purchase one of our microgreen seed packets.
Why Should I Grow Microgreens?
If you’re an avid gardener, then you know that homegrown vegetables have the freshest flavor.
However, if you don’t have the time or energy to tend to a garden in your backyard, microgreens are the perfect solution.
They require minimal work and maintenance. They also allow you to try out new vegetables and flavors.
If you have kids, they’ll enjoy watching the seeds turn into plants before their eyes!
Here are a few of our favorite reasons to grow microgreens:
- They are delicious!
- Microgreens are ready for harvest in as few as 5 days.
- They are expensive to purchase but fairly inexpensive to grow.
- You can grow microgreens indoors and in a small space all year round.
- Add a gourmet touch and intense pop of flavor to any dish with homegrown microgreens.
- Improve your diet by adding microgreens to smoothies or eating as a snack.
Microgreens are also known as ‘vegetable confetti’ because they can brighten up dishes or salad greens with their beautiful colors that range from light green to deep red.
What kind of soil do microgreens like?
Microgreens grow happily in compost, potting soil mix, or half-and-half together. Some growers also choose to use a growing medium of 50/50 blend of perlite and vermiculite in place of soil.
Either option works fine. The soil helps to retain moisture and provides structure to the roots of the microgreens.
You can prevent mold from growing on your microgreens by sprinkling cinnamon over the surface of the growing medium.
What supplies do I need to grow microgreens?
In addition to soil mix, you will need a growing tray, a drip tray, a plastic dome, and seeds.
We like to use our Kitchen Garden Kit to grow microgreens because it contains both the trays and the plastic dome. All we need to add is growing medium and our favorite seeds.
Here are a few other supplies you may want to add for best results:
How long does it take for a microgreen to grow?
Microgreens are typically harvested 7-10 days after they are sown in trays.
Some growers choose to allow the leaves to grow larger, for a fuller appearance.
To encourage larger leaves, simply harvest your microgreens when the first set of true leaves forms.
How to Grow Microgreens
Growing microgreens is a healthy and cost-effective alternative to purchasing them at the store. You can harvest microgreens in as little as five days with approximately $5 worth of seeds.
The best part? All it takes is a small space!
Let’s take a look at 6 easy steps for growing microgreens indoors.
Select Your Microgreens Seeds
The first step in growing microgreens is to select suitable seeds.
You can choose the same kind of seed for each tray or try different seed mixes. The latter option will give you a burst of color and flavor in your dishes!
We like to plant 2-3 kinds of seeds at once, with the start times of each tray spaced out by a few days so we have a continuous harvest.
Basil, mustard, and radish are popular seed choices for beginners.
Think about how you will use the microgreens in your cooking to help you decide. If you can’t decide, opt for a blended pack of seeds to give you some variety.
Prepare Your Soil
Soil is not required for growing microgreens, but we prefer it. It gives structure to the roots and provides some nutrients.
Opt for a seed starting mix or a 50/50 blend of perlite and vermiculite.
Perlite and vermiculite will not provide any nutrients, but they will help to retain moisture. Microgreens don’t need any nutrients from the soil because they are still pulling nutrients from the seed.
Without compressing the soil, spread it out on a flat surface, preferably a growing tray.
Carefully get your soil moist with a spray bottle or mister. You do not want to overwater your microgreens.
Plant Your Microgreen Seeds
We recommend growing microgreens in flat seed trays.
Uneven or sloped surfaces will cause the water to runoff to low areas, which will lead to uneven or poor seed germination.
You can use any type of container that has drainage, but we have found that the easiest way to start is with a solid drip tray under a perforated grow tray with drainage holes.
The perforated tray will ensure runoff of excess moisture, while the solid drip tray will prevent water damage while growing microgreens indoors.
Spread your seeds onto the soil evenly and space out large seeds a bit further apart.
How to Water Microgreens
Hydration is key to growing microgreens, especially during the first few days of germination.
Seeds that get moist then dry out will die and fail to sprout.
Beginners should start with a spray bottle and mist the tray daily to keep the soil moist.
The amount of water needed will vary depending on environmental conditions, including room temperature and humidity levels.
Cover the tray with a clear plastic dome or plastic wrap for the first few days until most of the seeds germinate.
The plastic cover will maintain moisture levels and heat the soil.
Seeds may be slower to germinate in the winter when ambient temperatures are lower than 70° F. Adding a seedling heat mat under the drip tray will help to warm soil temperatures and speed up seed germination.
Provide Adequate Light
A few days after you notice that your seeds have germinated, remove the tray cover and allow sunlight exposure.
Microgreens need a good source of overhead sunlight to prevent them from getting thin and leggy. You can provide light from a sunny windowsill or grow light.
If you start to notice the microgreens stretching towards the light, you may need to rotate the tray or provide more lighting.
Begin Harvesting Microgreens
After a week or so of sun exposure, your microgreens are ready to harvest and enjoy.
With a pair of clean scissors or snips, cut the greens as close to the soil line as possible.
Pick them from the base and leave those that are still sprouting for another day or two.
Rinse your microgreens in fresh water to remove any soil and let dry on a clean towel.
Eat microgreens on sandwiches, salads, soups, and hors d’oeuvres to add a splash of color and flavor.
Replanting More Microgreens
Once you have grown your first harvest, add some additional microgreens seeds to the tray for your next crop.
You do not need to change out the soil before starting the next batch of microgreens. Leave the root mat from the previous harvest for additional nutrients in the soil.
You’ve now grown your microgreens and harvested them. You’ll almost certainly have some leftovers, no matter how many recipes you use them with. What’s the best way to store them?
After you’ve dried your greens, the best place to store them is in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
Fresh microgreens should be dry before being placed in the refrigerator, but leaving them out for lengthy periods may cause them to dry out too much. The microgreens need some moisture to remain fresh.
Microgreens will also go bad quickly if they sit in water too long and are not properly dried.
Place microgreens between damp paper towels and keep them cold and covered in a resealable bag or container. They’ll keep in the fridge for a week if wrapped this way.
Greens should be covered right up until they reach the plate to minimize wilting and drying out.
Even if they’re placed in the fridge, keep an eye on your kitchen’s or home’s overall humidity. The lifespan of your greens may be reduced if you frequently open and close your refrigerator.
Do microgreens need fertilizer?
Microgreens don’t need as many nutrients as vegetables that are grown to maturity because they are still retaining many nutrients stored in the seeds.
If you want to give your microgreens a boost, you can water them with a diluted solution of organic liquid fertilizer or compost tea.
Follow the instructions on the packaging of commercial fertilizer and use half-strength so as not to damage your tender greens.
If treating the soil before planting, dampen the seed starting mix with fertilizer or compost tea, then spread your seeds.
Troubleshooting microgreens problems
Growing microgreens indoors is easy; however, there could be some challenges when you’re first getting started.
Stems are too long/thin – and there is not enough sunlight. Move your trays to a south-facing window or sunroom that gets more direct sunlight through the day or rotate the trays through the day. You can also use a grow light set up directly above the microgreen trays.
Mold on soil or stems of microgreens – usually occurs through too much water or humidity. Add a fan blowing across the tops of the microgreen trays and only mist the soil when it appears dry.
Cinnamon sprinkled on the surface of the soil can help prevent mold from forming.
You should also clean and sanitize your containers between uses. Scrub the soil trays to remove all debris, treat with a sanitizer, and allow to dry completely before storage or refilling with fresh soil.
If your seeds are very close together, you should also space the seeds further apart for future plantings.
Uneven seed germination – uneven seed germination is commonly caused by uneven moisture levels in the tray, especially if the poor germination is happening in one section of the tray more than another.
- Make sure your soil level is even throughout the entire tray before spreading your seeds.
- Keep the microgreen trays on a flat surface while growing.
- Evenly mist the entire tray when you water.
If you are using a fan to increase airflow, pay attention to if poor germination is happening near the fan. The soil in that area may be drying out more quickly, so you will either need to move the fan further away or water that area more frequently.
You may also need to check the germination of your seeds, especially if it is an older seed packet. You can test the germination by placing several seeds in a damp paper towel and placing the towel in a plastic bag. In a few days, you should notice the beginnings of a sprout on each seed.
If your seeds are showing evidence of lowered fertility, you can try planting the seeds more densely in the tray.
Growing microgreens is a fun and easy way to enjoy fresh greens.
They can be a lovely addition to a healthy diet and add a pop of color to your favorite dishes.
As long as you choose the right seeds, have proper lighting or sunlight, and provide a clean environment, you’ll be producing microgreens in no time.