Microgreens are 'baby plants', growing to only 1–3 inches tall when harvested. This can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on the type.
Similar to sprouts, they are a concentrated nutrient source and are packed with beneficial enzymes. Sometimes the terms sprouts and microgreens are used interchangeably, but there are some key differences. Sprouts are germinated with the use of water (no soil) and are typically harvested in 4-6 days.
What kind of microgreens are out there? For starters, you can grow different types of salad greens, leafy vegetables, herbs and even edible flowers. Beginners often start by growing 1-2 types of seeds such as chia, broccoli, mustard greens, cauliflower, or kale. These are among the easiest to grow varieties of microgreens if you are just getting started.
Microgreens are an excellent way to add nutrients to your diet. Some may enjoy eating fresh microgreens raw because of their essential nutrients and unique flavors from mild to intense.
Microgreens give us the comfort of knowing they contain no additives like pesticides. The plants only are grown for a few days, so you can feel quite good about knowing your not consuming anything harmful from microgreens. Our top picks for essential nutrients are red cabbage, amaranth, and cilantro. These are known to have the highest concentrations of vitamin E, ascorbic acid, tocopherols, vitamin C, carotenoids, and vitamin K.
There are so many possibilities when you are first learning how to grow fresh microgreens that you might feel a little bit overwhelmed. If you want to start with the easiest, we recommend wheatgrass. If you want to become a bit more adventurous after getting the hang of it, here are a few more recommendations that we'd like to suggest:
Instead of just planting one type of microgreen, you will find that the different varieties offer a delightful range of mild to spicy flavors, and an attractive array of colors and textures.
Microgreens are seeds grown in a soil mix or a fiber mat that grow under indirect sunlight with adequate moisture. They don't require a lot of maintenance, but you should keep tabs and give your seedlings about eight hours of daily sunlight to thrive. Grow lights or window sills are an excellent way to help your plant thrive throughout the day. In warm climates, microgreens can be grown outdoors all year round.
Here's a quick rundown of what kind of supplies you'll need before you begin growing:
Soaking SOME types of seed will speed up the germination process. Check the package of the particular seed on requirements for specific pre-soaking instructions, usually a few hours to overnight. If it doesn't mention it, it's safer to assume it's not needed. After presoaking is complete, rinse and drain the seeds in a colander.
The next step in the microgreen growing process is to fill your clean microgreen tray with your chosen grow medium. Grow medium can be compost, a soil mix or even just a 50/50 blend of perlite & vermiculite. Try not to overthink this part. Larger seeds usually require soil. Smaller seeds, like lettuce or kale work great with grow mats or soil. (Here's a bit more info on grow mats, in case you're interested.)
If using our microgreen tray, fill 0.75 inch deep with soil and spread evenly.
Sprinkle the seeds over the seed starting mix and potting soil according to the recommended density for that specific seed.
After sowing, sprinkle a thin layer of soil on top, and press the soil in lightly and then carefully mist seeds or sprouts with water from a spray bottle. Cover your tray with a clear plastic vented humidity dome. Alternatively, you can also use a second 1020 tray to create a blackout dome. If you will be using a blackout dome, remove the cover after seeds have germinated. If you are growing your seeds indoors, place the tray in an area with indirect light, a well-lit window or under grow lights.
Tip: Mind the temperature of the room you are growing in- conditions from 60-75 degrees work for most types. Use a heat mat for quicker germination of your microgreens if the ambient temperature gets lower than this.
For some seeds, it's critical to first have a ‘stacking’ period. This is a period of about 3-5 days after sowing which maintains a very high humidity, which aids in germination of the seed. It's not the light that germinates the seed - it's the water. This period is very important for some varieties. Misting the surface of the seeds, media, and dome accelerates the rate and consistency of germination.
Rooms with plenty of sunlight probably won't need any additional light. Some micros require more light, some not as much…so your best guide is to read up on the crop you’re choosing to grow. In all cases, remember - we are only growing to the first set of true leaves. If the emerging crop looks ‘leggy’ - give it more light. If growing on stacked racks, then supplemental lights will be needed for any shelves that get hidden from strong indirect sunlight. If the leaves exhibit burn spots, your artificial lighting may be too close.
It's best if you lightly water at least 2x a day. You can get away with less maintenance, especially once the seedlings become established. For best results, lightly spray water 1-2x a day, or before the soil has a chance to dry out. Obviously, keep in mind your own growing environment as you may need to water more often. Don't allow water to pool or stagnate either. Trying to skip a watering next time by overwatering now just isn't good practice.
Keep a spray bottle filled with clean, pure water on hand, especially during the germination phase. During this time, those root hairs are so delicate, we want to be extra gentle with them while watering.
Nutritious microgreens are usually ready to harvest anywhere from 7-28 days after planting. Most are ready to be harvested when they reach 1 - 3 inches tall in length. To harvest, simply snip just above soil level using clean kitchen shears.
Give your harvested microgreens a rinse and lay them down on paper towels or a clean dish towel to dry. You can store your harvested microgreens in the refrigerator in a semi-sealed container or bag (allow a tiny bit of airflow).
To reap the maximum health benefits from microgreens, consume them right after harvesting.
For more information on growing specific varieties of microgreens read our ultimate microgreen cheat sheet.
After a few attempts, you'll notice that microgreens are very easy to grow and they're very inexpensive compared to purchasing just one from the local grocery store. When you grow your own food, you savor it because of the effort it took to get to the table.
After harvesting, add them to mixed salads, smoothies, sandwiches or cold soups. Get creative and experiment with different mixes, adding the varieties you like best. Growing microgreens in containers at home is a fun indoor activity that both adults and kids will enjoy.
Looking for some awesome video content on microgreens? Check out our YouTube Channel!
For more advanced information on running a microgreens business, check out our course on the Urban Farm Academy!