How To Grow Microgreens In 5 Easy Steps
You know that bunch of tiny, fresh greens that comes on top of your avocado toast at a cute breakfast spot? It kinda looks like green confetti? Those are microgreens! They are gourmet-looking, adorable and packed full of both flavour and nutrients. And the very best thing about microgreens — they’re easy to grow. Like so easy.
Microgreens have been around for a long time, but really had a “glow-up” over the last 10 years. They’ve spiked in popularity with both restaurants and home gardeners. Trendy cafés, upscale spots and even diners have embraced topping savoury and sweet dishes with microgreens. Gardeners, both beginners and long-time growers, have jumped in head first, growing microgreens in creative ways.
They are inexpensive to grow (I’ve calculated the cost of growing one tray of microgreens to be only $2.00!), can easily be grown in Summer & Winter months and don’t require much set-up or supplies to get going.
Plus, scientists have found microgreens have incredible health benefits. According to Medical News Today, evidence suggests microgreens have an extremely high antioxidant count, which can help prevent a range of diseases.
There’s a lot to love about microgreens, all of which I’m covering for you today in this article!
This post covers:
- What Are Microgreens
- What’s The Difference Between Microgreens And Sprouts
- What Are The Easiest Types Of Microgreens To Grow
- What Do You Need To Grow Microgreens
- How To Grow Microgreens In 5 Easy Steps
Looking for other foods to grow indoors? I have a full list for you covering the 10 easiest veggies to grow and how to grow them!
This post may contain affiliate links to products for your convenience. From Soil to Soul gains a small commission from purchases made through those links, at no additional cost to you.
What Are Microgreens
The word “micro” says it all — microgreens are newly germinated seeds that are still in their seedling stage. Microgreens are typically harvested after 12-21 days of being seeded.
The easiest way to think of microgreens is as a baby vegetable that hasn’t yet developed into its full form. For example, you can grow kale microgreens, which are just the baby stage of what could eventually mature into the full vegetable if you let it continue to grow with the proper conditions.
Professional gardeners will often refer to microgreens as cotyledons. This is the food source of the plant embryo. Cotyledons are the first leaves the emerge from the soil as a plant germinates. So really if you wanted to get fancy — the words microgreens and cotyledons could be used interchangeably.
What’s The Difference Between Microgreens And Sprouts
Though they look similar, sprouts and microgreens actually have several differences. The biggest difference between the two is that sprouts are germinated seeds whereas microgreens have a developed stem and leaves.
Another key differentiator is how you grow them. Microgreens are grown using a soil, peat moss or vermiculite medium. The seeds germinate in the medium and grow stems vertically.
On the other hand, sprouts are typically grown in water or can germinate on a moist paper towel if kept very humid.
A few other differences between sprouts and microgreens:
- Sprouts grow quicker and are usually ready to eat within 5-8 days.
- Sprouts have a more pungent smell and taste than microgreens, which can sometimes be described as bitter.
- Sprouts have a lower nutritional value than microgreens. They are lower in fibre and amino acids.
I will say, sprouts are even easier to grow than microgreens. They don’t require much light and can easily germinate from natural sunlight even in the Winter months. Plus, all you need to grow sprouts is a jar, water and high quality seed.
What Are The Easiest Types Of Microgreens To Grow
Ah — the golden question all new gardeners want to know! What’s the easiest thing I can grow?
Well, when it comes to microgreens, I’ve found the smaller the seed, the easier it is to grow. Typically, salad greens, brassicas and mustards are all smaller seeds and easier to grow. Whereas pea shoots and sunflower seeds are larger and more difficult. The reason being it can be tricky to keep the larger seeds moist during the germination period. If microgreen seeds don’t have enough moisture, they won’t germinate and your tray will have spotty areas.
Easy To Grow Microgreens
I love this printable cheat sheet by BootStrap Farmer that breaks down difficulty level and requirements for a huge range of different microgreens.
What Do You Need To Grow Microgreens
The great thing about growing microgreens is that it doesn’t require a large investment in supplies!
The only item you absolutely need is high quality microgreen seed. If you purchase seed from a hardware store or gift shop, there’s a high likelihood your germination rate will be low as the seed is likely old and has been sitting on the shelf for a long time.
My two favourite Canadian microgreen seed providers:
Both are great, reliable brands with certified organic seeds.
Aside from your seed, you can make growing microgreens as simple or complex as you’d like. You could easily use recycled plastic containers (like from store-bought berries or mushrooms) as your trays. If they don’t have small holes in the bottom for drainage, add some by poking holes with a sharp knife.
Alternatively, you can spend a little bit more and buy durable microgreen trays like these ones made from recycled plastic by Bootstrap Farmer.
When it comes to your growing medium, I find microgreens grow best in either:
1. Straight vermiculite, which is a lightweight expanded micaceous mineral. Add 1-2 inches to the bottom of your tray.
2. Or, I just use organic veggie and herb potting soil. The only downside is that it can sometimes cause mold on the surface. However, this can easily be avoided by ensuring you have good air flow on your trays.
Other optional supplies needed to grow microgreens:
- Full spectrum LED grow light to supplement light – especially important for Winter growing
- Small fan for air circulation
- Shallow bottom tray to go under seeded tray for bottom watering
- Spray bottle to mist seeds and keep moist during germination
How To Grow Microgreens In 5 Easy Steps
In a large bowl, mix 1-2 cups of your growing medium, either vermiculite or potting soil, with 1/4 cup or so of water. You want your soil to be damp but not have standing water. It should be wet enough that it forms into a ball easily and holds it shape when you squeeze it. Once your medium is nice and damp, add 1-2 inches of to the bottom of your tray.
Heavily seed your tray so that the entire soil surface is covered in seed.
This is unique to growing microgreens compared to most other edibles. You do not need to space apart your seeds. You want them to cover the entire tray. This will give you a nice full tray of microgreens. Evenly spread them out so all areas are covered and to ensure no seeds are overlapping. Once your tray is completely covered in seed, use your spray bottle to thoroughly mist your seeds with water. Be sure to get all seeds wet. You should have standing water droplets on the surface.
This is the most important step. It’s the blackout period. This is when you’ll cover your microgreens with either a black plastic garbage bag, or stack another tray on top to keep out any light. Why? In the dark, microgreens will have to stretch out to look the light source. This results in longer, slimmer and more tender microgreens.
Keep your microgreens blacked out for 3-5 days as they germinate, uncovering every 24 hours or so to mist with water and then covering again. At this stage, you can also add weight on top of your microgreens tray by stacking a few books on top. This helps develop thicker stems and reduces the chance of your soil drying out. Weight is best when growing larger seed microgreens, like sunflower seeds and pea shoots.
Remove microgreens from darkness and place under a growlight or direct sunlight. Continue misting soil daily to keep seeds and soil wet. You can also water from below if you have a second tray underneath. I especially like doing this as it promotes stronger root growth (as pictured below, both microgreens were bottom watered. Left tray was grown in vermiculite, right tray grown in soil).
After 5-8 days under light, your microgreens should be 3-5 inches tall and ready to harvest! To harvest, use a sharp pair of scissors or a knife and cut at the base of the stem right above the soil surface.
For some microgreens, you might be able to get a second harvest off the tray, so place it back under light and continue to water.
And that’s how you grow microgreens in 5 easy steps!
So welcome to the world of growing microgreens! Once you start and realize just how easy it is, I’m sure you’ll have a fresh tray growing weekly in your home.
Be sure to tag @fromsoiltosoul on Instagram in your microgreen photos.