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Microgreens

Thinking about growing some microgreens this spring? You’ve come to the right place.

Microgreens are perfect for busy gardeners who don’t want to spend a ton of time weeding, watering, and fertilizing their plants. Because they mature so quickly, you’ll get a quick return on your time and money.

Spinach is one of the best crops you can grow as a microgreen. In this article, we’ll tell you why – and how to grow – spinach microgreens with ease.

What Are Spinach Microgreens?

Microgreens are often confused with sprouts, which are germinated seeds that are eaten in their entirety (root, shoot, seed, and all). When you eat microgreens, you only eat the shot itself.

You’ll harvest microgreens just a few weeks after you sow your seeds, when the plants are roughly two inches tall. You can eat everything from the stem to the leaves. Microgreens are prized for their nutrient content and ease of growing.

You can grow all kinds of microgreen plants, including arugula, carrot, kale, and lettuce.

Spinach is the perfect choice for a microgreen crop because it has a unique taste and plenty of nutrients. With microgreens, you’ll enjoy a more delicate taste than you will when eating fully-grown spinach.

Plus, growing spinach microgreens is easy – all you need is about three weeks from seed to harvest, making for a quick and delicious crop.

Spinach microgreens are loaded with nutrients. They contain large amounts of vitamins (A, C, K, E, and B) along with notable quantities of minerals like calcium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium.

Planting Spinach Microgreen Seeds

You can plant spinach microgreens anywhere, including in the garden outside as well as indoors or in a hydroponic (water-based) set-up.

If you choose to plant outdoors, make sure your garden has plenty of shade. Spinach is a shade-loving plant that prefers cooler temperatures. When grown in too-hot conditions, it can bolt (go to flower) or fail to germinate. You may have trouble keeping your greens adequately watered, too.

As long as there is plenty of shade and the temperatures aren’t above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll do just fine growing spinach microgreens outside. Just protect the fragile seedlings from weather extremes, drying winds, and pests.

If you choose to grow indoors, you can grow in a shallow container with good drainage. Place your seed trays on a warm, sunny windowsill. Ideally, the plants should receive direct sunlight from a window that faces south.

You don’t have to invest in expensive containers, either! You can easily use a disposable pie plate or a plastic tote. Just make sure you poke some drainage holes in the bottom if drainage isn’t built-in already

Once you have your container, fill it with several inches of moistened potting soil. Do not use soil from your garden outside. You need to use a sterile potting mix to make sure your seeds do not become contaminated with bacteria or pests from outdoors. Make sure the soil is nice and level before you plant.

Scatter the spinach seeds evenly on top of the soil. This can be tough to do, since the seeds will be quite tiny! Do your best. Then, press the seeds gently into the soil with the back of your hand.

Once the seeds are dispersed, go ahead and cover them with a thin layer of soil. You Can use peat moss if you’d prefer a lighter covering. If you’re planting outside, though, use a heavier medium, as peat moss can easily be scattered by the wind.

Then, lightly water your seeds, ideally with a mister. Make sure the spray of water isn’t too strong, as this can cause your seeds to wash out.

If you’re growing indoors, you can speed up germination by wrapping the container with a clear layer of plastic wrap. This will provide a nice, warm environment that will encourage the seeds to sprout quickly. You can also place the seeds on a heat germination mat or under LED grow lights, both of which will produce seedlings for you in just a few days.

While you’re waiting for your seeds to germinate (it can take anywhere between two and eight days), use your mister once or twice a day. Make sure the soil stays moist but not sodden, as this can cause your seedlings to rot.

Remove the cover of the container (if you used one) as soon as the seeds sprout.

Caring for Spinach Microgreens

Caring for spinach microgreens is incredibly easy. In most cases, all you need to do is water or mist your plants a few times a day – they will take care of themselves otherwise!

Just make sure your plants get ample amounts of sunlight. Spinach microgreens need about four hours a day of direct sunlight, but they may need a bit more during the winter, when the sun is weaker.

How can you tell that your spinach microgreens aren’t getting enough sunlight? They’ll appear leggy and pale, and as though they’re reaching toward the window. Using an artificial grow light can help provide your seedlings with the light they need without causing them to become overheated.

Similarly, you need to make sure you are watering regularly. Set a timer each day to remind you to mist your seedlings. This will help you keep the soil adequately moist but not so wet that your seedlings drown.

The beauty of growing spinach microgreens is that you don’t have to fertilize them. Since microgreens are harvested so young, they’ll never have to compete for nutrients. They are also rarely bothered by pests and diseases. If you’re growing outside, you may need to put a row cover over your greens to protect them from various pests – but usually, this is not a concern.

Harvesting Spinach Microgreens

Your spinach microgreens will be ready for harvest just two to three weeks after planting. Since you’re not waiting for the entire plant to mature into an adult, it can be tough to figure out when the right time to harvest might be.

A good indicator that your spinach microgreens are ready for harvest will be the appearance of the first set of true leaves. Once you see these you can go ahead and grab your scissors. Clip the greens just above the soil line.

Storing and Serving Spinach Microgreens for Later Use

Unfortunately, microgreens don’t have the best shelf life. Since they are so small and fragile, it doesn’t take long before the seedlings have passed their prime.

Once you harvest and wash your microgreens in a salad spinner, you will want to serve them immediately. They can be added to sandwiches, salads, soups – or even eaten plain, on their own!

If you have any microgreens leftover, you can store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. However, they will probably only stay fresh for a day or two at most.

Luckily, though, growing spinach microgreens is incredibly easy. You can plant another crop after you harvest the first by scattering new seeds on the soil and repeating the steps mentioned above. You don’t even have to pull up the old roots! They’ll add organic matter back to the soil for your new planting.

You won’t mind that the greens don’t last forever in your refrigerator because you’ll have a new batch of microgreens to enjoy in no time!

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Microgreens

How to Grow Sunflower Microgreens

If you want to grow tasty microgreens, you may have considered popular options like kale, arugula, or even carrot seeds.

But have you ever given sunflowers some consideration?

Many people overlook the potential of sunflowers to produce delicious, crunchy microgreens – but really, the tiny sunflower is a nutritional powerhouse!

There are plenty of reasons to learn how to grow sunflower microgreens – here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started.

What Are Sunflower Microgreens?

Microgreens are tiny seedlings of edible herbs, vegetables, and flowers. They are harvested young, when they’re only about one to three inches tall. With a delightful aroma and a concentrated dose of nutrients, microgreens come in all colors, textures, and varieties. The most popular plants include spinach, arugula, basil, and kale.

One of the many benefits of growing microgreens is that they mature quickly. Although you will use regular seeds to grow your microgreens, you don’t have to wait the full 30 to 100 days for your plant to mature.

Instead, microgreens are ready to go in a fraction of that time –  about two to three weeks.

Sunflowers can easily be grown as microgreens – and there are plenty of reasons to do so. They have a delicious nutty flavor and a crunchy feel. They aren’t like any other kind of microgreen you’ve tried before but taste wonderful in wraps, salads, sandwiches, soups, and more.

Plus, they’re incredibly easy to grow.

Planting Sunflower Microgreen Seeds

As with growing any type of fruit, vegetable, flower, or herb, it’s essential that you start with high-quality seed.

When you’re growing sunflower microgreens, you can use any kind of sunflower seed, but black oil seeds tend to be the cheapest. Since these are generally sold as birdseed, you can buy them in bulk for a fraction of the cost of what you would pay for seeds from a seed supply company.

However, if you want to make sure the seeds have not been treated and will all germinate successfully, you may want to instead purchase certified organic seeds from a seed supply company. While most people have good results when using “birdseed” sunflower seeds, seeds that are designed for planting will have better generation rates.

Soak your sunflower seeds for 12 hours in a cup of warm water. This will help soften the hard shell of the seed and prepare it for planting.

After 12 hours, drain the seeds and rinse them thoroughly. Soak them once more for an additional 12 hours. After this time, you should notice that the seeds begin to sprout. If most of them haven’t sprouted, you can soak one or two more times.

Next, fill a tray with lightly moistened seed starting mix. Do not use soil out of your garden. Young seedlings can be fragile and are particularly vulnerable to the diseases and pests that can be found even in healthy garden soil.

You can grow sunflower microgreens outdoors, but it’s much easier to grow them inside. You’ll have better control over the planting environment and conditions.

Plus, seed starting mix (or just general potting mix) is better for microgreens because they contain a well-balanced dose of nutrients.

Your container doesn’t need to be very deep, since your sunflowers won’t have the opportunity to set aggressive roots. You may want to select a planting container that is wider than it is deep to give yourself room to grow hundreds of seedlings in the same tray.

You don’t have to purchase a special seed starting flat either – you can use a pie plate or something from around the house, too. Just make sure the container has good drainage. You may need to poke holes into the bottom of the container.

Sow your seeds thickly across the tray. Cover the entire tray with another tray to block out the light – certain microgreen seeds, like carrots and sunflowers, prefer to be kept dark and moist while they are germinating.

Make sure this top tray also has holes poked into it, not for drainage, but for ventilation. You do not need to cover the seeds with additional soil when you plant – the tray will keep things enclosed for you.

Caring for Sunflower Microgreens

There is very little you need to do to care for sunflower microgreens, but you may be surprised to learn that the steps for caring for sunflower microgreens are a bit different than caring for those of other greens.

For example, you still need to water the plants once or twice a day. However, you won’t do this by misting the plants, as you would with other microgreens, but instead by watering from the bottom up.

If this sounds complicated and overwhelming, it’s not. All you need to do is set the tray in a larger pan of water for a few minutes. This will help keep the roots moist but it won’t allow the plants to become overly sodden.

Once your shoots start to emerge, they’ll begin pushing up on the top tray. This is usually only a few days after you’ve sown your seeds. You can then remove the tray so that the seedlings have access to light.

While the location of your tray doesn’t much matter while the seeds are germinating, once you remove the top tray, light is essential. Put the tray in front of a bright, south-facing window, or put it under a grow light. A grow light is ideal, as it can prevent the seeds from becoming “leggy” as they reach toward the window for light.

Keep watering your sunflower shoots on a daily basis. You can continue with the “bottoms-up” watering method or you can switch over to misting them twice or three times a day.

Harvesting Sunflower Microgreens

Sunflower microgreens are ready for harvest when they’re just four inches high. Try not to let them get too far past this stage, as they can be too tough as they get older.

To harvest, cut the plant off at the soil level with a pair of sanitized scissors. You can leave the roots in the soil and then sow a new batch of seeds directly over top – no need to pull them out. Instead, the roots will fertilize the soil so that your next batch of sunflower microgreens is even healthier than the last.

Storing and Serving Sunflower Microgreens for Later Use

Sunflower microgreens don’t last very long in the fridge, so you’ll want to eat them up as soon as possible. They taste great in salads and sandwiches, or even as snacks on their own.

The beauty of growing microgreens indoors is that they mature quickly and don’t get very dirty, either. You might need to give them a quick spritz of cold water to remove the odd particle of dirt here or there, but for the most part, they require little cleaning.

You can stash your sunflower microgreens in a sealed plastic bag. They will last in the refrigerator for up to five days and will stay crisp and fresh if stored in this manner. However, you should eat them as soon as possible after harvesting for the best crunch and flavor!

Growing sunflower microgreens is not only incredibly easy, but it’s also a lot of fun. Since the shoots mature so quickly, you’ll be able to push out dozens of batches per year – giving you all the microgreens you could possibly want (and then some!).

Categories
Microgreens

ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GROWING MICROGREENS

Think it’s impossible to grow your own food in a small space? Think again!

While the average home or apartment won’t suit indoor food plants like citrus, raspberries, bananas, or tomato plants, think instead about growing something much smaller and simpler: like microgreens, for example.

If you’re a beginning grower, microgreens are a really nice place to start— especially since just about anyone can grow them (yes, even kids can grow them, too). They can also help you practice your green thumb if you’re not all that confident with gardening, and bring fresh, healthy food to your family’s table.

But why start out with microgreens? Well, there’s a lot of reasons. A few right off the bat: microgreens are small (it’s in the name, after all) and easy to take care of. Plus, they’re relatively easy to grow!

Microgreens can truly be grown just about anywhere, just as long as you have the right tools— and it doesn’t matter whether you live in a studio apartment, a spacious suburban house, or in a college dorm room. They’re also incredibly nutrient dense and great for your health, too.

Craving healthy eating and fresh greens? Eager to get started? Read on to learn everything you need to know in this quick yet thorough guide to growing microgreens.

What are microgreens?

Microgreens are edible seedlings (a.k.a. sprouts). Think mini versions of your favorite vegetable greens, like kale, arugula, and broccoli (though there are far more varieties to choose from besides these).

You may have seen microgreens at some restaurants or grocery stores. They’re often used to garnish entrees and salads, and they can be just as decorative as they are delicious— with a variety of colors besides green like pink, purple, yellow, and blue, all depending on the variety you grow. A pinch of these sprouts will add great flavor to meals and no bitterness whatsoever, unlike full-grown greens.

To grow this miniature vegetation, one must fill a shallow flat or tray with their soil of choice. Next, seeds for your desired microgreen variety are densely (yet evenly!) scattered onto your soil, then very *lightly* covered with a dusting of soil. Or, they can be pressed very gently into the soil with your fingers or palms. These are then watered in, grown, and easily harvested as needed, and preferably eaten in less than a week!

Is that all there is to growing microgreens? Not quite. We have a more intensive how-to on microgreen growing later in this article, so keep reading.

Types of microgreens you can grow

Before diving into your first microgreens adventure, you’ll need to choose what kind of microgreen you wish to grow. Luckily for you, the possibilities are endless. (Well, almost endless…)

Tools for growing microgreens

One of the most appealing things about microgreens? You hardly need any tools or equipment to grow them— so leave those gardening gloves, rake, and hat in the shed.

Here’s a quick list of the items you’ll definitely need to get started:

There are other tools besides these that you might want to get before growing. These aren’t 100% “required” for microgreen growing, though. These may be:

  • Small fine spray bottle or mister (for watering)
  • Small air circulation fan (reduces disease)
  • Stainless steel scissors or shears (for harvesting, if you don’t own any)
  • Spice shaker (to help you with even and easy seeding – or, try this incredibly convenient drop seeder)
  • Heat pad (optional and dependent on microgreen variety)

Some important tips about microgreen growing tools: you might find seeds sold through some seed companies that are “designated” microgreen seed. While these are specifically well-suited for microgreen growing, that doesn’t mean you can only use that seed and nothing else.

For example: you can use seed for growing full-size broccoli as broccoli microgreen seed, too. However…there are advantages to buying microgreen-specific broccoli seed. The seed will be priced better for microgreen production (higher amount of seeds per ounce or per pound). Since you’ll be purchasing bulk seed bred for dense growing, rather than a small packet of seed bred for full-size broccoli production, you’ll get better benefits from purchasing microgreen seed.

Some growers also like to experiment with different types of seed that aren’t typically thought of as microgreens. For example: I’ve tried growing cabbage, radish, and even rutabaga microgreens because they’re quite similar in appearance (and even related to!) some of the most popular microgreen sprouts, like arugula, broccoli, and bok choy.

That said, it can be fun to explore some of these other types of seeds or varieties for yourself. If you’re feeling adventurous and confident, try something new!

Best soil for microgreens

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of drainage and using a fine soil when growing microgreens, especially very small-seed microgreens. For larger-seeded sprouts (like buckwheat, beets, and peas) this is not so much a concern, and they will require soil of some sort.

All your little seedlings will be very crowded (as they’re supposed to be), but waterlogging can bring in some serious disease problems that will quickly and easily kill your seedlings— like damping off, for example. This is why a less “chunky” and finer soil is needed. Or, you can go with totally different media— a lot of media for hydroponic growing like coir pith, lava rock, and others are suitable for those tiny, tiny seeds (but less so for larger seeds).

If your soil of choice isn’t fine or light enough, your seedlings may have a hard time growing through the medium and producing uniform quality (or beauty). If you can’t find a microgreen-formulated soil, you can take any growing soil and push it through a screen or filter to remove larger pieces that could interfere with your sprouts’ success.

Otherwise, for a pre-made soil that’s ideal for sprouts, you can purchase your own microgreen soil mix here. If you want to try going “soil-less,” here are some great options that hydroponic growers use, but which can be great for microgreen growers, too (though you’ll need to make sure they fit your chosen seed tray).

How to grow microgreens

Now that you have all your microgreen growing equipment together, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Here are some comprehensive steps to get you started growing any type of microgreen, and in any space.

  • Step 1 – Prepare Microgreen Space

First things first: you’ll need to prep the space where you plan to have your microgreens sprout, grow, and be harvested. Make sure it’s easily accessible!

This can be a shelf or cubby space where your grow light is set up and ready to go. Or, it can be a sunny windowsill indoors (preferably south-facing) or a protected porch area during warmer weather. Be very sure to take your microgreen variety’s temperature needs into consideration! Some like hot temperatures, others will not.

For example: beet or buckwheat microgreens might need a little extra warmth to sprout in early spring. You won’t want to put them outside in the cold anywhere for a successful crop, or near a cold window, at least not for a while. Placing a heating pad under your seed tray can help them sprout a little faster if that’s something you want.

Obviously, make sure the space you prepare has plenty of room to hold the tray, flat, or other container you plan to use.

  • Step 2 – Prepare Microgreen Container

Take your chosen microgreen container and fill it with a generally very shallow layer of soil, about 1 inch thick at the most. Again, it bears repeating: your microgreen soil texture should be very fine and light, almost like powder!

The best desired thickness of the soil may depend on what microgreen seed you’re using. A very tiny seed, like arugula, will need less soil to germinate (another word for “sprout”). On the other hand, large seeds like chard or beets will probably need the full inch of soil to germinate.

  • Step 3 – Scatter and Cover

Wondering why microgreens need a different type of growing container? Here’s why: you’ll want a shallow or “open” sort of planting container so you can easily scatter your microgreen seeds in this next step. This is why I recommend something like a spice shaker for easy and accurate planting, too.

That said, about how many seeds should you plant in each tray? Well, it all depends on what type of microgreens you’re growing. But long story short, you’ll need more than you can count!

Generally speaking though, you’ll need less if your seeds are larger (like peas, chard, and others) but more if your seeds are smaller. Ultimately, there’s no set amount or formula you must follow. .

If you’re uncomfortable “eyeballing” how much seed you’ll need per tray, here’s a quick guide to seeding ratio amounts per 10” by 20” tray, which is the standard growing tray size in the industry. (But unless your seed packets are otherwise marked, you may need a digital weigh scale to weigh your seed amounts down to the ounce!)

  • Arugula – 2 oz. per tray
  • Asian greens (bok choy, tatsoi, etc.) – 2 oz. per tray
  • Beet greens – 1 oz. per tray
  • Broccoli – 2 oz. per tray
  • Buckwheat – 1 oz. per tray
  • Chard (Swiss, Rainbow, etc.) – 1 oz. per tray
  • Kale – 2 oz. per tray
  • Kohlrabi – 2 oz. per tray

Need more guidance for the right microgreen seeding density? Try out this nifty online calculator.

For now, here’s some seeding words for the wise: whatever size your seed, sow it as densely in your grow tray atop your soil as possible, but take care that seeds aren’t “piled” all over each other in clumps. Rather, you’ll want seed to be laid out in one single layer instead, and preferably with the seed touching or as close to the other seed as possible.

Some clumping can be allowed with very small seed (like arugula or broccoli) while larger seed should be spread out more evenly if you see clumping. Again, a salt or spice shaker (with the right sized holes for your seed, of course) makes this job much easier! Otherwise, you can use your hands or a spoon to scatter your seed, whatever you feel is easiest.

Once seed is evenly spread and you’re satisfied, very gently press all the seeds into the soil with the palms of your hands or your fingers. If your seeds are larger sized (like buckwheat, for example), it helps to sprinkle another thin layer of soil on top of them before the next step.

  • Step 4 – Spritz & Water

After your seeds are all planted and covered, the next step (watering) is the easiest one— but make sure to do it right!

All plants need watering, including microgreens. But unlike your houseplants, these small and fragile seedlings will need a gentler approach to watering, which is why a spray bottle or “mister” is absolutely recommended. (Don’t use your typical watering can!)

Once seeded, water your microgreens gently with your spray bottle after you fill it with water. You won’t need much— just a little bit to make sure soil is damp and stays damp for a while. Though don’t overdo it! Waterlogging is not good for microgreens. Watering a little less is better than watering too much, so start out with less water to begin with and then increase watering frequency if you notice things starting to dry out.

  • Step 5 – Care & Nurture

Next, place your microgreens container in your desired spot so it can get the light it needs. As often as you can every day, check the soil. If it’s dry, spritz and water it again until it’s evenly moist. It’s perfectly acceptable to let soil dry out completely before watering it again to avoid waterlogging. But don’t let it dry out for too long!

This is also the best stage to set up air circulation fans near your space. If you’re growing one or two trays, one small fan should be enough. Set it up about 4 feet away from your setup with the air current aimed at your microgreens. The purpose of this air circulation fan: it helps wick moisture away from your plants after watering, which can in turn reduce the risk of disease. It will also help your microgreens develop strong, straight stems as they get bigger.

As days go by you’ll watch your seeds slowly begin to sprout as you water them. This takes at around a week, though it can greatly depend on what type of microgreen seed you’re growing.

  • Step 6 – Harvest and Enjoy

At around 2 weeks after your seeding date, most microgreens will be ready to harvest! Once your microgreens get closer to this harvesting stage, you’ll notice that you can start watering them less and less as their foliage gets larger, perhaps only once or twice per day.

Your plants should be about 2-3 inches tall with long stems and grow in a dense, thick mat. To harvest, gather a small cluster of sprouts gently at their tops with your fingers on your one hand, then snip away at their stems right above the soil with a clean pair of harvesting shears with your other hand.

Before placing them in a refrigerated container or bag, clean and remove the plant bottoms of any dirt, roots, or debris before storing them. You can also lightly spritz them with some water to clean them, then let dry for several minutes in a colander or strainer over your kitchen sink (or any other area you don’t mind getting wet).

Once harvested, make sure to eat them within a week. Sprinkle on sandwiches, salads, soups, or as a garnish— whatever you like!

Are microgreens good for you?

After your proud growing work is done and you’re enjoying your first cutting of tasty microgreens, the thought may cross your mind: are microgreens healthy? And if so, how healthy are they, exactly?

Microgreens don’t just add a little tangy vegetal flavor to your meals. They also add a ton of nutrients, too. In fact, the microgreen form of any vegetable (whether it’s pea sprouts, arugula, or broccoli) tends to be way more nutrient dense compared to the same amount of that same vegetable when it’s fully grown!

All microgreens are rich in fiber, but are also plenty high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants can cut down on certain health risks like inflammation, heart disease, cancer, and more. Microgreens of the “brassica” vegetable family, like arugula, broccoli, cabbage, and many others, are high in sulforaphane, an especially well-known antioxidant that’s a potent cancer-fighter.

Grow into your passion

Though just about anyone can grow microgreens, their amazing taste, appearance, and health benefits make them worth the effort more than four times over!

Sure, microgreens are simple and easy to grow, and are the perfect thing for beginning growers to learn. Still, advanced growers and expert gardeners are just as likely to grow them because they are such an exceptional food— bringing extra nutrients, flavor, health, and beauty into the home of anyone who cares to grow them.

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Microgreens

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