How to Grow Microgreens

5 min read|Last updated at: December 23, 2022

An exciting way to keep yourself occupied during the cold winter months is to grow microgreens at home. Once the reserve of specialized garden centers and boutique grocery stores, microgreens can now be cultivated within the comfort of the home. Defined as the second stage of a plant’s life cycle, microgreens are miniature, densely-packed versions of edible vegetables and herbs. Many of the smaller varieties contain wispy filaments for stems, creating a whimsical appearance. Similar in appearance to sprouts, they are generally grown in the soil rather than in water. Microgreens can be easily grown at home year-round, providing a fun garden activity to try during the slow winter season. 

Benefits of Growing Microgreens at Home 

Many adults and children do not eat the suggested intake of vegetables and fruits. Since many people have difficulty incorporating vegetables into their meals, microgreens present a feasible opportunity to develop healthy eating habits. Despite their unassuming appearance, microgreens are significantly more nutrient dense (5 times higher on average) and packed with vital nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants. An inexpensive way to ensure that daily nutrient values are met, microgreens are commonly layered into sandwiches or added to salads to add a crisp texture. Due to their compact size, they can grow in a limited space in a short amount of time. Microgreens can be grown from most vegetable or herb seeds, although salad greens and leafy vegetables make popular choices. Common varieties to grow as microgreens include lettuce, dill, endive, arugula, peas, and basil.

How to Grow Microgreens | Vego Garden

Some microgreens have distinctive coloring that add visual interest to a meal. Typically, microgreens retain a flavor reminiscent of their full-sized counterparts, albeit in more potent concentrations – ranging from bland and bitter to sour tasting. Some, like amaranth, come in vivid garnet hues and are often used in egg dishes to add color. To determine which type you prefer, experiment with different varieties, starting with plant types you enjoy and trying them as microgreens. 

Supplied Needed for Growing Microgreens 

Microgreens are very easy to grow, making them an ideal project for beginners or kids. Most gardeners chose to grow them in trays designed for microgreens, but they can also be grown outdoors in raised garden beds, as long as the climate is suitable. The process of growing them in raised beds is similar to sowing them directly in the ground. While outdoor conditions are usually not conducive to year-ground cultivation, the growing season can be extended with poly tunnels or frost covers. 

Below are some items needed:

  • Shallow trays or small pots (trays are recommended) 
  • Seeds
  • Growing medium
  • Sharp knife or pair of scissors
  • Spray bottles

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How to Grow Microgreens  

Although optional, some species with larger seeds or a hard seed shell can benefit from being pre-soaked to speed up germination rates. Seeds that need to be soaked include peas, sunflower, corn, grasses like wheat and barley, and Swiss chard. Before planting, soak seeds in water for 8 – 12 hours. While browsing for microgreen seeds, you may come across different classifications, denoting similar growing conditions and flavors. Stay away from microgreens from the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, as they contain toxic alkaloids that produce adverse reactions. 

  • Amaranthaceae family: Includes amaranth, beets, chard, quinoa, and spinach.
  • Amaryllidaceae family: Includes onions, garlic, leeks, and chives.
  • Apiaceae family: Includes carrot, celery, dill, and fennel.
  • Asteraceae family: Includes chicory, endive, lettuce, and radicchio.
  • Brassicaceae family: Includes arugula, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, and watercress.
  • Lamiaceae family: Includes most common herbs like mint, basil, rosemary, sage, and oregano.
  • Poaceae family: Includes grasses and cereals like barley, corn, rice, oats, and wheatgrass. Also includes legumes including beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

How to Grow Microgreens | Vego Garden

  1. Select the appropriate supplies    

A shallow or flat tray is preferred for microgreens. For beginners, it is recommended that you select one of two seed varieties. While you may use regular seeds for growing microgreens, some gardeners chose specially selected microgreen mixes for better quality control and higher yields. Whatever you decide, the seeds should be certified organic. The most common growing medium is soil, a common mixture consisting of 80% organic matter (coconut noir, compost) mixed with perlite. Depending on the specific situation, potting mixes, seed starting mixes, and soilless mediums will also suffice. Conduct research and experiment to see which one works the best.

  1. Prepare the trays and growing medium   

After you have gathered the ingredients, it is time to prepare the trays with growing medium. Fill the growing trays with about an inch of moist but not wet growing medium. Make sure the soil is level by dragging a piece of cardboard across its surface.

  1. Plant the seeds 

Evenly distribute the seeds on the soil surface 1/4 to 1/8 inch apart. Cover with a thin layer of soil. Pressing the seeds into the soil helps them become more established. After sowing you may apply some water with a spray bottle or mister to ensure that the soil is moist. Seeds should be kept in a dark environment, which will facilitate the germination process. Some trays will come with moisture domes; however, the effect can also be achieved with a plastic bag or wrap covering the trays. Once the seeds have germinated, remove the cover. 

  1. Water the container 

Uncovered trays or those that are placed on the windowsill will need to be habitually misted every one or two days. When they are larger or close to harvest, they may require more frequent watering, up to twice a day. 

  1. Harvest your microgreens  

Microgreens are ready to be harvested two to three weeks after planting, once they are a few inches high. An indication they are ready to harvest is when you begin to see the first set of true leaves. Seed leaves, also known as cotyledons, tend to be broad and rounded, with heart or oval shapes. To harvest, simply snip off the plant just above the soil line using sharp scissors. 

Are microgreens safe to eat?

In addition to being used in sandwiches and salads, microgreens can be sprinkled on top of soups, pizzas, and stir fries. Due to a risk of carrying harmful bacteria, sprouts should be cooked. By contrast, microgreens are generally considered safe to eat, and can be either eaten raw or cooked. Since the nutritional content of microgreens decreases the more they are cooked, it is suggested that you lightly cook them. The growing environment of microgreens, including ventilation and sunlight, make them much safer to consume raw than sprouts. As a precaution, all microgreens should be thoroughly washed if eaten raw.

Should microgreens be watered from the bottom?

Some gardeners opt to water their microgreens from the bottom, instead of misting or spraying it, to prevent risk of disease or mold. Because there is no moisture build up in the soil, this promotes healthier root growth and deters pests. Select a tray with drainage holes and one without holes to accommodate it. To water from the bottom, lift the planting tray with holes and pour in about a half inch of water onto the bottom tray. Lower the top tray of microgreens back down carefully to avoid splashing the water. Check after 20 minutes to make sure you aren’t overwatering or underwatering – add or reduce water accordingly. Throw out any leftover water.

How to Grow Microgreens | Vego Garden