How to Grow Microgreens Indoors
Growing microgreens at home is a tasty trend for those looking to add a flavorful, vitamin-packed, and artistic element to your kitchen. Maybe you’ve seen the flowering herbs topping off a fancy dining experience, and their price at your local marketplace reflects the upscale reputation. If you’d like to grow microgreens indoors, you can cut costs and tailor the microgreen experience to any of your preferences.
Even if you’re short on patience and lacking long-term skills, growing microgreens is the best way to incorporate a fresh and nutritious garnish into your home cooking. The convenience of a grocery store can’t beat the flavors and aroma harvested at home, and the list we’ve written will be ready in only a couple of weeks! Surely the almost-instant-gratification found in these speedy growers is enough to justify a spot on your windowsill.
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What Is The Best Way To Grow Microgreens Indoors?
Growing microgreens is quick and simple and lends itself well to indoor growing environments. As a younger version of the baby greens from various veggies, you’ll have plenty of microgreen mixes to toss with salad greens in no time. Growing from organic seeds is best and will ensure the easiest path to success. With a low-maintenance combination of soil, light, and water, your microgreen harvest should be ready in anywhere from one to three weeks.
1. Prepare a Growing Container and Soil
Start by choosing a shallow container in which to plant your seeds. I’ve used plastic take-out containers in the past, but any shallow dish is fine. The roots won’t grow deep enough to soak up water more than a couple of inches beneath the soil, so a deep container will likely cause the soil to rot with moisture. Drainage holes shouldn’t be necessary if you plan to water the microgreens by misting them with a spray bottle. But if you prefer watering from below for more even saturation, drainage holes are then ideal.
Pick a potting mix (not potting soil) rich in organic material with good aeration. Some combination of perlite, vermiculite, and coconut coir are great options. Simply spread a moistened thin layer in your growing vessel and compact it slightly. Pick an area of your home that isn’t too cold or hot to place your new garden.
2. Prepare and Sow the Seeds
The seed starting process may vary slightly depending on whether you have small or large seeds. Larger seeds like buckwheat or sunflowers will likely need a pre-soak before planting. Submerge them in water for twelve to twenty-four hours until the shells crack and then proceed the same as any other seed. Regardless of what kind of microgreen you’re seeding, densely scatter the seeds atop the growing medium. There’s no need to bury them below the soil, as this will likely limit their exposure to sunlight.
3. Cover and Wait
The next step is the germination process–– or when the seed starts to sprout what are called cotyledons (pronounce kada-LEEd’ns), the first leaves. After the seeds have been densely scattered, mist the surface of the soil and cover the container with a lid of some kind. A lack of sunlight during the first couple of days will help the microgreens grow stronger as they will have to struggle initially. Covering the soil will also simulate a greenhouse effect, contributing to the greens’ strength. This process should only take two or three days. Lift the cover to mist with water once a day. After the germination process is complete, the seeds’ sprouts may look a bit wilted and yellow; this is normal. After a few hours of sunlight, they will perk right up!
4. Light and Water
Microgreens are low maintenance in their lighting and watering requirements. Any sunny windowsill will work well, though a south-facing window is ideal. Since I only have west-facing windows, I use grow-lights for my microgreens. After the germination period, give the greens as much indirect sunlight as possible, but only about ten hours of direct light daily. A cycle of steady sunshine and darkness aids the growing process. Too much sunlight can scorch the delicate seed leaves.
Misting the microgreens with a spray bottle is the best way to gently water your garden since a watering can may be too aggressive and will likely flood the soil. Spray the greens a couple of times a day or whenever the topsoil looks dry. If your growing container has drainage holes in it, you can place the vessel in a shallow dish of water to saturate the soil from the bottom for a more even and thorough watering.
Depending on which vegetable or herb you choose to grow, the microgreens will be ready for harvest in one to three weeks. They should have a few leaves and stand about three inches tall. If you let them grow any longer, they will develop “true leaves” as a sign of maturity and will no longer be usable as a microgreen. To harvest, grab a small bunch at the top and snip the stem about a centimeter from the base using a pair of sharp kitchen shears. It’s that simple! Your home-grown microgreens are best when used right away, but you can store them for a few days if necessary. Place the freshly cut microgreens inside a ziplock plastic bag with a damp paper towel to keep the greens crisp.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Microgreens Inside?
Microgreens can be grown indoors year-round, and since you’ll harvest them much younger than a mature plant, they can be ready to eat in just a couple of weeks. The germination phase–– the process when the microgreens are sprouting their first set of leaves–– takes only two or three days. Depending on the microgreen variety you choose to grow, harvest the veggies or herbs in as little as a week but no longer than three. Regardless, they should have a few leaves and stand about three inches tall. Look for these markers rather than relying on an estimated timeframe.
Do Microgreens Regrow After Cutting?
Most microgreens will not regrow after cutting. The root structure is too small and underdeveloped to handle multiple cuttings. Some varieties of peas and beans can regrow after an initial harvest, along with kale, but don’t expect more than two or three yields. Most microgreens could be regrown if you leave at least one leaf on the plant at the first harvest, but the flavor will change dramatically since any regrown version will be a more mature plant. However, gardeners can reuse the soil, especially if you use a different microgreen than was first grown in the soil. Since these plants grow so quickly, replanting shouldn’t be an issue.
Common Problems with Growing Microgreens
There’s not much that can go wrong when growing microgreens at home as they are a low-maintenance crop. However, when growers do experience issues, they’re usually one of a few common problems. The main struggle indoor gardeners may experience with microgreens is molding or rotting. Because the soil is so shallow and the microgreens’ root systems are so short, the soil is easily waterlogged. If the soil is soaked, it will rot and kill your plants or at least make them inedible. Drainage holes can help here, but first, you should avoid overwatering and only mist the plants with a spray bottle a couple of times a day.
Another common problem is yellow or weak stems. After the initial germination period, the leaves will likely be yellow and slumped over; this is normal, and the greens will turn green and stand up straight after only a day of light, whether from the sun or a grow light. If you notice yellow leaves or weak stems after germination, this is likely due to poor water or light regulation. Too much or little of either causes yellowing and drooping, so you’ll need to investigate to find the problem.
Is It Better To Grow Microgreens In Soil Or Water?
Microgreens are best grown in soil rather than water through a hydroponic system. Hydroponics is excellent for feeding robust root systems, but since microgreens hardly have any roots, they don’t thrive unless planted in soil. Growing microgreens in soil will produce a better yield and is more affordable than hydroponics. It also conserves water and limits the likelihood of mold.
Some have used soilless growing mats for microgreens, but these are the worst way to grow microgreens. The mats only need watering for the greens to grow, but the lack of sufficient nutrients and support from a potting mix results in weak plants and tiny yields. Soilless mats are also environmentally harmful as they cannot be reused and aren’t biodegradable.
The ones on the right have been nibbled over the last week, the ones on the left have not been. The ones on the left are 5 days older. #Life. Who would have thought? #microgreens pic.twitter.com/T1ONV9YX4c
— matsalted (@matsalted) March 11, 2021
We’ve created a list of the best options for starting your microgreen garden today! You can mix and match a wide variety of herbs and veggies based on your flavor and color preferences. Each suggestion includes an Amazon link for quick access to numerous seed packets.
- Radish: A radish’s green sprouts show up in a few days, with most growing only three days after planting the seeds. Their small size also makes them an excellent raw garnish on dishes that benefit from a peppery taste.
- Sunflower: Sunflower microgreens have a deliciously nutty flavor and the texture of spinach. Sprouting sunflower seeds is easy, and they are ready to harvest and eat in two weeks! They’re packed with nutrients while adding flavor and crunch to salads, soups, sandwiches, and dips. I’m currently growing these at home!
- Arugula: As a famous salad green, arugula grows quickly and easily. Its slightly peppery taste adds a boost of flavor to any salad, and the rapid growth provides a sizable harvest in around 20 days.
- Mint: This microgreen is aromatic with a robust and fresh flavor. It’s subtly sweet, herbaceous, and vegetal with a cooling aftertaste from the menthol in the leaves. Mint can be harvested one to two weeks after sowing, at the peak of its growth cycle to ensure the best flavor and nutritional properties.
- Cilantro: Microgreen cilantro is crisp and sweet, bright and citrusy with the classic cilantro flavor and peppery, fresh-cut grass notes. As a bonus, it’s free of the infamous soapy taste that many experience with mature cilantro.
- Quinoa: Quinoa microgreens are just as healthy and nutritious as the quinoa seeds but have the added health benefits of eating raw greens. They should be ready for consumption in about ten days.
- Swiss Chard: Presoak these seeds for up to twenty-four hours before planting. Swiss Chard microgreens are high in antioxidants and have a spinach flavor that makes a great addition to any salad or on the top of your pizza. Harvest in just over eight days.
- Alfalfa: Alfalfa microgreens are easy to grow and have deep green leaves. With a mild flavor and a little crunch, these go well with just about any dish. The seeds are extra small and can be sown densely for a big harvest after about twelve days. I’ve got them growing next to my sunflower microgreens!
- Buckwheat: Buckwheat microgreens are often called buckwheat sprouts–– harvest them in under two weeks. The younger and greener leaves have a tangier taste, and the whole plant is known for being gluten-free.
- Mustard: Mustard microgreens are tender and juicy with a gentle spicy kick. Eating mustard microgreens offer a wide range of nutritional benefits as a good source of several vitamins like A, B6, C, K, and E.
- Chia: The classic Chia pet was a form of growing microgreens! They are tangy and a little bitter, ready for harvest in under three weeks. Chia microgreens store best when they’re slightly dried out.
- Red Cabbage: Red Cabbage microgreens will add a beautiful purple color to your windowsill or culinary art. They are crisp and tender with a fresh, green, and earthy, peppery flavor. Studies suggest that red cabbage microgreens may be effective at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Amaranth: Amaranth microgreens taste sweet and earthy with a soft texture. The vibrant pink to red color makes amaranth a favorite with chefs, as a small amount of amaranth adds both color and flavor to any dish.
- Mung Beans: Mung beans are typically eaten as sprouts, harvested one phase later than microgreens, but you can harvest them for their baby leaves all the same. Mung bean microgreens taste light, fresh, and slightly buttery. Harvest in about a week.
- Wheatgrass: Many people love wheatgrass for its health benefits, and the microgreen form is an even more concentrated version of all the best vitamins. It is sweet with a grassy bitterness and ready to harvest in only ten days.
- Pea Shoots: Pea microgreens have robust root systems, which is why they love to be grown in soil. The roots burrow and expand in the dirt while taking hold so the stems can start “shooting” up. However, Pea shoots are one of the few microgreens that can thrive hydroponically.
- Sorrel: When fully grown, this herb resembles spinach. The lime green leaves of the microgreen version offer tangy tartness with a hint of lemon. Sorrel grows relatively slowly compared to other microgreens, needing up to five weeks for harvest.
Each of these microgreens will make an excellent garnish on any salad, sandwich, or even stir fry. The combinations are endless, and you don’t have to wait long at all to try out new recipes. But remember that these aren’t the only fast-growers you can add to your home garden, whether in front of a sunny window or through your hydroponic unit. Sauté some fresh ginger and garlic alongside potatoes and kale from your garden, top with freshly sliced tomatoes and avocados, and finish with some basil and flaky salt for a delicious veggie bowl, all homegrown and organic! Garnish with a green sprig of sunflower or alfalfa to elevate even the simplest of dishes.