6 Easy Steps to Grow Hydroponic Microgreens Indoors
Microgreens! They are small, flavorful, and highly nutritious vegetables that can be prepared in different ways such as in salads, sandwiches, and soups. If you’re fond of hydroponic microgreens, you might love them even more as we tell you that you can easily grow them in your own kitchen!
Freshness is not always a guarantee when you buy microgreens from grocery stores. Plus, they can be quite costly. Instead, you can grow your own microgreens to make sure that what you’re eating is nutritious and organic. This can turn into a fun hobby that keeps you eating healthily, or you can make a quick buck by selling your harvest.
In this blog post, we’ll help you learn all about microgreens and how you can easily plant them in hydroponic systems. Whether you’re new to hydroponics or you’re a veteran gardener, we’ll help you grow these tender greens in the comfort of your own home.
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are seedling vegetables that are picked before they reach maturity. Usually, they are harvested at the second stage of a plant. They offer a variety of flavors, textures, and nutritional value. The best thing is that they grow fast, so you’ll have a lot of fresh produce in a short amount of time! This is why microgreens are a prominent trend in the health food industry.
A scientific journal in 2018 reveals that microgreens are actually more nutritious than their fully-grown counterparts. Smaller amounts of microgreens can provide the same nutrients as large amounts of vegetables in their standard size.
In recent years, there’s been quite a shift in perspective on the best ways to grow food. While microgreens can be cultivated in soil as tradition goes, more people are now switching to the hydroponic method of growing crops. By reading this article, you’ll soon learn why!
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics may sound daunting if you’re hearing it for the first time, but it’s not actually that complicated! Hydroponics is basically growing plants without using soil. Instead, the plants grow on water where they get their oxygen and other essential nutrients from. Hence the name: hydro(water)-ponics(system).
In traditional gardening methods, the roots need to find their way through the soil in order to absorb the water and nutrients that they need.
In the case of hydroponics, plant roots are constantly immersed in a liquid nutrient solution, so the plants have easier access to what they need and can therefore grow better and faster. This method is typically known as deep water cultures (DWC), and is only one among many types of hydroponics.
Benefits of Hydroponics
If you’re not convinced yet, here are more reasons why hydroponic gardening is the better choice:
- Quicker and healthier growth: Plants in hydroponic systems tend to have a faster growth rate and give better yields than plants grown in soil.
- Less space: You don’t need a greenhouse or a bulky system. Hydroponics can be as small as a mason jar next to a windowsill. Even counter-top hydroponic systems tend to be very compact, and some can even be stacked vertically to save so much space. Plus, their sleek, modern design can be a great addition to your home.
- Water conservation: You might think that plants grown on water consume too much water, but it’s actually the opposite! The National Park System reveals that hydroponics uses up to 10 times less water than planting in soil. That’s because excess water is recycled in a hydroponic system, whereas traditional gardening drains it deep underground.
- Suitable for urban gardening: Good soil can be difficult to come by if you’re living in a big city. A 2013 paper affirms that soilless planting shows promising results in the future of growing food as the world faces challenges in soil quality.
- Year-round harvest: Due to the nature of outdoor gardening in soil, some crops can only be planted in certain seasons and climates. With hydroponics together with the right microgreen varieties, you can grow and harvest your greens all year round.
Hydroponics for Microgreens: An Overview
Hydroponic microgreens grow very quickly; planting time to harvest time can take 8 to 15 days on average. Microgreens in a hydroponic setup are also very low-maintenance. You won’t need to worry that you might forget to water your plants, and you won’t have to deal with messy soil indoors!
While other hydroponics crops are reliant on the liquid nutrient solution that you have to pour into the system, microgreens are not as fussy. This is because microgreens first use the energy from the seed that they sprout from, and by the time the sprouts need additional nutrients, they are already ready for harvest.
Keep in mind, however, that adding nutrients to the growing sprouts may make harvest time come quicker and improve the taste of your microgreens. Feel free to experiment on both setups and see what works best for you!
Here are some Microgreens Growing Kits you can purchase on Amazon:
6 Steps in Hydroponically Growing Your Own Microgreens
Now that you know the basics of microgreens and hydroponics, it’s time for you to try it for yourself! Simply follow the guide we’ve prepared below:
Step 1 – Select your variety of Microgreen.
There are many different types of microgreens to choose from. You can take your pick based on flavor, texture, or availability in your area. Here are some of them:
- Mild: Microgreens can have mild and subtle flavors, ranging from nutty to sweet. These are mostly used in the kitchen to increase the nutritional value of your dishes. Common mild microgreens include: Alfalfa, Borage, Broccoli, Carrot, Chard, and Kale.
- Spicy: Spicy microgreens spice up the flavor of your hearty meals. Some spicy greens include Arugula, Cress, Mustard, and Radish.
- Herbs: Herbs can be microgreens too! For people who love to cook, herbs are the perfect way to enhance the taste and aroma of many recipes. Some great options of micro herbs include Anise, Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, and Scallion.
- Shoots: Why mix microgreens in a dish when you can serve them straight up? Micro shoots can make delicious and healthy snacks. Popular choices include Corn shoots, Garbanzo, Lentil, Peas, Soy, and Sunflower.
When picking your microgreens, make sure to buy organic seeds that were harvested from mother plants untreated with chemicals.
Each variety of microgreens will have different needs and growth periods. Make sure to read the instructions on the seed packets you purchase! You can wrap the seeds in wet paper towels overnight to soften the exterior and increase the chances of germination.
Step 2 – Pick a growing medium.
Although hydroponics removes the need for soil, you will still need a growth medium so that the roots of your microgreen plants can have something to hold onto.
Popular choices of growing media for hydroponic microgreens include BioStrate, hemp mats, jute mats, coco mats, and coco coir.
- BioStrate: is a biodegradable material perfect for young plants such as microgreens.
- Hemp Mats: are natural fibers quite similar to soil. These, however, can be a little messy to cut.
- Coco mats: are similar to hemp mats, but sturdier. Coco mats are ideal for smaller seeds such as Broccoli, but they’re not recommended for bigger seeds such as Pea.
- Jute Mats: are also known as burlap. They are plant fibers that are used to make rope and textiles. For hydroponic use, they are made as thin mats that have a high water-holding capacity.
- Coconut coir: is made from coconut husks. It is one of the most abundant and eco-friendly materials in horticulture.
Research in 2021 shows that different substrates have different effects on the yield and nutrient concentration of hydroponic microgreens. Regardless, the best growing medium is whichever product you can most readily get your hands on within your local area!
Step 3 – Start your Microgreen seeds.
You will need plastic trays or any material of your choice to be used as a seed tray. Or, you can start your microgreen seeds in a grow bed with a grow pad inside.
First, measure and cut out a piece of grow mat (or any growing medium you choose) that will fit snugly on the entire tray. The tray will hold everything together, like a pot housing a plant.
Then, you need to soak your growing mat in clean water. Submerge the mat several inches below water level to properly saturate the medium. Once it’s wet enough, place the grow mat back on your growing tray.
Now it’s time to start the microgreens seeds! Sprinkle about 1-2 tablespoons of seeds on your grow mat, scattering them evenly. The seeds of shoot plants tend to be bigger, so you’ll need to use a smaller quantity and pre-soak them for 1-2 hours.
Next, coat your scattered seeds with a fine mist of water. Also, it’s a good idea to invest in a pH test kit to keep track of the pH of your water. Microgreens will do best in water with a pH range of 6-7. Distilled water has a pH level of 7.
Once you’re all done, cover the tray with a lid. Your microgreen seeds will need a dark and damp environment to germinate. They also prefer warmer temperatures at around 70°F. If you live somewhere with cooler temperatures, you can make use of heating pads.
Step 4 – Monitor your Microgreens.
It is ideal to monitor your microgreen seeds about twice a day. Using a new spray bottle, moisten any dry spots you notice on the growing pads.
After 3-4 days, your seeds will shoot out their first leaves! The sprouts should be about ½ – 1 inch tall. At this point, they will need constant light to keep growing so you’ll have to transfer the tray near a sunny windowsill. Be careful! Too many hours of direct sunlight might scorch the leaves of your delicate greens.
As the sprouts grow, you can pour a nutrient solution on the grow bed to boost their growth and improve their taste.
Step 5 – Harvest your Microgreens.
Somewhere between 8 to 25 days after planting (depending on the variety), your baby greens should be ready for harvest. You can choose to harvest all of them at once, or you could snip them off slightly above the lowest leaf so they can continue to grow.
To keep them fresh, we recommend harvesting only the amount of greens you’ll want to immediately eat or cook.
Step 6 – Continue growing your Microgreens.
If you want your microgreens to keep growing, don’t forget to give them plenty of bright light and to keep the grow mats wet.
After about a month, or after multiple rounds of harvesting, the taste, look, and texture of your microgreens will begin to change. This will tell you that it’s the right time to restart the process all over. Simply clean your grow tray and throw out your old grow mat. Then, you can start again with a fresh batch of microgreens seeds.
Common Problems and How To Fix Them
Sometimes, you might encounter problems while growing your microgreens. These are the ways to address them:
- An excessively humid environment along with too much heat can result in bacterial and fungal diseases on your plants. You can solve this by installing a portable fan for ventilation, or opening windows nearby.
- If your microgreens are turning yellow, that means they’re not receiving much light for them to photosynthesize and grow. In that case, you can invest in artificial lighting such as LED grow lights, propagation lamps, and fluorescent lamps.
- Harvesting too late can cause excessively tall and lanky stems on your microgreens. You wouldn’t want the stems to bend down and potentially snap off, so it’s advisable to harvest and consume your greens as soon as they’re ready.
- If your microgreens turn out clumpy, this might be because of a high density of seeds being sown in one go. Try your best to spread them evenly across the grow mat, or you can reduce the number of seeds you plant.
Microgreens are flavorful and nutritious baby plants. They are a high-value product that can be grown in your own home in a simple hydroponic setup. All you need are some microgreen seeds, a grow mat and a grow tray, water, access to light, plus an optional liquid nutrient solution.
Arguably, the best microgreens are grown hydroponically. Growing microgreens can either be a healthy hobby you can do in your kitchen, or something that can be profitable when done on a larger scale.
Don’t worry if the process doesn’t go smoothly, especially if you’re just starting out! You can try out different things to see what works best for your plants.
You’ve reached the end of the article. Great job! Now, you can treat yourself with a delicious salad or a sandwich filled with fresh microgreens!