Growing microgreens is a fun project to do indoors when the weather outside isn’t ideal for gardening. Even though winters where I live aren’t all that cold, sometimes I just need a little gardening break. I want to be able to cozy up inside without having to worry about fertilizing this or pruning that. With very little effort, I can still grow some microgreens from the comfort of my own home and have something fresh and nutritious to toss on meals.
Microgreens are extremely easy to grow and tend. You do not need any gardening experience, I promise. And you can “harvest” your first batch in just 10 to 20 days!
Just grab some supplies and then you’re ready to get started!
SUPPLIES TO GROW MICROGREENS
You can grab a ready-to-go microgreens kit to make it super easy on yourself. Or you can start really simple with some items you probably already have at home. Here’s what you’ll need:
A Draining Tray & Non-Draining Tray
The best trays for growing microgreens will be wide and fairly shallow. You don’t need a lot of depth for these little roots since you’ll hardly give them time to develop at all. For the draining tray, I recommend grabbing a set of 10″ x 20″ plant growing trays with holes. For the non-draining tray, look for flats or seed starting trays without holes that are large enough to fit the tray with holes. If you’re just getting started, you could take two Tupperware containers, poke holes in the bottom of one, and nestle it inside the other.
Organic Seed Starting Mix
A Grow Light
I’ve found that microgreens grown under a grow light tend to be more robust than those grown with just natural light. That being said, you can always try to get your trays as much direct sunlight as possible, ideally from a south-facing window. You’ll know your young plants aren’t getting enough light if they start to grow leggy, or look kind of stretched out. If you’d like to use artificial light, I recommend this wand light, which has two heads you can easily adjust over your seed tray.
Look for packets that are sold as microgreens seeds. You’ll need to buy seeds in bulk in order to have enough seeds to fill your trays. You could also use seeds that you’ve saved from your garden as long as the leaves and stems of the plant are edible (think dill seeds, cilantro seeds, etc.). There are lots of fun variety packs for sale now. I’ll recommend the best plants to grow as microgreens below.
You might want to have a little hand rake to level your soil, some plant tags or labels if you’re planting more than one type of seed, a small fan to blow on your microgreens if you’re growing them in a stuffy room, and a little spray bottle to keep the top of your soil moist. If you bought a growing kit that comes with a humidity dome, that’s great. If not, you can use a kitchen towel in its place to hold in moisture until your seeds sprout.
THE BEST TYPES OF MICROGREENS TO GROW
Many edible plants can be grown as much smaller versions of themselves. If you’re feeling choice overload, just consider which flavors you really like. Microgreens taste pretty much exactly like their mature counterparts. If you love broccoli, you’ll love broccoli microgreens. If you find radishes a little too spicy, those radish microgreens will still have a bite. If the taste of arugula makes you gag… guess what?
Here are the best varieties of microgreens to grow:
- mustard greens
- romaine lettuce
- Swiss chard
Did you catch sunflowers on there? Sunflower microgreens have an awesome nutty flavor, and they’re super easy to plant since they’re nice, large seeds. Give them a try if you’re looking for something you probably won’t find at the grocery store!
Plants that should not be grown as microgreens include anything with plant parts that aren’t fit for human consumption. Think tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, etc. Even those tiny leaves will have toxic alkaloids that can make you sick.
HOW TO PLANT MICROGREENS SEEDS
Follow these four easy steps to get your microgreens started.
Combine your seed starting mix with some water in a large bowl. Give the mix some time to fully absorb the water. You're looking for a damp growing medium that holds together in your hand.
Fill the shallow tray that has drainage holes to the brim with the pre-moistened mix. Level the top with your hands or a little hand rake.
You'll be planting your microgreens seeds very close together since these plants don't need room to grow to full maturity. (They won't even be growing to adolescence.) So instead of spacing out the seeds, you can take a bunch in your palm and shake them out over the tray. Aim for a fairly even distribution. Use your fingers or the hand rake to separate any seeds that are overlapping. Take some soil mix and sprinkle it on top, just until you can't see the seeds.
Add about half an inch of fresh room-temp water to the other tray, the non-draining one. Carefully set your newly planted draining tray inside. The idea is to allow the soil in the top tray to slowly take up water from the bottom tray as needed. Add the humidity dome or cover your trays with an old kitchen towel to hold in moisture until your seeds sprout.
HOW TO TEND MICROGREENS
Tending microgreens should take you no more than five minutes a day. That includes watering your microgreens, giving them light, and maintaining some air circulation. Make sure to remove the humidity dome or towel covering your tray as soon as you see little green shoots popping up. You don't need to worry about fertilizing your microgreens since they get initial nutrition from the seed after they sprout.
And that's it! Easy peasy!
How to Water Microgreens
The easiest way to water your microgreens is from the bottom by filling that non-draining tray with water. Avoid pouring water on the top of the soil, which might displace all those seeds.
Use your finger to check on the moisture level daily. If the top of your soil is soaking wet, empty the bottom tray of excess water and let the top tray dry out a bit. If the top looks dry, you can spritz some water using the spray bottle or just add more water to the bottom tray.
Once your plants are growing, yellow leaves might be a sign you're giving the tray too much water.
How Much Light to Give Microgreens
Microgreens need at least four hours of strong, direct light per day to thrive. If they're growing in a sunny windowsill, rotate the tray each day so that you get more even growth.
If you're using a grow light, start turning the light on each day as soon as you see the first signs of growth and then leave the light on for 12 to 14 hours each day. That might sound like a lot, but artificial light is not the same as sunlight. Your baby plants will appreciate it if this light source is right overhead, just a couple inches above their leaves.
How to Prevent Mold/Mildew
Aim a little fan turned on the lowest setting toward your microgreen tray if you're growing them in a small or stuffy space. The fan will mimic wind and keep air circulating. It'll also encourage the plants to grow nice and strong. I like to run my hands over the leaves each day to agitate them a bit. While you're doing so, you can check for signs of mold or mildew.
Your plants should be fine temperature-wise as long as your house is kept at a temp that's comfortable to you.
HOW TO HARVEST MICROGREENS
Check the back of the seed package you're growing to know how many days you have to wait until harvest. Once you're nearing that date, you have some flexibility around when you harvest. Some people like to harvest as soon as the plants have their first set of leaves. These are the seed leaves, and you might notice they look nothing like the mature leaves of the plant. Other growers wait until the first set of true leaves appear to harvest.
To harvest, use scissors to cut the stems horizontally, right above the soil line. I like to use my other hand to hold up the little section of microgreens I'm cutting so that they don't fall on the soil. You can harvest the entire tray now, or you can leave some of the microgreens to grow a little longer. Just don't let them grow much past their third set of leaves or the plants will become stressed about their tight quarters. Those of you who have some gardening experience will know that stressed plants are the ones that cause problems.
Toss the little plants you've cut into a strainer and give them a rinse. They're ready to enjoy!
As for your growing tray, it's a good idea to dump the soil out (throw it in your compost bin if you have one) and start fresh with new seed starting mix each time. Wash your trays with some vinegar and water and save them for your next round.
HOW TO SAVE AND ENJOY MICROGREENS
Microgreens are at their absolute best flavor- and nutrition-wise right after harvest, so I recommend enjoying them as soon as possible. If you need to store them, make sure they're fully dry and then put them in an airtight container in the fridge. They'll last for about 5 to 7 days.
You can toss your microgreens into a salad for a really easy way to consume a lot of them at once. Pea shoots are substantial enough to enjoy as a little side dish on their own. You can also put microgreens on top of pasta, sandwiches, tacos, wraps—wherever you want to add a little more nutrition, texture, flavor, and excitement. That's right. Nothing classes up a boring meal like some tiny leafy greens.
That's all there is to growing your own fresh and delicious baby greens in as little space as a place mat. It's so nice to have something easy to grow no matter the time of year or amount of outdoor space you have, so definitely give this indoor gardening project a try.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.