Starting to miss those Summer days when fresh salad ingredients were everywhere almost to the point of overkill? You’re not alone! As the vibrant colored leaves of Fall float to the ground to make way for the chill of Winter, we tend to wax poetic about those bright green lettuces and veggies. We’ve stumbled upon a delicious and simple way to quell the Winter blues and keep that warm-weather spirit alive in your recipes year round: growing microgreens indoors!
What exactly is a microgreen? Microgreens are young, tender greens that are harvested during the second stage of plant development (after sprouts, before baby greens) and are most often used in salads and as a garnish. They are also an apartment dwellers dream: they grow remarkably fast without direct sunlight, and they require very little space. Growing microgreens indoors does not call for a green thumb, though there are a few people out there that have turned their apartments into literal “micro farms“.
I decided to start small with a single circular container and a handful of ‘Astro’ arugula, seeds. Within a few days, I was eating fresh, bright microgreens on almost everything!
Already tasting those fresh microgreens and want to get started growing your own?
This is what you’ll need:
Container: I used a home-made sub-irrigated planter, basically two cans that were able to sit atop one another with four holes punched into the top one, and that is what this tutorial will focus on. Sub-irrigated planters work best but are not necessary, a flower-pot or even a take-out container will do!
- Soil: Organic potting soil. I used Organic Mechanics.
- Seeds: I used Astro arugula but there is a wide variety of seed types that will work. Amongst them, broccoli, mustard, radish, pea, and kale. When deciding on which seeds to grow, avoid fruiting veggies and stick with leafy greens.
- Light: A sunny windowsill is always ideal, but my microgreens grew perfectly well perched on my not-so-sunny one. If there is no natural light where you are planning on growing your greens, shop lights with daylight fluorescents will work just fine. A specific brand that can be purchased at most hardware stores is Pegasus Lighting Microflourescent T4 Light fixtures with 6400k bulbs.
- Twine: If you are making your own sub-irrigated planter, you will need twine to make the planter wicks. I used 4-ply natural jute twine which can be found at most craft stores. Hemp also works well.
- Misc: Paper towels, scissors, a spray bottle.
Putting it all together and growing your own salad indoors:
- Punch 4 holes into the bottom of one of your containers. This container will be the one that sits atop your second one, which will act as a water tray.
- Cut two pieces of twine and thread through the holes as shown below, making sure the wicks hang down long enough to touch the bottom of the water tray.
- Fill the top container with 1″-2″ of soil. Amount of soil will vary depending on the depth of your container. The best bet is to fill your container 2/3 full. Lightly press the soil to create an even bed for your seeds. Be sure not to compact the soil.
- Evenly sprinkle seeds over the entire surface of the soil and gently press them into the soil with the palm of your hand. The amount of seed needed varies with the size of your container. I used a small handful for my little planter.
- Cover the entire soil surface with a layer of paper towel, cutting if necessary to accomodate the shape of your container.
- Using a clean spray bottle filled with water, spray the paper towel layer until it is completely saturated, then water until soil is also saturated. Fill the water tray with 1/2″-1″ of water and place the top tray on top of the water tray, making sure the wicks are touching the water below.
- In order for your seeds to germinate, they need to be kept moist and they need darkness. Keep the paper towel layer on top of the soil and spray regularly for about 1-2 days. Peek under the paper towel every day to ensure that the seeds are moist. If they dry out, they will no longer be viable. When you notice the seedlings starting to push up the paper towel, gently remove it and place the planter on your windowsill or under lights.
- As your seedlings grow, be sure to check on the moisture of the soil. It should be as damp as a wrung out sponge.
- Microgreens can take anywhere from 5-14 days, depending on the variety you are growing, to reach harvest point. My Astro arugula took about 7 days. Microgreens are ready to harvest when their leaves are fully formed and they are a couple of inches high.
- Once your microgreens are ready to be harvested, be sure to do so at a cool time of day to prevent wilting. Gently grasp a handful from the side of your container and use scissors to cut just above the base of the stem. You can harvest your microgreens as you need them or all at once. Either way, microgreens have a short shelf life, about 4 days at most. Be sure to keep them in a resealable container and to wash them in cold water before using them. If they look a bit wilted, a quick dip in very cold water and a spin in the salad spinner should do the trick to brighten them back up!
- Get creative and enjoy your homegrown microgreens in your favorite recipes or even on their own!
Posted by: Piera