Would you like to grow your own microgreens? It’s a really simple indoor gardening project that can quickly provide you with super-healthy, tasty edible greens. Read on for a simple step-by-step guide to growing microgreens, plus advice on the best microgreens to grow.
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are seedlings of herbs and vegetables. You would usually allow the plant to reach full size before harvesting it, but with microgreens you harvest when the plants are still seedlings. This means you can have a harvest in as little as two weeks after planting.
Microgreens are a great – and healthy – way to add flavour and visual impact to your cooking. Microgreens are often referred to as ‘vegetable confetti’, and as you can imagine chefs love using them to create appealing and tasty dishes. And there’s no reason why you can’t do the same at home!
The health benefits of microgreens
Harvesting microgreens at seedling stage provides you with a number of benefits.
The main one is nutrition. Microgreens are small, but they’re absolutely packed with nutrients when compared to a fully-grown plant. This means you can get a big hit of the good stuff from a small amount of leaves.
Microgreens also tend to be more intense when it comes to taste. Again, everything is concentrated into a smaller space, so those tiny leaves can deliver a big burst of flavour.
Finally, microgreens are really tender. The fact that the leaves are young makes them less tough, providing you with a nicer texture experience when you eat them.
Are microgreens better than vegetables?
Microgreens are certainly rich in nutrients. But you would have to eat a lot of them to replace your standard daily portions of vegetables, which is an expensive way to get your five a day! For this reason, it makes sense to use microgreens as part of a healthy diet, rather than as an alternative to full-sized vegetables.
The best microgreens to grow
There are lots of different types of microgreens that you can grow. The easiest and most cost-effective way to grow microgreens is to buy *microgreen seeds. You can then use your existing gardening equipment to grow them at home.
If you’d like to make things even easier, you could buy a *microgreens kit. These kits usually include all the materials you need to grow your microgreens, so if you’re starting from scratch they can be a good option.
Where to buy microgreen seeds
The best place to buy microgreen seeds is online. This is where you’ll find the largest range of seed varieties, so it’s ideal if you’d like to experiment with lots of different types.
Having said that, some of the larger seed suppliers are now including microgreens in their ranges, so you should also be able to find some at your local garden centre. The range of seeds will be smaller than online, but if you’re just getting started with growing your own microgreens, it’s probably the easiest and quickest way to get hold of seeds.
Look out also for packets of *mixed microgreen seeds. These are a nice way to grow a range of flavours in a really small space, and perfect for kids to try.
Ten easy microgreens to grow
If you’re not sure which microgreen varieties to start with, or just need some inspiration, here are ten of the easiest microgreens to grow. Each one is fast-growing, easy to plant and take care of, and tasty to eat.
- Radish – perfect for adding a punchy flavour, and also nice and crunchy. Harvest in approx. 14 days.
- Red Cabbage – produces brightly coloured stems and dark green leaves. Harvest in approx. 7 days.
- Broccoli – a heavyweight when it comes to nutrients with a mild flavour. Harvest in approx. 7 days.
- Mustard – gives a fiery kick. Harvest in approx. 10 days.
- Beetroot – lovely red stems and pretty leaves with a mild flavour. Harvest in approx. 10 days.
- Aragula – peppery flavour with vibrant green leaves. Harvest in approx. 10 days.
- Coriander – perfect garnish for curries and stir fries. Harvest in approx. 14 days.
- Spinach – mild flavour and works well with more peppery leaves. Harvest in approx. 10 days.
- Basil – intense flavour and ideal for mediterranean dishes. Harvest in approx. 14 days.
- Fennel – strong aniseed flavour and pretty leaves. Harvest in approx. 10 days.
How to grow microgreens at home
Growing microgreens is a really easy grow your own project. You don’t even need a garden; a windowsill is perfect. You can grow microgreens indoors all year round with just a few basic supplies.
Growing microgreens is an ideal gardening activity for children to try too. The fact that you harvest them so quickly is perfect for impatient kids, and the small scale is well-suited to little hands. It’s also a great way to encourage children to explore new flavours, and teach them about things like the plant life cycle and where our food comes from.
Have I convinced you to give growing microgreens a try? If the answer is yes, here’s how to grow microgreens indoors.
The equipment you need to grow microgreens
To grow your own microgreens, you will need the following supplies.
- *Microgreen seeds
- Plant pots, foil trays or recycled takeaway containers
- Plant saucers or trays
- Compost or *coir
- *Hand trowel
- *Small watering can or *spray bottle
What growing medium is best for microgreens?
If you’re growing microgreens from seed at home, the easiest thing to plant them in is compost or coconut coir.
Potting compost will provide your seeds with the nutrients they need to germinate and grow, and is easy to get hold of.
Coconut coir is a good alternative to soil. It’s made from coconut fibre, which you usually buy in dehydrated blocks which you then water before use. Coir retains water really well, but doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrients. This isn’t necessarily a problem, because you’ll be harvesting your microgreens while they’re still tiny and not in need of much support.
Can you reuse soil for microgreens?
Both compost and coconut coir can be reused to grow more microgreens. It’s important that you remove all roots before sowing more seeds. You will eventually exhaust the nutrients in the compost, so you’ll probably need to replace it eventually.
Compost and coir can both be recycled by adding them to your compost bin. Coir will take a lot longer to break down than compost.
Planting your microgreen seeds
If you’re using a recycled container to grow microgreens, clean it throughly before you start.
Add compost or coir to your container until it’s about three quarters full.
Scatter your microgreen seeds evenly over the surface of the compost or coir.
Sprinkle a small amount of compost or coir on top, until the seeds are covered.
If your container has drainage holes, place it on a plant saucer or shallow tray.
Put your container in a warm, bright position indoors. A windowsill that receives plenty of light is ideal.
Check your seeds every day – they grow fast! Water them if the soil feels dry, but do this gently to avoid flooding the tiny plants. Again, a spray bottle is great here.
If you notice that your seedlings are leaning towards the light, turn your container round regularly to help them grow straight.
When to harvest microgreens
The point at which your microgreens are ready to harvest will depend upon the variety you are growing.
The very first leaves that a seed produces are called cotyledons. They’re not the same as all the rest of the leaves that the plant will produce, which are called true leaves.
Some microgreens should be harvested before they produce their first set of true leaves. Others need to be picked once they have produced true leaves. Check the instructions on your packet of seeds to work out the best option for the variety you are growing.
How big do microgreens get?
As a general rule, microgreens are fully grown and ready to be harvested when they are between 3-6cm tall.
How to harvest microgreens
Harvesting microgreens is really easy. All you need to do is snip or pinch off the seedling just above soil level. You can use scissors, your fingers, or *mini snips.
What happens if you don’t harvest microgreens?
You might be wondering whether it’s possible for microgreens to grow to full size. Despite the best of intentions, you may end up in a situation where you haven’t harvested and used all of your microgreen crop while it’s still small.
Your microgreens will usually be fine for a few days after the optimum harvesting time. You will simply end up with slightly bigger plants, which can have an impact on flavour and texture.
You might find that the flavour becomes less intense, or more pungent. Larger plants can also be less tender and have a more fibrous texture.
If you leave your microgreens longer, they will begin to exhaust the nutrients in their soil and crowd each other out. You’ll know this has happened when they start to look less vibrant and healthy. You can still use them, but they won’t be as tasty – consider whizzing them up into a pesto or a smoothie to avoid wasting them.
The best way to avoid having more microgreens than you need is to sow the seeds little and often. Sow small batches of seeds every week or so for a continuous supply that doesn’t overwhelm you.
Will microgreens regrow after cutting?
Some varieties of microgreens will grow again after you harvest them. Bear in mind that plants grown in larger containers will have a better chance of regrowing, as they will be able to produce a stronger root structure.
Given how quick and easy it is to grow microgreens, you might decide that it’s a better idea to just plant a new batch of seeds. This will certainly give you a higher chance of success.
If you do decide to try regrowing your microgreens, cutting above the lowest leaf when you harvest them will increase your chances.
Quick checklist for growing microgreens
Here’s a quick summary of the key things you need to remember when growing microgreens.
- Use potting compost or coconut coir to grow microgreens.
- Try to scatter the seeds evenly, and don’t sow them really thickly.
- Keep the compost moist, but don’t overwater – especially if your container doesn’t have drainage holes.
- Grow your microgreens on a sunny windowsill.
- Turn the container regularly if your plants start leaning towards the light.
- Harvest your microgreens when the plants are 3-6cm tall.
- Sow a batch of microgreen seeds every few days for a continuous supply.
You might also like to chill out to this fab time-lapse video of microgreens growing!
Has this guide to growing microgreens at home inspired you to have a go yourself? Let me know which varieties you try!
More gardening inspiration
For more easy gardening and grow your own projects, take a look at these posts.
If you’re keen on getting the kids involved in gardening, you might also like my book ‘A Year of Nature Craft and Play’. It’s filled with fun gardening projects, crafts, games, art and science activities that inspire kids to get creative with nature and explore the amazing natural world. There are 52 budget-friendly activities, one for every week of the year, all with easy-to-follow instructions and colourful photos. You could check out my blog section on gardening with children too 🙂