Packing a nutritional punch and super easy to grow in spaces as small as windowsills, there’s a lot to love about microgreens.
Simply put, these baby plants are vegetable, greens and herb seedlings, harvested at just a week or two old.
Many vegetables, greens and herbs are great to grow as microgreens:
- daikon radish
- mustard greens
… are just a few of your options. What’s so great about them?
Studies by University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have shown that when harvested young microgreens have four to 40 times the nutritional benefits of the mature versions of the plants.
Levels of vitamins C, E, K and beta carotene were found to be higher in the 25 varieties of microgreens that were tested, when compared with the mature versions.
Any tray with a little drainage is perfect for growing your own microgreens at home, so get growing!
Standard open, flat seedling trays are a great choice, although you could also reuse Styrofoam boxes or bread trays with some mesh or paper in the base to stop your growing medium falling through.
For most seed types you’ll need to fill your tray around 3 cm deep with organic potting mix – we like to make our own – you can find our potting mix recipe here.
Growing grains such as wheatgrass, barley grass and cress can also be done without soil on a few sheets of damp paper towel.
How to grow microgreens
– Soak your seeds overnight (this will help to speed up germination) then sprinkle your seeds evenly across the top of the soil.
– Sow them thick, as you’ll be harvesting these young you don’t need space between each plant – you want to have lots of seedlings coming up nice and close to each other to ensure a plentiful harvest.
– Mist with water and keep the tray moist and in a warm spot until the seeds germinate and green shoots appear.
– Cover the tray with a lid, damp paper towel or another tray inverted on top until this stage will help stop them from drying out.
– Once you’ve got sprouts appearing, take off the cover and leave them in a well-lit spot until they’re ready to harvest in a week or two. A sunny windowsill or a sheltered spot outdoors is perfect.
When to Harvest
Wait until the first set of true leaves have appeared.
The first set of two leaves that appear on a seedling are the ‘cotyledons’, or the seed leaves, all of which look similar to each other.
The next set of leaves that appear after this are the ‘true leaves’ and will look different to the cotyledons.
Cut the shoots close to the soil level with scissors at this stage, and enjoy!
Microgreens are great for just about anything, from salads, soups, pizzas, green smoothies, or anything else you’d like to add a little extra flavour, texture and nutrition to.
You can then loosen the soil mix up, top up with a little fresh soil and scatter new seeds to start another tray growing!
When choosing what variety will grow, you’ll need to stay seasonal with your seed selection and what will generally germinate in current soil temperatures.
Easy choices for the current season include peas, daikon radish, mustard greens and broccoli.
As the weather begins to warm, give buckwheat and sunflower a go too.
Microgreens growing resources:
- How to Grow Microgreens: Nature’s Own Superfood by Fionna Hill (CSIRO Publishing 2011)
- Green Harvest’s microgreens growing info
Growing microgreens is one of the many strategies for transitioning from pure consumer to becoming a sometimes food producer (even if it’s just on your windowsill) covered in our Intro to Permaculture courses! We run them in Sydney.
– words by Emma Bowen: rooftop grower and lover of microgreens.