As the name suggests, microgreens are salad greens that are harvested when the leaves are small—only an inch or two high. They are quick and easy to grow in the garden, in pots, or on the windowsill. Flavors vary from sweet to tangy, depending on the type of green.
Microgreens to try:
· Beet greens
· Herbs: parsley, basil, chervil, cilantro
· Onions, chives, leeks
· Oriental greens such as tatsoi, bok choi, and mizuna
· Radish greens
The tastes, textures, appearances, and nutritional values are as varied as the plants themselves. Used in combinations or individually, microgreens make healthful and colorful additions to salads and sandwiches, and they are attractive garnishes. Delicate as they are, microgreens are at their best when fresh, but some retain their flavor when added to breads and other recipes.
What’s the difference between microgreens and sprouts? Microgreens are harvested and eaten after the first set of true leaves appears, while sprouts are harvested and eaten before the first set of true leaves appears.
Microgreen Planting and Care
You can grow microgreens in soil or in soilless mixes. (Commercial farmers often grow microgreens hydroponically, that is, in water.) Because microgreens are harvested before they reach maturity they don’t need as much sun as their full-grown counterparts do. In fact, microgreens are excellent crops for gardeners with limited space, sun, or physical ability who want to grow some of their own food. Some folks refer to microgreens as “edible houseplants” because you can even grow them indoors.
To grow microgreens right in the garden you need a weed-free plot of well-drained soil with good organic content. Loosen the soil, rake it smooth, and scatter the seeds so they are one-quarter of an inch apart (closer for very small seeds). Cover the seeds lightly, and then water gently but thoroughly. A watering can with a rose attachment can give you the gentle rain you need to wet the soil without drowning the seeds. Don’t let the soil dry out, and keep on top of the weeds.
For container growing you need a container that is at least two inches high. The exact type of container is up to you. Fill it three-quarters full with good quality, well-drained growing mix—either a soil- or soil-less mix will do. Smooth the soil, sow and water as above. Place the containers outside in sun or part shade or indoors in a sunny window.
Microgreen growing kits have everything you need to get started, or you can buy your supplies at a garden center or hardware store.
Microgreen Pests and Diseases
The only pests and diseases likely to bother your microgreens are the ones that bother young plants, like flea beetles and slugs. If you want to grow kale and other members of the cabbage family in your microgreen garden you may want to grow them under row covers until the flea beetle season is over. Slugs and snails can destroy a plot of tender greens in no time, so you may want to put out beer or iron phosphate bait as soon as the leaves start to show.
Harvest microgreens right after the first true leaves develop. (The first leaves you see when the seeds germinate are cotyledon leaves, which don’t look anything like the leaves of the plant. The next set is the first set of true leaves.) It can take anywhere for four days to three weeks for microgreens to be ready to harvest, depending on the types of greens. Harvesting is much easier if you grow greens that have the same germination time, otherwise you’ll be picking among your tiny greens to reach the ones that are ready.
Want more information about growing Microgreens?
While microgreens are trendy at the moment, their versatility, nutritional value, and enticing flavors may give them a place at the table for a long time. You can learn more about microgreens with these resources:
Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening: How to Grow Nutrient-Dense, Soil-Sprouted Greens in Less Than 10 days by Peter Burke
Microgreens: A Guide To Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens by Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson
Microgreens from University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension
Nutritious microgreens are easy to grow at home from Mississippi State University
Video tutorials for growing microgreens indoors:
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