Instructions - Microgreens Soil Method
Welcome to the world of growing your own micro greens. You can grow outdoors in warm seasons, or indoors all year long… even if you have limited space. It’s literally counter top gardening. Microgreens are inexpensive, fun to grow and cover a wide variety of exciting, nutrition dense tastes. We hope you enjoy growing and eating these exciting living foods!
- Sprouts – Sprouts are the first stage of a seed’s development and are generally grown without a growing medium (soil), but are sprouted and rinsed in a sprouting tray, jar or bag. They are usually eaten soon after the seeds germinate and are delicious and crunchy. Visit our handy pantry page for a full line of sprouting supplies.
- Microgreens – Micro greens are the second stage of a plant’s life, where roots establish themselves and the first leaves (called cotyledons) appear. Micro greens are harvested at this stage before the adult stage leaves emerge. Plants in the micro green stage are typically at their peak of flavor intensity.
- Baby Salad Greens – Baby salad greens of every variety are usually easier to grow in soil and are allowed to grow for a week or two beyond the micro green stage when the adult leaves have emerged. Baby greens are harvested while they are still juvenile plants. The flavors are much closer to their full adult stage, and they have had ample opportunity to absorb more minerals from the soil.
- Mucilaginous Seeds – Some micro greens seeds (like chia and basil) are mucilaginous, meaning that once exposed to water they develop a jelly-like coating on the exterior of the seed. This is normal for these types of seeds, but they need to be kept damp until the seedling has had a chance to emerge and establish itself.
- Hydroponic Crops – Hydroponic growing is the cleanest and easiest way to grow microgreens. With only a few exceptions, most microgreens grow extremely well hydroponically.
- Dirt Crops – If growing to the baby salad stage you may find them easier to grow in soil. Some microgreens perform better in soil. These include peas, sunflower, buckwheat, beets, cilantro, lentils, mung, adzuki and others.
Step by Step Instructions
- Step 0: Balance The pH Of Your Water – IMPORTANT! – Microgreens seeds are sensitive to the pH of water. Use the included pH test strips and instructions to adjust the pH of your water. Microgreens thrive at a pH of 6. Most soil will add alkalinity to water so starting with a PH of 5.5 is ideal. Make sure to only water your crops with water you have balanced to an acceptable pH. Also helpful is to use filtered water to remove any chlorine from the water.
- Step 1: Pre-Soak Seeds – Most seeds that require soil as a growing medium require a presoak (like beets, sunflower, peas, buckwheat and cilantro) need to be pre-soaked before being spread over your soil. See the back side of this instruction sheet for details on which seeds need to be pre-soaked. To soak, submerge the seeds in jar filled with cold water. Make sure there is plenty of water as some seeds (like peas) absorb surprising amounts of water. Keep in a cool place (even your refrigerator on hot days). When pre-soaked for an appropriate time, rinse thoroughly with cold water. Optionally you can transfer the seeds (except beet, which should be planted directly) to a colander and rinse every 12 hours for another day before planting. Tray Quantities: Sunflower: 1 Pre-Measured Bag Per Tray Dun Pea: 1 Pre-Measured Bag Per Tray BuckWheat: 1 Pre-Measured Bag Per Tray Beet: ½ to 1 Cup of Seed Per Tray Cilantro: 1 Cup of Seed Per Tray
- Step 2: Prepare Your Trays – For micro greens you will want about an inch and a half to two inches of soil in the tray. Put 4 cups of pH balanced water in the tray, then transfer the soil to the tray, spread the soil evenly and gently tamp it flat, (the back of a spatula is perfect for this). You want a flat even bed of soil that is firm, but not compacted. Dampen the top soil by sprinkling a little water gently and evenly over the soil. The soil should be quite damp but not soggy. Re-tamp gently if necessary.
- Step 3: Spread Your Seeds – Spread your soaked seed evenly across the tray. Larger seeds like buckwheat, sunflower and pea will end up being quite thickly spread.
- Step 4: Water & Cover - Gently tamp the seeds flat into the soil. The goal here isn’t to crush the seeds into the soil, but to simply make sure that the seeds are making firm contact with the soil. Use your spray bottle to thoroughly mist the seeds directly on the soil. Now take one of the other trays and use your spray mister to spray the inside of it 4 or 5 times with an even distribution of mist. Use that misted tray as a black-out and humidity dome on your recently seeded tray. Your newly sown seeds need humidity and dark to thrive. Set your tray in a place where it won’t get too hot, or too cold. 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
- Step 5: Mist Every 12 Hours – Uncover the seed tray every 12 hours or so and mist them again with your spray bottle. 15 to 20 evenly distributed sprays should do. Do not add additional water other than the misting. Re-cover your tray.
- Step 6: Uncover The Tray – Your crop should be ready to uncover after 4 or 5 days (7 days for beet & cilantro). You can judge this by watching for when the baby leaves (cotyledons) of your crop first emerge and then waiting one more day. It is important to keep your crop in the dark for the first 4 to 5 days to force your crop to grow in the struggle for light. This will help you grow a strong crop. Once you uncover the tray, make sure your crop gets plenty of light. We highly recommend LED grow lights . Direct sunlight, fluorescent, or incandescent lights are also good. If your crop angles for light, be sure to rotate the tray occasion- ally.
- Step 8: Check Daily – Your crop should have the right balance of water from now till harvest. Check the soil. It should be moist but not soggy. If necessary, replenish water by sprinkling or pouring water over the soil, avoiding he leaves as much as possible. Do not use the spray bottle anymore.
- Step 9: Time to Harvest – Most microgreens will be ready to harvest in 10 days. Some crops can be harvested as early as 7 days. Most crops will not last pass 14 or 15 days before they must be harvested. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to these harvest times. Details for the most popular seeds can be found on the reverse of this instruction sheet.
- Step 10: Harvest – Move your trays to a cool, shady place. If your greens are harvested when it is too hot, they will wilt very quickly after harvesting. If harvested when cool (late evening, early morning), they will tend to stay fresh and crisp.
- Step 11: Rinse & Dry – Use a colander to rinse your microgreens thoroughly under cold water. Dry the greens completely by spreading over a towel or paper towels and air dry. Speed drying by using a fan on a slow setting. Cut greens are best if served right after drying, but can be stored loosely in a bowl in the refrigerator for several days. Do not try to refrigerate greens that are not completely dry.
Troubleshooting & Tips
- Planting Too Thick – If you spread your seeds too thickly the micro greens will come in too dense and be susceptible to rot. If you feel like your greens in are coming in too thick, you can always thin out the crop by carefully plucking individual plants.
- Planting Too Thin – For micro greens this will make for a small, scraggly crop, but won’t cause any trouble.
- Over Watering – Microgreens will thrive if the roots get the right mix of water and oxygen. Over-watering causes the root to not get enough oxygen and makes the crop suscep- tible to root diseases, and can even result in the loss of a tray. Avoid any puddles that extend above the root line. Ideally water should lay in the channels of the bottom of the tray.
- Under Watering – Watch carefully for any signs of wilting. The grow pad should be kept fairly soggy for the full growth cycle. If the grow pad is merely damp, there is probably not enough water in the tray.
- Re-cutting – Once harvested, micro greens will not re-grow. Dispose of the spent grow pads.
- Rot – If you notice sections of rot in your tray it can be a sign of over-watering, or sowing seeds too thickly. However, most of the time rot is an indication that your water is too alkaline (pH higher than 6.5). Make sure you pH balance your water or you will have weak crops. If you do have occurrences of rot, give the rotting area a wide berth at harvest.
- Multiple Crop Trays – There is no problem in sowing multiple crops in the same tray, in fact it’s a great idea! You can easily segregate your seeds into different sections of the same tray. It is even okay to sow seeds with varying harvest times in the same tray.
- Temperature – Cold will slow down growth rates of your micro greens dramatically. A nice warm spot will speed things up.
- Generally Weak Crop – If you baby your crop too much, it can make the crop weak. Microgreens should struggle a bit to survive. If they are not kept in the dark long enough, the roots won’t establish themselves well, and will result in a weak looking tray. If you are having trouble with weak trays, you can add a little stress to strengthen your crop. Instead of uncovering your crop and exposing to light after 4 or 5 days, take the tray you are using as a dome and flip it. Spray the underside of the tray to moisten it, and lay it inside the growing tray so that the bottom of the tray rests on top of your seedlings. This will force your crop to establish a better root, and grow much stronger to lift the tray and reach for light. Leaving the tray on the crop in this manner from day 4 to day 6 can really strengthen a weak crop.
- Pale Crop – Consider using a stronger light source for your microgreens.
- Mucilaginous Seeds – Mucilaginous seeds should be sown and cared for the same as any other seed. However, they may be more sensitive to drying out in the early stages of sprouting. Make sure they are misted and kept damp.
- Presoaking – Some seed types will do better if pre-soaked. See notes for specific seeds on the reverse for indications. Usually seeds that should be grown in soil will require a presoak. Presoak for the indicated time period in cold water.