IN THE GARDEN: Keep growing season going with microgreens
While in Ketchikan last month, a gardener friend showed me how to grow nutrient dense microgreens from seeds planted inside and harvested every seven days. Needless to say, this got my attention because they were absolutely delicious!
After our gardens wind down and we no longer have access to that fresh garden taste, growing microgreens indoors can definitely give us delicious greens throughout the fall, winter and spring until we grow our outside garden greens again. You do not need a fancy growing system to grow a steady stream of microgreens. All you need is a south facing window spot. Even in our dark winters, this much light is enough.
In the past you may have seen the growing of alfalfa sprouts or mung bean sprouts in jars. These sprouts need to be rinsed three times per day until they sprout. Microgreen seeds, on the other hand, are placed on top of a small amount of soil and grown over a 7-10 day period.
Soil-grown sprouts like sunflower, pea, buckwheat, broccoli, baby spinach, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce and radish seeds are just some of the delicious sprouts that you can grow in a week’s time. The taste of these microgreens is absolutely amazing. I love the radish and the sunflower and pea sprouts.
The first thing you are going to need are seeds, good potting soil and containers to grow your sprouts. Containers can be any size that will fit easily next to your window. I am using 3-by-6-inch aluminum bread pans for an example. Any container you have will do.
This is a totally different technique than planting seeds outdoors. Outdoors seeds are planted under the ground and spaced to allow for the plant to grow. Inside sprout growing is done with a small amount of soil with seeds planted densely on top of the soil.
Try making your own soil mix for indoor garden growing. Here is a good recipe that I have tried and like: Three gallons of peat moss, one half-gallon of vermiculite, one half-gallon of perlite and one quarter cup of limestone. Mix up and place in a gallon Ziploc bags to have ready.
Avoid using potting soils that have added fertilizers or moisture beads. The soils from outside are too dense for microgreens seed planting and should not be used. You can add a quarter cup of compost or worm casings per gallon of soil mixture if you like. Fast-growing seedlings need light and airy soil to grow in and this mixture is just right. Don’t put too much water in your soil mix so that it is dripping wet. Over time you will find your perfect mix to grow your sprouts, but this should get you started.
Prepare your soil by moistening it with water and feel free to add any natural organic fertilizer you use. Liquid or dried sea kelp or compost can be added to your mix. You do not need a large amount of soil; just about 2-3 inches per container.
Pre-soaking your seed: One tablespoon of each seed in water in small cups is the key to fast growing sprout salad gardening. Soaking 12-24 hours is sufficient. Pour off water.
Planting your seeds densely on top of the soil allows them to grow quicker because they are not buried. This also keeps the sprouts cleaner. Don’t worry if the seeds are touching but avoid overlapping them. Cover your container with a moisten paper towel or newspaper.
Grow in a dark warm place for four days. During this period you will not be watering your sprouts. Since the sprouts are grown for their stems and first set of leaves, this darkness encourages the seeds to search for the light, making long stems. On day five, take sprouts out of the dark, removing the cover. The sprouts will be whitish yellow in appearance.
Place the sprouts in a well lit window or under lights for 3-4 days and they will green up. Water the sprouts once per day now. Avoid overwatering causing the sprouts to sit in water. Soil that is too wet can encourage mold.
After four days in the light, watch your sprouts green up and now your sprouts are ready to eat in salads or stir-fry’s. Harvest your shoots with a pair of scissors or sharp knife and discard the roots and dirt in your compost. Rinse the sprouts well to remove any remaining seed hulls. Place extras in the refrigerator in a container for further use.
This process of starting sprouts by seed can be started daily for a steady supply of delicious fresh nutrient dense microgreens for use in salads or whatever you want to add them too. The amount to grow for your indoor salad greens will be dependent on your needs. YouTube has several great videos on how this is done. There are also several good books written on the subject. Seeds can be found at several local businesses or online in bulk. Store your seeds in glass containers to keep them dry. Give Microgreen seed growing a try, you will absolutely love it!
This will be the last In the Garden column for the year. I will start up again next May to answer your questions on gardening in Alaska. Thanks for all the great questions and your interest.
Chris Wood is president of the Greater Eagle River Gardening Club. Email her at [email protected]