Easy Guide to Growing Microgreens

Second only to sprouts, microgreens are the quickest food crop we urban gardeners can grow! If you have limited time, space or gardening skills let me introduce you to growing microgreens. Tasty, nutrient-dense ‘fast food’ in just a few easy steps.

 

Rainbow salad with buckwheat microgreens | The Micro Gardener

I loved all the flavours in this rainbow salad with buckwheat microgreens & sesame oil, tamari (organic soy), vinegar, olive oil + maple syrup dressing.

 

What are Microgreens?

With sprouts, you eat the fully germinated seed. I think of sprouts as the ‘babies’ of the plant world. A seed that bursts open with the first root and shoot(s). Whereas sprouts are seeds that germinate by being soaked and rinsed in water, microgreens are grown in soil.

During seed germination, the cotyledon(s) or seed leave(s) emerge from the soil first. [A cotyledon is part of the embryo within the seed of the plant.]  Through photosynthesis, the cotyledon(s) provide initial food to give the plants a burst of energy for the true leaves to develop.

Microgreens are the next stage in a plant’s development, kind of like the ‘toddlers’ of the plant world. Microgreens can be harvested when the germinated seeds have developed tiny roots and at least their first true leaves. They have similar health benefits to sprouts, but greater nutritional value.

So you can add minerals to the seed raising mix to boost the nutrient value and flavour. These young seedlings are harvested smaller than baby salad leaves.

“These tender baby-greens are biogenic food at its best; biogenic meaning ‘life generating’, food by the capacity of their life-force, to generate ‘life-force’ for us.” – Isabell Shipard, How Can I Grow & Use Sprouts as a Living Food?

Benefits of Growing Microgreens

  • Quick to grow: from ‘seed to feed’ in just 1-3 weeks depending on which variety you choose.
  • You can grow an incredible number of plants in a tiny area = high yield to space ratio.
Cabbage microgreens sprouting after one week. | The Micro Gardener

Cabbage microgreens sprouting after one week in a tiny repurposed plastic punnet.

  • Minimal cost, time and effort required for a ‘fast food’ healthy harvest of organic greens.
  • Perfect solution for urban families with no room or time for a garden.
  • You just need access to good light (e.g. a  well lit bench indoors), a tray/suitable shallow container and a growing medium.
  • Produce fresh living greens for salads, sandwiches, soups and garnishes in the heat of summer or cold of winter. In our subtropical summer, microgreens are a solution to salad ingredients when lettuces, rocket/arugula and spinach crops tend to bolt to seed in the heat.
Certified organic radish sprouting seeds | The Micro Gardener

A much smaller quantity of seed is required than for sprouts.

  • A crop you can grow indoors on a sunny windowsill or kitchen bench, or outdoors on your balcony, covered porch or shade house with no need for a garden.
  • Contain digestible vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that provide nutritional health benefits and are packed with flavour, colour, texture, living enzymes and nutrients.

 

According to a 2012 research study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry*, “In general, microgreens contain considerably higher concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids than their mature plant counterparts, although large variations were found among the 25 species tested. In comparison with nutritional concentrations in mature leaves, the microgreen cotyledon leaves possessed higher nutritional densities.”
  • Ability to harvest your microgreens just before serving maximizes nutrients.
  • Have a lightly crunchy texture and can be used as garnishes to add flavour and colour.
  • Many varieties will regrow and produce several harvests – fantastic value!

 

Tending Broken Baby Seedling | The Micro Gardener

Children in particular will more likely eat food they have nurtured and grown themselves. It is a gift to give them this opportunity to find out where their food comes from.

Which Microgreens Seeds can you Grow?

Some common varieties include amaranth, basil, beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, chard, chervil, coriander/cilantro, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, parsley, peas, radish, rocket/arugula, spinach, and sorrel. However, you are certainly not limited to these!

 

Growing Microgreens: Sweet basil microgreens almost ready for harvesting | The Micro Gardener

Most salad greens, vegies and herbs like these beautiful basil babies can be used.

 

Flavours range from mild to quite intense depending on the variety. They are a great way to add nutrients to your diet if you prefer young and tender shoots instead of mature vegies or herbs! I prefer to eat fresh microgreens raw because of their delicate nature and sensitive nutrients.


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Certified organic seeds for sprouts & microgreens | The Micro Gardener

Not all seeds however are safe to use for microgreens. I only use certified organic or untreated seed to avoid eating any food grown from seed that may have been fumigated or treated with a fungicide.

 

How to Grow Microgreens – 4 Step Guide

Microgreens are grown quickly from seeds in good light with adequate moisture. They are usually sown in a soil medium or substitute and harvested before they reach full size. Each seed needs enough ‘personal space’ to grow. You simply snip the microgreens off at soil level after the first two ‘true’ leaves of the plant emerge from the cotyledon (the embryonic leaf/leaves inside the seed).

Materials: Tray/container; certified organic/fungicide free seeds; spray bottle; seaweed solution; potting mix (sieved)/seed raising mix growing medium; paper towel/chux cloth to line tray; plant label.

 

Adding seed raising mix to greenhouses | The Micro Gardener

I like to reuse small fruit or vegie punnets – they are perfect mini greenhouses for growing microgreens!

 

STEP 1.  To help your seeds germinate quickly, pre-soak larger seeds (e.g. mung beans, wheat, peas) in warm water for a few hours or overnight.

 

Large presoaked seeds ready for sowing | The Micro Gardener

After soaking, drain and rinse – I don’t bother with this step for smaller seeds though!

 

STEP 2.  If using a tray, lay some moistened paper towel or chux cloth on the bottom to stop the mix falling through. Fill your container about 3/4 full of moist growing medium about 2-3cm (1 in) deep.

I make my own home made seed raising mixes because they contain key ingredients to boost seed germination. Once seeds sprout, the ingredients I use in my own seed raising mix provides additional nutrition to grow healthy microgreen leaves and minerals to boost health. That way, I know I’m eating the most nutrient-dense food possible.

 

How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide

CLICK FOR DETAILS TO MAKE YOUR OWN MIXES

I share 5 easy organic seed raising mix recipes in my How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide. Far cheaper to make than buy and you know what’s in it! No chemical ingredients.

 

Wheat seeds being sown in tray with moist potting mix | The Micro Gardener

TIP: The mix in your tray should feel like a moist sponge – not too dry or wet!

 

You could also use a certified organic seed raising mix (look for a suitable logo).

Spread the seed raising mix out evenly. I use a paddle pop stick or ruler so there is a nice even surface.

STEP 3.  Generously sprinkle your seeds over the mix and press in lightly.

 

Gently press down to cover seeds | The Micro Gardener

Then evenly spread a thin layer of seed raising mix or sieved compost (about 0.5 cm or 13/64 in) over the top so they are all covered.

 

Lightly water by misting with a spray bottle. This prevents you dislodging the seeds. Place on a drainage tray or saucer in a warm spot like your kitchen bench. Water regularly every day as needed. Check soil moisture first by touching with your fingers. The seeds should never dry out. Avoid overwatering though as you’ll drown your seeds!

To create a warm humid environment for the seeds to germinate, cover the seeds with the punnet lid. Or add a clear plastic bag over the top of the tray with holes snipped in the top for airflow.

 

Microgreens growing in a punnet | The Micro Gardener

Once the seeds germinate, you can move them to a sheltered sunny position like a windowsill or greenhouse.

 

STEP 4.  Once germinated, the seeds have used up their internal store of food to grow. So at this point, I apply seaweed solution to feed the plants with trace elements. This improves flavour and boosts nutrition.

When the seedlings are 2.5-10cm (1-3 in) tall – depending on the variety you choose, your yummy microgreens are ready for harvesting!  I use scissors to cut stems just above the soil when I’m about to put them on the plate.

 

Snip microgreens with scissors to harvest | The Micro Gardener

For all you frustrated would-be hairdressers out there, it gives you an opportunity to practice your scissor skills snipping shoots!


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Tips for Gorgeous Greens

  • Not interested in sharing your microgreens with the resident rodents or birds in your area? These creatures love seeds as a food source as much as you do. So try protecting them until they have germinated with a cover or upturned tray.
Mung bean microgreens germinating in a tray | The Micro Gardener

To have a continual supply of microgreens, sow little and often (succession plant) every 5-7 days.

  • Not sure if your old seeds are still viable? Sowing them as microgreens is a great solution to use them up quickly.
  • Do you live in a warm climate? If you decide to grow your microgreens outside in a humid summer like here in the subtropics, you may need to prevent mould forming. These are my tips:
  1. Check soil moisture daily with a moisture meter to avoid overwatering.
  2. Increase air circulation by putting in a breezy area.
  3. Sow fewer seeds – about half what you would normally use/tray.
Microgreens snip at base of stem | The Micro Gardener

If you grow a small quantity in a punnet container, you can pop in your fridge when they are ready to harvest to keep them fresh & crisp for a few days. Then give them a haircut as you need to!

  • To keep your greens growing lushly, add liquid seaweed solution to a tray or plate under your seed raiser every day or two. This enables the tiny plant roots to take up the extra nutrition as they need it.
  • If sowing radish or beetroot seeds, you can use a deeper mix. So if you decide to harvest some as microgreens and leave the others to mature, you’ll quickly have root crops to enjoy.
  • If you don’t get to eat all your microgreens or want to start seedlings to grow in pots or outdoors, transplant a few microgreens from your container. Gently lever them out with a skewer or fork, holding the leaves only NOT the stems or roots. Settle the baby seedlings into a pot with some liquid seaweed to prevent transplant shock. Acclimatize them gradually to the sun over a few days as they venture into the big wide world. Then let them grow into mature salad greens and vegetables. This is an easy way to raise seedlings from seed.
  • Sow little and often. Regularly sowing seeds in punnets every week or two will provide a continuous supply of tasty nutritious food. Saving some for your garden will also enable you to expand your skills to grow outdoors as well with a sufficient supply you can manage and consume.
  • When your microgreens have all been harvested, you can use the same mix to sow another 3-4 crops. As the plants have been grown so quickly, the seed raising mix will still be full of nutrients to help raise more crops. Then you will need fresh mix. Reuse your seed raising mix in your compost or another pot.

 

Delicious Recipe Ideas for Microgreens

 

Microgreens Salad with Garlic Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe | The Micro Gardener

Microgreens Salad with Garlic Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe

Microgreens Seed Suppliers & Resources

How Can I Grow and Use Sprouts as Living Food Book

Related posts: Grow Sprouts on Your Benchtop | Growing Your Own Food from Seed | Micro Gardening in Small Spaces

 

Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

 

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. http://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

26 Comments

  1. Helen August 29, 2017 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne

    I tried twice to my luck with black chia seeds, but it seems like the density is not enough. My tray is 100×145 and I tried first 0.7g, and second trial I increased to 2.5g. I read somewhere to use 2 tablespoons which I’m going to try tomorrow. I also read it is easy to grow chia but unfortunately not for me.
    I would be very happy to hear from you.
    Thank you!
    Helen

    • Anne Gibson August 30, 2017 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Hi Helen
      The quantities you used seem very low. I am not sure what measurement your tray is – cm or inches! If you are growing as microgreens with small seeds you tend to need more than larger seeds.
      Anyway, there are a lot of factors that can affect successful seed germination and I suggest you read my post here. This should help a lot.
      Consider your climate – temperature is important, time of the month (see Moon Gardening for quicker germination) and the seed raising mix you use. I make my own so it holds the most nutrients which the plants absorb so you are eating nutrient-dense food.
      Also, make sure your seeds are safe. Organic to start! You don’t want to be eating food from plants that have seeds that have been sprayed with chemicals.
      There’s a good source of seeds and information from Sprout People here.
      I hope this helps Helen. Let me know how you go!
      Cheers Anne

  2. Nathaneil Sanders July 18, 2017 at 3:28 am - Reply

    Micro greens are great, but how do u harvest the seeds from micro greens? I know the question is far off because the plant is not micro itself when it becomes a particular size. Yet, when is the determination and size of containers u must use to produce micro seedlings only? I have been looking around and I have not found anything that can accommodate this particular topic.

    • Anne Gibson July 20, 2017 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Hi Nathaneil
      If I understand you correctly, you are asking about seed saving. You have the option of raising seeds to harvest and eat as microgreens or you can allow the seeds to germinate and grow into full size plants (transplanting them of course), and then harvest the seeds from the flower head.
      I hope this helps clarify your question.
      Cheers Anne

  3. EDUARDO SANDOVAL July 17, 2017 at 3:28 am - Reply

    Hi Anne: do microgreens regrow after cutting?

    • Anne Gibson July 17, 2017 at 6:31 am - Reply

      Hi Eduardo
      Great question! Yes, you can get more than one harvest from your microgreens. There are 2 reasons for this.
      1. Some seeds may not germinate in the first flush of growth (if you sow thickly, then some may not have space). So once you’ve given your microgreens a ‘haircut’ and keep the seed raising mix moist, then the remaining seeds may also germinate and you’ll get a second flush of growth.
      2. Some varieties of microgreens WILL regrow from their original shoots. This depends on the vegetable or herb you are growing and how you cut the microgreens. e.g. Pea shoots will keep shooting if you snip the stem above the first small leaves that appear on the stem. They will start to photosynthesize and the plant will keep growing.
      You can also plant out a few of your microgreens so you start raising seedlings this way.
      Hope this helps. Cheers Anne

  4. Diana Morris May 17, 2017 at 5:09 am - Reply

    Hi there! I am wondering if growing microgreens indoors can lead to insect problems as there is soil involved. I’ve only sprouted in jars and am interested in moving to microgreens. I grow lettuce in pots outdoors on an elevated and patio and have marveled at the many little bugs and insects that crawl in the soil — I’m guessing they flew there? The soil I bought was organic vegetable potting soil from Armstrong Gardens. Do you have this issue indoors? Please advise.. ! Thank you!

    • Anne Gibson May 17, 2017 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Diana
      Thanks for your question. The insects and soil critters are usually beneficial and part of the soil food web. The soil microbes help feed the plants and defend them against many pests and diseases. Kind of like a mutually beneficial friendship! I really wouldn’t worry about them at all. They are evidence your soil is alive! That’s what you want, rather than dead dirt!
      Re growing microgreens, I’m sure you won’t end up with bugs indoors! I’ve grown 1000’s of microgreens babies and never had any problems with insects or bugs. I suggest you try an organic seed raising mix (ideally) to get started.
      Hope this helps and have fun with microgreens.
      Cheers Anne

  5. Dainel Spouting April 28, 2017 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne,

    Thanks to this guide, How Micro-Greens are developed I had never heard of them before this article, but now I will definitely implement it. I’m  happy that you shared this helpful information with us.

  6. Jot Singh November 22, 2016 at 2:49 am - Reply

    I was wondering do you reuse the soil in the container, do you dump and mix it with new soil. I never seen anyone address how they handle the soil after harvesting?

    Thanks!

    • Anne Gibson November 22, 2016 at 6:10 am - Reply

      Hi Jot, I usually answer this question at my workshops, so thanks for asking. I make my own seed raising mix rather than using commercial mix because I want to add extra nutrients to boost our health. Seeds only draw a small amount of nutrients from the seed raising mix as they only grow a few leaves, so the mix can be reused several times. After about 4 crops, I refresh the mix and start again.

      If you’d like to make your own seed raising mix, I share 5 organic recipes in my How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide. They all contain a key ingredient to boost seed germination and plant health. I hope this helps and enjoy growing your microgreens. Cheers Anne

  7. Emma August 10, 2016 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne. I’m new to the microgreen business. My main question would be… how do you get your microgreens to seed?
    i have found so much information about seed to harvest, but cannot find information about how to let them seed?
    do you just leave them to form baby greens, then to flower as you would a normal size plant?
    any advice would come in handy. Thanks

    • Anne Gibson August 11, 2016 at 5:35 am - Reply

      Hi Emma, to grow microgreens from your own seeds, you need to save them from mature plants you have already grown. That means they get old and die but have ‘babies’ (seeds) as a last parting gift! Not all plants produce seeds but most herbs and leafy greens do. Allow to flower in your garden until they form a flower head with seeds inside. Allow it to dry out and then save/store. Easy ones you can seed save from are lettuce, basil, coriander, rocket, dill, parsley, mustard and amaranth. There are many more but these are great to start with! This is an article I wrote for our seed saving group on basil. Hope this helps.

  8. Lies Verhalle March 18, 2015 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    Hey!

    Anne Gibson, thanks for this guide on how to grow microgreens.

    Before this article I never heard of them, but now I will surely implement it when I live in an apartment!

    BTW what are your thoughts on superfoods? I bought previous week (on iherb.com) a product called: healthforce vitamineral green. Do you know it, and what are your thoughts on products like this?

    Thanks in advance
    Lies

  9. Kumar Khandekar February 3, 2015 at 12:47 am - Reply

    Dear Anne ,

    Somebody guided me to start this MICRO GREEN as a bizness. It was a challenge for me to start a new venture. Because i am landscape designer or a nursery man.

    But when i started collecting information , i found it very easy task, with no time i started it , got success. but lacking at one point – when to harvest ? at the height of
    8-10 cm with cotyledon stage or before true leaves start ? i am bit confused , please guide me

    I am with 30 yrs exp but here i am loosing my confidence

    KUMAR KHANDEKAR
    INDORE -M.P. INDIA

    • Anne Gibson February 4, 2015 at 6:37 am - Reply

      Hi Kumar
      If you are selling microgreens to restaurants, YOU won’t need to harvest them as such. You will be supplying punnets with the microgreens still growing and your clients will harvest as THEY want to, generally just before serving a meal.
      Generally microgreens are ready for eating/harvest/sale when the height of the seedlings are about 2.5-10cm (1-3 in) tall. This depends on the variety (when they have their 2 true leaves). Any larger than this and they become baby greens not microgreens. This may be the next stage of your business! Good luck.

  10. JOYCE GONZALEZ January 26, 2015 at 6:24 am - Reply

    Would like to say thanks to all for this site IT’S the Best.
    I must have missed the PLANTING CHART article on when to plant, flowers and vegetables. GOD BLESS ALL

  11. Deitra Brunner May 1, 2013 at 3:09 am - Reply

    Hi,
    Can microgreens be juiced?

    • The Micro Gardener May 1, 2013 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Deitra
      Yes all sorts of microgreens can be juiced or added to your green smoothies. Some will require a decent blender or juicer to remove the fibre (wheatgrass is an example) but you can also use a cheaper alternative if you have the time (see this video @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mrC1n_uJUk) which certainly makes it affordable for those who don’t have more expensive kitchen equipment. Hope this helps! 🙂

  12. Debbie March 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne,
    Thanks for your info on the website. I live in Coes Creek and as we all know we have had a really wet summer spell again. So this year I decided to put all my herbs (oregano, basil, thyme etc and smaller veges like lettuces into pots and then inside a 2 shelve plastic glasshouse I was given from Bunnings. Through the wet spell my herbs and lettuce thrived. I would keep it zipped up and it would get all warm inside, despite the pouring rain and form moist droplets which acted like a self watering. I didn’t need to put it in full sun (we didn’t have it anyway), I just placed it near the trees in my backyard where it sometimes got afternoon sun. Next year I am going to buy a bigger glasshouse which I have seen in Bunnings as they really are ideal for wet seasons. (and the other bonus is that my herbs/veges were organic, suffered no disease, and the toads couldn’t get to them!)

    • The Micro Gardener March 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm - Reply

      Hi Debbie
      I am so thrilled to hear your story as this is a strategy I have suggested to a few people and so wonderful to hear how well it’s worked for you in our wet weather. These are the kind of clever ideas (aside from a space saving vertical garden) that everyone needs to have in their toolbox for times when the weather just isn’t on our side. I love the idea of putting it outside to catch the afternoon sun but still zipped. I’ve been putting mine on a portable trolley under our verandah and wheeling them in/out into the little sunshine we’ve had so they’ve been able to grow and wheeling back under when it rains so they don’t drown or leach too many nutrients. Would love to catch up and meet sometime or see some pics of your idea. If you’re free on a Tuesday or Wednesday, pop down to the Centre for Growing Sustainability at the Big Pineapple (old nut buildings) and say hi. We have free organic gardening activities on each week and you’re welcome to join us. 🙂

  13. Lois March 11, 2013 at 8:14 am - Reply

    I had heard about microgreens, but hadn’t checked out how hard or easy they would be to grow, I’m definitely going to check into this to add to my salads. Thanks for making it easy to understand.

    • The Micro Gardener March 11, 2013 at 8:31 am - Reply

      Hi Lois
      Glad the tutorial has been useful. They are a great addition to so many meals and the enzymes help aid digestion. This is also an easy fun project for kids to grow their own food especially in the little repurposed punnets. They love giving them a ‘haircut’! Have fun growing. 🙂

  14. The Micro Gardener March 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    Hi Elaine
    Thanks for your feedback – much appreciated. There are loads of local suppliers for Aussies and I have a page dedicated to saving/sourcing seeds on my site @ https://themicrogardener.com/saving-and-sourcing-open-pollinated-seeds/ for each state. I have listed High Mowing seeds because 1000’s of my subscribers are in the US and may look to source seeds in their own country. Something for everyone! 🙂

  15. Elaine March 10, 2013 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne … Thank you for the instructions on Micro-Greens and the photos! Very inspiring 😉 Just a note that the High Mowing seed folks are in the States. Just a tad difficult to import seeds without running into problems with Quarantine.

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