12 Valuable Tips to Grow Healthy Microgreens

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Do you want an abundant harvest of healthy microgreens? Whether you’re growing these nutrient-packed vegetables and herbs for your own health or to sell, these tips can help you succeed quickly.

12 Tips on How to Grow Healthy Microgreens

I’ve been growing microgreens for over 6 years and raised thousands of these tiny vegies and herbs in that time. Not only for our own use and good health, but also to share at public workshops and garden events to help inspire others.

I love these babies and have learned SO much about their needs. So, here are a few of my secrets to help you get a continuous abundance of healthy microgreens.

How to Grow Healthy Microgreens

Tip 1. Get your Timing Right

Whether you live in a hot, temperate or cold climate, it’s likely you can grow at least some microgreens for part of the year. Indoors or out. However, one of the key factors for growing a successful crop of healthy microgreens, is timing.

“If you sow your seeds at the wrong time of the year or month, you’re throwing money, time and effort away.” – Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener

Microgreens are meant to be grown fast – in 7-21 days – and eaten quickly for maximum health and flavour.

  • Sow in the Right SEASON. Some seeds need warmth for germination and others need cold temperatures. Do your research and choose the right time of the year to sow seeds for your climate.
  • Sow at the Optimum time of the MONTH. Many gardeners are forgetting to use the simple but age-old wisdom of planting in harmony with the moon phases each month.
  • Did you know that the gravitational pull of the moon affects not only the tides, but also soil moisture and plant sap flow?
  • So, by sowing your microgreens seeds when they will swell and absorb moisture quickly during certain moon phases, you optimise your germination rates and faster growth.

This makes a BIG difference if you want healthy ‘fast food’ on the table or to sell. Otherwise, you’re just using a ‘hit and miss’ approach to seed sowing.

“If you’ve tried raising seeds and failed, it could simply be due to poor timing.” – Anne Gibson

One of the easiest ways to get your timing right is to use a Moon Calendar. This is the one I’ve been using for 8+ years. It’s simple, easy to follow, sustainable and works anywhere in the world regardless of climate zones.

Moon Calendar Gardening Guide

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Learn more about the Benefits of Moon Gardening.

Tip 2. Protect your Microgreens

Like you, these tender little darlings need shelter! Not just for protection against the weather.

If you’re growing microgreens outdoors, it’s likely you’re not the only one interested in them as a food source! Ants, rodents and birds all love seeds as a nutrient-rich food as much as you do. So, try protecting your microgreens seeds until they have germinated.

A few options are to cover with an upcycled bottle, plastic bag, clear lid or keep in a mini greenhouse. This also creates an ideal humid environment to encourage seed germination.

 

Tip 3. Avoid Mould Forming

Do you live in a warm climate? If you decide to grow your microgreens in humid weather like here in the subtropics, you may need to prevent mould forming. These are my tips:

  • Check soil moisture daily with a soil moisture meter to avoid overwatering.
  • Increase air circulation by putting in a breezy area or using a fan.
  • Sow fewer seeds – about half what you would normally use/tray.

Tip 4. Be Gentle

Microgreens are just plant ‘toddlers’ – little ‘kids’ with delicate stems and leaves that bruise easily! So, when handling them, treat them gently. Mist water with a spray bottle or water from the bottom up, rather than a watering can.

Wheatgrass and rocket healthy microgreens ready for harvest

Wheatgrass and rocket microgreens ready for harvest

Each variety grows a little differently. Some are short and straight like basil or rocket. Whereas, other microgreens varieties are tall or curly like pea shoots and buckwheat. So, you may need to handle some more than others because of their growth habit.


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Tip 5. Observe Daily

Check on your microgreens at least once or twice daily. You will need to:

  • Water to keep up the moisture.
  • Ensure your plant babies have adequate light and air circulation.
  • Check for signs of mould forming.
  • Act quickly if they start leaning forward or looking weak.

If growing in an enclosed container with a lid, once the seeds germinate, you need to remove the lid. Then move your microgreens where they have access to sufficient strong light, so they can photosynthesize. Otherwise you will end up with spindly, leggy seedlings.

Tray of healthy microgreens seeds germinating

Tray of healthy microgreens seeds germinating

Tip 6. Feeding your Microgreens

To help your microgreens grow fast, thick and healthy, pay attention to your seed raising mix nutrients. After the seed germinates and grows its first two true leaves, continued healthy new leaf growth depends on nutrient levels in the growing medium, light and moisture.

Microgreens don’t need as much nutrition as seedlings that will establish into full grown plants. However, some seed raising mixes contain no nutrients at all or high levels of sodium. Other types of growing media hold too much moisture and not enough air pockets. These mixes can cause problems like root rot and damping off.

I make my own DIY seed raising mixes rather than buying bagged seed mix or garden soil. Why? Because I want optimum nutrients available during growth for my own health and a pathogen free mix. I want to know and control the exact ingredients in my seed raising mix, so I know that no nutrients are missing. Then I can confidently sow seeds knowing they have all the food they need for healthy growth without problems.

For sure, microgreens can grow in a wide variety of growing media. However, they won’t all have the same nutrient value or results! You can control how healthy, flavoursome, vibrant in colour and nutrient-rich they are, by making your own mix that includes minerals and trace elements.

You can also use a liquid seaweed solution every day or two. This can help boost root and shoot growth.


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Tip 7. Seed Raising Mix Depth

How deep does your seed raising mix need to be? Most vegetable and herb varieties grow well in as little as 2-3cm (1 in) of seed raising mix.

However, if sowing radish, beetroot or root crop seeds, you can use a deeper mix. e.g. 5cm (2.5-3 in). You may want to harvest some of your crop as microgreens and also transplant a few as seedlings, to then grow on as mature plants. If so, the extra depth will help their roots establish, so you can transplant them easily.

Tip 8. Transplanting Microgreens

What if you don’t eat all your microgreens? Don’t waste them! You can raise as seedlings to grow in pots or outdoors. Starting your plants as microgreens and then transplanting them once they are young seedlings is simple.

First, gently lever the seedlings out of the seed raiser with a skewer or fork. Next, hold the leaves only NOT the stems or roots. Finally, settle the baby seedlings into a pot with potting mix and liquid seaweed to prevent transplant shock.

Acclimatize the seedlings gradually to the sun over a few days, as they venture into the big wide world. Then let them grow into mature salad herbs and vegetables. This is an easy way to raise seedlings from seed.

Tip 9. Store Microgreens Correctly

Are you growing a small quantity of microgreens for your own needs? In hot humid weather, if they are almost ready for harvest, you may want to prevent them suffering from heat stress. A fan may cool them down or harvest and store in your fridge.

Once harvested microgreens can be stored in container in fridge for a few days

Once harvested microgreens can be refrigerated for a few days

Using scissors, snip the microgreens in your seed raiser. Wash and rinse, then put them in a sealed container in the fridge. Be careful not to bruise them.

Keeping them cool and moist prevents microgreens from drying out or wilting before use. This will keep them fresh and crisp for a day or two.

Tip 10. Reusing Your Seed Raising Mix

Can you re-use your seed raising mix? Yes, and no!

When your microgreens have all been harvested, there will usually be some seeds that didn’t germinate. Or they may not have had room to mature. Keep up the moisture and you may get a second flush of growth. Why waste good food when it’s there for the harvesting right?

However, after the crop has been harvested, the seed raising mix will be full of baby roots. This soft plant material will break down quickly and add organic matter to soil. If you try to sow more seeds into the same mix, there won’t be room for the new plant roots to grow. You may also end up with plant pathogens as they break down in the soil mix.

Recycle your seed raising mix growing medium before sowing new microgreens seeds

Recycle your seed raising mix growing medium before sowing new microgreens seeds

So, repurpose your seed raising mix by composting it or add to a worm farm. Then you can use these materials as ingredients to make new seed raising mix. No waste! You save money by recycling the nutrients and building healthy soil to grow future microgreens or other plants.

Tip 11. Sow Regularly for a Continuous Supply

What happens when one batch of microgreens finishes? You need to sow again!

To have a continual supply of microgreens, I sow in small batches and often. You can succession plant every week, depending on your needs.

I also time sowing in with the moon phases. For example, I sow my leafy herbs and vegetables like basil, parsley and coriander when the sap is running high for quick leaf growth. Much faster results! There are certain days of the month that have poor seed germination, so why not swing things in your favour?

Radish, beetroot and onions are sown on root crop days. So this allows me to spread my planting over the month and get a colourful continuous harvest of thick, lush and healthy microgreens on the plate.

Start with a small quantity. Once you know what flavours you like best, and varieties that grow well in your climate, buy bulk seeds to save money.


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Tip 12. Sow Old Seeds! 

I have a passion for avoiding food waste. One simple way to avoid throwing away a potential food source is to use up old seeds. Take a moment to check:

  • Are some of your organic vegetable or herb seed packets past their Use By Date?
  • Do you know whether your old seeds are still viable?

Why not grow them as microgreens instead? This is a good way to test if there’s any life left in your seeds. What have you got to lose? It’s BONUS food!

Perhaps it’s too hot or cold outside to have a pot prepared. If so, you can still grow in a seed raiser. Sowing older seeds as microgreens is a sustainable solution to use them up quickly.

I hope you found these 12 tips on growing healthy microgreens helpful. You may also like:

I also have a range of sustainable ‘buy once, use forever’ gardening aids and guides in my shop. Your purchase helps me cover the cost of providing free online articles. Thanks for your support!


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12 Valuable Tips to Grow Healthy Microgreens
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4 Comments

  1. Wei June 17, 2018 at 4:37 am - Reply

    This was very helpful! I have a few clarifying questions:
    1. When transplanting seedlings, how do you hold the leaves without damaging them? Do you pinch them in toward the stem? or…? Is it possible to show a little video clip for how to do this? I would love to know.
    2. When buying seeds for microgreens, do you buy specific sprouting seeds or where do you like to buy in bulk and what type of seeds do you buy? I’ve looked for organic sprouting seeds, and also organic seeds in bulk, but when you talk about using old seeds for sprouting, it made me think maybe I could just buy any seeds, not specific sprouting or microgreen seeds. What’s your take, and where do you like to buy seeds, if I may ask?
    3. How do you scatter seeds? Just shake the packet, or use some other method? How densely do you scatter them? Make a blanket of seeds or more like round sprinkles on a cupcake? 🙂 I am just trying to get a visual as a newbie.
    4. Finally, I have a small clear greenhouse I bought, and a vertical wood planting shelf with slightly angled shelves. Have you seen those? I wonder how to grow microgreens in that set up. 1-2.5″ potting mix still? Keep the door closed? I’m in the pacific northwest, Washington state. Wonder about mold, as well as if it would grow on the shelves directly. I would prefer not to use plastic containers bc I personally just don’t want anything leeching into the edibles, but I haven’t been able to find much info on sowing onto a planter like this.

    • Anne Gibson June 18, 2018 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Wei
      1. You just gently hold the most mature leaves at the top of the seedling with your thumb and forefinger. No pressure or squeezing hard so you don’t damage the leaf cells. Sorry don’t have a video but this is pretty straightforward. 🙂
      2. Yes as outlined in detail in Easy Guide to Growing Microgreens, you do need to buy sprouting or microgreens seeds (ideally organic). Many seed suppliers offer bulk seeds at much cheaper prices. I suggest you read this article for lots more resources and tips on sourcing seeds etc.
      3. Scattering density depends on the size of the seed. You just sprinkle them fairly evenly over the seed raising mix allowing room for them to germinate so try to avoid scattering them on top of each other. So, yes more like sprinkles on a cupcake than a blanket because each seed needs sufficient air and moisture to germinate. If you pile them up, they are more likely to mold up and have too much competition!
      4. Just follow the instructions in my tutorial in the above article and you should be OK. You will just need to make sure your shelves, seed raisers and greenhouse allow for adequate air circulation, drainage and light. If it becomes too hot, you may fry young seedlings so just make a judgment on what kind of environment your young plants would feel comfortable in! Most seed raisers are plastic (but look for one that is HDPE) or use a food safe container. I make my own potting and seed raising mixes with a specific natural ingredient that mitigates any accidental leaching from containers. It acts like an insurance policy to absorb any toxic substances that may be in your soil. You can learn more about the Potting Mix Guide I created for this purpose.
      I hope this helps Wei.
      Cheers Anne

  2. Alison D Gilbert March 5, 2018 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Hello Anne and Microgardeners,
    As a newbie, I have been getting some great crops of broccoli and broccoli mix microgreens. As I am learning and planting, I am taking on new challenges and seem to have more questions.
    1. Should newly planted microgreens be covered with a light sprinkling of soil or left uncovered?
    2. Should the newly ‘planted seeds’ tray stay in a dark place until the sprouts show up about 1/4″?
    3. What is the benefit of covering the tray? Is that for in daylight or a dark place?
    4. Can coriander, chia and marigold be made into microgreens?

    • Anne Gibson March 6, 2018 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      Hi Alison
      Great to see you continuing growing your microgreens. Just briefly:
      1. You don’t NEED to cover with your seed raising mix – if I do this, it’s only for small seeds not large ones. You don’t want seeds germinating with ‘hats’ on!
      2. There are different opinions on this. Most varieties of microgreens seeds will germinate just as well in daylight as in darkness. Some find that raising plant ‘kids’ in the dark and then moving to the light once germinated, grows stronger seedlings, but I’ve never found any difference personally. That may be because I sow in harmony with the moon phases. So my results are always healthy seedlings!
      I use a Moon Calendar to find the optimum dates and make my own seed raising mix. These have made the most profound difference in my results.
      3. Having a lid/cover is to increase humidity and the temperature to boost seed germination.
      4. Coriander is ideal to raise as microgreens, as are marigolds IF they are organic. Chia is grown for its seed not the leaves.
      Hope this helps Alison and have fun.

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