Sprouts – An Easy Soil-less Indoor Garden!

Are you keen to grow food indoors? Year round? Sprouts are one easy solution.

Sprouts are seeds that have been germinated in water. They form a tiny root and a shoot. These baby plants are a nutritious food you can grow all year around. No soil needed! Dig in to learn how to sprout your own seeds.

How to Garden on your Benchtop Grow Sprouts

“Of all the vegetables, sprouts are the richest source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.  Sprouts provide more nutrient, gram for gram, than any other natural food known.” – Isabell Shipard, authorHow Can I Grow and Use Sprouts as Living Food?

From Seed to Feed – Why Grow Sprouts?

There are so many benefits to growing sprouts:

  • Low cost.
  • Quick and easy.
  • Only requires basic equipment.
  • Highly nutritious and tasty living food.
  • As a seed, they provide Vitamins A and B, but when sprouted provide Vitamin C!
  • Wide variety of flavours to choose from.
  • No fat, low in kilojoules but high in energy.
  • Take up minimal space in the kitchen.
  • Don’t need a garden to grow them – can be grown indoors.
  • Seeds transform from an acid to an alkaline food when germinated.
  • Like microgreens, they are full of living enzymes that aid digestion and perform other important functions.
  • Good value – can multiply up to 15 times their own weight.
  • Seeds store well so they are a good emergency food.
  • Have no waste in preparation.
  • Organic food – no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.
  • Help detox the body and build the immune system
  • Helps reduce food miles by growing your own food.
There are so many benefits to growing nutrient dense sprouts

Colour, flavour and texture are a few of the benefits of nutrient dense sprouts


“In a sense it is bench top organic vegetable gardening.” – Green Harvest


Selecting Sprouting Seeds

I strongly recommend you ONLY buy certified organic seeds or seeds that are sold as safe for sprouting. Why? Commercial seeds sold online, at your garden centre, nursery or other retailers may not be safe to consume for sprouting. Fungicides are often sprayed on non-organic seeds to prevent rodents eating them during storage.

Organic sprouting seeds have been grown and cleaned so they will be free of pathogens. Conventionally grown (non-organic) seeds sold for sprouting may have been soaked in a toxic bleach solution that kills the good bacteria.  Bleach is a dioxin that won’t break down in nature and is a known carcinogen.

Broccoli seeds germinating into sprouts

Broccoli seeds germinating into sprouts

What Should you Look for when Choosing Sprouting Seeds?

  • They may be labelled as ‘Sprouting’ or ‘Microgreens‘ seeds.
  • Look for specific words on the packet. e.g. ‘Non-GMO’ (not genetically modified); ‘untreated’ seed; ‘sproutable’; ‘organic’ or ‘certified organic.’
  • Make sure they are raw not toasted or roasted seeds – these won’t germinate.
  • Sprouting and microgreens seeds have a much higher germination rate than regular seeds.

How to Grow Sprouts

To sprout you need four basic things:  Seeds, moisture (water), warmth (indirect sunlight) and time.

There are different methods you can use to grow sprouts:

  • A sprouting jar that has a built-in strainer and tilts at an angle for easy drainage. This prevents your sprouting seeds from fermenting or rotting.
  • Flat or stackable sprouting trays. These have good aeration and plenty of space.
  • A DIY jar sprouter.
Seeds germinating in glass sprouting jar

Seeds germinating in glass sprouting jar with strainer in the lid

How to Make a Sprouting Jar

You can make your own jar to sprout seeds in too. This method does take a bit more work, because you really have to pay attention to correct drainage. If you don’t drain your seeds properly, you can end up wasting money and time if water remains in the jar and they rot. If you’re an experienced sprouter, you probably have the confidence to use one of these jars.

You just need:

  • A large clean jar with a wide, straight neck.
  • A small square of fly wire, fine netting or cheesecloth and a rubber band to hold this in place on top of the jar.
  • Or even easier, one of the ready made sprouting tops for jars.
Jar with fly wire & rubber band

The jar needs to have a wide straight neck and be sterilised before use


Once you gain confidence growing easy to sprout seeds, you can try different varieties and flavours.  The best thing about sprouts is they can be grown on the kitchen bench. They are close to the sink for rinsing and the windows provide sufficient light to help produce green leafy sprouts.

Alfalfa – The most Popular, Easiest to Grow Sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts have a delicious delicate nutty flavour. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and high in protein and fibre. Alfalfa sprouts only take 3-5 days to harvest.  You just pre-soak 1 tablespoon of seeds for 3-6 hours. Then rinse 2-3 times/day to enjoy 1½-2 cups of nutritious tasty sprouts!

What great value. Alfalfa sprouts are one of the most economical, high nutritional value foods to eat.  They can be enjoyed in salads, sandwiches and juiced.

Growing sprouts in a jar without overcrowding prevents problems

Growing sprouts in a jar without overcrowding prevents problems

Top Tips for Successful Sprouts

  • Wash seeds well in water before you start soaking but follow the directions to timing.
  • Use clean seed and a sterile sprouting jar.
  • All seeds germinate within a specific temperature range. Most seeds germinate between 20°C – 25°C. Check your seed packet for directions.
  • When sprouting in cold weather, you can try using a heated propagation mat.
  • Wash your sprouter really well between growing each crop of sprouts.
  • Pre-soak the seeds for the required time. Then up-end the jar and stand it at a 45 degree angle by leaning it on a dish drainer. This helps the soaking water drain out properly.  Draining helps prevent bacteria from growing.
  • Skim off any seeds that float. They are usually not viable.
  • All seeds need air to germinate, so good aeration is important.  Avoid putting too many seeds in the sprouting jar. Oxygen needs to be able to circulate freely.
  • Rinse well at least twice a day and drain extremely well.  Seeds can rot if there is poor drainage.
  • Thorough and regular rinsing with pure water and good water pressure is vital.
  • If you will be out when the sprouts need rinsing (especially during hot weather), leave them in the fridge until you return.
  • Rinse in cold water. This keeps the seeds moist, cool and alive as well as removing waste material.
  • In hot weather, rinse more frequently but always be gentle.
  • If you are using a jar, after rinsing, roll it around in your hands to loosen the seeds inside so they don’t stick together in one clump.
  • When sprouts are ready, make sure they are very well drained.  They should feel dry to touch before storing them in the fridge in a container that breathes rather than a plastic bag.

Preventing Problems with Sprouts

  • Seeds smell ‘off’ or become slimy – This can be caused by putting too many seeds in your sprouter. Because seeds need air, some may suffocate if you overcrowd the jar or tray’s capacity.
  • Some seeds don’t germinate – Can be caused by overcrowding or insufficient soaking time. If you don’t rinse enough, the seeds can dry out. Lack of germination can also occur if you try to sprout during very high or low temperatures.
Sunflower sprouts with digestive enzymes as a garnish on vegetable dish

Sunflower sprouts with digestive enzymes as a garnish on vegetable dish

How to Harvest your Sprouts

  • To maximise nutrients, expose the sprouts to full sunlight on the 5th day.
  • Seeds are ready to eat when they have grown their first pair of seed leaves.
  • You can also wait until they have grown their first pair of true leaves to eat them. They are known as microgreens at this stage.  Beyond this they may become bitter and too fibrous to eat.

So now you have the basics you need to get sprouting!

You may also enjoy growing microgreens. See Easy Guide to Growing Microgreens and 12 Valuable Tips for How to Grow Healthy Microgreens.


For more in depth information, refer to Isabell Shipard’s fantastic books How Can I Grow and Use Sprouts as Living Food?’ and ‘How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life?These are two of my favourite books and I thoroughly recommend them.

Read more about open-pollinated seeds and getting a small kitchen garden started.

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.


Like this article?

Please share! Join my free Newsletter for more exclusive insights, tips and all future articles.

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

5/5 - (4 votes)