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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Water Cooler: Grow your own microgreens

Growing microgreens at home is easy and affordable.  (Pixabay)

Microgreens have been the buzz of the “superfood” scene for the past few years. Like all widely marketed superfoods, they tend to be a bit pricey. Luckily, they are easy and affordable to grow at home. Microgreens are actually a fantastic crop for beginner gardeners, especially those who want to start with something low maintenance that requires a minimal amount of space.

Any salad green or herb, as well as some vegetables and edible flowers can be grown as microgreens. A microgreen is simply grown with the intent of harvesting before maturity, allowing the seeds to be sown densely and cut after the sprouts grow a couple of inches tall. They are an easy way to add extra nutrients to things like salads, sandwiches or smoothies, especially for people who aren’t big fans of vegetables.

They can be grown indoors as long as they get at least four hours of light. Because they grow in a small amount of space, it is affordable to grow them indoors under grow lights. Here’s how you can start your own microgreen garden.

To get started, you’ll need some fine grain potting soil, water, a spray bottle and any sort of shallow tray whether it be a seedling tray, an old (and cleaned) take out container, or a used berry container.

Pour a bit of water in the bottom of the tray and add the potting mix on top. This will help hydrate the soil without risking any mold growth in the bottom of the tray from oversaturation. Leave about a half-inch of room at the top of the soil line to ensure an easy harvest. Use another tray or your hand to gently pat down and smooth the soil.

You will need a large amount of seeds – much more than conventional gardening because the plants do not need room to mature. It is more cost-effective to buy seeds for microgreens in bulk, rather than in packets. Use a cup to sprinkle them evenly across the soil.

Check the seed packet for specific instructions, as some seeds may have specific requirements. For example, wheatgrass seeds usually need to soak before planting to soften their seed coating.

Use a spray bottle to mist the surface of the soil. Many seeds prefer darkness during germination, so cover the container with a lid or another tray of the same size to block out light and lock in moisture. Check the seeds every day, mist as needed to keep the soil moist and remove the cover once the first leaves appear.

They are now ready for light. Microgreens love a strong light source, so get them as close to a grow light as possible without risk of burning. If grown outside or in a window, make sure they get at least four hours of light per day or even more in the fall and winter months.

Depending on the variety, the microgreens will be ready in about three to 10 days. Many microgreens will only provide one harvest, which is one of the reasons they are expensive to purchase in stores. The exception is wheatgrass, which can provide about two or three harvests. Use sharp shears or scissors to cut the greens. You can harvest one section of the tray at a time as long as the greens have not grown too long.

Because microgreens are sown so densely, the soil will become matted with roots and there will likely not be a lot of nutrients left. It is best to compost the harvested tray and start fresh with new soil.