Microgreens: Indoor or Direct Sow Vegetable
How to Sow
Sowing Seed Indoors:
- To start indoors, sow in trays filled with seed starting formula.
- Sow evenly and thinly in rows 2 inches apart. Cover firmly and keep evenly moist.
- As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
- Sow outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
- Broadcast seeds on the surface of the soil and rake in before watering, or sow thinly ¼ inch deep in rows 6-8 inches apart.
- Sow every 5-10 days for continuous crops.
How to Grow
- Thinning is not necessary for microgreens.
- Microgreens are easy and fast to grow. Keep plants clean of soil and dirt.
- If planted outdoors, keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating. Avoid disturbing the soil around the plants when weeding.
- Keep plants well watered during dry periods to promote rapid, uninterrupted growth. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
Harvest and Preserving Tips
- Harvest small seedlings when they are between the sizes of a sprout and a baby leaf vegetable, usually when there are just 2-3 true leaves.
- Clip young leaves at the base of seedlings around 2 inches high with clean scissors.
- Rinse thoroughly and lightly pat dry before consumption.
- Store in sealed plastic bags and refrigerate.
Common Disease Problems
Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water & rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Practice crop rotation and do not plant related crops in the same area for several years. Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Sclerotinia: Also called white mold, this fungus looks like s spiderweb crawling on the surface of the growing medium. It can climb onto plants and kill them in time. Burpee Recommends: Decrease humidity and increase air circulation. Avoid overcrowding seedlings. Clean seed starting supplies thoroughly before reuse.
Yellow Foliage: This can result from lack of exposure to light, overcrowding or a nutrient deficiency. Burpee Recommends: Provide adequate light and air circulation. Provide a light fertilizer application when yellowing is evident.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Deer: Plants may be eaten to the ground. Burpee Recommends: Try a deer repellent or physical barrier for young plants.
Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different plant family. Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage.
Rabbits: Chew on plant leaves. Damage is similar to deer damage but not usually as extensive. Burpee Recommends: Use a hot pepper wax spray or rabbit repellent.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
What’s the difference between microgreens and sprouting seed? Microgreens are young seedling plants two to four weeks old with several sets of leaves. Sprouting seed is seed just sprouted and used within a few days.
How should I use microgreens? Microgreens add flavor, texture, color and nutrients to many dishes. They enhance salads, or may be used as garnishes.
Can I grow microgreens inside? Yes, provide adequate light and you can grow them indoors. They are also perfect for hydroponics.
If I just cut the greens will they resprout? No, you harvest once and replant.
Do I need a heat pad to grow microgreens indoors? No, they will sprout in most house temperatures and a heat pad may cause them to grow too quickly if they are left on it after sprouting.