52 Homesteading Skills in One Year – Project #8: Growing microgreens
You often have to get creative to make your homesteading lifestyle work. And boy oh boy, was my husband surprised with my creativity when he came home to find this…
Yes, folks. I’ve started a little grow op in my bedroom. But don’t worry. It’s all legal.
This whole thing started last year when I tried growing sprouts – those tiny shoots grown without soil. Within days you can produce your own salad. But even though I grew all kinds of beautiful looking sprouts, they weren’t as tasty as I had hoped.
Now I don’t want to turn anyone off of growing sprouts because I have friends who love them. But my sprouts tasted a lot like their growing medium – water.
So this year I decided to try something different. Microgreens! These flavour bombshells grow almost as fast as sprouts, but in soil. And they are sweeter and tastier – in my humble opinion – than anything you can find at the supermarket. They’re also a whole lot less expensive. For example, a $5.49 bag of alfalfa seeds can produce up to 40 cups of nutritious sprouts. And when I say nutritious, I mean these guys punch way about their weight class. Microgreens have up to 40 times more vital nutrients than their mature plants, according to WebMD.
But I am not going to tell you just how easy they were to grow because not all of mine survived my first attempt. Hence why there wasn’t a blog last week. I was busy crying over my lifeless microgreens and wondering who came up with the stupid idea of trying to learn 52 homesteading skills in one year.
Despite my challenges, I would like to point out how tough these little plants really are:
- An angry three-year-old can stomp on your baby seedlings and they will survive.
- A soccer ball can land on your microgreens and they will live.
- You can put a bag over your head and pretend you are a robot and accidentally knock your microgreens over and they will still be salvageable.
- You can forget your microgreens on the floor in very low lighting and they will grow – tall and stringy, but they won’t die.
- You can forget to water your microgreens for days and they will…. they will perish. Oh yes, they will.
But it wasn’t just the watering that proved to be a challenge. It was getting the grow op started. There is a lot of stuff you need to gather before you can start growing.
I will admit that once you are fully equipped, the microgreens pretty much grow themselves as long as you are handy with a watering can/spray bottle. You might want to set up some watering reminders.
Ingredients to get your grow op started:
- A place to grow your microgreens. You probably don’t need a 5 tier metal shop shelf in your bedroom (although I like to think it adds a special ambiance to the room). It does help to find a place with either enough south facing sun (about 6 hours of bright light) or where some grow lights can be installed.
- Growing containers, preferably with drainage. I went with the standard black trays, but you can have fun with this and grow in something funky like a teapot or a decorative bowl.
- Potting soil, worm castings, liquid seaweed
- Seeds – I love Mumm’s non-GMO, organic sprouting seeds. Although the seeds are not all grown on the family farm in Saskatchewan, Canada (not everything can be grown in our Canadian climate), they are all from certified organic farms. You’ll be drooling over all the varieties. How about an Ancient Eastern salad for lunch? Try their blend of fenugreek, lentils, kamut, and adzuki beans. I like to mix up my favourites – curly cress, alfalfa, peas, corn and sunflower shoots. Put them together with a few homegrown mesclun mix salad greens and you’ve got one awesome salad.
If you are using artificial lights, you don’t have to purchase special grow lights, which can cost hundreds of dollars. For example, this $49.99 LED shop light from Costco does the trick.
Helpful tip: You will need to plug your light into a three pronged plug. After lugging our metal shelf upstairs and getting everything set up, I realized all of our plugs are two pronged. This is kind of like when we discovered (shortly after purchasing our house) there is no heat in the upstairs of our home.
How do I grow microgreens?
Spread your potting soil to a depth of about 2-3 inches and add a thin layer of worm castings. I also like to fortify my soil with liquid seaweed. You don’t need a whole lot of room for the roots because you’ll be harvesting the baby seedlings.
Except for large seeds like sunflowers and pea sprouts, sow your microgreen seeds densely. I plant the larger seeds in the soil and sprinkle the smaller ones on top.
Thoroughly wet the whole area with a spray bottle. Be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want the seeds to be sitting in water.
Take a second tray or plastic bag and cover the planted tray to trap moisture.
As soon as you can see the first sprout, remove your cover.
When to harvest?
You can harvest when the first two leaves open or wait and harvest as needed. Your seed package will tell you approximately when the microgreens should be ready. For example, cress can be harvested in just a few days after sowing whereas sunflower seeds can take up to 12 days.
And that’s it! From now on you will no longer bring home those sad salad greens that have been shipped hundreds of miles from their growing destination. Instead you will enjoy an endless supply of gorgeously fresh and nutritious mircogreen salads grown right in your bedroom. Imagine getting up in the morning and plucking a healthy breakfast from your side table? You are totally going to do this. Right?