Microgreens are one of the easiest ways to get more vegetables into your diet. According to the CDC, only 10 percent of adults consume the recommended serving of vegetables a day. This makes microgreens extremely valuable, as they boast upwards of 4 to 40 times the amount of nutrients found in their mature counterparts, according to a study done by a University of Maryland research team. On top of their nutritional benefits, microgreens are easy to grow all year long and require little equipment to get started. While they can be grown with soil, they also do well hydroponically in soil-less growing mediums. Growing without soil provides a cleaner and more sanitary environment that is just as effective. Plus, many hydroponic growing mediums are made from natural biodegradable plant material and byproducts.
Hydroponic microgreen seeds
The process is simple and one of the easiest ways to get the recommended vegetable servings for a healthy and well-balanced diet. Start by selecting your seed. There are hundreds of excellent microgreen seed varieties. Some of the easiest for a beginner are plants of the brassica family. These include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, cabbage, canola, turnip, and rutabaga. Other popular microgreen seeds for beginners are arugula and radishes. Radishes are widely known to be easy, fast, and resilient.
Most seeds do best if you soak them for 2 to 12 hours. This allows them to absorb moisture and triggers the germination process. Generally, the larger the seed, the longer it needs to soak. For example, pea seeds should soak overnight with plenty of water, as they expand quite a bit. To help prevent issues with mold, add 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to about 2 cups of initial soaking water. Just give your seeds an additional quick rinse with clean water before planting. If you notice mold starting to develop throughout the growing process, simply spray a water and hydrogen-peroxide mixture to kill it and to encourage continued healthy plant growth.
Select a container
Once your seeds are ready, prepare your tray with your preferred growing medium. Any container may be used for growing microgreens hydroponically, though nestling a tray with holes inside one without holes is recommended. This allows you to bottom water easily throughout the process. To make harvesting a breeze, we also recommend using a container with shallow edges to get a clean and easy cut.
Select a growing medium
The hydroponic process allows several types of growing mediums to be used. A good pad is one that retains water, can be rooted into easily, and fits well in your growing container. According to our experience, bamboo pads are the most preferred medium for hydroponic growing. They quickly soak up and retain water, are strong and airy, can easily be cut to size, and are biodegradable. Other popular pads include micro mats, BioStrate felt, and jute fiber.
Watering your microgreens
Next, adjust the pH of your water. Most tap water has a pH of 7 to 8, while a level of 5.5 to 6.5 is preferred. Don’t overthink this step. You can simply add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a gallon of your city tap water. This will encourage healthier growth once your seeds germinate. Otherwise, you may notice some lagging growth or rot occurring around days 6 to 8. While this home method works great, more precise pH measurements can be obtained with a water-testing and pH control kit if desired.
Add about 2 cups of water to a 10×20 tray, and allow your growing medium to soak it up. Using a spray bottle, add water to any portions of the pad that remain dry. You will notice small dry seeds stick to an adequately moist pad as they are spread. Use enough seed for a nice carpet of leafy greens, without your seeds being “shoulder to shoulder.” Cover your seeds to block out light for 2 to 3 days, then place them in a well-lit location. If growing in a windowsill, rotate your trays each day for straight stems. While most microgreens are ready in 10 to 14 days, some types may take longer. Add enough water to the lower tray each day to maintain a moist but not wet grow pad.
That’s everything you need! Seed, trays, growing medium, pH balanced water, and good lighting will produce a wave of beautiful and tasty greens. Microgreens can easily be your go-to vegetable to increase the nutritional value of your favorite foods, without breaking the bank. Not only are they easy and affordable, but your family will love them. Add microgreens to your favorite soups, smoothies, and salads to enhance the natural flavors. They are an excellent way to incorporate living foods in your diet all year long.
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—Ashleigh Smith is the managing editor at True Leaf Market. She attended Brigham Young University–Idaho, where she received a bachelor’s degree in horticulture with a focus on plant propagation. While she has experience in nursery and garden center management, more recently she has expressed her knowledge and skills through writing about home garden topics.
This post was sponsored by True Leaf Market.