The last couple of months I have been experimenting with growing micro greens and shoots. My wife and I had bought them a couple of times at local farmer’s markets, so I decided to try my hand at growing them myself. I’m learning as I go along, so this is in no way intended to be a how-to tutorial, but rather a progress report on my trials and results. For my first project back in October I sowed Johnny’s Mild Micro Mix in a plastic window box planter I had on hand. I filled the planter with potting soil (PRO-MIX Ultimate Organic Mix), then sowed the seed thickly and covered lightly with more potting soil. I left this one in the greenhouse, since the temperatures out there were favorable at the time.
I got good germination from the seeds, and the greens were ready for cutting in a couple of weeks. I chose to try and get multiple cuttings from this planting, so I tried to cut the leaves above the growing point so they would regrow. That strategy worked, and I have gotten several cutting from them now. The greens are really bigger than the ‘micro’ stage though, more like baby greens, but very nice for salads, stir frying or soups. This mix of mild flavored brassicas has mizuna, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi seeds in it. It looks like mostly kale came up in mine, which is not a bad thing, but a problem I often see with mixes like this where one thing does better than the others.
For my next project I bought some specialized seed trays from Greenhouse Megastore. The injected molded plastic trays are manufactured in England by Garland Products, and are really sturdy and well made. I got two sizes, one a Narrow Seed Tray that is 14.5″ long by 5.25″ wide, and a Small Seed Tray that is 9″ long by 6.5″ wide. Both of these have drainage holes in the bottom, and the sizes are such that you can fit two of the narrow trays and one of the small trays in a standard 1020 flat. That will let me grow three different things in the space taken up by one flat, rather than having to plant the whole thing to just one veggie.
I also ordered an assortment of seeds from Pinetree and Johnny’s, including seeds for sprouting, micro greens and for shoots. For my first planting using the new trays, I decided on growing pea and sunflower shoots, plus cilantro. The peas and sunflower seeds benefit from soaking overnight in water. They can then be planted immediately, or you can do like I did and let them sprout first. So I soaked the seeds in pint jars, then drained the water and let them sit out on the kitchen counter, rinsing with water a couple of times daily. In about two days the first roots were emerging, with the peas germinating a bit quicker than the sunflowers. Now it was time for planting.
I filled the seed trays with the same PRO-MIX potting soil I used earlier for the micro greens. I only filled them about 1-1/2″ deep, so it didn’t take a lot of soil. I sowed the seed quite thickly on the top of the soil, being careful not to break the tender emerging roots on the peas and sunflowers, then I gave them a good watering. I used 1/3 cup each (before soaking) of the sunflowers and peas to fill the larger trays, and a couple of tablespoons of unsoaked cilantro seed for the small one. Instead of covering the seeds with soil, I sat empty seed trays on top of the seeds and put the flat under my lights I have in the basement. As soon as the seeds began pushing up the trays, I removed them. You can also cover the seeds with paper towels, or use soil like I did for the micro greens. I have to say the trick of ‘nesting’ the empty trays on top worked quite well, and is very easy to do as long as you have extra trays.
After about five days of growing, everything is coming along fine. The pea shoots are ready for snacking, and the sunflowers won’t be far behind. The cilantro was the last to begin sprouting, but it is coming up now as well. I need to brush the sunflowers to remove the seed coats from the cotyledons (seed leaves), as some are still clinging on.
I will be growing more shoots and micro greens in the days and weeks to come. I intend to grow them under my fluorescent lights in the basement, which are not much in use this time of year. It should be a quick and easy way to give us fresh green things to eat during the cold days of winter, in addition to what I can harvest from the greenhouse and cold frames. I’ll be back with more updates as my experiments continue. And I would love to hear from my readers who have experimented themselves in this area, both in growing as well as using them!