Microgreens Can Be Grown Indoors with the Right Setup
Microgreens rank among the simplest, smallest, and yet most nutritious and delicious plants you can grow in the garden. There are many rewarding aspects to starting these quick-growing plants for yourself, but perhaps the best thing about microgreens is how easy they are to grow at home. Not just at home but indoors, even right next to your kitchen sink.
When I first started gardening, I didn't know about microgreens. I didn't know that the best way to start was small and simple. I planted my first garden in a field with a rototiller. Go big or go home, right?
Needless to say, that first experience led to many failures, lots of frustration, and very little food to show for all of our efforts.
I wish someone had told me that the best way to start is indoors, with a simple setup of seeds, soil, water, artificial light, and trays.
By the time I discovered the joy of gardening in a tiny space, I'd already been gardening for five or six years. It was on a whim that I grabbed a container and tried my hand at growing some microgreens. Watching those little seeds sprout and produce leaves right next to my kitchen sink after just a few days was so much fun.
It occurred to me then that I'd been spending all this time and effort and money on big gardens outdoors. And while those gardens have tons of benefits and produce many things to enjoy, I had been missing such a simple aspect of growing my own food.
So, here are all the things I wished someone had told me about growing microgreens, including the five major pros and then the three downsides.
The pros of growing microgreens at home
I wish I had known these five major benefits of growing microgreens long before. I could have started my kitchen garden and considered myself a gardener years before I ever planted my first tomato.
Growing microgreens is incredibly fast
When you grow microgreens, you're catching the plant at the very outset of its life. In fact, germination happens in a matter of days. Instead of waiting months for your plants to produce and ripen fruit, you're harvesting microgreens in as little as five to six days. The longest you'd have to wait would be three weeks max.
I'd say that's the real meaning of a fast food!
Microgreens don't require a lot of space
I delayed starting any kind of garden for the longest time because I believed I just didn't have the space. For years, I felt envious of people who had their own gardens and believed gardening was only for people with acres and acres of land. I wish someone had told me that I could be growing microgreens even in the smallest of the apartments I lived in.
I now grow loads of microgreens in a space smaller than my kitchen table, and yet I produce enough for one to two salad bowls every single day for an entire week. If you've got even a square foot of counter space to spare, you've got room to grow microgreens.
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Microgreens are super nutritious
A seed contains all the nutrients that the plant will need to grow to maturity. By consuming the seedling so soon after it has sprouted, you're getting something way more nutrient dense—a much more concentrated source of vitamins and minerals—than by eating the plant's mature counterpart, which has spread its nutrients out to dozens of leaves, flowers, and pieces of fruit.
In short, you're getting all the nutrition you'd expect to find in a huge bowl of salad and raw veggies, but in just a few bites.
Eating microgreens is a great way to get more vitamins without having to take a pill.
Microgreens are ridiculously expensive at the store
This past summer I was working with my photographer on pictures for my new book project. I wanted to take pictures of microgreens, but I'd been really busy with all four kids home from school and hadn't started any seeds in the last couple of weeks. I ran to the nearest farmers' market desperately searching for someone selling organic microgreens near me.
I managed to find a couple of trays being sold for $10. Each! (You'll find that the microgreens price is regularly $5, $8, even $10 at farmers' markets and grocery stores.)
I had no choice but to pull out my wallet and pay the piper $30 for three trays, all while chiding myself for not growing my own. I could have easily produced my own tiny trays of microgreens in my basement in just five or six days. I vowed to never again buy microgreens when it's so much easier and cheaper to grow your own.
Microgreens can be grown year round
You don't have to wait for a spring thaw. You don't have to wait for the oppressive heat of summer to pass. You can grow them at any time of year—whether there's a chance of frost outside or not—because you grow microgreens indoors. That means they're not affected by the weather. The only thing that matters is the environment you create for them.
This is great news for those of us who live up north where it's bitterly cold in the winter. Actually, growing microgreens has helped me through many a dark winter when there's nothing green outside, no fruits to look forward to harvesting.
They also sustained me when I was living in the south during ridiculously hot summers. Houston gets too hot to grow salad greens outside (at least ones that don't taste bitter), so growing microgreens gave me that garden-fresh flavor when I really needed it.
You can be starting and growing your own microgreens right now, no matter where you live.
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The cons of growing microgreens at home
Even with something as simple and easy to grow as microgreens, there are still some downsides. Here are some reasons you might hesitate to grow your own microgreens at home.
Microgreens setup takes some work
There's a bit of leg work you've got to do at the beginning to get your microgreens set up correctly.
I'm all about just getting started. In fact, I love to say, “You don't have to get it perfect. You just got to get it going.” And while microgreens are incredibly forgiving of less-than-ideal conditions, you'll see much more success if you take the time to make sure your supplies are right for growing microgreens indoors.
Some people start with an overly simple setup—maybe a regular plastic container set in the windowsill of their kitchen or something—and when they don't see fantastic results, they give up, believing that growing your own microgreens at home just isn't worth it.
Microgreens need your daily attention
If you're someone who's always jet-setting or traveling without a moment's notice, microgreens might not be the plants for you.
If you're someone who hates performing a task on the daily, microgreens might not be the plants for you.
Microgreens ask that you spend one, two, maybe five minutes a day taking care of them. (By taking care, I mean watering them and making sure they have good air flow around them.) It's nothing difficult, but it is something that needs to happen each and every day to find success.
Microgreens can only be harvested once
These plants are a single-use deal, a one-and-done crop.
Many of us gardeners grow accustomed to dealing with herbs and lettuce plants that are cut and come again or tomato plants that give us clusters of ripening fruit for weeks. Those plants only produce more for us after we harvest from them. The idea, then, of cutting plants at the outset of their lives and preventing any future growth can be a little disturbing, maybe even heartbreaking.
We're drawn to plants that we can keep alive for a long period of time, plants whose entire life cycles we can enjoy, and microgreens are not those plants.
After I harvest from my microgreens tray, I dump the soil and spent microgreens seeds into my compost pile and start fresh with a new batch.
My verdict on growing your own microgreens
Is growing microgreens at home worth it?
I personally believe that the pros far outweigh the cons for growing microgreens.
And you don't have to grow trays and trays at a time to reap those microgreens benefits. You can achieve rewards from growing a couple of trays every month, and along the way, you'll learn more about a plant's life cycle, you'll boost the nutritional storehouses in your body, and you'll train yourself to care for plants on the daily.
You know, the definition of a gardener is someone who tends the garden. If you're only growing something outside that takes months and months to produce for you, it's easy to lose the daily practice of gardening while you're waiting for something to happen.
Microgreens don't let that happen. You'll be able to see changes every single day, and these little plants just might enchant you. When you're harvesting something constantly from within your own kitchen, it's hard not to be hooked.
Here are some questions I see asked a lot about microgreens.
Can microgreens regrow after cutting?
Microgreens are young plants, and many won't be able to handle the shock of having their leaves cut so soon, though some microgreens are better at regrowing than others. In order to regrow, you'd have to leave at least an inch of the shoot (the young stem) and the young plant would have to have established good roots already. Even then, the flavor could be affected and their growth could be slowed.
I find it's best to start fresh with a new batch of seeds each time.
Why are microgreens more nutritious than other vegetables?
It's not that there are necessarily more nutrients in microgreens than in their mature counterparts, it's just that you'd have to eat the entire mature plant to get the same benefits. As a plant grows, the nutrients and minerals inside spread to the various branches and leaves, and then eventually to the flowers and fruit and new seeds.
You get all those vitamins and nutrients that would eventually spread to the whole plant when you eat a microgreen.
Can microgreens grow into full plants?
The seeds for microgreens are the same seeds you would buy to grow a mature plant. The only difference is that seeds labeled for growth as microgreens are often sold in larger quantities since you need to grow a lot of microgreens to get a full harvest. If you were to grow a microgreens seed in a container deep enough for its roots to establish properly, avoid cutting the stem, and then transplant the seedling into a larger container, you could grow a full plant under the right conditions.
How often do microgreens need water?
You'll need to check on the water level of your microgreens every single day. Water is one of the essential things to wake a seed from dormancy, so your microgreens could simply fail to sprout without regular watering. Fortunately, watering microgreens takes very little time.
How long will microgreens last?
Microgreens can be saved in your fridge for about 10 to 12 days. If you're growing your own at home, you can stagger your harvests so that you have time to use up and enjoy as many fresh greens as possible.
Gardenary 365 is a garden-centered community that provides all you need to form and keep the best health habits in less than 30 minutes a day. Your Gardenary 365 subscription includes access to the video series on microgreens.
I'm on a mission to get every single person in the world gardening a little bit in their very own space, and growing microgreens is one of the simplest ways that each of us can become a gardener.
If you're looking for more info on microgreens, including step-by-step video tutorials, explore my guide to growing microgreens indoors year round, available through a Gardenary 365 subscription. I've created seven informative video tutorials covering everything from microgreens varieties to consider to how to tend and harvest your microgreens. This post is a summary of just one of the lessons you'll find inside Gardenary 365.
Happy gardening from my indoor kitchen garden to yours!