Today we continue our gardening series with Dr. Mary Ball, PhD, who after a 40-year career as a college biology professor, became a Tennessee Master Gardener and enjoys gardening with kids. Dr. Ball has helped secure funding for gardening, nutrition education, and hundreds of dollars worth of donated seeds to schools and afterschool programs in rural East Tennessee.
It’s a great time to learn about growing veggie seedlings indoors. Microgreens are tasty nutritious little seedlings you grow and eat at a very young state, offering the advantages of quicker harvests and of textures, colors, and flavors that differ from the harvests you expect to get by growing the seedlings to maturity.
Here are 5 tips for growing “microgreens” indoors:
- You can buy Microgreen Growing Kits, but you can try out this gardening method with just a packet of seeds (expired are OK), a shallow plastic “clamshell” container (like one that held blueberries), and some seed starter mix.
- Start out using seeds that germinate easily and grow quickly. These include amaranth, beet, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard, or radish. Sow them thickly over damp seed starter mix. Microgreens are ready for harvest when they reach the “true leaf” stage (at least one pair of leaves have grown in addition to the first pair of so-called “seed leaves,” usually when seedlings are about 2 in. tall. Time from sowing to harvest varies by crop (generally from 7 to 21 days). Use scissors to cut the stems off just above the surface. Try sprinkling some on cream-cheese-covered crackers as a tasty snack, or add them to soups and salads.
- To avoid the dangers of contamination that may occur when growing “sprouts” (by just repeatedly rinsing seeds in a cloth-covered canning jar, for example), water the seedlings “from the bottom.” This means planting in trays with drainage holes and watering if needed by setting these trays briefly into ones without drainage holes.
- There is no official definition of “microgreens” but seed companies are beginning to list suggested seeds for “microgreens,” ones to harvest as “babies,” or as “teenagers,” in addition to “mixes” of seeds for microgreens, for stir fry, and for “cut and come again” (a harvesting method in which inner leaves are left to keep growing). So enjoy browsing online seed catalogs for these words to find other types of greens to explore!!!
- For evidence-based advice, contact a state extension service for articles such as the one from the New Hampshire Extension Service entitled Growing Microgreens in Your Home and one from the Florida Extension Service entitled Microgreens: A New Specialty Crop. (My advice today comes from the Tennessee Extension Service that was shared at my last monthly meeting of master gardeners.)
Kids and first-time gardeners can learn a lot about growing plants from seeds by keeping a Microgreen Gardener’s Journal, recording drawings, photos, measurements, and other details. What a great way to keep them involved throughout the growing process!