Since the beginning of lockdown, many people are finding it more difficult to find greens. So why not grow your own microgreens at home to ensure that you have local greenery?
Microgreens are plants that are harvested at the very young stage when they begin to grow leaves. They are small concentrates of vegetables and herbs filled with good nutrients, they add crunch to salads and dishes and taste delicious. Adopted by chefs, they are ready to take pride of place on our plates. Growing them is quite simple and you can vary the pleasures, because if we are not all fans of alfalfa, we discover with pleasure mizuna, sunflower, watercress, arugula and even kale, perhaps even more delicious in this form.
They can be grown on potting soil, but the easiest method for personal use is on Terrafibre hemp sheets. This compostable Canadian product is much less messy than potting soil and more forgiving of beginner mistakes.
To start your production, you will need:
Seedling trays (the ones for microgreens are generally shallower)
Terrafibre type hemp mats or potting soil
A variety of seeds, ideally for microgreens. Not all seeds will produce tasty microgreens. However, you can use basil, coriander and arugula seeds which are the same, for example.
Ideally: domes for your seedling trays to keep the heat and humidity.
Spray bottle. This can be an old, clean cleaning product container. If you decide to produce a little more, a pressure spray bottle can also be handy.
If possible: a small fan and a light source, in addition to sunlight.
Growing micro-sprouts on Terrafibre hemp sheets
(1) Place a hemp leaf on a tray and spray with water to moisten it well.
(2) Pour the seeds fairly tightly over the hemp sheet (minimum 20-30 grams per tray). Spray with water to moisten them well (you can also soak the seeds beforehand for 3 to 6 hours, but it is not essential for this method).
(3) Place an empty tray on top of the tray you just prepared and some weight on top of it. For example, a fairly heavy bowl or a brick. If you are making several trays, stack the seed trays on top of each other and put an empty tray on top of the stack still with a weight. The seeds should remain in the dark until every shoot or almost every shoot has its first two leaves. Spray with water twice a day.
(4) When the seeds have their first leaves, your microgreens are ready to see the sun. Place the tray(s) near a sunny window and spray your microgreens with water. Then place a dome on top of each tray with the hatches open. (In industrial facilities, they often set up trays under neon lights, but at home, a table near a well-lit window will do the job.) You can add a lamp for extra brightness. Neon or LED is ideal, but any light source will do and provide a few more hours of “sunshine” each day, which is desirable to help the shoots.
(5) Since microgreens need to be well ventilated, install a small fan near the trays to provide air circulation, otherwise a ceiling fan may do the trick. Spray the sprouts once or twice a day, ideally in the morning and evening.
(6) You will see that within a few hours of placing the shoots in the sun, the leaves will turn from yellow to green. This is because the chlorophyll will have done its job.
(7) The shoots are ready to eat after 7 to 14 days depending on the variety.
(8) When your micro sprouts are at the desired height, take a very sharp knife, an exacto or a scissor and cut the sprouts as close as possible to the hemp fiber mat.
(9) Compost your hemp mat and start another crop with a new mat.
Growing microfoots on soil
The method is essentially the same, but there are a few differences, according to Annie Martinet, former co-owner of the microgrowing company l’Îlot naturel in the Magdalen Islands.
(1) You must soak the seeds at least 3 to 6 hours beforehand. The smaller the seed, the less time it takes. The soaking time is usually indicated on the seed packets. Drain them and you are ready to plant them.
(2) The soil is prepared in trays with holes and placed on a tray without holes and moistened. It must be well wet, but not soggy. We put our seeds and we press a little on them.
(3) We stack the trays in the same way as for the Terrafibre mats. It is necessary to keep the seeds in the dark the first days.
(4) In general, you don’t need to water twice a day, but you just need to make sure that the soil stays moist and avoid mold.
(5) When the first leaves come out, put the trays in the sun and spray the shoots regularly with water, making sure not to soak the potting soil to avoid mold again.
(6) To harvest, cut the microgreens a little closer to the soil than for the Terrafibre. Rinse and dry them before putting them in bags with absorbent paper.
Where to find the material to grow your microgreens at home?
Seeds to order by mail: La Shop Agricole (seeds, sprouts and germinations section), Vertige Ferme Urbaine, Mumm’s
Equipment and accessories to order by mail: La Shop Agricole (indoor growing section in the online store). You will find trays, domes, Terrafibre hemp mats, spray bottles and seeds. The deliveries of the Shop Agricole are free during the Covid-19 pandemic for any purchase of 75$ before taxes. We take advantage of this to order several varieties of organic seeds and all the equipment at once.
With what you have at home: If you want to use what you already have at home, you probably have seeds that can be used in your cupboard such as unsalted sunflower seeds in their shells, green lentils, buckwheat seeds and others. The seeds should be raw and unprocessed.
For the accessories, you can use metal or glass lasagna molds, cookie sheets with potting soil, then for the germination part an upside down cookie sheet can do the trick. Then, if you don’t have domes, your results may not be as spectacular, but make sure your sprouts are in a room where it’s warm enough, you may have good results. The important thing is not to let the soil dry out.
Keep in mind that you will need one more tray than you want to grow, as the top tray is used to keep the others in the dark during the germination period. Also, if you are growing several trays at once, rotate them so that you have some germinating and some in the sun and always have fresh microgreens on hand.
Dare to start now and then enjoy micro sprouts all year long, because even if it is convenient in times of pandemic, once you are adept at this type of micro sprouts you won’t want to do without them!