How to grow MICROGREENS at home
– cheaply, cleanly, and easily –
by Mark Mathew Braunstein
excerpted from the unedited
"raw" manuscript of
(Part 1 of Sowing,
Growing, Reaping, Eating)
The techniques of Container Gardening and “bottom watering” instructed here are adapted from that employed by many commercial microgreen farmers who raise their crops in plastic containers that are manufactured specifically for growing seedlings. I owe my adaptation to Lauri Roberts of Farming Turtles Microgrens, based in Exeter, RI. Lauri graciously twice guided me on a tour of her indoor microgreens farm, and showed me how to grow microgreens cheaply, cleanly, and easily.
About CONTAINER GARDENING
Two main types of vessels are used for growing microgreens: containers and trays. For TRAY GARDENING, please consult the book or eBook of Microgreens Garden, available from your bookseller. This website is devoted solely to CONTAINER GARDENING.
First, an apology. I apologize to all citizens of advanced civilizations that measure with the metric system. I apologize for the archaic use in the United States of the insufferably outdated English system of measurement, which even the British have abandoned. Hence I apologize for my obscure references to pesky unit of measurement called the pint. For the record: 1 pint equals approximately 500 mL. In practice, the metric equivalent of a pint container is not called 500 mL, but instead is called 500 grams, or half a kilo. Hence, 1 pint = a half kilo.
1) EAT LOTS of SMALL FRUITS
Small fruits such as blueberries, fresh figs, and tomatoes (tomatoes botanically are fruits, not veggies) usually are packaged in plastic pint (500mL, half kilo) containers. Raspberries and blackberries come packaged by the half-pint (250mL, quarter kilo), which are half the depth but also useful.
2) SAVE the PINT & HALF-PINT CONTAINERS
Rather than recycle or (gasp!) discard the containers, keep them. You likely eat mostly or only whole foods, so you soon will accumulate an abundance of plastic containers. The crucial features of these containers are the vents on their bottoms, and the lids on their tops. If necessary, rinse and dry them, then stack and store them.
The plastic is recycle number 1 (PET or PETE), a polyethylene polymer predominantly used for water and beverage bottles, collectively called drink bottles. When heated or during prolonged storage, PET can migrate into its liquid contents. Hence the plastic taste of bottled water. At moderate room temperatures and for short durations, however, PET does not affect its solid contents. Hence blueberries and cherry tomatoes do not taste of plastic. Moist soil might be considered semi-liquid, in which case purists might wish to avoid use of plastic.
Other containers with holes on their bottoms, for instance terracotta flower pots, are suitable, but they obstruct your view of the wondrous rootlets, and they are heavy, bulky, and costly. Commercially-produced pint-size plastic seedling pots are relatively inexpensive, and microgreen farmers deliver to restaurants their greens growing in soil in such pots. But for you to buy seedling pots might require a separate mail order or a special trip to a gardening store. Repurposed plastic food containers are near at hand in your favorite health food store and local supermarket, effectively coming to you. And they come to you for free, so are “good for nothing.”
Pint-size plastic seedling pots can be found in the produce section of many food stores after all – filled with hydroponics-grown broccoli microgreens (though usually called broccoli sprouts). Yet if you intended to hire someone else to be your microgreens gardener, you would not be reading this right now.
Repurposed plastic food containers do tend to fall apart after multiple re-uses, but you probably never will retain them that long. By attrition, you’ll be starting anew with a fresh batch of containers every three or four cycles. That’s because for every five or six containers that you grow, you likely will bestow one or two as gifts upon eager recipients.
Regardless how unwise their eating habits, all your friends will love your microgreens. Even the microgreens that might taste unappetizing, still look beautiful. And many people eat only with their eyes.
3) CUT OFF the LIDS of the PLASTIC CONTAINERS
Cut off all the lids and save half of them. These very useful lids actually are lacking from commercially-produced seedling pots, so you have another reason to repurpose plastic food containers. Designate an old pair of scissors for cutting off the lids, as the blades soon will become dull from this function. If your collection of containers originate from different manufacturers, one manufacturer’s lids might not snugly fit another manufacturer’s containers, so to assure matching pairs later, you might consider marking them now.
4) PLACE TWO CONTAINERS TOGETHER
Double up the containers, and place one inside the other. They fit best if matched by manufacturer, but even containers of different origin usually fit remarkably well. Doubling up assures rigidity of the entire container so that the soil does not shift and thereby disrupt the fragile rootlets anchored in it. Also, this protects the rootlets from being crushed on the bottom where they cluster. And third, this empty space on the bottom prevents water from pooling at the bottom of the soil, and this extra ventilation along the underside of the container prevents mold.
5) FILL the CONTAINER with SOIL and SOW the SEEDS
For in-depth discussion, see the webpages SOIL and SEEDS
So here we skip all that, and proceed to watering the seeds.
For more about Sowing, please Get the Book, where you will find info about:
6) SPRAY the SEEDS
7) PLACE MOIST COTTON CLOTH or PAPER TOWEL atop the SEEDS
8) COVER the SEEDS
9) PLACE the SEEDS in DARKNESS and WARMTH
10) At least ONCE DAILY, INSPECT and when needed SPRAY
11) REMOVE the LID or TOP TRAY altogether
12) DAILY WATERING: BOTTOM WATERING vs SIDE WATERING vs TOP WATERING
For further information: consult the chapters about Container Gardening (which enables bottom watering) and about Tray Gardening (which enables either side watering or, gasp, top watering) published in the book and eBook Microgreen Garden.
Proceed to GROWING or to SEEDS or to PHOTOS