Microgreens are largely misunderstood. Too many people think of microgreens as a touch of color and texture. And they are – but they are so much more.
I grow microgreens all winter, but not to make healthy smoothies or add interest to my meals.
I will show you how I grow microgreens to maximize my harvest of fresh greens all winter. For me and my family, microgreens have become an important source of food and nutrition.
Here are some of the reasons we like them:
- Fast growing: Harvest in less than a week
- Easy to grow: No need for speciality soils or nutrients
- Dense growing: Perfect for smaller spaces indoors
- Easy: A daily mist of water and you are good to go
- Tasty & Nutritious: Packed with vitamins and minerals  
For the impatient reader, let’s start with a quick and easy guide to get you growing right away.
- Quick and Easy How-To Guide:
- What Are Microgreens
- Guide To Growing Microgreens (with photos)
- Dealing with Issues
- Storing Microgreens
- How To Use Microgreens
Quick and Easy How-To Guide:
- Gather Your Supplies: You’ll need microgreen seeds, a container or tray, potting soil or a soilless mix, and a sunny spot or a grow light.
- Prepare Your Container: Fill your container with soil, leaving a little space at the top. Ensure the soil is evenly moistened, not wet.
- Sow Your Seeds: Sprinkle the seeds evenly across the soil. You can plant them densely, but not on top of each other.
- Cover the Seeds: Lightly sprinkle a thin layer of soil over the seeds and cover the container with plastic to create a moist environment for germination.
- Wait for Germination: Place your container in a warm area and wait for the seeds to sprout, usually within 3-7 days.
- Uncover and Move to Light: Remove the plastic cover and move the container to a well-lit area or place under a grow light when you see the first leaves sprouting.
- Water Carefully: Water gently by misting the bed to keep the soil moist, not wet.
- Harvest: Choose to harvest early or wait 1-3 weeks for the microgreens to grow a couple of inches tall and develop their first true leaves. Use sharp scissors to harvest and enjoy.
Read on for more details and tips to maximize your yield. But first, let’s look at what microgreens really are.
Looking for an eeven easier metod? Check out my guide to growing microgreens on paper towels.
What Are Microgreens
Microgreens are the seedlings of vegetables and herbs you harvest early before the plant matures and develops.
But microgreens are not the same as sprouts.
Microgreens are grown for the stems and leaves. Sprouts are grown differently and are germinated seeds where we consume the root, seed, and shoot.
There are many different microgreens varieties, each with a unique flavor. My favorites include
- Radish greens: Adds a spicy kick and wonderful color for contrast.
- Pea shoots: Fresh flavor and bountiful harvest, stores for up to a week in the fridge.
- Broccoli: Fast-growing, slightly peppery flavor.
- Arugula: For that unique peppery note.
- Sunflower: slightly more work, but the taste is unbelievable.
And then, of course, we have the nutritional value. microgreens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.   I am no medical professional, but I invite you to check out the sources I link to for more information on the nutritional value of microgreens.
Guide To Growing Microgreens (with photos)
Before we get into the step-by-step guide, let’s discuss choosing the best locations for growing your microgreens.
Yes, locations, as in two – it is a two-pronged approach.
Why is this important? Because when done right, it will improve your yield. And even more so, it is simple.
- Germination of the seeds: You want a dark and warm spot. For me, it means placing the trays in the room that houses our Nibe air/water heat pump. Other good spots include on top of a fridge or freezer as they tend to emit heat. And if you have a heat mat, this is where it shines.
- Growth stage: A sunny windowsill, a balcony, or placed under grow lights are all great options. The key is to provide your greens with enough light and to maintain a consistent temperature, ideally between 20-24 degrees Celsius / 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
So how much light is enough? Aim for 6-8 hours of natural sunlight and then double it if you are growing indoors in winter. My full spectrum grow lights are on for 16 hours and then turned off for 8 hours.
Step 1: Gather your supplies
Growing microgreens requires some basic supplies. And you probably have most of them already.
- Seeds: Always go for high-quality microgreen seeds from a reputable supplier. But in bulk as it will save you money in the long run.
- Container: You can use any shallow tray or container. I use repurposed food-safe containers.
- Growing Medium: Pretty much any soil will do. But do not use soil from your garden as you risk importing pests and diseases that will spring to life in your warm indoor environment. Alternatively, use a soilless mix like coconut coir, cotton buds, paper towels, or vermiculite.
- Spray bottle of watering can: I use a spray bottle but a watering can with a fine rose will also work.
- Light Source: A sunny windowsill or a simple grow light will ensure your microgreens get the light they need to grow.
Tips: 1. I always use re-purposed food-safe containers for growing microgreens. 2. I never cut drainage holes in the containers. Still, drainage holes can protect you from overwatering your greens.
Step 2: Prepare your growing medium
Fill your container with your chosen pre-moistened growing medium and leave about 1 cm / ½ inch of space at the top.
Firm the soil gently using your hands, but do not press too hard. You want the surface to be even and firm, not compact.
Tip: I use potting soil as it gives me a healthier yield and also supports cut-and-regrow of for example pea shoots.
Part 3: Sow the seeds
Spread your seeds evenly over the surface of your soil. Be generous; microgreens have no problem growing densely. Try covering the entire surface but avoid placing seeds on top of each other.
I always cover the seeds lightly with a sprinkling of soil. I find it helps the seeds root better and promotes the re-growth of microgreens like pea shoots.
Tips: 1. I always soak larger-sized seeds like coriander and pea shoots overnight to speed up germination. 2. Larger seeds like pea shoots root better if they are covered as they tend to lift as they sprout. Placing a wet tee towel on top is usually enough.
Part 4: Cover the seeds
To speed up germination, focus on creating a warm, moist and dark growing environment.
- Warm: Place on top of a household appliance like a fridge or use a heat mat.
- Moist: Cover the container with plastic and cut a couple of holes to promote airflow.
- Dark: Place in a dark room or cover with a lid.
Expect the seeds to germinate in 1-5 days depending on the microgreen variety and external factors like heat and moisture.
Some seeds take longer to germinate, and you need to check back and ensure that the seeds are moist. Checking once a day is usually sufficient.
Tip! You do not want the seeds to dry out. I always ensure that there is some condensation on the plastic cover.
Step 5: Waiting for germination
Seeds typically germinate in 1-5 days. Microgreens do not require a lot of maintenance; water lightly once or twice a day to maintain even soil moisture.
If you notice any mould or mildew, remove the plastic cover for an hour or two to air out the container.
Make a few more holes in the plastic, and consider reducing the watering frequency slightly.
But from my experience, this is quite rare.
Step 6: Uncover and move to light
Remove the cover and move the container to a spot with plenty of light when you see the first leaves sprouting.
I only grow microgreens in winter and always use grow lights. But a sunny windowsill works if it delivers at least 6-8 hours of natural light.
My grow lights are on for 16 hours, followed by 8 hours of darkness.
Tips: 1. Grow lights will make a huge difference to your yield. Your greens will grow stronger and faster. 2. If you do not want to spend money on a grow light, consider using a regular LED bulb. Some light is better than no light at all. 3. You want the light to be placed 3 cm / 1 inch above the greens at all times.
Step 7: Water carefully
Water your microgreens once or twice a day. Contrary to regular gardening advice on watering, it is better to water a little twice a day than to soak your plants every other day.
Microgreens grow densely, and the roots will get cramped for space. And this is fine, as we harvest the leaves and stems early.
But if you water too much, the roots will sit wet and you may end up drowning your plants.
Tips: 1. Remember, you are not trying to grow a mature plant. You are growing microgreens. If you are unsure about watering, mist the tray morning and evening and observe. 2. When I use smaller containers that are easy to handle, I often drench the container, leave it to sit for a minute and then pour out the excess water.
Step 8: Harvesting your microgreens
Choose to harvest your microgreens early or wait for the greens to sprout their first true leaves – there is no right or wrong. I do both.
I harvest some microgreens after 2-3 weeks when they are 5-8 cm / 2-3 inches tall and have developed their first true leaves. Others are harvested when they are about 3 cm / 1 inch as I am looking for the flavor punch, not the bulk.
I always have several containers on the go, and I harvest when we need greens.
I use sharp, clean scissors and snip most greens just above the soil line. As soon as I harvest a container, I start a new batch in that same container.
And this is the beauty of microgreens. It is so simple to get going and when you are up and running it is like running a fresh green conveyor belt in a factory.
Tip: Some microgreens like pea shoots will grow back if you harvest them above the first pair of leaves giving you two harvests per container.
Dealing with Issues
Growing microgreens is straightforward, and it is unlikely that you will encounter problems.
I can think of 3 issues that you may encounter:
- Poor germination: Patchy gemination is usually down to poor growing conditions. Did some seeds dry out? Too cold or maybe drafty? But it could also be due to a bad batch of seeds.
- Mould or mildew: Poor air flow and overwatering can, in extreme conditions, cause mould or mildew. Increase airflow and adjust your watering habits.
- Wilting greens: It is important to harvest when the greens are fully developed. If you want too long, the greens will wilt as there is not enough nutrition for the plants to keep growing.
Always wash your microgreens after harvest.
Microgreens are best used fresh but can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. Simply pat them dry and store them in an airtight container.
Tip: I have found that pea shots store well and keep both taste and texture.
How To Use Microgreens
Microgreens are versatile and can be used the same way you use lettuce or parsley.
For us, microgreens are an alternative to leafy greens like lettuce, chard, and kale during winter. But we also use microgreens to boost soups, sandwiches, and pasta dishes.
Another popular use is smoothies. But I have no personal experience with smoothies as I prefer food and salads.