Instructions - Microgreens Hydroponic Method
Welcome to the world of growing your own micro greens. You can grow outdoors in warm seasons, or indoors all year long… even if you have limited space. It’s literally counter top gardening. Microgreens are inexpensive, fun to grow and cover a wide variety of exciting, nutrition dense tastes. We hope you enjoy growing and eating these exciting living foods!
- Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of a tray without holes. Place the hydroponic mat in the tray and allow it to soak up the water.
- Evenly spread 2-3 tbs. of seed over the mat. The more seeds on the mat, the denser your crop will be. Try to keep the seeds from bunching together.
- Thoroughly mist seeds with a spray bottle. Cover with another tray and place in an area at room temperature.
- Uncover and mist the seeds 1-2 times per day. When the sprouts have taken root, remove the tray permanetly and expose to light. Continue watering as needed.
- When the first leaves appear, start tasting your microgreens every day to mark the changes in flavor as your crop matures.
- Time to harvest may vary between seed varieties. When the flavor is to your liking, it's time to harvest! Gently trim microgreens just above the roots.
Below are some basic definitions for key topics and concepts.
- Sprouts – Sprouts are the first stage of a seed’s development and are generally grown without a growing medium (soil), but are sprouted and rinsed in a sprouting tray, jar or bag. They are usually eaten soon after the seeds germinate and are delicious and crunchy.
- Microgreens – Micro greens are the second stage of a plant’s life, where roots establish themselves and the first leaves (called cotyledons) appear. Micro greens are harvested at this stage before the adult stage leaves emerge. Plants in the micro green stage are typically at their peak of flavor intensity.
- Baby Salad Greens – Baby salad greens of every variety are usually easier to grow in soil and are allowed to grow for a week or two beyond the micro green stage when the adult leaves have emerged. Baby greens are harvested while they are still juvenile plants. The flavors are much closer to their full adult stage, and they have had ample op- portunity to absorb more minerals from the soil.
- Mucilaginous Seeds – Some micro greens seeds (like chia and basil) are mucilaginous, meaning that once exposed to water they develop a jelly-like coating on the exterior of the seed. This is normal for these types of seeds, but they need to be kept damp until the seedling has had a chance to emerge and establish itself.
- Hydroponic Crops – Hydroponic growing is the cleanest and easiest way to grow microgreens. With only a few exceptions, most microgreens grow extremely well hydroponically.
- Dirt Crops – If growing to the baby salad stage you may find them easier to grow in soil. Some microgreens perform better in soil. These include peas, sunflower, buckwheat, beets, cilantro, lentils, mung, adzuki and others.
Most of the materials you’ll need are included in this kit (growing trays without drain holes, growing pads, seeds, pH test strips, spray bottle & instructions). You will need to provide a few other materials like lemon juice to adjust the pH of your water, and scissors to harvest. Obviously you’ll also need clean water. Note that trays may be re-used many times, and it is fine to section multiple crops per tray.
Step by Step Instructions
Specific detail and additional instructions per seed type are included on the reverse of this instruction sheet. What follows are general instructions for growing your micro- greens. The micro greens growing kit includes enough seed for several plantings. While you will find that while micro greens are generally easy to grow, you may need to experiment a bit to get it just right.
- Step 0: Balance The pH Of Your Water – IMPORTANT! – Microgreens seeds are sensitive to the pH of water. Use the included pH test strips and instructions to adjust the pH of your water. Most microgreens will do best at a pH of 6. A range of 5.5 to 6.5 is acceptable. Make sure to only water your crops with water you have balanced to an acceptable pH. Also helpful is to use filtered water to remove any chlorine from the water.
- Step 1: Prepare Your Trays – Pour 2 cups of pH balanced water into the bottom of your tray and tip to distribute water evenly in all channels. Lay one of the growing pads in the tray and swish the water around gently. Press gently on the growing pad to make sure that the underside of it is saturated. Gently swish the tray again to insure that the grow pad is thoroughly saturated. Finally, take the spray bottle and mist the top of the pad evenly with about 10 sprays, to make sure that there are no dry spots. Lay your tray flat in preparation for seeding.
- **Step 2:**Spread Your Seeds - Most seeds do not need to be pre-soaked and can be spread dry directly onto the saturated grow pad. Sprinkle seeds evenly (side to side and end to end) over the saturated grow pad. For smaller seeds (arugula, broccoli, mizuna, etc…) sprinkle about 2 tablespoons. You can experiment with up to 3 table- spoons of the smaller seeds for a denser crop. For larger seeds like radish, you may want to use as much as a quarter cup.
- Step 3: Mist & Cover – Once you have a good distribution of seed on the saturated pad, use the spray mister to spray the seeds. Use about 10 to 12 sprays with the mister to make sure that every seed is nice and wet. Now take one of the other trays and use your spray mister to spray the inside of it 4 or 5 times with an even distribution of mist. Use that misted tray as a black-out and humidity dome on your recently seeded tray. Your newly sown seeds need humidity and dark to thrive. Set your tray (being careful not to slosh it and disturb the dispersion of your seeds) in a place where it won’t get too hot, or too cold. 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
- Step 4: Mist Every 12 Hours – Uncover the seed tray every 12 hours or so and mist them again with your spray bottle. 10 evenly distributed sprays should do. Do not add additional water other than the misting. Re-cover your tray.
- Step 5: Uncover The Tray – Your crop should be ready to uncover after 4 or 5 days. You can judge this by watching for when the baby leaves (cotyledons) of your crop first emerge and then waiting one more day. It is important to keep your crop in the dark for the first 4 to 5 days to force your crop to grow in the struggle for light. This will help you grow a strong crop. Once you uncover the tray, make sure your crop gets plenty of light. We recommend LED grow lights. Direct sunlight, fluorescent, or incandescent lights are also good. If your crop angles for light, be sure to rotate the tray occasionally.
- Step 6: Check Daily – Your crop should have the right balance of water from now till harvest. Pull up a corner of the grow pad. It should be fairly damp. If necessary, replenish water to the bottom of the tray so that water comes up to half way up the channels. Be sure to water from the bottom once the greens are uncovered, and do not use the spray bottle anymore.
- Step 7: Time to Harvest – Most microgreens will be ready to harvest in 10 days. Some crops can be harvested as early as 7 days. Most crops will not last pass 14 to 17 days before they must be harvested. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to these harvest times. Details for the most popular hydroponic seeds can be found on the reverse of this instruction sheet.
- Step 8: Harvest – Move your trays to a cool, shady place. If your greens are harvested when it is too hot, they will wilt very quickly after harvesting. If harvested when cool (late evening, early morning), they will tend to stay fresh and crisp.
Recommended Harvesting Method: Grab a fistful of microgreens, and gently uproot the entire clump from the grow pad. Use scissors to trim the roots from the greens.
Alternate Method: Lift the grow pad from the tray and use scissors to trim the microgreens directly from the grow pad. Think of it as giving your greens a haircut.
- Step 9: Rinse & Dry – Use a colander to rinse your microgreens thoroughly under cold water. Dry the greens completely by spreading over a towel or paper towels and air dry. Speed drying by using a fan on a slow setting. Cut greens are best if served right after drying, but can be stored loosely in a bowl in the refrigerator for several days. Do not try to refrigerate greens that are not completely dry.
Troubleshooting & Tips
Below are some general ideas and troubleshooting tips to help make your greens growing experience easier.
Below are some general ideas and troubleshooting tips to help make your greens growing experience easier. Growing microgreens is fun and fairly easy, but expect to have some failures in the process as you experiment in getting it just right.
- Planting Too Thick – If you spread your seeds too thickly the micro greens will come in too dense and be susceptible to rot. If you feel like your greens in are coming in too thick, you can always thin out the crop by carefully plucking individual plants.
- Planting Too Thin – For micro greens this will make for a small, scraggly crop, but won’t cause any trouble.
- Over Watering – Microgreens will thrive if the roots get the right mix of water and oxygen. Over-watering causes the root to not get enough oxygen and makes the crop susceptible to root diseases, and can even result in the loss of a tray. Avoid any puddles that extend above the root line. Ideally water should lay in the channels of the bottom of the tray.
- Under Watering – Watch carefully for any signs of wilting. The grow pad should be kept fairly soggy for the full growth cycle. If the grow pad is merely damp, there is probably not enough water in the tray.
- Re-cutting – Once harvested, micro greens will not re-grow. Dispose of the spent grow pads.
- Rot – If you notice sections of rot in your tray it can be a sign of over-watering, or sowing seeds too thickly. However, most of the time rot is an indication that your water is too alkaline (pH higher than 6.5). Make sure you pH balance your water or you will have weak crops. If you do have occurrences of rot, give the rotting area a wide berth at harvest.
- Multiple Crop Trays – There is no problem in sowing multiple crops in the same tray, in fact it’s a great idea! You can easily segregate your seeds into different sections of the same tray, as long as the harvest times are reasonably similar.
- Temperature – Cold may slow down growth rates of your micro greens. A nice warm spot will speed things up. Make sure however that your microgreens are always well-lit as light is more important than temperature.
- Generally Weak Crop – If you baby your crop too much, it can make the crop weak. Microgreens should struggle a bit to survive. If they are not kept in the dark long enough, the result may be a weak looking crop. If you are having trouble with weak crops, you can add a little stress to strengthen your crop. Instead of uncovering your crop and exposing to light after 4 or 5 days, take the tray you are using as a dome and flip it. Spray the underside of the tray to moisten it, and lay it inside the growing tray so that the bottom of the tray rests on top of your seedlings. This will force your crop’s roots to penetrate the pad instead of snaking across it and grow much stronger to lift the tray and reach for light. Leaving the tray on the crop in this manner for a day or two can really strengthen a weak crop.
- Pale Crop – Consider using a stronger light source for your microgreens.
- Mucilaginous Seeds – Mucilaginous seeds should be sown and cared for the same as any other seed. However, they may be more sensitive to drying out in the early stages of sprouting. Make sure they are misted and kept damp.
- Presoaking – Some seed types will do better if pre-soaked. See notes for specific seeds on the reverse for indications. Usually seeds that should be grown in soil will require a presoak. Presoak for the indicated time period in cold water.
- Burned Crops – If you notice overly dry spots, a crop that looks like it has burn patches in it, or a crop that doesn’t seem to be doing well under the light, the crop might be get- ting too much light. Some crops like arugula, pak choi, mustards and turnips are more sensitive to light and can get burned. Increase the distance of your grow lights (or lower wattage). You can also decrease the amount of time your crop gets light.
- Odor – It is not uncommon for the grow pad to give off a mild odor. Usually this does not happen until the crop approaches about 10 days. This is one of the reasons we recommend harvesting at about 10 days, though a few days earlier or later is fine.