Let this be your go-to beginners guide to DIY microgreen growing, because we’ve tackled our fair share of failures and we want you to try it our way.
Here at Livin Farms, we are all about re-building that connection to often we often lose living in the city. Although we are experts at farming proteins at home, we love to have some healthy greens to go with them.
What are Microgreens?
Let’s put two and two together and make an educated guess: micro means small and ‘greens’ are what we call leafy vegetables. Therefore, it’s safe to say that microgreens are essentially small, leafy greens. #quickmaths
They are the small, flavorful toppings you find on dishes at high-end restaurants and they’re also the same culprits that are used in the grand finale of every MasterChef season ever. And for a good reason too, because microgreens pack a punch and are filled with a host of nutrients - more than the average vegetable (Read more about their nutritional facts down below).
All of this typically brings people to the conclusion that microgreens are expensive, high-maintenance and difficult to grow. Consider this myth busted, because they can actually be grown at home in a fairly simple manner, with minimal equipment and at low-cost. For most of us budding urban farmers out there - this is a great way to fill our bathroom, bedroom or living room ledges with a pop of bright, fresh, edible plants.
There are many different varieties of microgreens that can be produced using seeds from different plant families. Common ones include the Brassicaceae family which has radish and watercress or the Amaranthaceae family which has plants like amaranth, beet and spinach. Depending on their variety, microgreens can be sour, bitter, spicy or neutral - but are generally regarded as pretty strong & concentrated.
Are Microgreens the same as Sprouts?
Negative, but close try. In Lesson 10 of our Curriculum, we explain that microgreens are not any one type of plant but refer to a stage in a plant’s development.
After seeds germinate (forming sprouts) they grow to become microgreens within roughly 1-2 weeks followed by baby greens, mature plants (which are the veggies we typically consume) and flowers. Microgreens are the first leaves that the plant makes, right after sprouting.
Growth stages of the Pea Plant, Adopted from Lesson 10, ©Livin Farms, thehiveexplorer.com
In the image above you can see the different life stages of the pea plant - which apply to most vegetable plants. Notice microgreens standing tall at stage 2 of this process.
Why are Microgreens beneficial?
We won't beat around the bush with this one (#punny), they are extremely nutritious! Microgreens are at a stage in their growth process where they are the most concentrated with nutrients - especially vitamins. It is estimated that they are up to 40 times more nutritious when compared to adult leaves of a plant!
We'll get a little science-y on you for a second so that you know what you're really in for. According to Franks & Richardson (2009), microgreens contain phytonutrients which can help maintain the bodies health, especially for anti-inflammatory processes & immunity. They also contain certain stabilizers which have been linked to cancer resistance and hormonal balance. Typically, many vegetables contain these properties, but they are never at sufficient quantities to significantly benefit our health. That's the amazing thing about microgreens - they bring a brilliant nutritional profile in sufficient quantities for us to experience a real effect.
Benefits of a few types of Microgreen seeds:
1. White Mustard Seeds
These microgreens are definitely a Livin Farms team favorite because of their spicy and peppery flavor. They're also extremely easy to find, and grow the quickest in our experience. These punchy greens are dense with Vitamin's A & C which help with inflammation & immunity, with a decent amount of proteins, calcium, iron and fiber - all essential for healthy cells.
2. Beetroot Seeds
Beetroot is famous for it's purple hues, and these beautifully bright reddish microgreens reflect the same. Beetroot microgreens have more nutritional value per calorie than their fully grown counterparts! They are full of Vitamin K, which is essential for bone health and contain more iron than spinach, believe it or not!
3. Daikon Radish Seeds
Radish microgreens are widely regarded as some of the fastest growing seeds, ready to eat in a little over 10 days. These tiny leaves tend to have a peppery taste, adding the perfect zing zing to your dishes. Not only do they improve your skin and aid in weightloss, they are also rich in vitamin B6 which improves cardiovascular health.
4. Broccoli Seeds
Baby broccolis have up to 40 times more nutrients than their fully mature versions, containing larger quantities of of magnesium, zinc and copper - all of which you can consume in a matter of 10 to 14 days after germination.
What do I need to grow Microgreens at-home?
Our DIY Microgreens Home Growing Kit includes:
a. Enough seeds for two rounds of growing and harvesting. Remember that microgreens have unique nutrient and flavor profiles so this gives you a lot of room for experimentation in the kitchen.
b. A growing bowl - You can grow microgreens in just about any container, it’s one of the things that makes them so easy to grow. We suggest a 12in x 12in glass bowl to begin with, as you’re just getting the hang of things. Also, a transparent container allows you to see the roots growing down into the water, which is a great learning process. If you’re looking to become a hobbyist or long-term grower, simply size-up by investing in a growing tray or multiple containers. Let’s just remember to avoid single-use plastic :-)
c. A base - To soil or not to soil? You will see mixed opinions about this one, but we’re going for the easy, DIY, guaranteed solution so we’re giving you soil-less hydroponic sponge growing instructions down below. It's also much easier to replant new seeds into the same container after harvesting, without the mess of soil. The basic idea is that we want to provide the plant with a reservoir for nutrients, support and space for the roots to breathe. Read more here.
d. At last we have a *special gift from our mealworm friends; mealworm gold, which you can read about below.
*please note that this item is complimentary when purchasing our kit.
Mealworm Poop is Gold
Here at Livin Farms, we consider mealworm poop to be equivalent to gold. Mealworm poop is just a natural by-product of mealworm farming, which is what we do with our Hive Explorer.
It is rich in Nitrogen (6.7%), Phosphorous (2.6%) and Potassium (1.8%). Nitrogen can help plants grow upwards, Phosphorous helps with the health and growth of roots, and Potassium promotes all around good health for the plant. One of the greatest advantages of our mealworm frass vs. chemical fertilisers is that it is a slower release of nitrogen and eco-friendly, as it comes from the digestion of food waste (Read more here).
To make mealworm poop (frass) tea, simply:
Process 1 : Mix 5g (1 teaspoon) of frass with 300g of soil
Process 2 (Make Poop Tea):
Step 1: Mix 1.5g (¼ teaspoon) of frass with 1L of water
Step 2: Let the mixture sit for up to 3 hours
Step 3: Sieve the mixture to remove the sediment
Step 4: Water your plants!
💡 Pro tip: The Livin Farms team suggests putting your frass tea in the receiver of your pot, to allow it to absorb via the roots & capillaries.
🚨 Disclaimer: Please avoid inhaling or rubbing the frass onto your skin as mealworm frass can cause similar allergies to shellfish due to the chitin content. Please handle with caution and you'll be fine!
How do I set it up?
- Grab your growing bowl and arrange 3-4 hydroponic sponges tightly.
- Dampen your 1-ply tissue and carefully lay it over the sponges.
- Set your newly set up growing bowl aside and in a separate container it is time to make the frass tea (or poop tea!).
- Follow the instructions in the previous section to prepare your frass tea.
- Fill your container to the ¾ mark: using ½ of your poop tea and ½ with water.
- Carefully lay your micro green seeds on top of the moistened tissue and put it in a place that gets ample sunlight!
- Cover your seeds with a lid to create a mini greenhouse effect, the temperature and moisture will work together to create a more even germination.
- Once the seeds have germinated, feel free to remove the cover and allow the greens to grow freely.
- Remember to water your greens daily, or every two days, depending on whether or not the water has evaporated from the bowls. We recommend using a spray bottle for ease of handling.
💡 Pro tip: Adding a single layer (ply) of damp tissue paper on top of your hydroponic sponges helps prevent your microgreen seeds from bouncing off the surface of the cotton.
Voila! Homegrown microgreens sitting on the window ledge.
Enjoy your greens in a smoothie, salad or as a topping to your favorite dish! And remember, give them a good rinse before using them. Tag us @livinfarms on Instagram!Happy growing folks!