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Eating microgreens is a great way to add variety and nutrition to your diet. But these days, you’ll spend a pretty penny stocking up on greens at the grocery store every week. If you’re anything like us, you’ve started wondering about growing microgreens yourself.
You’ll be happy to know that getting started couldn’t be easier!
Even if you have no gardening experience or have struggled with plant care in the past, modern technology makes the process practically foolproof.
One of the crucial pieces of equipment you’ll need is a microgreen rack. There’s a lot of different ways to set everything up—you can go basic and do everything manually or invest in gear that automates most of the process.
In this guide from Herbspeak, you’ll learn everything from basic set-ups to state-of-the-art systems. You’ll also learn what features to look for while you shop. In just a few short minutes, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to choose the perfect microgreen rack for you.
Basic Microgreen Rack Setup
Thanks to ever-evolving hydroponic technology and the power of LED lights, a “basic” microgreen rack is anything but rudimentary. 67% of American adults are now growing or planning to grow edible plants in their garage or spare bedroom. (1)
This constant innovation is a double-edged sword.
While you have endless options for your own microgreen rack setup, new products are constantly being introduced to the market. It can be hard to know when you’re looking at a handy new feature versus unnecessary bells and whistles.
“Humans have 12,000 years of experience growing food, but only a generation or so worth of experience growing crops indoors. We are still progressing up the technology learning curve.”
With all of this in mind, now we can talk about the features a good basic microgreen rack should have. You’ll want to look for a rack that:
- Has no plumbing hookup requirements
- Doesn’t automatically water your microgreens
- Is made of a durable, waterproof material (bonus points for an epoxy coating)
- Has dimensions compatible with your microgreen trays
You don’t have to pick a rack specifically designed for microgreens. Many multipurpose wire shelves are made of stainless steel in a variety of sizes.
Wire shelves have the added benefit of being easy to set up. Assembly is pretty quick, and you have lots of places to put zip ties for securing lights, fans, and cables.
The Best Microgreen Rack System/Setup
I’ve checked out quite a few microgreen racks over the years. But in my opinion, the best microgreen rack on the market is the Automated Vertical Propagation Rack from Bootstrap Farmer.
I love this one because it does 3 main things better than any other rack:
- It is a vertical grow rack, which gives you the ability to expand and add more shelves or trays easily
- It arrives on your doorstep fully assembled and ready to start growing
- The timers and the flood/drain system both work flawlessly—no cheap construction or parts
Personally, I don’t enjoy repeated trips to the hardware store and trying to engineer vertical rack systems myself. But if you want to scale up your growing, you have to use a more refined system than shelves and manual watering.
For a long time, you had no choice but to struggle through figuring out all the details. But this all-in-one microgreen rack lets you focus on farming instead of engineering.
Alternatively, here’s a DIY budget rack that fits my recommended trays perfectly.
How to Build a Microgreen Rack Fast and Easy
If you’ve never tried growing microgreens before, you’ll want to start with a multipurpose shelving system and a few other things. Doing it this way will take a bit more time to set up than a done-for-you kit, but it’ll also be much cheaper.
Supplies You Need for This Build
Here are the basics you’ll want to guarantee your garden gets off to a good start:
- Wire rack or shelf (I recommend wire because it’s less likely to rust)
- Small fans for circulating air (1 per shelf of microgreens)
- LED grow lights or a window that gets lots of sun
- Timed extension power strip (you might not need it, but better safe than sorry)
- Microgreen trays (here’s a comparison guide of different trays)
- Zip ties (easy to pick up from the hardware store.)
Setting Up the Rack
How you set up the wire rack shelving depends on the manufacturer. I suggest checking to see if the assembly instructions are available online before you make a purchase. Read through the manual to make sure the instructions make sense to you.
There is nothing more frustrating than starting a project like this, just to struggle through the assembly process because of a bad manual.
In my experience, most of these grow rack systems are easiest to put together from the bottom up.
Installing the Fans
Attach the fans with zip ties at this stage to make the process smoother if you dont have clamp fans. I like to place them on each end of each shelf. Remember not to point them directly at the shelves—that can damage your microgreens.
If your shelves are several feet long, it might be worth installing a fan in the center of each shelf too. You should be able to zip tie it through the wire shelving without much hassle.
The last thing to keep an eye on is each fan’s power cord. I’ll get to cable management shortly, but for now, just make sure the cords can reach your power strip outlets.
Attaching the Lights
Just like with the fans, you’ll zip tie the lights underneath each shelf. Stay mindful of the power cords. Ideally, all or most of the cords will be on the same side of your rack. If you can pull it off, plugging everything in will be so much easier.
Don’t forget to plug the lights into your timers at this stage, too.
Final Touches and Cable Management
The cable management is a matter of how neat you want things to be. I like to zip tie the cords along each shelf and pole, so nothing dangles or tangles. This makes it a pain to adjust the microgreen rack setup, so feel free to wait until you’re sure you like the layout.
Once everything is to your liking, you can start setting up the microgreen trays themselves! This part is so satisfying. All your hard work comes together. And in just two weeks or so, you should have your first harvest.
Can I grow microgreens in my house?
Yes, you can easily grow microgreens in your house.
That’s the beauty of using a microgreen rack—they’re designed to have a small footprint and not take up too much space in your house. Microgreens are also some of the fastest growing and easiest to grow edible plants, so you don’t have to be a gardening expert. (3)
The only thing to keep in mind is window access.
Microgreens need hours of light, ideally natural sunlight. If you don’t have a window in your home or apartment that gets a lot of sun, you might need to purchase lights instead.
Even if you plan to sell your microgreens, you might be able to grow them in your house. Every local jurisdiction has different laws relating to safe growing practices. Before you purchase a microgreen rack and other supplies to start your business, find out what’s legally required in your area.
Do I need a grow tent for microgreens?
No, you don’t need a grow tent for microgreens. But they can be very helpful in certain situations.
Here’s the thing. The bigger your space is, the more gear you’ll need to keep growing conditions optimal. If you live in an older home that gets very drafty in the winter or an apartment that bakes like an oven in the summer, you’d benefit from a grow tent.
A grow tent makes your grow space smaller, and therefore easier to control. You only have to maintain the climate in a small space rather than an entire room.
But especially if you use a microgreen rack like my favorite from Bootstrap Farmer, a grow tent isn’t necessary.
How many microgreen trays fit on a rack?
How many microgreen trays fit on a rack depends entirely on the rack you purchase. The nice thing about my top choice is that it’s available in different tiers.
Using my recommended rack from Bootstrap Farmer has an example…
The smallest option, which is 3 tiers, holds 12 trays for fodder, wheatgrass, and herbs.
The mid-size, which is 4 tiers, holds 16 trays for propagation, germination, and microgreens.
The largest, which is 5 tiers, holds 20 flats for microgreens and sprouting.
Luckily, you can do this calculation yourself no matter what microgreen rack you ultimately choose. All you need are dimensions of the rack and trays you plan to use. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, so you can truly pick what works best for your space.
First, check the rack’s product description for dimensions of each shelf. Then check the tray listing for its dimensions. Divide the length of each shelf by the width of each tray.
For example, let’s say each shelf is 80” long and each tray is 9.5” wide. These are both fairly common sizes. 80 divided by 9.5 comes out to 8.42. This means you can fit 8 trays on a shelf, with a bit of room in between each. Perfect!
How Many More People Could You Feed with the Right Vertical Farming System?
There’s nothing wrong with using a glass baking dish and a measuring cup when you first start growing microgreens. That exact setup is an affordable way to make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy—without wasting hundreds of dollars on specialized equipment.
But once your interest in microgreen farming really takes root, you’ll realize just how many people you can feed with your new indoor garden. Being smart with your vertical farming system (or investing in a cutting edge done-for-you microgreen rack) opens the door to feeding more people.
And speaking from experience, I can’t overstate how good it feels to share something I’ve grown with the people around me.
1. Forbes, The Landscaping Industry: How Far It’s Come and Where It’s Headed
2. Forbes, Investing in Vertical Farming: Five Take-Aways
3. Better Homes & Gardens, Our Guide to Growing Microgreens Indoors
4. Gardening Know How, Wind Injury to Plants – How to Fix Wind Damaged Plants