Microgreens are a wonderful introduction to the world of indoor gardening. The term “microgreens” refers to various small, young plants. Not only are they easy to grow, but they also pack a nutritious punch. However, before you start sprouting your first seed, you’ll need to know how to select the right seeds and determine the correct amount to use for your growing setup.
Seed Quality Matters
When choosing seeds, quality is crucial. High-quality seeds will germinate more consistently and produce healthier plants. Many companies, including True Leaf Market, offer organic, non-GMO seeds that are specifically tailored for microgreen production.
When selecting seeds, think about what kind of flavors, textures, and nutritional profiles you want to introduce into your meals. These seeds usually come with a higher germination rate, meaning you’re likely to get more plants sprouting from each seed packet.
The Issue with Bird Seed
Every now and then, you hear about someone trying to grow microgreens from bird seed. Bird seed is crafted with our avian friends in mind, not for optimal plant growth.
When you use bird seed, you’re stepping into unknown territory regarding how many of the seeds will actually germinate. Unlike specialized microgreen seeds, bird seed doesn’t come with a germination rate listed on the package.
Moreover, bird seed is often a mixture of various kinds of seeds, which could include species that are non-native or invasive. Additionally, these mixed bags are also often treated with chemicals aimed at extending their shelf life or preventing bird diseases, but these additives could be harmful if consumed by humans.
Garden Seeds Have Their Limitations Too
People often ask what the difference between microgreens seeds are, and seeds for typical gardening plants. In most cases, the answer is: nothing. There’s no difference between the two types of seeds. There is, however, a difference in how these seeds are processed, packaged, and sold.
On the surface, garden seeds might seem like a suitable alternative. Unfortunately, many garden seeds are treated with fungicides or other chemicals to help them resist diseases; these chemicals may not be something you want to ingest. Even if you are purchasing quality gardening packets, the number of seeds in the packets aren’t suited for the trays typically used for growing microgreens, which can affect how evenly the greens grow. Seeds meant for full-size plants may also have different germination times and conditions, making them less reliable for the rapid and uniform sprouting you’d expect from microgreens.
While garden seeds might appear cheaper at first glance, you’d need to purchase a lot to get the density you need, and their potential for lower germination rate makes them less cost-effective in the long run. It’s best just to purchase from a reliable microgreens seed supplier.
How Much Seed to Purchase for One Tray
The amount of seed you’ll need for a single tray depends on the type of microgreen you’re growing. Here’s a general guide:
- Small seeds (e.g., basil, arugula): About 0.5 to 1 ounce per tray
- Medium seeds (e.g., mustard, kale): 1 to 1.5 ounces per tray
- Large seeds (e.g., sunflower, pea): 2 to 3 ounces per tray
These amounts can vary, so it’s always a good idea to consult the seed packet for specific recommendations.
Figuring Out Seed Ratios
Calculating seed ratios can seem a bit complex, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. The seed ratio—basically, the amount of seed you’ll use per square inch of growing space—is an important factor in the success of your microgreens.
Using the right amount of seed helps ensure uniform growth and maximizes yield, while also preventing issues like mold or poor ventilation. The process involves simple math and some familiarity with the seeds you’ll be using.
First, learn about the type of microgreens you are using. Different microgreens have different seed sizes and germination rates. Always consult the seed package or supplier’s recommendation for a good starting point. Next, you’ll have to decide what size tray you are using. The dimensions of your growing tray will directly influence how many seeds you’ll need. The most common tray size for microgreens is 10×20 inches.
First, determine the surface area of your tray. Common trays often have a size of 10×20 inches, which gives you 200 square inches.
- Calculate Seed Density: Divide the recommended amount of seeds by the tray’s surface area.
- Example: For arugula, 1 ounce per 200 square inches would be 0.005 ounces per square inch.
- Adjust for Multiple Varieties: If you’re growing more than one type of microgreen in a tray, divide the tray into sections and calculate the seed density for each variety.
- Example: If you’re growing basil and kale together, and each requires half of the tray, you’d use 0.5 ounces of basil seeds and 0.75 ounces of kale seeds.
Determining the seed ratio for your microgreens involves more than just a handful of seeds sprinkled onto soil. A precise ratio helps to ensure a healthy, robust harvest.
By calculating the surface area of your tray and understanding the recommended seed density for your chosen greens, you can make informed decisions that will pay off in the quality of your microgreens.
The Assurance of Specialized ‘Microgreens Seeds’
When you choose specialized microgreen seeds, you’re opting for seeds that have been specifically designed for this purpose. Companies like True Leaf Market offer seeds that are often organic and non-GMO, and they’ve been rigorously tested for high germination rates. These features offer an extra layer of confidence, ensuring that your microgreens are both safe to eat and successful in growing.
Tips for Seed Storage
Proper seed storage is crucial for maintaining the seed’s viability—the ability of the seed to germinate successfully. If you’re growing microgreens or any plants, for that matter, knowing how to store your seeds correctly can save you both time and money, allowing you to plan your planting schedules more flexibly.
Seed packets for growing microgreens are often resealable, but you can also transfer them into airtight containers for added protection. Three factors primarily affect seed viability: temperature, humidity, and light. Ideally, seeds should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry environment. These conditions during storage can mean the difference between seeds that sprout energetically and those that struggle or fail to germinate at all.
- Temperature: A consistent, cool temperature is essential. Room temperature can work, but a spot that’s consistently between 32°F and 41°F is even better. Many people store their seeds in the refrigerator for this reason.
- Humidity: Low humidity levels are crucial to prevent mold growth and other moisture-related issues. Utilizing silica gel packets can help absorb excess moisture in seed storage containers.
- Light: Darkness helps maintain seed viability. Always store seeds in a dark place or use opaque storage containers to block out light.
Is It Cheaper to Grow or Buy Microgreens?
The economics of growing versus buying microgreens can vary depending on several factors, such as the cost of seeds, soil, trays, and grow lights if you’re growing indoors. Generally speaking, growing your own microgreens can be more cost-effective in the long run. Initial setup costs for trays, soil, and possibly grow lights can add up, but once you’ve got your system in place, the recurring costs are mainly for seeds and perhaps some additional soil or growing medium.
On the other hand, buying microgreens at the store or farmers market can be relatively expensive, especially if you’re opting for organic varieties. A small clamshell container of microgreens can cost anywhere from $5 to $10 and will last for just a couple of meals. Over time, these costs add up, making growing your own a cheaper alternative if you plan to consume microgreens regularly.
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What Happens if You Let Microgreens Keep Growing?
Microgreens are harvested when they are young, just after the first true leaves (known as cotyledons) have developed. If you let them continue to grow, they will mature into full-sized plants, assuming they are provided with enough space, nutrients, and appropriate growing conditions. However, there are some caveats to consider:
- Flavor Changes: As the plant matures, the flavor will also change, generally becoming stronger and sometimes more bitter.
- Nutritional Differences: Microgreens are prized for their higher concentrations of nutrients compared to their mature counterparts. As the plant grows, these nutrients get distributed throughout the plant, reducing the concentration in the leaves.
- Space Requirements: Microgreens are grown in close quarters, ideal for their small size. Full-sized plants will need more room to grow, which could become an issue if you’re growing indoors or have limited space.
What Is the Most Popular Microgreen?
While it’s difficult to definitively say which microgreen is the most popular, some contenders for the title are often found in kitchens and restaurants alike. Arugula, basil, and radish microgreens are commonly cited as favorites.
- Arugula is popular for its peppery kick and is commonly used in salads and as a garnish.
- Basil microgreens offer a sweet, aromatic flavor perfect for dishes that call for a burst of freshness.
- Radish microgreens provide a spicy zest and are excellent in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish.
Each of these microgreens brings its own unique flavor and nutritional profile to the table, making them versatile options for culinary use.
One Step Closer to Nutritious Taste
Choosing the right seeds and knowing how much to use are key factors in successful microgreen cultivation. Always opt for quality seeds from reputable sources like True Leaf Market, and don’t hesitate to experiment with different varieties and quantities. With these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying fresh, homegrown microgreens in no time.