Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
February, 2010
Regional Report

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Microgreens may be small, but they bring a wide assortment of flavors to salads.

Microgreens Are Big

Looking for a fast, easy way to grow some of your own food at this time of year? Microgreens are the answer. Expensive to buy at groceries and a popular item at restaurants, microgreens are nothing more than young seedlings of lettuce or other salad greens and herbs. While you may not be able to grow enough for a crowd, you can certainly supplement meals with this vitamin-packed, home-grown addition.

What Can You Plant As A Microgreen?
First of all, think lettuce, any and all kinds. There are so many different varieties of lettuce now, giving you a wide range of leaf colors, tastes, and textures. Then, there's the whole range of other salad greens, like arugula, beet greens, endive, spinach, amaranth, and watercress. Asian greens supply lots of possibilities, including tatsoi, mizuna, and bok choy. Or, try super-nutritious broccoli, kale, mustard, and cabbage. And young pea shoots taste exactly like peas! For herbs, basil, dill, fennel, and cilantro are some of your best choices. Seed mixtures of salad greens, such as mesclun, that you've grown in the garden work well as microgreens. This is a good way to use up leftover seed.

How To Grow Microgreens
Any container that is at least 2 inches deep is your starting point; the clear plastic containers that salad greens come in at the grocery work well. Use a knife or scissors to cut several holes in the bottom. Put in one to two inches of soilless potting mix and moisten. Sprinkle the surface with the seeds so that they are about one-eighth to one-quarter inch apart. Cover with one-eighth inch of moistened potting soil. Loosely attach the lid.

Set your seedling container on a tray that holds water, and set it in a location that gets bright but not direct sun. Check every day or so to see if additional water is necessary. Once the seeds germinate, remove the lid and continue to water as needed. If the seedlings are stretching a great deal, move to brighter light.

The first leaves that appear are called seed leaves. These usually don't look anything like the "true" leaves of the plant. These are followed by the plant's true leaves. Once the first one or two sets of these true leaves are developed, it's time to harvest, usually about ten days to two weeks after planting. Simply snip the microgreens just above the soil level and enjoy.

Sad to say, you won't get another harvest. This is an "instant gratification" project. Some gardeners have been successful in using the soil and container for a second crop, or you can just immediately add it to the compost bin and start again. By starting seeds for microgreens every week, you'll have a continuous supply.

How To Use Microgreens
Obviously, the primary use of microgreens is mixed with "full-size" salad greens, but they're also a great addition to sandwiches. Or try them in stir-fries. The glory of microgreens is that they're quick and easy, plus they provide the opportunity to experiment with different flavors. Broccoli is spicy hot, while peppergrass is, well, peppery and Bibb lettuce is sweet and mild. If you don't eat your microgreens right away, store then in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

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