Getting Started With Microgreens on Your Farm
Microgreens are popular in home gardening, farming, and for chefs worldwide. People have been drawn to them for beauty, flavor, health benefits, and commercial purposes. Also, they are quick food crops and ideal if you have limited space. With so many advantages they are definitely a crop to take a look second look at for your farm.
With the advantages, there are however some things you should know before getting started growing microgreens. They do require some knowledge and growing skill. We're going to cover some of the basic tools that you need to make might make growing microgreens less daunting. This guide covers all the essential details you need to get started with microgreens on your farm.
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are young seedlings of edible plants such as vegetables or herbs. You can harvest them after the cotyledon leaves have developed with one set of true leaves.
You can use them as nutrition supplements, flavor, and texture enhancement to other foods. They add sweetness and spiciness to your food, and you can also use them as garnish.
Don't confuse microgreens with sprouts. Sprouts germinate in water for one or two days to produce underdeveloped leaves. Microgreens grow in soil and take fewer days to produce leaves than sprouts.
Benefits of Microgreens
One of the essential benefits of Microgreens is they contain valuable vitamins and nutrients. They are more nutritious than their mature counterparts. The high nutrient density is because microgreens are harvested after germination when all nutrients for plant growth are still present. Also, microgreens are grown in a safer environment and don't have food-borne illness risks.
Microgreens are packed with flavor
Microgreens are a delicious and colorful addition to many dishes. You can use them to add flavor to your food and complement salads, smoothies, and more.
Quick and easy to grow
It's quick and easy to grow microgreens on your farm. You'll require a few supplies depending on the type of microgreen you'd like to grow. Depending on the variety they area quick crop to grow. You can harvest most varieties of microgreens within 10 to 28 days of sowing the seed.
Microgreen growing is space-efficient
Growing microgreens allows you to utilize just a small space. You can utilize a limited piece of land (other other area) and get a high yield and do this over and over. You can also use racks to maximize vertical space. Make sure there is sufficient water, light and air circulation for them to thrive.
They have many health benefits:
Microgreens are nutrient dense because they contain most of the energy the plant has stored in the seed. By harvesting them early the energy is still there and is able to be consumed. That is why there are so many health benefits for eating microgreens which you can pass to your customers. Here are just a few health benefits of microgreens:
Microgreen have been shown to contain anti-inflammatory properties that activate proteins that serve as a defense mechanism against oxidative stress. This means the support cardiovascular health since oxidative stress is one of the leading causes of cardiac diseases.
Consumption of microgreens is associated with reduced risk many cancers like colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic, lung and breast cancer.
They have may help strengthen the immune system. Vitamin C is a vital nutrient for boosting the immune system. Microgreens provide Vitamin C adequately, strengthening the immune system and making you less susceptible to illness.
Further, microgreens help protecting bones. Your bones need vitamin K and microgreens contain it in abundance. Lack of Vitamin K will increase the risk of fractures and reduce bone strength.
They may help improve digestion. Microgreens contain vitamins C and B, essential to enhance iron absorption. Iron helps to turn food into energy and growth of gut microbes, which help to digest food. They are also a great form of fiber.
Materials needed to grow microgreens.
The materials you'll need to start growing microgreens include the following;
Seeds You'll need to purchase seeds from your convenience store, gardening center, or online. You can buy them in bulk to save on cost, as you'll receive discounts. However, most microgreens seeds will remain viable for a few years if you store them in a dry, cool area. It's best if you use seeds that are new.
Growing medium Soil is one of the popular mediums for growing microgreens. You can mix the soil using potting soil, vermiculite, perlite, and compost.
Growing trays Growing trays are essential materials that you'll need when growing microgreens. They are of different sizes, and you can choose the right size depending on the number of seeds you want to grow. Ensure the tray has drainage holes for better farming practices.
Growing mats Mats are easy to use and help distribute water evenly in growing trays. A woven hemp mat will hold water well, reducing the number of times you have to water the microgreens.
Lighting Microgreens require light to photosynthesize and grow. Typically, they need 6 to 8 hours of light a day after the seed sprouts. If they lack light, microgreens will become pale and weak. Therefore, ensure your farm and your system allows enough lighting for microgreens.
Heating mats It's essential to provide ideal conditions for germination seeds when growing microgreens. The roots grow better in warmer conditions, and a heating mat will provide the necessities. It increases the germination rate and the percentage of seeds that will germinate. Also, a heating mat will keep the microgreens warm during winter.
Harvesting tools Depending on your microgreens portfolio, you might need scissors or knives/blades for harvesting. Ensure the tools are sharp to make harvesting effective and more enjoyable.
pH Up/ pH Down They are chemicals used to adjust the pH of the water. Usually, pH increases pH, and pH down lowers the pH. pH down consists of food-grade phosphoric acid, and pH up contains potassium hydroxide and carbonate.
How to grow Microgreens in 9 steps
Follow these steps if you want to get started in growing microgreens on your farm.
Get ready: Gather all the materials (shown above) needed for growing microgreens.
Sanitize: Sanitize your growing trays using warm, soapy water. Also, spray it with hydrogen peroxide and rinse it out after 10 minutes. Lastly, dry off the tray using a clean cloth.
Pre-soak the seeds: most seeds require soaking before spreading them over your soil. Submerge your seeds in a jar filled with water for soaking and ensure the water is sufficient.
Prepare the trays: Put soil in a tray with drain holes and ensure the soil is fine without large particles like wood or stone to allow the seeds to germinate and develop properly. Spread the soil evenly and gently, tamp it flat, and dampen it by misting it or spraying with water.
Spread seeds: Spread the seeds evenly across the tray to avoid overseeding. Ensure there is enough room so all seeds get enough light, water and air.
Water and cover: Cover your seeds with a light layer of soil to increase the humidity for better seed germination. Mist the soil evenly and set the tray at a desired germination temperature. Depending on the species, uncover and mist regularly. Avoid excess moisture.
Uncover: Uncover the tray when the baby leaves of your plant first emerge.
Expose to sunlight: ensure the microgreens get plenty of sun for better development. Check it regularly and water it when necessary until harvest time.
Harvest: Most microgreen species are ready for harvest ten days after sowing. You can harvest some types as early as seven days; most plants will not last 14 or 15 days before harvesting. Use the scissors to trim the microgreens above the soil line.
Types of Microgreens
Almost any type of vegetable or herb can be grown as microgreens. Some of the commonly grown microgreens include;
Radish: Radish microgreens are one of the easiest and fastest microgreens to grow. You can harvest them 7 to 10 days after sowing. In addition, radishes are delicious and add some peppery flavor to your food. You can choose not to soak the seeds, but for higher yields, it's better to soak them.
Sunflower microgreens: Sunflower microgreens are a prevalent type. It has a nutty flavor and similar taste to a sunflower seed, making it an ideal addition to soups, salads, and sandwiches. Sunflower microgreens grow quickly, and you can harvest them within 7 to 10 days. You'll need to soak the seeds in cold water 8-12 hours before sowing, and they need to be grown in soil.
Peas: Peas are a popular type of microgreen and are ideal for beginners. They are sweet with a tender flavor and are a great addition to smoothies, juices, and salads. You can harvest peas after true leaves open, which will happen 10 to 14 days after sowing. However, if wait just a few days more the leaves will get bigger and become more tender and sweet. Try growing them a few different way to see which ones you and your customers like best. Remember to take good notes so you know what you did on each growth cycle and stage.
Other types of microgreens include;
Issues facing Microgreens growers
Growing microgreens is effective, but you can face issues such as;
Mold Mold is the most common problem that microgreen growers deal with. Mold appears as black soot or white cobwebs and ruins microgreens. Mold can be caused by a few different things like bad drainage, high room humidity, over-seeding and poor ventilaiton.
Excess moisture Excess moisture will cause molds, leading to bacteria. Also, poor drainage in your farm will increase humidity leading to molds. The soil needs to be moist and not drenched. It should be spongy and not muddy if you press your fingers into the ground.
Poor air circulation Insufficient airflow leads to mold formation in microgreens. You can install fans near your microgreen growing tray for better air circulation and to reduce humidity, reducing mold formation.
Over-seeding Over-seeding causes a high density of stems leading to poor air circulation. Poor airflow will lead to molds.This can also lead to poor, late or inconsistent germination. The seeds might be fighting for resources if you're having germination issues.
Falling over There are a few reasons this might happen but check your water (they need a lot) and they might need more light. Watering from the top also might be causing this issue. Spray instead so the water force doesn't make them sag.
Tall and Leggy Plants They may need more light. There is a balance with microgreens because you keep them in the dark for some period of time. Blackout time for mocrogreens should be 3-5 days max.
Poor Environment Your environment is very important when growing microgreens. Many things can happen if you don have the right humidity, light intensity, nutrients, water and temperature. Take care that they are getting the conditions they need. Taking good notes and being attentive will go a long way here.
How to prevent mold on microgreens
Apply the following tips to prevent the growth of Mold on microgreens;
Clean your container to prevent bacteria or microbes from infecting your microgreens.
Sanitize your seed by soaking it.
Avoid overseeding for better air circulation.
Maintain the proper soil moisture for the microgreens
Use substrate pads instead of soil
Fungus gnats are another problem that microgreen growers face. Excess moisture is the leading cause of the issue. Fungus gnats are dangerous as they can carry fungal diseases.
You can eliminate the fungus gnats by setting a trap near the microgreens. You can pour an inch of apple vinegar into a cup, add drops of dish soap and mix it thoroughly. Then, cover it with plastic wrap and poke a small hole. Fungus gnats will fly into the trap and won't be able to get out.
Washing and storing microgreens
A microgreen harvest season is an exciting time for a farmer. But first, you need to learn how to wash and store microgreens properly.
You'll need to wash microgreens whether you applied pesticides or your growing medium. Washing helps to remove harmful bacteria, yeast, and more. You can wash microgreens using various techniques, such as
Rinse and pat with a paper towel; Rinse your microgreen with cold water and pat them thoroughly and gently using a paper towel.
Dunk in water and shake it off; if you grow microgreens on a small scale, this technique will work well for you. Dunk the top inches of the microgreen into a bowl of clean water and shake off the excess moisture.
Salad spinner; Put your microgreens in a basket of your salad spinner, rinse them with cold water, and spin. Remove excess water and remove the microgreens and dry them.
Microgreens are best when fresh as possible. But if you're going to the store, you must learn how to do that effectively. Depending on the species, you can store them for 7 to 21 days.
Avoid wetting the microgreens in the refrigerator to prevent a stinky and mushy mess. Use a paper towel and keep them covered until you're ready to use them.
If you're marketing the microgreens using bags, leave ample air that increases the size of the bag to protect the fragile shoots.
Growing microgreens is a fun and rewarding activity. The activity is beneficial and a great way to utilize your farm. The process is easy, but there are pitfalls to avoid and steps to prevent getting it wrong.
The steps are straightforward; even a first-time grower can grow successful microgreens on their farms. You can farm them for domestic use or commercial purposes to make money. But regardless of the reason for growing microgreens, the above guide will be helpful to get you started successfully.