Introduction: Hello gardening friends, have you ever thought of growing hydroponic Microgreens? well, it is as easy as growing other leafy veggies. Microgreens are the second stage of a plant’s life after the seed sprouting where roots establish themselves and the first leaves (called cotyledons) emerge. Microgreens are harvested at this stage before the adult stage leaves appear. Plants in the microgreen stage are typically at their peak of flavor intensity. Microgreens are extensively used as toppings, garnishes, flavorings in salads, and features in many up-market dishes and are sold as a high-value product in various stores and supermarkets. After knowing the lists of benefits of microgreens you must be thinking How to grow microgreens, friends it simple do hydroponics.
A step by step guide to growing hydroponic Microgreens
Microgreens are slightly larger than a sprout but smaller than a baby salad leaf and will usually have produced at least two true leaves after the expansion of the seedling leaves or the cotyledons. Because microgreens are harvested at such an immature stage, therefore seeds are sown at a high density to maximize yields for each crop.
While a varied range of plant species are grown as microgreens, some are produced specifically for their healthy compounds and properties and these have found a slot in the market within the health food industry as well as being popular with home gardeners. While they may seem tender and delicate, most microgreens are quite easy to germinate and with just five days from seed to harvest for a majority of the quick-growing species, even the most impatient grower will be satisfied and happy with the results.
Microgreens are also perfect for those with a limited indoor growing space – as less as a few square inches can produce a crop packed with the distinctive flavor of the mature plant but in a small, compact, and highly nutritious form.
On a slightly larger scale, microgreens can even make a profitable commercial crop, well-suited to soilless production techniques, hydroponic nutrition, and a regulated growing environment to give a high-quality, clean, and chemical-free product.
Advantage of growing Microgreens Hydroponically
1) Less water consumption
You can re-use the water in your hydroponics systems, meaning they require about 20 times less water than growing in soil.
2) They can be grown anywhere
A hydroponic setup can go in your basement, a garage, or even inside of a shipping container. You can grow microgreens all year round.
3) More control
Growing your microgreens hydroponically means you have complete control over how much of each kind of nutrient your plants are getting. You can regulate fertilizer balances for each individual microgreen crop that you wish to grow.
4) No composting, no mess
You don’t need to worry about tracking soil all through your house or accidentally spilling a tray of dirt on your carpet. You also don’t need a place to dispose of all your used soil, so hydroponics are great for growing for instance in apartments.
5) Some microgreens grow well hydroponically
Some microgreens like wheatgrass, kale, and kohlrabi prefer to grow hydroponically and will produce better yields than if they were grown in soil
Commonly grown hydroponic Microgreens
Microgreens broadly fall into four main categories. Shoots and tendrils such as pea, sunflower, and corn shoot are commonly used as garnishes, although they all have their own mild and somewhat characteristic flavor. Spicy greens consist of arugula, radish, cress, and mustards.
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Micro herbs take in those used not only as garnishes but also for their characteristic flavor such as parsley, fennel, edible chrysanthemums, cilantro, basil, French sorrel, mint, dill, chives, onion, and shisho (perilla).
Tender greens are exceptionally assorted in their flavor, leaf size, leaf shape and it’s color and comprises of red cabbage, broccoli, spinach, beet (red), tatsoi, mitzuna, amaranth, chard, kale, corn salad, endive, chicory, celery, carrot, and lettuce.
Requirements for raising hydroponic microgreens
You can buy 10″ x 20″ plastic trays from any gardening store, which is the standard size that many experienced microgreens growers suggest. Make sure to get ones having drainage holes, or otherwise, you will need to poke some holes in them yourself.
It’s suggested to buy organic authentic seeds. Make sure you avoid using any seeds that have been treated with fungicides. There are varieties especially bred for microgreens seeds favorite and highly appreciated for hydroponic microgreens business.
T5 fluorescent lamps
T5 fluorescent lamps are usually preferred by microgreens growers, but regular CFL lights will also work as well and are normally cheaper. If you have access to natural sunlight you may skip the installation of grow lights. Grow light doesn’t need to be intense and these young seedlings can even produce well under propagation lamps provided the lamps are not producing too much heat, which may burn the tender young foliage.
Coconut coir, hemp mats, or moisture-retaining grow media is preferred for growing microgreens. This will provide the roots of your microgreens the right to encourage something to grab onto and help them stand upright.
pH test kit or strips
To check what the pH of your nutrient solution is in the right range. Your nutrient-enriched water might already be at a good pH level to grow microgreens, but it’s good to test to be sure about it. If not in range then you can make any necessary adjustments.
A spray bottle
Preferably you should buy a brand new spray bottle that has never contained chemicals or been used for any other purpose because you will need to spray water to your edible microgreens.
Ideally, search for a product that’s organic and specifically designed for growing microgreens hydroponically. But if you can’t find that, any general hydroponic nutrients will also work quite well for microgreen. Some people would suggest that microgreens get the majority of their nutrients from the seed and don’t need extra nutrients added to the water but that’s a half-truth. The nutrient solution should be applied regularly and carefully to the developing microgreens to avoid flooding the microgreens and wetting its foliage, which will, in turn, encourage fungal diseases, and also one should make sure that the fresh nutrient solution is being flushed through the developing root zone, oxygenating and feeding the seedlings properly.
Sutable system for growing hydroponic microgreens
Hydroponic systems for growing microgreens can be as easy as a small, flat, hand-watered kitchen tray or as complex as an aeroponic, ebb and flow microgreens or nutrient film technique system. You can also start having microgreens with hydroponic microgreens system DIY, ideally, the growing system requires microgreens growing tray having a flat, slightly sloping surface onto which the growing mat/ hydroponic microgreen pads, paper, or cloth can be laid out and wetted down. Most of the hydroponic setups used for microgreens don’t utilize a continual flow of nutrient solution, but the alternating application, followed by a period of drainage of the growing mat/pad or substrate holding sufficient moisture around the roots between subsequent watering.
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Cutting at appropriate height is important, as high-quality microgreens need a good, clean portion of stem below their leaves, but should not be cut so low as to risk contamination with the growing media or material where seeds were sown into.
This becomes particularly essential if a light, loose, granular media has been used for microgreen production, as to grow media particles can easily be picked up during the harvesting process and may contaminate the product. Clean, sharp scissors are appropriate for cutting microgreens on a small scale, while larger growers may use mechanical harvesters.
During warm growing weather, microgreens, just as with herbs and lettuce, are best harvested early in the day when its foliage is coolest and most turgid. This will ensure prolong the shelf life of the packaged product.
Hydroponic Microgreens care
Maintain your microgreens growing at cooler temperatures (of about 60 to 70 degrees F, or 15 to 21 degrees C) to facilitate protection against pests or fungus. Although warmer temperatures can also speed up your growing cycle which is undesirable, so find the ideal temperature that works best for you it varies crop to crop. Making sure your microgreens are getting enough light is usually equally important as growing temperature.
If your microgreens appear to rot or getting infected by fungus, it better to discard the entire tray and pad. Before use sterilize the tray with a weak bleach solution, or with vinegar for a more organic option. Make sure you rinse your tray extremely well before using it for growing again.
If your plants are rotting, either you’re likely overwatering them or you’re spreading your seeds too thickly. Microgreens’ roots need oxygen to grow, so if they’re completely submerged and you aren’t using an air pump to oxygenate the water, they can die or become susceptible to root diseases because of deoxygenated condition.
If your plants are wilting, you’re most likely underwatering them. Your grow pad should be not kept soggy, but just damp. Growing your microgreens hydroponically can be a fine balance between underwatering and overwatering that takes time to get it right.
Be watchful to your trays for bugs. You want to catch them early and eliminate them right away, instead of letting it develop into larger trouble.
Keep your operation clean. After all, you’re growing an edible product! Follow basic food safety cautions like sterilizing your trays, using good quality water, and being sure to wash your hands before you handle your microgreens.
Extra ventilation can help to get rid of any sort of odor in your grow system.
Regulate your lighting facility. If you observe pale crops, you might need a stronger light source. But if your crops are getting burned, they might be getting too much light and heat. Some crops like turnips, mustard, and arugula are way more sensitive to light. For these crops, you’ll have to move your grow-lights further away, use a lower wattage, or reduce the amount of time that your lights are on.
If your crops are generally weak, you might not be keeping them in the dark for a good time. Let your crops stay in darkness for an extra day or two. This will give them more time to build up stronger roots.
Once harvested, microgreens will not re-grow. So don’t rely on re-cutting simply dispose of the spent grow pads once harvesting is done.
There is no problem in sowing multiple crops in the same grow tray, in fact, it’s a good idea! You can easily segregate your seeds into separate sections of the same tray, as long as the harvest times are reasonably similar or manageable.
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