Growing Organic Microgreens in the Backyard

Introduction to growing organic Microgreens in the backyard

What are Microgreens?

Microgreens are nutritious healthy food grown quickly from seeds in good light with adequate moisture. Seeds are sown in a soil medium or seed raising mix and are ready to eat in 1 to 3 weeks. These baby greens are harvested before they become full-size plants. They only require minimal cost, time, and effort to grow. Growing Microgreens in the backyard is simple. All you need is a sunny window, potting mix, a shallow container, and the seeds to your favorite microgreens. Organic Microgreens are higher in nutritional value than mature vegetables and are much easier to grow.

A step by step guide to growing organic microgreens in the backyard garden

Microgreens are grown in small mud, plastic pots and shallow trays with drainage holes. The growing medium mainly consists of soil, pot mix (soil, compost or animal manure, coir pith, tank silt, and fertilizer micronutrients) or peat moss. They are planted at low seed density. Seeds are soaked in water for 12 hours and then drained and then pre-germinated for in a moist cloth for 24 to 36 hours. Pre-germinated seeds are sown thinly on the soil surface in pots and covered with a thin layer of soil (twice the thickness of seed). The soil is kept moist or wet by spraying water 2 to 3 times a day. Microgreens are just miniature plants of greens, herbs, and other vegetables. Like sprouts, the microgreens are a concentrated nutrient source and packed with beneficial enzymes because of their rapid growth.

Potting soil for growing organic Microgreens in the backyard

The best potting soil for Microgreens is about 80% organic material (peat moss, coconut coir, sterilized compost), mixed with 20% perlite. Microgreens are seeds grown in a soil mix or a fiber mat that grow under indirect sunlight with adequate moisture levels. Great microgreen growing soil mixes are safe for organic gardening, have high water retention, yet still allow for air pockets in the soil. They have a balanced pH level (often with limestone) and will contain a little bit of organic fertilizer. The best growing media for home microgreen gardens and the ingredients that make these potting mixes successful. Planting Soil works the best, but you can use any soil from your garden too. The soil should not have any chemical or pesticide quantities, to grow Microgreens organic and healthy.

Selecting the best growing media for microorganisms

Growing media categories are;

Soil-based – Use a planting mix that drains well, is free of clumps and stones, and doesn’t compact easily. Then you are harvesting the crop at about 1-3 inches in height, it’s not critical to have a lot of nutrients in the soil mix, so adding any nutrients must be done conservatively.  You’ll want to keep the surface of the soil damp, but in many cases, keeping the soil too wet can lead to trouble with Microgreens. Low growing crops such as basil, for example, end up pretty messy at harvest.  The closer you can harvest Microgreens to the media while keeping it clean, the better.

Soil-less media – Soil-less growing media is comprised of different non-soil mixes. Coco coir, blends of vermiculite and perlite with an organic amendment, or hydroponic lava rock are examples of soil-less media.  They can be leveled and lightly firmed so you can have a clean surface which is important at harvest time.  This is a nice compromise choice between soil and hydroponic as the surface of the soil is cleaner than a soil media.

The main ingredients in microgreen soil mix are;

The perfect growing media is possible with the right ingredients. Then, these ingredients work together to balance moisture, oxygen, and nutrients for the roots of Microgreens while providing a solid structural base. Ingredients in high-quality microgreen growing mediums are generally coarse-grained and blended to be pH-neutral.

Peat Moss – Peat moss consists of decayed organics mined from peat bogs and it is primarily used because of its high water-retention capacity. It is generally mixed with a wetting agent to aid initial water absorption. An advantage of peat moss over compost is that it doesn’t contain any seeds from other plants. Also, due to its water retention properties, it is excellent for keeping the seeds moist as they germinate and many of the best soil mixes for Microgreens are peat-based.

Coconut Coir – Coconut Coir is a growing medium made from the husk of the coconut fruit. Coco coir is used as an alternative to peat moss or in addition to it. It is more fibrous than peat but still has excellent water retention. Coconut coir has the added benefit of being a by-product of agriculture rather than a mined substance.

Perlite – It is “volcanic popcorn”, made when volcanic rock is heated and expands. Perlite is sterile and chemically inert. It acts as a great additive to bulk organic materials that tend to hold water well, as it facilitates drainage and access to oxygen. All of the best soil mixes for growing Microgreens that used have contained a minimum of 10% perlite.

Limestone – Powdered limestone is added to the best microgreen soil mixes to balance the chemical pH level of the media. Peat moss and coconut coir can be highly acidic and need buffering with an alkaline substance.

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Common growing organic Microgreens in the backyard

Different Types of Microgreens are;

Brassicaceae family – Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish, and arugula.

Asteraceae family – Lettuce, endive, chicory, and radicchio.

Apiaceae family – Dill, carrot, fennel, and celery.

Amaryllidaceae family – Garlic, onion, and leek.

Some of the important organic growing Microgreens are;

Lettuce – Lettuces are very easy to grow, and even more so if you give them the conditions that make them thrive. Organically rich, loose garden soil is essential for growing healthy organic lettuce. Make sure to keep your garden beds full of organic compost that is easy to access for the shallow roots of lettuce plants. Generally, homegrown organic lettuce has an incredible flavor you simply have to taste to believe. Soil that has been amended well with compost and rotted manure is ideal. Soils with plenty of organic matter retain moisture better, which is important in keeping these shallow-rooted veggies happy.

Spinach – Spinach is one of the first short-season, cold-tolerant salad greens to show in vegetable plots.  Though it likes the cold, spinach is healthiest when grown in full sun and it prefers pH conditions where the soil is between 6.5 to 7.5. As a leafy green, it grows best when given plenty of moisture and nitrogen-rich compost. Animal-based sources of nitrogen such as composted manure or blood meal tend to work best. Healthy plants are not generally infested by pests and diseases. Among insect pests, leaf miners and aphids are very important which can be efficiently managed by organic pest control.

Radish – Radishes are grown organically serve up helpings of high-fiber, and high-flavor food. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 8 inches or even more and work in at least 10 pounds of good organic compost per 100 square feet. You can add a little sand to improve drainage and friability. Radish plants are related to cabbage and then suffer from many of the same problems. Since plant leaves are not harvested, more insect damage can be tolerated on foliage than other vegetable crops. If holes or tunnels are found in the bulbs, suspect root maggots and treat using proven organic methods.

Cauliflower – A cool-season biennial that is grown as an annual, it requires full sun and regular water. Prepare soil first with compost or manure and gently mix into the top layer (roughly the uppermost six inches of soil). Cauliflower is a heavy feeder and needs a good amount of nitrogen. Adding a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer at this point will benefit the cauliflower crop down the road. The soil must be rich in organic matter and nutrients. Add ample amounts of compost and well-rotted animal manure to the soil before planting. As temperatures warm, mulch the planting site with compost, plant leaves or straw to cool the soil, conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Apply a liquid organic fertilizer at 1/2 strength every 2 weeks until harvest.

Cabbage – Cabbage needs regular water, full sun to partial shade and fertile, well-drained soil. Plants thrive in soils with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. Loosen the planting bed and then mix in a 2-inch layer of compost along with a standard application of a balanced organic fertilizer or well-composted manure. Then, water the fertilized bed thoroughly before setting out seedlings. If planting from seed, sow directly into the garden 1/2-inch-deep and two weeks before the last expected frost date. It is a heavy feeder and is susceptible to many nutrient deficiencies. Apply balanced organic fertilizers every 2 to 3 weeks according to the directions on the label. Covering young plants with floating row cover will protect Cabbage plants from flea beetles, cabbage worms, and root maggots. Collars made from paper cups with the bottoms cut out will help protect young plants from many insect pests. Watch for small white butterflies fluttering around your Cabbage crops. These are the adult stage of the very destructive cabbageworm. If found, mix 1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) per gallon of water and apply when caterpillars are young. Repeat at 5 to 7-day intervals while they are active. Cabbage disease problems include damping off, clubroot, and Fusarium wilt known as yellows. Typically, they need wet leaves to spread, so avoid using overhead sprinklers, if possible.

Microgreens versus Sprouts

While both sprouts and Microgreens refer to crops that are harvested without roots at a young age, they have a key distinction and sprouts are crops that germinate and grow without soil, thoughMicrogreens are grown in a soil medium.

Here are the differences between Microgreens and sprouts;

  • Microgreens are grown in soil and sprouts germinate in water
  • The plant leaves and stems of Microgreens can be eaten; the “stem” and seed of sprouts can be eaten
  • Microgreens take around one to three weeks to grow, depending on the plant variety; sprouts take under a week to grow
  • Microgreens are packed with flavor and are used as garnishes; sprouts are great for crunch

How many hours of light do Microgreens need?

Microgreensare pretty flexible, and they will grow well on a sunny windowsill. For maximum growth, 4 to 6 hours of sunshine a day is needed, but if you don’t have that available, a simple LED grow light will supplement.

Water requirement for growing organic Microgreens in the backyard

Water is a necessary element for growing Microgreens. And, the soil being used is to be kept moist at all times. A hand sprinkler works best for the plant, and due to its micro outlets that do not let open a huge downpour of water.  Mostly recommend you to use fresh tap water instead of any chemically treated water for your Microgreens.Continue watering the Microgreens after they have been moved to grow under direct light.

The process of growing organic Microgreens in the backyard

Find a south-facing window with plenty of sunlight and install an inexpensive growlight. In warmer months, these can be easily grown outside.

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The process of growing organic Microgreens in the backyard.
The process of growing organic Microgreens in the backyard.

Growing Microgreens is very easy. If you have started vegetables from seeds, you have already done this several times. When you started seeds, you were told to give proper spacing because you need to transplant the seedlings once they germinate. With Microgreens, they are harvest just after they germinate, so there is no thinning required. Sowing thick is the method to go for Microgreens. Let’s take a look at what all you want to grow Microgreens.

  • Seed starting mix for growing Microgreens or a mat.
  • Microgreens seeds
  • Shallow Tray with drainage holes.
  • Ventilated place to keep the trays.
  • Wet towels or polythene sheets.

The first step is filling the trayandcontainer with soil. Since the roots of Microgreens do not reach that deep, 3 to 4 inches of soil height should be good enough.

After the soil is ready, Microgreen plant seeds are to be spread on the soil surface. The spacing between the seeds does not want to be completely even, so hand sprinkling works fine.

Then, place an inch of organic potting soil in the bottom of a shallow tray or planter and smooth out to be as even as possible. Alternately, clear an area of the garden for growing Microgreens.

Scatter seeds over the surface of the soil evenly. You will spread more seeds than you would if just planting the seeds to grow to full size since they will get 1-2 inches tall and you want to harvest as many as possible from each tray. Soaking the seeds overnight will speed sprouting time, but make it difficult to scatter them.

Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and spray the surface with clean, filtered water. Use an upcycled glass vinegar bottle with a misting spray top.Then, place on the warming mat, if using and under the grow light or near the window.

Mist the seeds a couple of times a day to keep the soil evenly moist while waiting for the seeds to germinate.Microgreens are usually ready to harvest in 2-4 weeks, depending on the type of seed used.

To grow another crop, remove the roots and replant or dump the entire tray in the compost and fill with more soil to replant. If you dump in the compost, some straggler seeds and make a crop of their own a few weeks later.

Organic fertilizer for growing Microgreens in the backyard

Organic fertilizers in microgreen growing media are typically sourced from compost, worm castings, or extracts from plants, animals, and rocks. It is possible to grow Microgreens without organic fertilizer; you’ll just be depending on the nutrients contained in the seed (in an otherwise inert growing medium). A gentle organic fertilizer will give nutrients for longer-lived Microgreens without the environmental cost of a synthetic chemical fertilizer.

Using organic products can not only be a health benefit, but it can also help you financially if you’re selling your Microgreens. To someone who only eats organic produce, the perceived value of your greens is zero if you’re not using organic fertilizer. Some of the organic Microgreen fertilizers are Liquid Seaweed, Rock Phosphate, Bat Guano, Cottonseed meal, Bone Meal, Fish Emulsion, Blood meal, and Alfalfa Meal.

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