Micro Greens - First Experiment

David Trammel's picture

One of the foundations of Green Wizardry, in my opinion, is a working knowledge of plants and how to grow your own food. You may have a brown thumb and what you plant dries up and blows away, but as a Green Wizard you should be able to offer suggestions and advice to those that can grow.

As a first step, Sprouts and Micro Greens, make a good introduction. Even if you are a renter and have very limited space to grow, sprouts and micro greens offer a way to supplement your diet. While I have had some success with a small garden, of typical tomatoes and peppers, micro greens are something I'm unfamiliar with the challenges of growing.

So lets get started with experimenting...


Micro Greens are the technique of growing leafy vegetable like lettuce, kale and mustard greens from seed for a short time, typically 4-6 weeks and harvesting those plants before they grow large and full. Early leaves often have increased nutrition and vitamins, making their addition to your diet helpful.

While you can grow micro greens in just about any handy pot or container, they are commanly grown in green house "flats". These are plastic containers of a uniform size (21 by 10 1/2") and a large clear plastic cover, which allows humidity to be maintained while the seeds sprout.

You can see the way that moisture is kept high when the cover is on in the left hand flat. That one actually has peat pots starting carrots, not micro greens.

Notice something in the right hand flat. I'm not growing my micro greens in the flat. Instead, I am using a slightly smaller flat I got at the garden nursery, when I bought plants this year. It is the kind you get smaller groups of 1, 4 and 6 cells in.

You can see that the nursery flat is slightly smaller and it has holes in the bottom of it. This allows the nursery people to water the plants and not worry about too much water. The cells also have holes in the bottom.

The full size flats, with covers, I purchased from a nearby organic grow store, which is the same place I bought my grow lamps last year. Suprisingly such flats are very economical, just 8-10 dollars a piece (with lids). They had some with holes but I didn't check to see if they would fit inside the ones without. I suspect those are for hydroponic systems where the flats sit in a larger container and draw nutrients upward through the holes.

Notice the small gap in the first picture, about a half an inch. This was very convenient when I wanted to water the flat. I could simply pour a small container's worth of water into the lower flat, and the holes in the upper would wick the water upward and feed the plants.

The smaller size of the nursery flat, allowed the lid to fit snugly to the lower one and keep humidity high inside the combination.

WARNING: When I first started this experiment I bought several "Jiffy Seed Starter" kits at Home Depot. They are like the organic grow store flats only much thinner and not as high quality. They come with 50 peat pots which I thought would be a plus, for starting seeds of other plants. Unfortunately on every package of these Jiffy Seed Starters, the edges of the lids were crushed and unusable. The cardboard packaging bent the edges and you could not fit the lids to the bottoms. Also even on sale, they were not cheaper than the more robust flats I bought at the organic grow store. Don't waste your money.


Ok here is a nursery flat with some soil in it.

Notice the way it sort of self divides into six smaller sections?

I made a mistake and just seeded the entire flat with seeds. Micro greens have gained enough popularity that many of the major seed companies now offer a mixed "Microgreens" packet. Burpee offers one with 20% Beet Detriot Red, 20% Cabbage Pak Choi, 20% Kohirabi Purple, 20% Broccoli Di Ciccio and 20% Radish China Rose.

I seeded this flat with two of those packets.

In hindsight, I can't tell which plant varieties grow well and which don't. I also suspect that the the varieties chosen by Burpee, were picked for a pleasing color mix, not necessarily for their growth. Take a look again at the first picture. I'm wondering if most of my seeds didn't sprout.

A better way would be to seed each variety to a individual section, as I will do in my next experiment, and see which plants grow quickly and which take more time. Micro greens are all about getting as quick a harvest as possible. Hopefully in less than 4 weeks. Something you have to wait 4-6 weeks or longer to harvest is not worth the effort.

I also surface seeded, which as you can see here from an early picture caused a lot of very thin sprouts.

I think I needed to stir the soil a bit and get some of the seeds deeper int the ground.

My biggest screw up was not documenting what I did better. I let my enthusiasm for the experiment, make me forget to note when I seeded these. Ball park I think these have been growing over a month now and not yet ready to harvest.

I figure give them a week and they are salad.

More experimenting to come...

David Trammel's picture

So I ended up giving them about 3 more weeks before I did a harvest on them. Last weekend I took the flat into the kitchen and got out the scissors.

If you look closely at the leaves you'll see I have quite a variety of plants. Don't know what they are though, lol.

First impressions....rather stringy. I harvested the stems as well as the leaves and the stems were thin. Very thin. I think surface seeding isn't the way to go. That or trim the leaves for harvest better.

Next up, seeding a couple of flats with single plant type seeds into each of the six cells only. That will give me a idea of what each seedling leaf looks like and how long they need to grow before they can be harvested. I've got a pretty motley selection, since I'm going through what I have in the plastic container of seed.