I Changed My Mind About Microgreens

Microgreens have become very popular in recent
years, and seem to be a key crop for many market gardeners, especially in an urban context. It’s been fascinating to watch the development
of this relatively new crop or method of growing, and to see the diversity of different techniques
that other growers have been pioneering. I’ve learned so much about this from watching
videos from other growers, although I didn’t think it was so relevant for me, given the
context and scale I grow in. Microgreens are typically presented as a high
value product, that is produced within the context of supplying high end restaurants
or access to wealthy urban markets. I didn’t get the sense that it was a useful
crop in the context of people growing their own food, or when supplying a local rural
markets and small communities, like I’m in. But late last year I thought I’d try growing
microgreens, as I was interested in exploring this way of producing food, and to try to
help fill a bit of a gap in supply of salad greens over the winter. Having grown quite a few batches since then,
and tried out a number of different methods, I have now changed my opinion about microgreens. Microgreens
are quite a bit different from other methods of growing salad greens or other vegetables. Basically it is harvesting plants at the very
beginning of their growth, just after they have started to produce leaves, and a new
batch of seeds has to be sown for the next harvest. Growing microgreens is not really viable unless
you can get access to large quantities of inexpensive seeds, and even then it can be
quite expensive compared to the amount of harvest that you can get. There is a huge diversity of different types
of plants that you can grow in this way, though I’ve generally stuck with peas, sunflower
and radish, plus occasionally some kale. This type of cropping has a very short growing
cycle, with only 2 to 4 weeks from sowing the seed to harvesting, depending on type
plant and growing conditions. Microgreens are often grown in flats or trays
of growing medium or potting compost, generally inside a polytunnel or some other type of
controlled growing environment. Some other growers have had success in producing
microgreens directly in the garden soil, and although this seems a bit less common I’ve
had pretty good success with it. I started growing microgreens in flats or
trays late last autumn, and I grew them in a heated propagation space that I had built,
which was going to be empty over the winter. I was using a variety of types of trays including
the wooden flats that I had built for raising seedlings in soil blocks. It seemed a good way to make use of this infrastructure
and equipment at a time when they were not needed for other uses. I was surprised that they grew reasonably
well despite the low light levels of the winter months, although there were some losses and
other issues as I figured things out. But because I was growing a new batches every
few weeks or so, losing an occasional batch wasn’t such a big deal for me. I also found that the quick turnover very
useful, as it enabled me to learn quickly, much faster than with conventional growing,
where I often have wait until next season to try again. It was also interesting to get into the weekly
routines of soaking seeds, and spreading them out onto the flats of growing medium or potting
compost. And I found that keeping the flats stacked
in the warmth inside my house for a few days after sowing, really sped up the germination
rate, before moving them to the propagation space to grow,
Later in the season when the propagation space started to fill up with other seedlings, and
as the weather warmed up, I started to move the flats into the unheated Polytunnel Garden
instead. I generally harvested as much of the crop
as I needed each day, and it turned out to be a very useful supply of salad greens throughout
the winter and into the early spring. Later in the spring I switched to growing
microgreens directly in the soil in one of the beds of the Polytunnel Garden, mainly
because the propagation space was starting to fill up with other plants. But I also wanted to move away from sowing
them in trays or flats, because I didn’t wan’t to continue to buy in more and more
bags of the growing medium. I set out one garden bed that was 1 meter
wide and 6 meters long, and sowed one square meter at a time with a different mix of types
of seeds, with a new batch being sown roughly every week. By the time I was ready to sow the 7th batch,
the first batch would have already have been harvested, allow enough time for the the remains
of this previous crop to be dug in. For each sowing I would ensure that I started
with a fine seedbed, before evenly spreading the seeds directly onto the flat surface of
the soil. I would then cover the seeds with a thin layer
of additional soil or compost, which apparently helps the growth in this context, though I
haven’t done much of my own exploration about how useful this is. Once the seeds were watered in, I covered
the section of the bed with a plastic lined board, which was weighed down by a pallet. It seems that this weight above the seedlings
helps them to root properly, and prevents the seeds from drying out, but it needs to
be removed a few days later so that the seedlings can develop leaves. I found that this method of growing microgreens
directly on the surface of the garden soil, was an effective way to grow the amount of
microgreens that I could manage in a week, and I was surprised how productive they could
be. I was regularly harvesting about 2.5kg each
week of very tasty and nutritious microgreens from each square meter of bed, after only
2-3 weeks of growth. With a continual replanting, a bed dedicated
to growing like this could potentially produce a lot of microgreens over a full year. As this polytunnel started to fill up with
other summer crops, I shifted away from growing the microgreens in a dedicated bed, and tried
growing them as an infill crop among the other plants instead. This seemed to be quite a useful way to use
the space after the successional harvesting of early potatoes, which were only being harvested
a few plants at a time. As soon as enough space was available, I would
rake the soil to produce a flat seedbed, sow the seeds, cover with compost, water in, then
then cover the seeds with a board for a few days. The microgreens seemed to grow quite well
in this context, right beside the actively growing potato plants, and it all seemed to
work out reasonably well. Because the very young microgreen plants would
not have started to pull a lot of nutrients out of the soil, I felt that there wouldn’t
be many issues with competition, and this seemed to be the case. I just needed to make sure that there was
enough soil moisture, and that they were far enough away from the potatoes so that there
wasn’t too much over shadowing. And I needed be a little bit more careful
when harvesting the adjacent potato plants. Growing microgreens in this way, as a type
of succession or infill planting to make use of part of the bed while the rest of the crop
was being harvested, I think has real value in an intensive growing space like this. There are of course some issues with growing
microgreens, and perhaps the most significant is the amount of seed that is required, and
this can cause it to be quite expensive. With the other crops that I have been growing
in the gardens, the cost of the seed is usually very low and typically insignificant compared
to the amount of food that one seed can produce. This isn’t the case with microgreens and
one of the reasons that I was uneasy about growing them in the first place was that it
seemed a waste of the seed to harvest the plant so young. This is still bothers me a bit, and I’d definitely
like to explore the possibilities of growing my own microgreen seeds. Some of the other issues that I came across
included the expense of the growing medium that I was buying in order to grow the microgreens
in flats. I can appreciate that for many market gardeners,
the ease, convenience, and reduced risk of buying in specially prepared growing medium
for this is a big part of the process, and definitely worth the cost. For those of us growing at smaller scale,
I think there’s other options, and for me, it seems to make more sense to grow microgreens
directly in the soil of one of my gardens. I have had some issues with mould, which apparently
can be an issue with microgreens, and perhaps it is harder to control when grown in the
soil. I have also occasionally had problems with
seed germination and I wonder if this may be due to a build up of disease organisms
in the soil, or that the decomposition of the remains of previous crop may be causing
some of these problems. And I wonder what kind of issues would develop
if I was to continue to grow a succession of microgreen crops in the same bed for a
long period of time. Growing them as a scattered and an occasional
crop between other vegetables is an option that seems to work well, though it can make
it more difficult to plan and to maintain a consistent supply. But making use of these small spaces in the
garden combined with occasional growing in flats, may be a useful combination for small
scale production, or for somebody growing just for themselves. Another issue that i had from while in the
polytunnel, was that mice kept eating a lot of the sunflower seeds, and making a mess
by burrowing out of sight under the cover board. This was a hassle, and I tried a number of
different methods to get rid them or to deter them, and ended up reverting to sowing sunflowers
in flats again for a while. Then I realised that I had typically spread
seeds right up to the edge of the cover board, and sometimes beyond, which made it far too
easy for the mice to locate the crop. I found that if I didn’t let any sunflower
seeds come close to the edge of the cover board when I was sowing them, this seemed
to prevent the mice from being able to find the seeds. This was a really simple solution to a tricky
problem, and it’s worked so far. Overall I’m quite impressed with the possibilities
of growing microgreens, and with how productive they can be. I’ve found them to be very useful when other
crops are not so available, whether this is due to poor planning on my part, or some disease
or pest issues, or because of natural variations in the seasons. If I feel there might be a gap coming up in
what I can harvest from the gardens, or if there is limited variety available, then sowing
a range of microgreens can really help. I think that this is perhaps the greatest
value for people growing food for themselves, and to share with neighbours, as well as for
community farms and market gardeners. Microgreens can help make it easier to be
self sufficient in vegetables throughout the full year, or at least in this climate. And I didn’t expect to see microgreens as
part of developing the resilience of our food supply systems, especially for those of use
who grow our own food. Assuming that I can continue to buy seed at
a reasonable price, or to grow enough of my own, then microgreens can be a way to quickly
supply nutritious greens when problems develop, or if disaster strikes. I also think that microgreens can be a really
valuable way to learn how to grow, or to begin to grow your own vegetables. The really quick time between sowing and harvesting
means that we can learn a lot faster and explore a lot of different possibilities in a short
time and in a small space. This is something that could take years and
a lot of effort and space with conventional crops in a garden. And this is perhaps one of the most interesting
benefits of growing microgreens.

100 thoughts on “I Changed My Mind About Microgreens

  1. Thank you for this, I have been considering growing some, but only because my sunflowers have produced a tremendous amount of seeds, too small for anyone but a bird or squirrel to shell and eat. I grow the sunflowers because the bees (so many interesting types!) really just show up for the party when I have them, and the seeds just seemed like a kind of squirrel attractant. I don't have surpluses of other seeds, but maybe I'll let a few kales or radishes go to seed and see how it goes. Now if I only had chickens – yours look happy!

  2. I'm impressed with you. What an excellent comprehensive discussion addressing a variety of pertinent issues. Beautiful rich looking garden bed soils with abundant organic matter. I agree with a natural inclination to plant fewer seeds while allowing more growth prior to harvest. Slugs must be an issue in your moist climate while earwigs (not my favorite insect) do help control aphids.
    Great Video!!!

  3. How productive would it be to use microgreens as quasi-green manure? In any case, I use microgreen seeds as a cheap source for seeds for plants I intend to grow as adult plants. An example is a host of pea and sunflower plants that I have growing in my front garden beds.

  4. Very interesting, my same thought on microgreens although my emphasis was on fodder for livestock than my own dinner table. I like the idea of using them as ground cover between other garden crops. great insight and now you have me reconsidering the process.

  5. I really value this channel because you are helping me decide what methods might be best for our country garden. Thank you!

  6. Thank You for sharing such a great idea for the cold er months coming up. I was really dreading the lack of tasty fresh greens, and this is exactly what I needed to know.

  7. I don't think you need a growing medium for micro-greens. Kind of defeats the purpose in my humble opinion. Check out this video for some ideas:

    Altough even then I don't like micro-greens. They are too burgeois for me.

  8. Practical microgreens. Finally. I've watched so many vids here and still wasn't sure what they were. Like it's a secret. Guess you have to go to fancy restaurants or high end grocery stores. You are sharing real innovation here. Thanks.

  9. Hello Bruce. I just want to say thank you so much for yet another great info video. I have had a packet of micro greens in my stash for so long, now I'm going to give this a try. You are very interesting to listen to, I could play in your garden all day. Sherie Rodrigues from Australia. 🥕🥦🥬 LOVE your work

  10. What do you do with the leftover roots & what not once the micro greens are harvested? Turn them into the compost or dump them for the chickens?

  11. my issue is eating this way is not really sustainable. There seems to be more nutrition in the seed itself than the resulting plant grown.

  12. it's a failure of society that you don't have more subscribers! your videos are extremely detailed and informational and with exceptional quality given all you have to do to make them AND edit them! Keep it up !

  13. great video, I allowed a couple of kale plants to go to seed and am currently using the seeds for microgreens, the benefit of allowing brassicas to go to seed is that bees love the flowers, and you know the seeds are going to be fresh. You seem to have a lot of space, maybe you could dedicate one part of a plot to seed production,

  14. Why was the growing medium so expensive? It’s my understanding that most micro greens are harvested before they really draw anything from the soil and pretty much only use the nutrients stored in their seeds. As such, the medium doesn’t really have to be fertile.

  15. I honestly find micro greens a waste of seeds a non sustainable way of producing food. I wasn’t expecting you to even consider it

  16. You are always a plethora of information. Doing microgreens for first time this season & its going well. Great vlogs & demonstrating all different ways of growing

  17. Can you imagine how much soil fertility we think we have/lose but in reality it's just not accessible. Which in my opinion is why the micro greens do so well. The top of your soil is rich even after the potatoes. Yet I'd imagine you'd expect to need to re fertilize. What if instead you grew micro greens to use as mulch? They could help recycle nutrition in the soil at the surface that most plants tend to ignore with diving roots. Not to mention the natural flow of salts and nutrients that would occur

  18. Informative, interesting, and straight to the point. Thank you for creating this amazing video, I'm looking forward to watching your channel!

  19. Hi! What about the value of seed compared to net income? in my city Bratislava they kinda do sell the seeds only packed by a few grams, and really not usable for large seeds consumption microgreens can translate to…. i would have no chance but to get them online! exactly what you mentioned in 1:30. any sources of cheap seeds worldwide? perhaps share some sources of your own? i understand you are situated in Ireland? Thanks a lot for your videos. I really love to watch them and i like the way you think about farming in general.

  20. "access to wealthy urban markets" is key to microgreens being a cash crop.
    I am interested in microgreens for the same reason you mentioned.
    Buying bird seed for microgreens is an option to get less expensive seed.
    when you grow your own seed for your crops, you will have extra. Some of those might be able to be used for microgreens.

    Thank you for another great report!

  21. Interesting. I am going to dip my inexperienced toe in this type of thing over the winter, indoors. I also supose that the remains after harvest is usefully "dug-in", sort of Clover. Thank you.

  22. online asian foodstores are a great source of bulk seeds ie fenugreek, mustard, cress (halon), basil seeds, peas, corriander and farm shops for bird seeds ie sunflower, wheat grsas seeds etc,

  23. Are these all the same crop? You mention 3 different crops grown in this way, but through the video treat them like the same crop. What was easy about one of the types that was hard about the other? I get the importance of repeating the marketing keyword through the video, but it's at the cost of a better, more informative video. Thanks for making these.

  24. Sustainability wise it'd at least be interesting to know how many plants are needed to grow a single seed tray worth of seed by seed type. For example sunflower can grow about 1000 seeds per head. There are about 280-570 sunflower seeds in an ounce[1], and if you used 9 ounces per tray[2] that's 2520-5130 seeds, or about 2.5 plants worth of seed per 10"x20" tray. A tray every 2 weeks would be 52 plants worth of seed a year. So you'd need to save 52+ seeds of the 52,000 seeds to grow more sunflower to seed next year. More for losses, germination, etc… have you got room and the climate for 52+ sunflowers per tray/year? How beneficial calories wise is that, and also for the environment in carbon sequestration and ecosystem support?

    [1] https://harvesttotable.com/vegetable_seeds_per_ounce_per/
    [2] https://www.bootstrapfarmer.com/blogs/microgreens/the-ultimate-microgreen-cheat-sheet

  25. @RED Gardens I let the occasional brassica plant go to seed, because i have bees, and they just love the offer. In fact, the dry and hot summers of late have caused a lot of plants to go to seed prematurely, and it annoyed the crap out of me. But maybe thesolution is within the problem? I was reluctant to collect like ALL of the seeds, because you frankly have no space to even grow a fraction of it out, but using them for microgreens could be an experiment worth trying? I mean, sunflowers produce a lot of seed if you can protect the flowerheads long enough from sparrows and other birds, all brassicas produce huge amounts of seed, only peas is a different story, right? Even in the onion-family you usually have a lot more seed in the seedheads than you can use up… And there's probably more…?

  26. i grow microgreens in flats year round in my basement under cheap LED lights. a few drops of hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water will eliminate any fugal or mold problems. bottom watering is also very important. keep a fan running to circulate air. love the videos!

  27. The jury is still out in the 'Squirrel household' on this one. Mrs Squirrel takes care of sprouts and they pop up in sandwiches everywhere! But I'm not convinced the cost of all those seeds for microgreens are really worth it. Plus the cost of a growing medium.

    I intend to set up a space to grow barley mats as a fodder supplement for livestock. This requires no soil of course.
    Does anybody know if microgreens can be grown in the same way?

  28. I don't know what you're paying for seed, but I've trialed sprouting seeds from evergreen health stores and Mediterranean/Indian stores. Just about everything sprouts…. 2kg of seed, example: mung beans costs 7-8 bucks from my local Indian store…. I've only trialed sprouting to see viability out of interest but will be following your idea of intercropping on my nee allotment next year… Where do you get your seed?

  29. I appreciate your thought process of whether the greens provide good value or not as much as full grown crops. I immediately wondered if the squash seeds would make good micro greens as you seems to get great crops of those, then it’s like a secondary benefit of the first crop. Thanks for something to think about!

  30. love this video as informative and real as everysingle one you upload!… loved the ideas and especially due to my really limited space the one on the wood, you mind providing the dimensions so i can try building some at home, loved that your hens like the leftovers of the harvested microgreens… that migth be the use for the left overs of mines as well.

  31. i could do with a sack of sunflower seeds, for my chickens. That amount took a lot of plants to make, say at least a 1000

  32. If you can grow your own seed, and are somewhere (like Ireland) where water is not an issue, then they are viable crops . . . IF you have a market for them. Producing your own compost or worm cast would also help a lot.
    GThat's a great tip with the covering over. Might be useful with other crops too. I also think you are right about the germination problems. Gotta keep that soil sweet and airated. Since the sprouts are mainly using up nitrogen, adding new compost would seem to be the way to go. Maybe spraying newly sprouted patches with a >1% solution of hydrogen peroxide would help them too.
    I grow my own seeds, and hope to have a go at microgreens with rocket, kale, radishes and peas this coming Spring.
    Your market garden is looking great, and is an inspiration to me, and I am sure to many others too.

  33. Despite what "experts" say, I have my doubts that microgreens have much nutritional value given their short growing cycle. If my doubts are correct, this makes them a waste of seed. But even if my doubts are wrong, it's just a plane old waste of food when you consider how much more food you could harvest from a mature plant's fruits. For the same amount of seed, you would get way more food if you'd let them grow and set fruit. This is all just a silly fad to lure in crunchy people with lots of disposable income.

  34. Be careful. In case you do not know, mouse urine and feces carry the hantavirus virus – very dangerous to humans, which is why mice have been so hated by humans for many hundreds of years. It causes Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in humans. Every time a mouse moves, it urinates a little so when you have mice, you undoubtedly have mouse urine scattered everywhere that mouse has been. Hantavirus exposure is nothing to scoff at, it's a very serious matter.

  35. I always felt a little uneasy about microgreens as i cant see how they are sustainable long term and they seem like another unsustainable hipster trend. Where do all the multitude of seeds you need to plant every 3 weeks come from?

  36. Superb taste. Extra nutrition, quick harvest..you don’t need a lot of light. Until the last few days. Win, Win, Win, Win!

  37. Another advantage in warmer climates is you don't have to worry about bolting to seed.
    Most leafy greens do not like heat.
    Also in warm climates insects are a big problem and harvesting plants very young means they don't have a chance to build up.
    Baby greens (15 to 40 days old) seem a good idea too.
    I was thinking of sowing seed not as thickly as microgreens, then thin some microgreen stage out to eat, then progressively harvest baby greens.

  38. I do my sprouts in a jar, I soaked them, for 8 hours, I rinsed them twice a day I enjoy them in a couple of days, or 5 days it just depends how how old you like the sprouts. my favorites are black sunflower seeds, mung beans, lentils. Sometimes I have 10 different types of seeds growing/ sprouting, I also sprout broccoli😱 it's not one of my favorites. Alfalfa is one of my favorites.

  39. For me, pertinent even growing for family. I grew seed in the soil garden this year, now umma put a raft hydro tank in the high tunnel for slug-free mainly cold weather brassica micro/minigreens on (cloudy rainy USDA zone 7b) northern Vancouver Island, Canada. Paris market round carrots, Bol D'or golden small turnips and onions, and probably garlic can be grown on top of small stations or baskets in a hydroponic DWC raft setup along with the minigreens. Stations only use a tbsp or so of potting soil or other inert anchor. I don't want to grow bedding plants with all these slugs. I still grow sunflower seed microgreens in flats 🙂 hehe it's nice that I can grow my own cannabis now too; as a health coach, food and medicine it is 🙂

  40. Another thought provoking video. Subbed, cause there have been a few of your vids randomly coming up that I thought were very good

  41. Very cool……never actually seen Microgreens grown outdoors. I would never think to dedicate bed space to them outside. But I love the hundred trays inside my grow garage! 😉

  42. This was really interesting! I plant microgreens and harvest 99% of them. The remaining 2 – 5 plants then take over the bed and get to grow to full size. This way I get something for my table quickly, but I also don't feel like the seeds are wasted as much 🙂

  43. Why is a growing medium a problem?, cos I live in a 1 bed flat with no garden and only a Balcony, yet I manage to make more than enough Compost from my kitchen waste to grow Wheatgrass etc in.

  44. if you can harvest the plants so early and consume the soft plant as food, then why not let the plant grow even bigger, and just keep taking away the leaves and tender shoots, and use them as food? Then we will be able to get a lot more harvest from each plant. And the plant may be able to produce some crop at the end as well. Basically we will have same kind of food as a cow. The only difference being, we will consume only the most tender parts of the growing plant. Cow would be able to eat much harder parts too.

  45. Great analysis! Having watched a few dozen microgreen growing videos, it looks like you did a good job and had fair success. Like how you used them to fill in open areas between other crops. Always enjoy watching chickens eat at the salad bar!

  46. Great video, Bruce, filled with information and tips and real life seedlings and chick peas for the chicks! Laying hens love wheat and barley seedlings too..

    I still think using trays is a better solution, even if you just end up putting the germinated trays in the same harvested potato place. Trays give you more control over germination, like heat, light, water and mold, for these first critical days.
    Trays are also probably easier to understand and handle when it comes to sharing or working with kids.

    I think you can probably use free aged rain-washed carbon-rich (leaves, brush) compost as the basis for your seedling potting mix instead of buying expensive substrate. Seedlings don't really need much nutrients at this stage, mostly a light soil. A big pan of boiling water over the soil in a basin will kill pathogens such as mold. Seedlings don't need the "good" bacteria, they do fine on a neutral sterilized substrate, as they are harvested before they develop a large roots system.

  47. Thanks for the info… I too was thinking this would be a huge waste of seed ($$$) for the little amount of food given in return.

  48. As you started talking about the economic viability of growing micro greens – mentioning the overhead of buying in seeds and growing medium, why not do the whole job and show the costs and revenues, so viewers can decide if it’s worthwhile. You presumably sold the greens to restaurants. What price was charged per pound or kilo for different types? Did you package them in any way, and if not, how did you keep them together and keep them fresh until delivery? What were all your costs when growing in f,as? And in open ground? This could have been a much more useful video. Why not do the maths and show results in a sequel?

  49. Great assessment, but I'm still not convinced. I was growing mung bean and alfalfa sprouts in the 60's and 70's. I live in the Mid-Atlantic region and have a high tunnel that produces more than enough to share. If it fails, I can go back to the mung bean and alfalfa sprouts. All I need is a jar, cheesecloth and water!

  50. Thank you for the video.
    I'm thinking of supplementing my own winter diet with homegrown micro greens, so this video was Interesting.

  51. I am a noob home gardener, I have done gardening but only simple stuff like sun chokes (and I don't even eat them lol I just let them live in the back yard), etc.

    Inside I am trying to grow Basil. I was into the idea of micro greens until I realized continually buying seeds sucks and would overall be a bunch of work managing new seeds all the time.

    My thought process is that Basil leaves can just be picked and the plant can be divided and propagated indefinitely.

    That being said I've been having hard time finding the true nutritional quality of basil.

    Are there other greens that have good nutritional value that you can keep in a pot and just prune it as needed? I like that basil is so easy to care for and just grows all the time, no need to buy more and more seeds. If you want more you just cut a piece off and let that become a new plant.

    I know I need to be eating more greens, but I'm very frugal and I hate "waste". Basil seems very low waste and low cost for what you get. You can buy a plant for like a buck at the store then just get basil all the time.

    If basil does have good nutritional value then I'm just gonna keep growing that cause it's easy and cheap.

  52. Wonderful vid 🙂 My goal is to plant microgreens, harvest/eat most, let some reseed. We'll see how that works here in SoCal.

  53. 9:35 is that Agribon or some similar fabric covering that greenhouse?  What happens when it rains?  I use agribon and was wondering if you could make larger structures using it.

  54. I came to the conclusion years ago that chickens hate the colour green and it must be destroyed whenever they see it. Top video.

  55. i think you are a true asset to the people, thank you my brother ! you are unscientific and yet very scientific / you use real world application and get real world results. God bless you my brother and friend, keep up the good work

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