Growing your own does not require a large garden. In fact, it is something that you can do on a smaller scale without any garden at all. Growing micro-greens is a small-space solution anyone can employ. Even if you do have a large garden, you can still learn a lot, and increase your yields, by embracing solutions usually employed by those who only have limited space. Growing small green shoots of common crops is just one of those strategies.
You can grow micro-greens in a polytunnel or greenhouse, in a cold frame in your garden, or on a sunny windowsill inside your home. But what exactly are micro-greens? Which micro-greens could you grow? How do you grow them? And why exactly would you want to do so? Read on to find out more and discover the reasons why growing micro-greens at home can be such a wonderful idea.
What Are Micro- Greens?
Micro-greens are small sprouts of seeds, which are harvested early – while they still have their first leaves. Ready just a matter of days after sowing, micro-greens are one of the easiest options for those looking to grow their own.
These take very little time and effort, and they can be sown throughout the year. It can be particularly beneficial to grow micro-greens in a windowsill indoors over the winter months. Though they can be grown indoors or under cover in a polytunnel or greenhouse throughout the year.
Many leafy green vegetables can be sown and grown for this purpose, though members of the cabbage family (Brassicas), other leafy crops like cress, beetroot, chard, and a number of leafy herbs are common options.
Remember, these are often simply smaller, younger versions of the plants that can grow to full size as edible crops in a garden. The nutritional content of each one will, of course, depend on the plant family to which it belongs. Different plant families have different nutritional profiles.
How to Grow Micro-Greens
The process of growing micro-greens is very easy. All you will need is some seeds, a seed tray, planting flat, small pots or other suitable containers, and a suitable growing medium.
Containers for these are usually filled with a suitable potting mix, or even another substrate such as paper towel or cotton saturated with water. (Micro-greens are also sometimes grown hydroponically, in water, in a hydroponic or aquaponic system.)
The most straightforward way to get started with sowing is to fill seed trays (or suitable reclaimed containers) with a seed starting potting mix:
Step 1: Prepare your containers and seed starting compost.
Step 2: Press the seeds gently into the surface of the growing medium, and cover them over lightly with a little more of the potting mix.
Step 3: Place them on a sunny windowsill to germinate. Germination should only take a few days, and most micro-greens will be ready to eat within a week or so. (They will take a little longer in the winter than they do during the summer months.)
Step 4: Harvest your micro-greens by either cutting the small leaves and stems off at the base, or by pulling them up roots and all and rinsing off any potting mix before eating.
Step 5: Add your raw, fresh micro-greens to salads, pop them in sandwiches or wraps, or use them as garnishes for other meals throughout the year.
Some Micro-Greens to Grow
Almost any crop that you grow in your garden can be grown for micro-greens. This can be a good way to use up excess seeds that you do not need for full-grown crops in your garden before they are no longer viable. However, some great micro-greens to consider are:
These are just some of the options which can yield good results. But there are plenty of other micro-greens that you could consider growing for their taste and health benefits.
The Benefits of Growing Micro-Greens
Micro-greens and micro herbs often provide health benefits because they concentrate the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and therefore pack more punch than full-sized plants.
Vitamin levels can be up to 40 times higher in micro greens than they are in full-sized plants.1 The mineral element composition of a number of different micro-greens has been analysed, And many varieties have been shown to be high in health giving essential minerals such as potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.2
Whether or not these tiny plants are higher in health giving nutrients depends on the varieties involved. But for many types of plant, they are.
While more scientific study is required, studies have suggested that certain micro-greens can:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and lower levels of bad cholesterol.
- Lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
- Enhance cellular sugar uptake in those with diabetes.
- Lower risk of Alzheimers disease.
While we must be cautious about drawing conclusions too soon, it does seem clear that micro-greens and micro herbs, with their concentrated nutritional profiles, do have an enticing range of health benefits.
Add to these health benefits of eating micro-greens the other advantages:
- The options to grow food in even the smallest of spaces.
- Year-round food production, unlimited by the seasons and weather.
- The ease with which you can grow these, with little investment and time and effort…
And you will find it very easy to see why growing micro-greens and micro-herbs at home can be a very good idea.
Do you grow micro-greens yourself at home? Share your tips, comments and experiences by using the links below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.