The newest trend in world culinary and healthy nutrition is microgreens.
Initially, sprouts were only used to decorate ready-made dishes. But the studies carried out have proven the exceptional value of such food for the human body. Microgreens are becoming a popular type of agribusiness today, and growing a microgreen even in an apartment is not difficult at all.
Due to its rapid growth rate, bright taste, and interesting colors, microgreens are popular both in home kitchens and restaurants.
However, these small greens occupy a lot of soil because growers need to change their materials with each harvest. Another option to eliminate the confusion and costs associated with soil use is to grow microgreens via hydroponics.
It is essential to cultivate plants and microgreen plants on a hydroponic system using a nutrient solution and a growing medium.
What are Microgreens?
A microgreen is the young shoots of vegetable plants and herbs. Microgreens are grown in specially created conditions.
Sprouts contain an increased amount of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc. This is explained by the fact that they are only at the start of their development and make the most of the seed’s supply of nutrients.
Eating microgreens in food saturates us with vitamins, gives us energy, and helps cleanse the body. Sometimes microgreens are confused with sprouts, which are also popular.
But in fact, these are technically different phases of plant development. Sprouts are only grown seeds and microgreens are the stage of plant development when the first two leaves appear.
The stem and leaves can be eaten, while the seeds and roots remain in the substrate. In the seedlings grown in water, everything is eaten.
Microgreens taste much more pronounced than seedlings. Growing microgreens takes longer than growing seedlings which were 1-3 weeks.
Microgreens can grow actively without the use of any fertilizers and stimulants. The supply of nutrients and vitality in the seed is enough for active growth. Thus, the resulting microgreens are environmentally friendly and organic products.
Microgreens aren’t one species of plant, but rather plants that are harvested at a specific stage. Some microgreens are ready when only their cotyledons are present, and other types are harvested after the plant’s first true leaves appear.
Microgreens are closer to baby greens, as they are considered nutritious, just their stems and leaves. However, they are much smaller and can be sold before harvest, as opposed to baby greens.
Different varieties of Microgreens
There are a huge number of varieties of microgreens. We can grow almost any type of vegetables, salads, herbs, cereals, and legumes.
Let’s talk about the most popular ones:
Coriander: It has a pronounced specific piquant taste and aroma. It contains many vitamins, trace elements P, K, etc. Coriander is useful for the cardiovascular system.
Arugula: Its greens have a slightly bitter taste, ideal for meat and fish dishes. It has a high content of ascorbic acid, flavonoids, strengthens the immune system.
Beetroot: It goes well with salads and main courses. Contains many vitamins, microelements, has a tonic effect, has a positive effect on digestion, strengthens the immune system.
Radish: It has a pungent, piquant taste, goes well with meat dishes and salads. Radish microgreen contains many minerals, trace elements, vitamins. It has a decongestant effect, improves digestion.
Chives bow: Ideal for snacks. The microgreens of this onion are thin blades of grass with a pronounced but mild onion taste and aroma. Has the ability to destroy bacteria, cleanse the intestines.
Sunflower: It has a pleasant aroma and sweetish taste, suitable for salads, meat dishes, soups. This microgreen contains high-quality proteins, fats, lecithin, vitamin A. It stabilizes the acid-base balance, strengthens the nervous system, and slows down the aging process.
Peas: Differs in fresh aroma, crunchy structure, and sweetish taste. Emphasizes sweet and salty flavors, suitable for salads (including fruit), sandwiches. It is rich in protein, vitamins A, B, C, E, phosphorus, fiber.
Red cabbage: Differs in a high content of carotene, ascorbic acid. Tones up, strengthens the immune system, normalizes digestion.
Reason for choosing Hydroponic Method
Growing plants using hydroponics can provide plant products for people living in different natural and climatic conditions. This method is effective and affordable, it allows us to grow plants all year round under normal and even extreme conditions.
In this case, the plant turns out to be environmentally friendly, since it grows without soil, which can contain a large number of substances harmful to human health. Microgreens are young shoots of plants with a high content of nutrients.
Hydroponics makes it easy to create conditions for the growth of plants of different types, to save water. Hydroponics makes the laborious work of cultivating and fertilizing the soil unnecessarily.
How to Grow Microgreens Hydroponically?
Growing microgreens hydroponically is easy to do, even if we don’t have prior experience with hydroponics. Just like with other hydroponic crops, microgreens rely on a nutrient solution and soilless growing medium.
The main difference with microgreens is the short growth period and number of seeds. Rather than growing one head of lettuce or one tomato plant, we’ll be growing hundreds of tiny greens.
No matter what specific hydroponic method we use, we’ll need the following items to get started:
- Microgreen seeds
- Nutrient solution
- Growing medium
Balance the pH of the water
Since water is such an important part of growing hydroponic microgreens, the water we’re using must have the correct pH.
Most microgreens perform best in water with a pH of 6.0, so we might need to lower the pH of our tap water before adding it to our hydroponic system.
Provide proper lighting
Proper lighting assures that our microgreens receive the energy they need to grow. Lighting can be natural or provided via grow lights.
LED shop lights are an inexpensive way to get started, but we can also use LED bar lights designed for plants. If we notice our microgreens are spindly and reaching for the light, we need to supply more light.
Adjust room temperature
Most microgreens germinate and grow best at a temperature of 70°F. If we’re trying to grow microgreens in a room with a colder temperature, we can place our growing tray on a heating mat to raise the temperature around the microgreens.
Select a quality nutrient solution
Although hydroponic microgreens can germinate and grow with just water, they will perform better if we supply a proper nutrient solution.
Plants don’t need much phosphorus in their early stages of growth, so look for a fertilizer with an NPK ratio close to 4-1-4 or 6-1-5.
Growing microgreens with a Tray and Pad
One popular way to produce these hydroponic microgreens is by using a growing tray and growing pad. These pads, made from organic materials such as hemp and coco coir, are made to fit precisely in the trays.
The pads absorb the supplied nutrient solution, providing the seeds with the moisture they need to germinate and the microgreens with the nutrients they need to grow. To get started with growing microgreens hydroponically with a tray and pad, follow these steps:
- Place the pad into the tray, and pour the nutrient solution over the pad. The pad should be saturated, but remain uncovered by the solution.
- Sprinkle seeds over the pad. We want the seeds to be densely packed, but not touching. For small seeds including arugula, kale, and mustard, use 1 oz per tray. For larger seeds such as sunflowers and peas, we’ll be using closer to 10 oz per tray.
- Use a spray bottle to mist the seeds with water to encourage germination.
- Cover the seeding tray with a blackout tray. This will provide the darkness and humidity seeds need to germinate.
- Check the pad and seeds every 12 hours. It’s essential to keep the seeds and pad moist. The simplest way to provide more nutrient solution is to manually pour more solution into the tray.
- We can also mechanize and automate our irrigation using a nutrient film technique or flood and drain system. We’ll cover more about the different systems below.
- After the seeds germinate, remove the blackout tray.
- Continue monitoring our pad to make sure it stays moist.
Once the microgreens are the proper size, it’s time to harvest. The harvest time varies depending on the species and environmental conditions, but the seed to harvest time for most microgreens is 7-10 days. Using a knife or pair of scissors, cut the greens off near their base.
This guy will show you how to grow microgreens at home:
Different Systems for Hydroponic Microgreens
When it comes to maintaining adequate moisture in our system, we have a variety of options, just as we do when growing larger plants hydroponically. Here are three common methods.
If we want to try our hand at growing microgreens hydroponically without purchasing much equipment, we can water our trays manually. When we notice one of our growing pads is drying out, lift the pad while being careful not to damage the growing greens.
Use a cup to add more nutrient solution to the tray and then replace the pad. It’s important to note that we should avoid watering the top of the pad since this can lead to mold issues with our plants.
Flood and Drain
If we choose a flood and drain system, we’ll repeat a cycle of filling and then draining our trays. This method requires a reservoir to hold the solution as well as a pump to fill trays.
Nutrient Film Technique
This system relies on a constantly flowing stream of nutrient solution. It can be used with the tray and pad system mentioned above or with larger troughs that can accommodate more microgreens.
Like the flood and drain system, this method also requires a pump and a reservoir.
Some Common Microgreens Problems
The most common problems in microgreen production are rot and disease caused by floods and high humidity. Excessive water in the growth medium or atmosphere around the plant promotes the growth of fungi and bacteria, for example, using a portable fan in tight spaces can easily mitigate this with a small amount of air movement.
Another problem with overripe microgreens is that they can become too high and tip over, making harvesting very difficult. The solution is to harvest them on right time, don’t grow the crop too long.
Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ)
Can microgreens be grow hydroponically?
Yes, they can.
Microgreens are the perfect plant to grow hydroponically because they only need the nutrients that come with water and light. This allows them to grow quickly in an enclosed system without ruining our environment or depleting natural resources like soil and sunlight.
Microgreens typically take less than two weeks after seeding outdoors before their unique flavors start developing. However, in a closed container under controlled indoor growing conditions like hydroponics it takes around 2-3 days for flavor to develop due to lack of contact with wind, rain, pollens etc.
How long does it take to grow microgreens hydroponically?
It takes about one week.
To grow, microgreens need temperatures between 7 and 25 degree Celsius and humidity above 60%. Lighting isn’t necessary if grown indoors, but it should be kept natural for outdoor cultivation just like other plants.
The best way to prepare for this is to choose a location that will get sufficient natural sunlight for several hours per day.
Get Started Growing Microgreens Hydroponically
Now that we know the basics of growing hydroponic microgreens, it’s time to get started.
With a short seed to harvest period, we’ll see the results of our efforts in less than a month. And since hydroponic microgreens can be grown anywhere, everyone can try growing these baby greens.