Have you wanted a vegetable garden, but don’t have the time or energy to commit? If you have a sunny windowsill, you can do the simplest gardening with the biggest payoff – growing microgreens.
What are microgreens? They are small whole plants, just 10 to 14 days old, grown in soil medium for their green tops.
Besides being faster and easier to grow than mature plants, studies show that microgreens also have higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants by weight. You can grow many common garden vegetables as microgreens. Some of the easiest for beginners are the mild-tasting Swiss chard, broccoli and cauliflower. For spicier flavor, mustard, radish, arugula, turnip and rutabaga also are easy to grow. These microgreens are tender and best eaten raw in salads or as garnishes.
Microgreens are planted at a high density, so you will need more seeds than found in a usual seed packet. Your local garden center or online retailers offer seeds in quantities specifically for microgreens.
Here's how you can become a microgreens gardener.
Use any clear plastic produce container with a lid, such as a strawberry container. Make sure there are holes in the bottom for drainage.
Pre-moisten the growing medium and add about an inch to the tray. Gently press the soil into the tray and use a spray bottle to mist the surface with water until it is damp.
Spread the seeds evenly across the soil so that they are almost touching and press them firmly onto the soil. Mist the seeds and close the container. The container does not need to be in a window until the seeds germinate.
Mist every 12 hours.
When seeds start to germinate in a few days, open the container and place your mini garden in a sunny window.
As your microgreens grow and the roots form a thick mat, water them from below. Place the container in a shallow pan of water for a few minutes each day, then drain in the sink before putting it back in the window.
After 10 to 14 days, your microgreens are ready to harvest. Carefully clip their stems so that you don’t get any soil. Gently wash in a strainer and pat dry. Enjoy your harvest!
If you would like more information about growing microgreens, catch a tutorial on YouTube at tinyurl.com/ybgv9z74. Who knew gardening could be this easy!
• Sue Styer is a University of Illinois Extension Kane County master gardener. Email the extension office at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.