Micro herbs, commonly called microgreens, are a great addition to your kitchen garden. In fact, you don’t even need a garden to enjoy growing and eating microgreens so there is no excuse to not try sowing some seeds yourself.
Micro herbs offer colour, textures, and flavour while providing plentiful nutrients with every bite when used as a garnish or salad.
The great thing about growing them yourself is that they are one of the quickest crops to grow. You are essentially harvesting baby vegetables or herbs that have only just germinated.
Micro herbs are available from many speciality stores, farmers markets, and organic food grocers, but can be hard to find in towns where grocery stores are not plentiful and farmers markets do not exist. Commercially, they are hard to ship and keep fresh so where you can buy microgreens there is usually not much variety.
Luckily, growing micro herbs at home is easy and we are here to guide you through getting started.
What Are Micro Herbs?
Micro herbs are the shoots of vegetable or herbs that are harvested just after the first true leaves develop.
They are usually no more than three inches long and are considered “baby” plants that some people might confuse for sprouts. Micro herbs are aromatic and have an intense flavour and sugar concentration.
Micro herbs grow in only seven to twenty-one days from germination which is of course very quick. Rather than waiting for the vegetable or plant to develop you are harvesting the stems and leaves which are wholly edible.
Micro herbs are grown from seed and can be grown indoors, outdoors, or in greenhouses, some can be harvested many times throughout the growing season, or all year round if growing indoors.
Types of Micro Herbs
Many people are surprised at just how much variety there is when they start growing microgreens. The most popular varieties from seed include:
- Swiss chard
How to Grow Micro Herbs
Growing micro herbs is extremely easy to do at home. You can start with just a container of potting soil or compost, growing mats, seed trays or a raised garden bed or backyard greenhouse. If you want to grow just a few micro herbs indoors, find a south-facing window.
Step 1- Fill a shallow container with a few inches of moist potting soil.
Step 2- Scatter the seeds generously over the top of the soil.
Step 3- Gently press the seeds into the soil with your hands.
Step 4- Add another thin layer of potting soil on top of the seeds.
Step 5- Using a mister or spray bottle, dampen the soil.
Step 6- Cover the container with plastic wrap to trap the heat until the seeds sprout. Do not put containers in direct sunlight until after germination.
Step 7- Mist the soil once or twice per day to ensure soil stays moist.
Step 8- Remove plastic wrap once seeds are sprouted.
Step 9- Continue to mist once or twice per day.
Step 10- When the microgreens are a couple of inches high and have grown a set of leaves, they are ready for harvest. Cut the stems just above the soil, rinse, and let dry. Sprinkle the herbs on top of a salad or other dishes for garnish.
When growing micro herbs outdoors, the grow time is a little bit longer and also prone to problems with pests like slugs.
Growers can expect micro herbs planted outside to take a few days longer than potted microgreens. They also green faster and are shorter with thicker stems when planted in soil.
Most microgreens do best when kept at 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and no more than 50% humidity.
These factors make indoor growing your best choice; however, in optimal climate and weather, microgreens can be bountiful when grown outdoors. You will just have to worry about sun exposure. We recommend planting in partially shaded beds or in greenhouses on lower shelves away from direct sunlight.
Common Problems with Growing Micro Herbs
Microgreens might be easy to grow, but they are not without risk and problems. The biggest risk you must worry about with micro herbs is mould and/or fungus.
Mould will grow if your soil is kept too moist and appears as white fuzz around the seedling roots and soil. High humidity and lack of circulation will also promote mould growth, so if you are growing in a greenhouse environment, be careful of these common issues. Some ways to eradicate mould and keep your plants include:
- Make sure you wash and dry the tray you will use to germinate your seeds.
- Check to make sure there is good ventilation daily and humidity levels stay low.
- Do not overseed the germination tray.
- If you find mould growth, make sure to remove that section of the tray, soil and plant matter included. If mould growth is extensive, you may need to dispose of the entire tray and start over.
Another problem you could have with growing microgreen is problems with slow or uneven growth and germination.
Most seeds will germinate within four to seven days maximum. If your seeds are not germinating, after this long, your soil might be too dry. Try misting the soil with water.
If the tray growth is uneven, with some spots growing faster than others, its not to big of a problem. You could have spread some seeds unevenly when setting up your trays, or the potting soil could have varying qualities. Just make sure that the tray is receiving the same amount of light over the entire surface to promote more even growing.
If your micro herbs look yellowish or spindly, they are not receiving enough sunlight and were kept in the blackout period for too long.
The photosynthesis process has not begun; however, once your tray is exposed to sunlight consistently, the leaves and stems will begin to turn bright green.
Using Growlights For Micro Herbs
Although they are not necessary, if you happen to grow a lot of microgreens then grow lights may be a useful investment.
The main problem of growing indoors is the limited light so a light source setup above the seed trays means you can greatly increase the rate of growth and health of the micro herbs. Grow lights are used commercially to prevent problems of inconsistency and uneven growth.
Some people complain that microgreens grow limp and wilt too quickly. Harvesters and chefs recommend not cutting microgreens until you are ready to eat them. Rinse the greens after cutting and dice them if you like the blades smaller. You can then scatter them on top of almost any dish for the high concentration of flavour and nutrients.
Micro herbs are a fantastic way to get more vitamins and minerals from vegetables into your diet without having to grow large crops of vegetables.
If you have a small garden or just a windowsill you can grow and resow microgreens and have a plentiful supply of greens to top dishes without having to maintain a large vegetable patch.