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Growing Microgreens for an Indoor Garden – a step by step guide

Growing microgreens is a fantastic way to have an indoor garden all year long but especially during the gardening off-season. Although we can grow an outdoor garden year round, we only have a few months that are good for growing lettuce. During the heat of the summer, homegrown microgreens helps keep us in fresh greens.

image of mustard microgreens growing in a black container on  wooden table

Supplies needed to grow microgreens

In order to grow microgreens you need a few supplies – seeds, water, a container, light, and some kind of growing medium. You can purchase what you need or bootstrap it and use what you have around the house. I think at first you should bootstrap it and if you decide you want to grow microgreens regularly, then invest in some proper equipment.

Seeds – You’re going to need quite a few seeds to grow microgreens, probably more than come in a regular seed packet. You can order larger packets of seeds or you can probably get bulk seeds at your local feed store. We’ll chat below about what seeds are good for growing microgreens.

Container – You can order microgreen growing trays but really all you need is a container with a clear lid. I’ve found that the large plastic containers that you can get salad in work just fine.

Light – Unless your house is really dark, you should be able to grow microgreens with just the natural light that comes into your home. If you find that the greens aren’t germinating you might need to use a grow light or heating mat.

Soil or other growing medium – You can use any well draining soil, such as potting soil. Or use a soil-less mixture such as seed starting mixture which usually has coco coir as a base. Lastly, you can use a hydroponic type medium which is usually a growing “pad” that will retain water and the plants will root right into the pad. Of the three, I just use seed starting mix since I usually have some and, unlike the hydroponic pad, it doesn’t have to be replaced each time I start a new batch of seeds.

Water – Whatever water you drink should be just fine for growing microgreens. That being said, if the seeds don’t germinate you can test the ph of your water to see if that’s the problem. If the ph is 7 or above add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to a gallon water to bring down the ph. Ideally, water for microgreens should have a ph of about 6.

SchneiderPeeps - Indoor Gardening - Growing pea shoots inside can help you get the nutrients you need during the winter. With just a little pit of space and light you can have your own indoor garden.

How to grow microgreens

Fill your tray (or container) with at least an inch of soil, scatter the seeds and put more soil on top of seeds. Water the soil until it’s damp but not soggy.

Put lid on and wait. The microgreens should start sprouting in just a couple of days. Once shoots appear, remove the lid and put the container in a sunny location. If you live up North you will probably need to use grow lights or a heating pad for your micro-greens.

Harvest the microgreens when they’re 1″-1.5″ tall or after the second set of leaves appear which should be about 10-14 days after planting. To harvest, cut the microgreens at the soil line with sharp scissors.

Rinse the shoots and give them a spin in a salad spinner. Be careful not to bruise the leaves, some are very tender.

SchneiderPeeps - Indoor Gardening - Growing pea shoots inside can help you get the nutrients you need during the winter. With just a little pit of space and light you can have your own indoor garden.

Best Seeds for Growing Microgreens

Theoretically, any plant that has edible leaves can be grown as microgreens. However, some of the more popular and tastier than others.

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Radish
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Sunflower
  • Peas
  • Chard
  • Beets
  • Mustard Greens
  • Herbs such as basil
image of broccoli microgreens growing in black container

Microgreens questions answered: 

Can I use garden soil to grow microgreens? No, it’s not recommended. Garden soil is great for outdoor growing but indoor gardens soil that is very well draining and that doesn’t have pests in it. There’s nothing worse than opening your microgreen container and being greeted by tons of tiny flies…ask me know I know.

Can I grow microgreens off-grid in the far North? Chris from Joybilee Farms is a friend of mine who lives way up north in Canada. She has some great tips on growing micro-greens in the winter even if you’re off-grid.

Why are my microgreen seeds rotting?! The soil should be damp but not super wet – about the dampness of a well wrung sponge should do nicely. Also, check your water’s ph and acidify it if necessary using the instructions above.

Do I need to use a heating mat or grow light to grow microgreens? In most articles about growing microgreens you’ll see the suggestion to use a heat mat or grow light. My personal opinion is that unless you let your house get really cold you probably do not need this. 

Do you cut off the tops of microgreens like green onions and the sprouts keep growing? Or do you harvest once and have to re-sprout more? You harvest once and then replant. You can let the roots compost in the soil if you like. Just sprinkle new seeds on the soil and cover with fresh soil or compost. You can probably do this a couple of times before you’ll need to change out the all the soil.

Do I have to worry about e-coli or salmonella with microgreens? Unlike growing sprouts, there’s no need to worry about microbes such as e-coli and salmonella when you grow microgreens.

Do I need to pre-soak microgreen seeds? Most microgreen seeds do not need to be pre-soaked but large seeds such as chard, sunflower, peas, beets, and buckwheat do need to be pre-soaked before growing.

image of microgreens growing in clear container on wooden table

Other indoor gardening ideas

When you use a combination of indoor gardening ideas you really don’t need tons of room. You can grow a few herbs in containers in a window sill, some sprouts in a corner of the kitchen, and a sweet potato vine in a large pot in the living room. These are just a few ideas of how to grow an indoor garden.

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Ann

Saturday 21st of March 2020

Wow, this is a really complete guide, Angi. Thank you for all the great microgreens information!

Gemma

Friday 20th of March 2020

I have never tried growing my own micro greens before, but I would love to! Broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables and it would be amazing to grow it myself x

Chris W

Thursday 5th of February 2015

Thank you for the link and so many great answers!

Angi Schneider

Thursday 5th of February 2015

You're welcome. I learned a lot finding the answers.

tessa1

Wednesday 4th of February 2015

This is perfect - just what I needed for some research I'm doing on the topic. Thank you!

Angi Schneider

Thursday 5th of February 2015

Glad I could help, Tessa.

Kamay

Wednesday 4th of February 2015

Thanks for answering my question! AND a few others I didn't know I had. I'm off to check out some recipes!

Angi Schneider

Thursday 5th of February 2015

That's how I felt when you guys were asking questions. I didn't even know what I didn't know!