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Thursday, November 21, 2013
Photo ... Practical Advice ...

I read something about the new “microgreen movement” and I had to get on board. There’s nothing that much to it; the idea is to plant some veggie seeds somewhere in your home and let them grow for maybe 10 to 14 days, then wack them and eat the little plants with soup or in a salad. They add a fresh green taste, and they are loaded with vitamins. Pretty simple, right? Sure. Except when it’s not.

I looked up some microgreen instructions and then set up a growing tray near a window. As per the instructions, I got a aluminum food tray (the kind you bring home from restaurants when you don’t finish the meal but it’s too good not to take home — plastic trays are good too), and found a plastic water tray big enough to encircle the growing tray. I punched small holes in the bottom of the metal so that water could seep between the metal and plastic trays, then poured in some potting soil. Then I sprinkled on the seeds that I had bought especially for microgreen growing, sprayed some water over them, placed the clear plastic lid over the tray to keep it warm and moist, and I was in business!

Or so it seemed at first. The sprouts shot up quickly after a day and were soon pushing off the plastic dome. But after 5 or 6 days, something went wrong. The shoots started shriveling and keeling over. They weren’t really much more than sprouts, still had a ways to go to qualify as “microgreens”. I got out some scissors and salvaged what I could of the sprouts, and put them over some soup. Nice, but not quite mature enough.

So I tried again, adjusting my watering frequency. But same problem. Then a third round — same result. Increasing or decreasing the watering had little effect. Obviously, some kind of bacteria or fungus was in the soil, and it killed the new plants off after a few days. Thus, I tried some alternatives to soil, hoping to avoid the microorganism contamination problem. I tried putting sponges in the tray and growing the seeds right off the sponge. It almost worked, but the withering problem came right on schedule. The sponge also got slimy after a week. I then tried a wet paper towel — and that made things even worse.

I was at a loss. I could try baking the potting soil before seeding it, as to kill off the funky microorganisms (a kind of sterilizing). That might help, but I think that those funky thingies are in the air, and will thus make their way back to the moist, favorable environment that potting soil offers them. Just by random luck, however, I got a new idea. I had to buy some sphagnum moss (available at Home Depot and not expensive) to try to save a fern plant (they like the constant moisture level that sphagnum moss offers). I also had a bag of beach sand handy, so I wondered — could veggie seeds grow from a mix of sand and sphagnum moss?

Well, the answer turned out to be YES. And it turns out that sphagnum moss has something about it that the funky little organisms from the air don’t like. I’m not sure, it might have something to do with acidity. But I sprinkled the seeds over the dried moss (only need about 1/2 inch thickness), then sprinkled on sand and sprayed some water, and in a few days the shoots were coming up. And they don’t seem to be dying early, they are 4 or 5 days now past the death day from potting soil.

The picture shows some rutabaga and cress plants growing. They are at day 8, with just another 4 or 5 days to harvest. They are getting to be around 3 inches tall, tall enough for a clean cut without dragging sand and moss bits into my soup or salad. And they will have enough leaf size to have a nice fresh veggie taste.

So, that’s my microgreen growing tip — use sphagnum moss and sand in a growing tray. And enjoy those greens!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:22 pm      

  1. Jim, Sounds interesting–such new greens in soup. I’m sure they must be very good. You seem to have a green thumb, able to get things to grow for you. There must be something in you that is nurturing; I mean a good thing here, not something lacking in manliness. After all, why should only women be nurturing; men *must* have an aspect of nurturing in them too.

    I wonder: Do the sprouts continue to grow new sprouts after they are cut? If you left them to grow would you eventually have the “big” plant?

    Enjoy your microgreens. I’m sure a special enjoyment comes from having planted them, seen them grow, and then cut them at just the right time. This comes at a good time of year–just when the cold weather comes in and soup is something a lot of people prefer. Enjoy! MCS

    Comment by Mary — November 21, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

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