Microgreens are a fairly new gardening trend that allows you to quickly grow edible plants in just 10 days, as they are harvested in the seedling stage. They're overall easy to grow, and it’s possible to learn how to grow them without soil.
That’s right; microgreens can be grown without soil using hydroponic gardening. This allows you to grow plants, including microgreens, without soil. Instead, gardeners use growing mediums. Mediums are known as substrates, and they provide support for your roots in the hydroponic system. Some growing mediums are used such as coco coir, Rockwool, perlite, and even paper towels!
The 5 Benefits Of Growing Microgreens Without Soil
Most people decide to use soil for there's grows, and while that is okay. Here are some benefits you may want to consider for growing without soil:
1. Reduces The Cost of Growing
Instead of having to spend that extra money on soil, you can instead just use paper towels which are far more affordable and take up less space. You also use less water since most of it is just recycled back into the system.
2. Gives You More Control of Watering
Over/under-watering your soil is much more likely to happen than if you were to just use the same water from the beginning of the grow. Since you will be using the same water throughout the entire grow you will not have to worry about over/underwatering.
3. Year-Round Growth
Growing microgreens hydroponically is typically done indoors all year round because the only necessary components for the survival of microgreens are water and light. You also have more control over the indoor temperature so you can provide the most ideal growing environment.
4. Uses Less Water
When using a hydroponic method, you re-use the water in the growing tray. Pretty much the water is used in a cycle. Which typically only requires you to water microgreens just a few times throughout the entire grow.
5. Creates Less Mess
Growing microgreens without soil is generally going to create less of a mess, as you don't need to worry about spilling soil throughout your house when cleaning the grow trays. Especially if you are growing on your kitchen counter or bedroom window!
What You Need For Growing Microgreens Without Soil
Before you start growing microgreens without soil, you need to know what supplies are required to grow microgreens. Growing microgreens hydroponically means that you’re growing them in a water-based environment. The only nutrients that the microgreens receive are going to come from the water instead of the soil. So here is what you are going to need:
The first thing that you need to do is buy seeds. There are many different places you can buy seeds but I highly recommend you buy from trusted sources like True Leaf Market and Sprout House Seeds as they have high-quality seeds.
2. Growing Medium
Even if you aren’t using soil, you need some sort of medium to hold the seeds in place as they sprout. These growing mediums are going to support the roots of the microgreens so they grow straight and tall. There are many different kinds of growing mediums to consider. Here are a few to consider:
Typically, coco coir is dried and packaged very tightly which requires you to add water to it. This will cause it to expand and become fluffy, making it seem much more than what it was initially. This is overall a great growing medium to use and it's not expensive.
Hemp Growing Mats
Hemp mats are easy to use and are generally less messy but are quite expensive compared to coco coir and other growing mediums.
Paper towels are great to use as you most likely already have some in your home. But be careful with what kind you use because if they contain inks or dyes that could contaminate your grow. So make sure to use Non-toxic paper towels that are free of dyes, inks, and fragrances. Here are some really good ones Here
3. Grow Trays
You are going to need a tray or two for growing microgreens. You also can buy a microgreen kit that will include a high-quality grow tray. The tray should be around 1.5 to 2 inches deep and about 20 inches long if you want to grow lots of microgreens at once. Make sure the grow tray you choose does not have any holes in them and is specifically meant for hydroponic growing.
4. Grow Lights
At first, the seeds need to germinate, and at that point, you don’t need lights. After 3-4 days, you will need grow lights to start the photosynthesis process. Consider buying LED grow lights or just use direct sunlight if you have a well-placed window.
5. pH Testing Kit
Microgreen seeds are sensitive to the PH of water. Microgreens thrive at a PH of 6. Most tap water is at a neutral PH of 7, so I highly recommend you buy a PH Kit to adjust the PH. Make sure to only water your microgreens with water you have balanced to an acceptable PH. It's also helpful to use filtered water to remove any chlorine from the water.
6. Spray Bottle
You'll need a spray bottle filled with water to lightly mist your microgreens as needed. Make sure the bottle is cleaned thoroughly and if needed, purchase a new one from the store. These are cheap!
How To Grow Microgreens Without Soil
Now that you have the supplies needed for growing microgreens without soil, here are the next steps:
1. Prepare Your Water
Since hydroponics uses water, the quality of the water that you use matters. Springwater or rainwater is best. You can also use tap water but it’s recommended to let it sit for 24 hours after boiling it to remove the chlorine. Then test your water using the pH kit and adjust to a ph level of 6.
2. Fill the Trays
The next thing you have to do is prepare the growing medium in the trays. Spread the coco coir evenly throughout the tray. It should be one inch deep evenly across the entire tray. If you choose to use the hemp grow mats then just use one per tray, and if you choose to use paper towels then fold them about 6-8 times.
3. Plant the Seeds
The packet of seeds you bought should have instructions on the package. Typically, you take about two to three tablespoons of seeds and spread them evenly across the growing medium. Make sure there aren't any lumps of seeds stacked on top of one another and fill in the gaps. The seeds don’t need too much space. It only takes 7-14 days to harvest, so they don’t need that much room to grow. You won't need to space them far apart compared to full-grown plants or seedlings.
4. Water And Cover Your Seeds
After spreading the seeds across the growing medium, keep them moist with a spray bottle. Keep the tray covered, which keeps the medium moist, or keep them in the dark area. Having proper air circulation will also prevent any mold from growing, so it's always helpful to have a small fan around.
5. Germinate the Seeds
It takes 3-4 days for the seeds to germinate if you keep them warm around 70℉. During those days, keep the tray dark and warm while ensuring there is air circulation because mold grows without airflow. Make sure you keep the soil tray moist, spraying it every 12 hours or so. It’s essential to use the pH water created in step one. Within a few days, germination begins, and the seeds sprout, which is when you move to the next step.
6. Uncover And Give Light
Your microgreens should be ready to uncover after 3 or 4 days (7 days for beet & cilantro). You can judge this by watching for when the baby leaves (cotyledons) of your microgreens first emerge and then waiting one more day. It is important to keep your microgreens in the dark for the first 3 to 4 days to force your microgreens to grow in the struggle for light. This will help you grow strong microgreens. Once you uncover the tray, make sure your microgreens get plenty of light.
7. Check Daily
Your microgreens should have the right balance of water from now till harvest. If necessary, replenish water by sprinkling or pouring water over the growing medium, avoiding the leaves as much as possible. You can also water below the growing tray so the roots of the microgreens can have enough water until harvest. Do not use the spray bottle anymore, as the spray bottle will increase the chances of mold growth.
Step 8. Time To Harvest
Most microgreens will be ready to harvest in just 10 days. Some microgreens can be harvested as early as 7 days. Most microgreens will not last past 14 or 15 days before they must be harvested. Move your trays to a cool, shady place. If your microgreens are harvested when it is too hot, they will wilt very quickly after harvesting. If harvested when cool (late evening, early morning), they will tend to stay fresh and crisp.
Use scissors or a knife to cut the microgreens directly from the growing medium. Think of it as giving your microgreens a haircut. Just cut about 2/3rds of an inch above the growing medium, avoiding the roots. Microgreens taste best if eaten right after harvesting, although you can store them in the refrigerator for several days after.
Can Microgreens Grow In Just Water?
Microgreens can not just grow in water, as the roots of the microgreens will need some type of growing medium to support them. Which will make sure the microgreens grow straight and tall.
Is It Better To Grow Microgreens In Soil Or Water?
This depends on what type of microgreens you are growing, as some do better in a soil-based grow while most can be grown with just water and some paper towels.
Can I Grow Microgreens On Paper Towels?
Yes, in fact, most microgreens don't even need soil to grow. You can instead just use some paper towels you may already have in your home. Paper towels will grow microgreens as they will support the roots.
Do Microgreens Need Soil To Grow?
No, but some microgreens like Peas, Sunflower, Chard, and Cilantro will do much better in a soil-based grow. Most microgreens do not need soil to grow.
As you can see, growing microgreens without soil is an excellent way for new gardeners to start growing microgreens. It only requires a small upfront investment and is overall an easy way to grow these wonderful superfoods.