(or how to make some green from microgreens)
From our overseas friends at Soilless Magazine
If you have managed to review the March issue of Soilless Magazine you are already aware with the fact that the microgreens are not just a great business opportunity, but also possess very high nutritional value and are quite easy to grow. Below you will find a step-by-step guide on how to grow these amazing, tender, flavorful, and full of nutrients plants.
First of all, you should understand that a microgreen is just a stage of vegetative development – it’s the time after a seed sprouts, but before it becomes a plant. Most seeds can be grown to the micro green stage and the basic process for growing is pretty much the same whether you grow a few trays at home or a massive greenhouse full. The majority of microgreens are produced in greenhouse though and
THE MOST COMMON PRODUCTION METHODS INCLUDE:
- Soilless mix in nursery flats or plug trays;
- Permanent beds on raised benches;
- Channels, troughs or gulleys;
- Flood and drain trays or tables;
- In-ground beds;
- Growing racks.
The production is split between conventional growers and hydroponic growers. “Conventional Growers” typically grow in nursery flats or plug trays filled with soilless growing mix. Organic growers use similar mixes, often amended with compost or vermicompost. Hydroponic Growers use a variety of different media with the most common being perlite and vermiculite. Other less common media include burlap, paper towels and coco fiber. Some growers use fresh media for every batch, others clean the media between crop and re-use it.
NUTRIENTS AND IRRIGATION
There is no “standard” nutrient in the microgreens industry. Irrigation systems vary from simple manual systems to an assortment of automated systems including nutrient injectors, irrigation booms, drip systems, nutrient film and flood and drain (or ebb and flow) systems . Nutrients used include:
- Water soluble chemical nutrients– these commonly are conventional greenhouse nutrients or complete commercial hydroponic solutions;
- Water soluble organic nutrients – common ones are derived from kelp, sea water and compost teas;
- Organic additives such as compost, vermicompost and mineral dusts.
That said, let’s run through the entire process:
Step 1: Prepare flats. Load those with moistened media, press down lightly and line then up on your surface.
Step 2: Use spreadsheet to determine how much seed to plant in each tray. Spoon seeds into plastic cups and shake cups along rows of flats. Don’t forget to label each flat clearly in order to avoid any surprises.
Step 3: Just leave the seeds on top of the flats – you don’t need to cover them with soil or put them inside the media. Use a watering nozzle set to mist to lightly moisten and mist the flats evenly until moist but not soaked.
Step 4: Cover the flats with additional empty clean flats.
Step 5: Monitor the microgreens daily and make sure to keep them moist but not dripping. The precise optimal temperature varies, but a heat about 20 degrees Celsius (68F) would be a reasonable compromise between the plants’ growing preferences and the desire for quick growth.
Step 6: As soon as the seeds begin to sprout, remove the covers.
Step 7: When the first set of true leaves (not the seed leaves) emerge, the microgreens are ready to harvest. Cut them carefully with good scissors. One good strategy is to hold the flats almost vertically over another flat and snip, like cutting hair close to the scalp.
Step 8: Wash greens. If farming significant amounts, transport microgreens to washing area and triple wash them in tubs of clean water. Allow to drain and store refrigerated and loosely covered. Bag as soon as possible.
These 8 simple steps will lead you to great results and good profit because of the the high value potential and numerous crop turns of the microgreens. However this is balanced by high labor and high seed cost and a number of other issues that you should take into consideration:
ISSUES FACING MICROGREEN GROWERS:
- The 8-14 day crop cycle for most microgreens requires continuous labor for preparing growing trays or growing beds and channels, typically twice a week. Trays, beds or channels must be filled or topped off with media before every crop. Larger growers do this mechanically, small growers do it manually.
- Seeding is typically done manually although some growers use specially modified automatic seeders.
- Harvest is typically done by hand using scissors or shears.
- Media Recycling – for growers who recycle media, there is significant post-harvest labor required to remove plant debris from the media.
- Disease– high density crops are prone to diseases such as “damping off” or pythium. This is often compounded by recirculating nutrients, the re-use of growing media and overhead irrigation.
- Product contamination– crops grown in loose media can easily become contaminated with media particles during growth and harvesting. It is almost impossible to assure 100% uncontaminated product.
- Water conservation/water restrictions – Overhead irrigation is a commonpractice in conventional greenhouse bench-top production. Growers are facing water quotas and regulations are being adopted around the world requiring the containment of irrigation run-off.