Introduction: MicroGreen Machine (hydroponic Micro Greens at Virtually No Cost)
Now anyone can enjoy super delicious micro greens for little more than the cost of seeds. This technique:
- produces a big crop in about 7 days
- eliminates all the mess of dirt
- is self-watering
Sound good - let's dig in...
There's also a QuickStart Kit available at www.microgreengrower.com
Step 1: Making the Self-watering Container...
First, appreciate that a micro green 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 where they are tender, flavorful, and full of nutrients.
Grab yourself a milk carton, tetra-pak or similar, a half gallon is nice but a quart sized container works fine. Wash it out to remove any trace of the contents.
Use scissors to cut into the carton and remove a piece as shown by the dashed line. Adjust the size and shape of your cut as appropriate for your container - this shape works great and preserves the strength of the container, but you can get creative here as well.
Take that piece and drop it straight down into the carton. This will create a shelf to grow your micro greens on.
Step 2: Add a Wick and Media...
Take a (preferably unbleached) paper towel and fold it on itself several times to make a "wick" - that's a strip of paper towel that is approximately 1 inch wide and 8-10 inches long. Place about half of it on the shelf and let the other half hang off and under the shelf.
Take another paper towel and fold it in half, and place that on top of your wick. Fold the edges up if you like so it looks a bit like a tray and blocks the seeds from falling off the shelf.
Note: all we are doing is wicking water from below the shelf to the seeds that will be on top of the shelf. You can use one or multiple towels, fold them different ways, get fancy or keep it simple - it's pretty hard to mess this part up - have fun and experiment :-)
The image shows in cross-section what we are trying to achieve. We used a double wick in this illustration. This is helpful when you have a really thick crop of greens growing in a sunny window. The double wick helps make sure everybody gets enough to drink and keeps them all happy...
Step 3: Add Seeds and Water...
You're dangerously close now - just add some water (1/2" or so) to the container, soaking the paper towel and wick in the process.
Then, sprinkle some seeds on the towel - give it a nice (thicker than shown here) layer of evenly spread seeds. We recommend Buckwheat for your first crop (they do really well even in low light conditions).
If you have a misting bottle - give the seeds a good spritz to encourage germination. A piece of plastic placed over the garden will also help to hold in humidity, and increase the rate and percentage of germination.
Place your micro green garden where it won't get knocked over and the seeds should germinate in about 2 days.
Step 4: Watch and Wait...
Keep an eye on your garden; the towel should stay damp as your seeds grow.
Every few days lift up your garden to verify that there's still water in the base - and add more before it runs out.
A daily misting is nice for your garden and satisfying for the gardener as well ;-)
If you see white fuzzy stuff, check it out with a magnifier. Don't eat anything with mold - but it's completely normal to see bushy white root hairs appear on your micro greens - particularly during the first 4-5 days.
Here's a picture and explanation - http://sproutpeople.org/mizuna.html and here's an even better picture a few inches down the page here - http://www.greengardendreams.com/2011/07/23/starting-vegetables-from-seed/
Step 5: Harvesting and Tips...
Micro greens are typically at their best at about 7 days. Different seeds can take more or less time, and of course access to water and light impact maturity and flavor. Some seeds (usually larger seeds with a heavy shell) may first require soaking overnight to trigger germination. Google is your friend here - just look for "sprouting ______ seeds" and you'll get lots of tips for success with your favorite.
It's best to sample your micro greens as they develop and harvest before they become to leggy or bitter. Harvesting is a simple matter of grabbing 'em by the head and shearing with a pair of scissors.
Then, you simply roll up the paper towel with the root mass and toss it in your compost bin - nice and clean!
If your micro greens are a longer growing variety (10-15 days) or a little too yellow, you might add a few drops of liquid fertilizer to their water starting on about day 4. Also, if your room is really dark - moving your micro greens to the light will help to "green" them up...
When it comes to enjoying your micro greens - use your imagination - they are great on salads, or rolled up in a wrap, sprinkle on soups and just graze your way through them as a snack!
*Note: we experimented with punching holes in the "shelf" as you can see in this picture - it's totally unnecessary ;-)
Step 6: Supplies and Costs...
As you can see - this technique can be implemented with found objects and the only hard cost is for seeds... It's a great project for home and for school gardening programs, merit badges, etc...
We are working on a FREE download that will have more photos, tips, and FAQ's. Visit us at MicroGreenGrower.com to learn more, or to share your ideas with others...
- We get unbleached paper towels at our Natural Food Co-Op - it's less than $3 a roll and therefore pennies per tray
- Seeds are inexpensive when you order 6 oz or more - look for "organic _____ sprouting seeds" to find 'em cheap
- Milk cartons and tetra-paks are probably already in your recycle bin - use as a planter and you can still recycle them when you're done; plastic milk cartons and even 2-liter soda bottles work as well - just modify your cut area as necessary