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Photo Blog: Experimenting with Microgreens

Growers Supply MicrogreensMany of you may have already heard about the rapidly growing trend of microgreens. Others may have heard of them, but are unaware of what they actually are, and some may be thinking that microgreens must be something that only exists on another planet. However, these fresh vegetables and herbs that stand no greater than 3 inches in total height, give true meaning to the term “it’s the size of the fight in the dog”. Packed with intense, delectable flavor, these pint-sized plants have become a delicacy and are in particularly high demand among high-end restaurants.

Producing microgreens is just as easy as growing the crops that we all know and love. So here at Growers Supply we have been doing some research and experimenting with microgreen production in one of our Micro FodderPro 2.0 Feed Systems. We’ve been documenting our success, and we want to show you how easy it is to start producing your very own microgreens.

Of course, your first step is choosing what microgreens you want to grow and getting seeds. Pictured are our seed jars that contain mustard, radish, buck wheat and spicy mix seeds. We have also grown water cress, arugula and bulls blood beets.

Microgreen seeds

There are many types of media to grow microgreens on, but for our trials we’re using burlap. The burlap cuts down on your water usage by absorbing and holding the water for a greater amount of time. This gives the seeds time to soak up water that would have previously gone to waste. Measure and cut the burlap to fit into your trays or channels and then soak it for a few hours. Pictured below is one of our 1020 flats and GT80 Channels from the Micro FodderPro System lined with burlap.

Roll of BurlapBurlap in Container Example

Soaking the burlap for a few hours will help it lay flat and make spreading the seeds easier.

Seeds in the channel

Sprinkle the seeds onto the burlap so they are evenly spaced. Then place the channels in your system and connect them to your main water supply. The amount of time it takes to go from seed to harvest will vary based on the type of microgreens you are growing.

Seeds started

During the first few days, monitor the watering carefully to make sure the burlap soaks evenly and there are no dry spots.

Sprouting Stage

The next stage of growth that you will encounter is sprouting. During this time, the seeds root tips begin to emerge.

Sprouting Stage of Microgreen Seeds

Shortly after the root tips emerge, the cotyledon stage begins. A cotyledon is the first leaf that protrudes from a seed. This is not a true leaf however, it is better compared to a tree’s trunk. The cotyledon emerges so that the seedling can begin to collect nutrients on its own and develop a root system. Pictured below are some of our seeds under LED lighting during the cotyledon stage.

Cotyledon Stage of Microgreens

After a few more days, the first true leaves begin to appear.

True Leaf Stage of Microgreens

In the final stages, you will want to monitor your crops growth very closely. Letting certain microgreens grow too tall can mean sacrificing taste and overall quality. At Growers Supply we have been experimenting with how light can manipulate growth. As a rule, red spectrum light keeps plants short, while a blue spectrum light fuels vegetative growth, but also encourages height. We have found that using a red/blue mix has produced the most positive results. Pictured below is our Lumibar LED Strip Light that we have been experimenting with on our microgreens.

Red/Blue Light on Microgreens

After 90% of true leaves are present on your crop, you are ready for harvest.

Microgreens ready for harvestFinal microgreensHave a question about producing microgreens? Leave us a comment and we will be sure to get back to you. You also can give us a call Monday-Saturday at 1.800.476.9715 and speak with one of our knowledgeable National Account Managers. Feel free to stop by our website anytime at www.GrowersSupply.com to purchase all the materials you will need to start your own microgreen production today.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Roxana #

    What nutrients are fed same as for hydroponics and what is 90% of leaves in terms of days?

    August 4, 2014
  2. Emma self #

    Forewarning…this is a lengthy post.

    I maintain a fodder pro system to cultivate microgreens using a recirculating irrigation and Philips LED red/blue grow lights. I use STG and am experimenting with a biotherm grow media. Only when planting the slower varieties, I have problems with green algae. I tried using a lightweight, black landscape cloth (as opposed to lightest weight Agribon cloth) to drape over the channels ( sown with bulls blood, Basil, celery in separate channels) during the germination stage, but still green algae persists, but not as quickly as those covered with the white Agribon. I do not experience these problems with fast varieties ( brassicas) even when both fast and slow varieties are supplied from the same reservoir.

    I know that green algae likes colder temps and light, and I’m hesitant to increase water temp levels above 70 (learned my lesson the hard way. it causes more mess in the res. than normal with the recirculating irrigation). Do you have any tips or solutions to this problem?

    Also, I have not experimented with watercress in the recirculating system mainly b/c I was concerned with accumulating too much organic matter–but I could be confusing this with wheat grass. Again, could you share with me any tips, solutions, ect.?

    Great photos by the way! I envy the side panel light set up you have going on–so cool!!

    So glad that Growers Supply is sharing trial results! I wish more companies had blogs like this, so please keep it going!

    Emma Self
    Green Girl Produce

    September 20, 2014
    • Hi Emma,

      Thanks for the compliments about our blog and sorry for the delay in response! Matt, our microgreens specialist, who runs our trials is looking into this for you and should have some helpful suggestions for you today.

      Keep an eye on our blog over the next few weeks as Matt will be posting again about his trials very soon!

      Thanks,
      Kerry

      September 26, 2014
    • Hi Emma,

      My thoughts are that the algae is growing in channels with slower growing varieties because the slow germination rates allow enough time for algae to become established in the channel. Algae (like weeds) is very opportunistic and will grow almost anywhere we have light and nutrients. In the faster growing varieties, I would speculate that those are germinating in 24-48 hours for the most part. That may not be enough time for the algae to start growing in the channels before light is blocked by the sprouting microgreens.

      The best way to stop algae growth is to prevent light from hitting the nutrient solution (which microgreen sprouts DO, just at different speeds which is why you see it in slow growers and not fast growers). My recommendation (if possible) would be to reduce or eliminate nutrients during the sprouting stage (from seed to cotyledons opening). Once cotyledons open, add nutrients right away. Microgreens have enough energy in the seed to send out the root radical and to open up their cotyledons. However, once those cotyledons are open, most of the stored energy is gone (cotyledons open, photosynthesis begins, nutrient uptake starts), so that really is the best time to add nutrients. This is not always practical though when you have several trays all in different stages of growth on the same reservoir. So some ingenuity is needed there.

      On the watercress vs wheat grass. It’s the wheat grass that makes the reservoir nasty. Watercress is just fine, that grows and acts like many other microgreens. It’s the wheat grass that I would have on a water only, non-recirculating system. I also agree on water temp, keep it as cool as you can, that reduces instances of mold and mildew and makes more a really nice crop.

      Hope this helps!
      Matt

      If you have more questions, please feel free to email me at mdenten@growerssupply.com.

      September 26, 2014
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    September 21, 2014
  4. Asad Ali #

    Reblogged this on World Popular and commented:
    Awesome Post, The Experiments shown with images, is seems perfect.

    #LED Lighting San Francisco

    May 8, 2015
  5. Donald #

    I started my 3 tray crop of basic salad mix at 8:00pm on Saturday, 8/8. Today is around day number 10 for the crop. I kept the trays in the dark for the first 4 to 5 days and all looked well. The seeds started to germinate by Sunday night and progressed from there. Around day 4 ½ to 5 days the crop was ready to be introduced to light. I purchased a 4’ fluorescent shop light and (2) 6500K light tubes. In the beginning my crop was upstairs in an extra bedroom and seemed to be growing well. The room temperature was 74 degrees F and the plants were turning green. On day 6 I removed them from my house and placed them in my garage(85 degrees F) because the smell of the growing medium started to become strong.

    I have continued to water the crops and give the 12 hours of light per day. The crops look very healthy, however I thought the true leaves would have formed by day 10. Again, this is mixed salad, so the green plants are around 2 -2 ½ inches tall with very small leaves. The darker or red plants are only about an inch tall and seem to be lagging behind as they are now starting to open the top leaves.

    This is the first time I have grown microgreens so I do not know what to expect. I have read that most greens are ready at 10 to 12 days. It does not look like my greens are ready at day 10. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I will be glad to send you pictures if needed.

    August 19, 2015
  6. RUSTY OWEN MCKAY #

    I am putting together a microgreen system NFT channel using burlap. This system will have channels 44″ wide 12′ long, have built a harvest system to roll out the matt, am using 2″ drop in the 12′ My question being is what is going to stop the small seeds from falling right through the burlap?

    April 1, 2016
  7. RUSTY OWEN MCKAY #

    Hello again,
    I have a few questions 1. Nutrient temperature of 68f for microgreens is good? 2. Am using gen 2 Philips led, blue and red finding way better crop when light was cut back to 10 hrs a day, is this enough?
    3. Should black out covers be used in 2-3 days of germination? 4. Should burlap be cut to cover complete bottom of channel (side to side)? 5. Using burlap can a flat bottom channel be used at 1.66% grade?
    I would also like to say I really like blog, now that I found it you will see alot of me, well now and then.

    Rusty

    April 1, 2016
    • Hi Rusty,

      Thanks for the questions. To answer the question from your previous comment, those very small seeds could end up falling through the burlap, but any seed that would be small enough to do that is most likely a weak seed anyways. Any seeds that do happen to fall through the burlap should generally be considered a loss due to natural selection. If you were looking to prevent this from ever occurring however, we would recommend one of our newer products, the BioStrate Microgreen Grow Roll. This is made specifically for microgreen production and is designed as one solid piece, unlike burlap. 1.) Regarding the growing temperature, we recommend that your growing environment remain anywhere from 60-75 degrees, so 68 degrees is good. Keep an eye out for any mold issues, and if you happen to see any you will want to adjust your temperature and/or humidity, as these may be the cause of the issue, but at 68 degrees we would not anticipate any problems. 2.) If you are already experiencing better growth with only 10 hours of light, we would suggest continuing with that. 3.) We have heard of using blackout covers in the early stages of germination. The reason for this is that it prevents the seeds from sprouting at all before being placed into the growing system. Advocates of this process believe that this results in a final product that has a stronger, more bold taste. While it is not a required stage, you can choose to blackout for germination or you can choose not too, it ultimately comes down to a growers preference. 4.) Your burlap or BioStrate Microgreen Grow Roll should be cut to cover the entire bottom of the your channel. 5.) The burlap can also be used at a 1.66% grade. The burlap is meant to prevent the seeds from being washed to the bottom of the channel when water is added. As long as the percent grade is not so steep that the burlap itself is falling to the end of the channel, it will be able to keep your seeds in a fixed location until they have a fully developed root mat.

      Thanks for following our blog. We hope you find some more helpful information in our future blogs and any time that you have a question, please feel free to let us know.

      April 4, 2016
  8. Sébastien #

    Hi, So you don’t pre soak/rince your seeds before adding them to the system ? Or maybe grow only seeds that do not require pre soaking and grow well on burlap?

    February 22, 2017
    • Hi,

      We do pre-soak our seeds actually. One of the lesser known reasons for doing so is because dry seeds tend to bounce and will not layout evenly in the tray. A little known fun fact for you. We learned this the hard way!

      Thanks.

      February 27, 2017
  9. Christian Ehret #

    Do the biostrate rolls float directly on water? Or would you need to build something to prevent the grow rolls from sinking?

    Thanks

    -Chris

    March 23, 2017
    • Hi Chris,

      The BioStrate lines the bottom of the channel. It does not float on the water. The BioStrate simply acts as a way to prevent the seeds from being washed away in the flow of water before they have begun to develop a root mat. The water then runs through the bottom of the channel, soaking the BioStrate and seeds.

      Thanks for the question! We hope this helps.

      March 27, 2017

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