Date: 29 February 2020. Microgreens
Aboard Seaweed (series)
This is the first article in a
multi-part series about how I grow microgreens aboard Seaweed in
limited space with low water usage required.
Date: 8 February 2020. Microgreens
Shopping List (part 1)
Aboard Seaweed I have been growing
sprouts for many years. The 2013 article
Growing Lentil Sprouts
has details from the beginning stages. Like all things boat, I've
made mistakes. Over the past year or so I've expanded my
gardening efforts. Today I'll tell you how you too can grow good
things to eat in a limited space, without dirt. Also, to get started
will cost less than $10 total. This is my advice for the novice
small-scale microgreen grower.
In the life of a plant, seeds are the beginning
stage. When seeds begin to grow they are called sprouts. The sprouts
mature into microgreens. In other words, a microgreen is your plant
as a baby. According to the folks who sell the seeds, microgreens
are nutrient dense. I like the flavors, and have been successfully
growing them aboard Seaweed for well over a year.
Being able to enjoy
a fresh salad every single day is a real blessing
I'm not an expert. That said, I have had quite a lot
of success in growing yummy microgreens.
I prefer food with texture.
Although my microgreens are not as crunchy as sprouts, I like the
taste. Best of all, the cost is virtually negligible. I can and do
have a fresh boat-grown salad every day.
The first thing to do is invest a bit of money for supplies. I am a
soloist, therefore I grow in smaller containers than you might
eventually opt for. My goal is to have a constantly maturing crop.
Start small-scale. If growing microgreens is for you, enlarging will
At one time I used screen for part of the growing
set-up. That was supposed to enable me to remove the roots easily.
The screen was not a success in the
long-term for my microgreen gardening efforts. Though great in
theory, washing roots out of the screen used precious water. It was
messy and did nothing to make the process of food growing more
Shopping List for growing
microgreens on a small scale:
size soap boxes. I would suggest you
start with eight or more. The reason is that some seeds grow
faster than others and if you'd like a constant supply of
rabbit food, you will need to harvest at least two boxes a
These can be purchased in
a variety of colors at the Dollar Tree. Sometimes they are in
packages of three, whilst others have just two.
Foam. I utilize the packing foam
received when ordering online. You will be wrapping the foam
layer(s) in a paper towel. The paper towel is your
substitute for dirt.
regarding foam: I recommend 1/4" thick
so stack the thin ones until you have enough. I prefer
something plastic-like versus the stuff that shreds into balls
Here is the logic behind using foam:
IF/when I over water the foam will float up and therefore
the seeds will not drown. This small change has increased my
success rate more than I would like to admit.
Little hairs grow out from the roots at the
beginning. The FUZZ
↑ disappears by day
two or three.
#3) Paper towels.
I normally stock the 1/2 sheet variety
because they are inexpensive. Any cheap paper towel is fine.
I wrap a layer of paper
towel around the foam.
Stiff plastic to cover the top of the seeds.
This is utilized in lieu of dirt.
I use a plastic placemat
from the Dollar Tree. It is smooth so the seeds do not attach
as they grow. Additionally, these are easy to wash and reuse.
First you will want to see if growing microgreens is really
for you. It might not be. My garden takes me between five
and fifteen minutes twice per day in order to have salads
constantly. It is an easy process however this is not a
these seeds: broccoli, cabbage, kale,
and turnip. Get the small paper packages sold in the garden
area of stores.
Please buy what I suggest, even
if you don't like the full grown plant.
Your investment is minimal.
I paid 20 or 25 cents per package with the exception of
cabbage which was $1.50 if memory serves me. I have bought
cabbage from Walmart and the others from both Dollar General
and Dollar Tree stores.
Though I personally am not fond of kale
and have never had a turnip I liked, as microgreens both are
quite good. Thus, please buy the four I suggest even if you
are certain you won't eat those awful things. Thanks.
Two things were of primary
#1) It had to be
easy. Certain seed varieties did not grow well for me.
#2) Low water use. Some microgreens and sprouts require a LOT of
Because many of those living off
the grid have limited access to fresh water, I am mindful of that
potential complication. Water is a precious commodity even for those
For instance, clover is easy to
grow in glass jars. The unfortunate part is that it takes a lot of
water to rinse the shoots until the water runs clear. If you don't
thoroughly rinse, the stuff will mold. Therefore I believe clover is
not a viable option for many boaters.
Trust me on this: Microgreens are
Buy 8 or so travel size soap dishes. Find some foam. Though
not Totally necessary, if you are like me and tend to
over-water you will benefit from having foam. Have two or
three inexpensive paper towels available. Buy or find opaque
plastic to cover the seeds. Seeds to purchase: broccoli,
cabbage, kale and turnip.
The next in this series will be posted shortly. Definition of
shortly: A day or three. Have I mentioned lately how glorious life
aboard a boat can be?!?
Date: 15 February 2020. Microgreens
Container Set-Up (part 2)
This is the second article in a multi-part series
detailing the methods I utilize to grow microgreens on a small scale
aboard Seaweed. Today I'll explain exactly how I set up my growing
containers. It is easy to have success if you follow these few
Microgreens Shopping List (part 1)
these are the items I believe necessary
to ensure success:
8 or so travel size soap dishes.
Foam, such as the white stuff that is wrapped around online
few paper towels.
Opaque plastic to cover the seeds.
Seeds: broccoli, cabbage, kale and turnip.
You will also need a pair of scissors.
First I cut the foam to the
proper size. Specifically that means that the foam fits inside of
the soap dish so it can float up or down as I water/over-water the
When I cut the foam on the right (see
above) it was a bit too large. It fit snuggly into the soap
dish. This tight fit will lead to crop failures. As I water
the seeds, it is important that the foam float up. That way
the seeds do not get over saturated.
seeds remain soggy they will mildew. Floating
on the foam will keep the seeds moist but not too wet.
Even when I add a bit too much water, the
seeds will be damp but
not underwater. The foam made a HUGE difference in my success
Sometimes when I am using
scraps from the foam I have, a couple of pieces are not quite large
enough. It is simple to use one proper size piece of foam and then
stack the smaller ones atop it. When wrapped in a paper towel, this
will work well.
The foam is re-used. I wash it after
each crop is harvested. Because the foam is covered in a fresh paper
towel and washed thoroughly, I am comfortable reusing it a few
times. When the roots start to grow into the piece of foam, then the
foam is discarded.
Some types of virtually identical foam seem more likely to get roots
imbedded into it. I am not sure why and cannot recognize any
difference from other foams before use. This is one of those things
that happens, so I check. For this reason I keep on hand extra
This photo shows the extremely
LONG ROOTS ↓
that microgreens grow:
The roots are delicious too. I wanted
a way to easily separate them from the paper/foam layer. My Great
Idea was to put the seeds atop a layer of screen.
Everything works in Theory. I should have called my boat Theory.
The screen theory for plant growing had a multitude of problems.
The screen layer allowed the roots grew through just
perfectly. They also attached themselves to the paper towel, exactly
like growing without the screen. I had hoped I could simply lift the
screen and the roots would magically be free. No. That did not
Instead I had
roots thoroughly attached to both the paper towel and the screen
itself. Clearing out the holes in the screen was a pain in my
transom. Scrubbing screens is time consuming. It also used far more
water than I wanted.
Paper towels are an important part of the microgreen growing
I buy the half-sized paper towels.
Then I fold the sheet into thirds.
I cut at the RED ARROWS
↑ straight down to make
three sheets of paper towel.
Cutting the paper
towel precisely is not important. Good Enough is fine.
The foam floats. Water wicks up the paper towel to keep the seeds
Each paper towel piece wraps around
the foam. It overlaps a bit at the back.
Two things come up
repeatedly with regards to successfully growing plants.
#1) The seeds
start out as dry, so they must be rehydrated.
#2) In order for the seeds to grow best they should be started in
In order to keep the seeds in the dark without using dirt initially
I opted for covering with a dampened paper towel. That did not work
The wet paper towel did keep the seeds moistened.
That is initially important for sprouting the seeds. Unfortunately
the roots were not clear what was top and what was bottom. They grew
into both paper towels. This created yet another failure/mess.
I knew I needed to
keep the seeds covered to retain moisture so the seeds would begin
to grow. The problem was that roots could adhere to anything that
was not smooth.
Dollar Tree placemats solved my dilemma. The backs
are shiny smooth PLASTIC.
I cut the plastic placemats into rectangles that fit
inside the soap dishes I use to grow microgreens.
A while back I had purchased a couple of extra
placemats when I bought the one used for the
Diverting Portlight Drips (paper
towel edition) project. One of those
spares was utilized for the microgreens.
Then I read some
more. Have I mentioned how glorious it is to have a tablet?!? It
really has made a tremendous difference in being able to quickly
research these Good Ideas of mine. Sometimes that is for naught,
though it is always fun.
Experts said to keep weight on the
microgreens as they grow so they will be strong and grow larger.
In order to add weight to my seedlings as they grew I
cut up an old silicone pot holder.
When compared against other
containers placed side by side, the ones with the heavier cover (the
pink piece) did not grow any faster or stronger/bigger than normal.
Additionally, the pink thing was one more thing to wash.
Saving water is critical when it is
in limited supply.
I have made about every mistake possible in growing
my microgreens. If I can succeed so too can you.
Now you know how and why I set
up my soap dishes in the specific way I have found best to grow
microgreens. I hope you have bought the soap dishes, acquired foam,
and some plastic to cover your seeds. I do not recommend using
fabric in lieu of paper towels as, again, it will require a lot of
water to get out the microgreen plants.
Side Note regarding foam:
I did attempt to use the small bubble wrap as a float for my seeds.
That failed spectacularly. Ugh. It was a real mess. Even wrapped in
paper towels (triple layer) the dang bubble wrap was a fiasco to
use. Seeds fell off the sides. Do not use bubble wrap.
Shortly I'll post the next piece in
the series, detailing how many seeds I use for each tray and showing
you the stages of growth to expect.
Thank you for reading.
Date: 25 February 2020. Microgreens
Seeds to Harvest (part 3)
When I was a little girl on our 40'er, I would
cut pictures out of magazines. Those pictures were invariably of
steak and salads. Never lobster, as that was a normal part of the
menu. Salads were few and far between. We did not have refrigeration
for many years. In any event, discovering that I can successfully
grow my own rabbit food has been life changing. This is my personal
epiphany and I invite you to share in my joy.
The boat I grew up aboard:
The impetus for my journey into small scale gardening
aboard Seaweed is as a direct result of a vacation I took with my
daughter and her family to Walt Disney World here in Florida. I told
you about that in the
article. There, we took a special behind-the-scenes tour of the
Disney facility's hydroponics area. I was fascinated.
Pausing for a Grandma moment: My
Grand danced with Mary Poppins at Disney.
But I digress...
The realization that I could duplicate to some degree the Disney
system of growing food was an eye-opener. Though I did not end with a true hydroponics set-up, I am satisfied that even a person
with zero skills can grow at least some of their own salad
requirements. As a matter of fact, here is my Complete garden:
By utilizing a couple dozen soap dishes I am able to
have healthy home-grown salad each day.
Generally I harvest four to six soap containers daily. That
satisfies my appetite quite nicely.
In my home I do not have space for the
larger containers some prefer. I opted for what would fit best in my limited space. In considering the options available, I am
rather pleased to have chosen the smaller soap dishes. One provides
a light topping to a sandwich in lieu of lettuce. Two or three can
be added to chicken broth for a mock-Chinese soup dish. Four
generally make a nice salad for me.
microgreens growing aboard Seaweed is both practical and fun.
I am able to provide some of my basic foodstuffs with a few minutes
of effort twice
each day. Every morning and afternoon I add one teaspoon of water to
each container. That's all I do until harvest time.
Black permanent marker works well on old bread tags
to label each crop.
This is how you can grow your own
Cut foam and layer approximately 1/4" thick to
fit inside your soap dish. Wrap with a paper towel. Then add
water to dampen the paper.
Add seeds. I spread/sprinkle
approximately 1/2 teaspoon onto the paper towel.
Though some experts advise
adding loads more seeds, I had issues with mildew when I added
too many. The other side of the coin is that if the seeds are too sparse
they don't grow as well for me.
I grow just one seed variety per soap dish. Combining does not
work well for me. That is because the containers are small.
Additionally, broccoli takes one more day to begin growing than
the others I recommend.
My advice is to start with the Fabulous Four varieties: broccoli,
cabbage, kale and turnip. For me, these are the easiest. They grow
best even with a bit of neglect.
Speaking of neglect, if I do not water enough or
forget to do so one day, the microgreens will wilt.
Wilted plants do not die. It is easy enough to water them. After
microgreens will revive. Post rehydration, there is no discernable
difference in quality.
Top the seeds with a a piece of smooth opaque
plastic. I cut up a placemat from the Dollar Tree to cover the seeds.
The purpose of the plastic is to mimic dirt and allow the seeds to
germinate in the dark.
Next I flip up the SIDE
LATCHES → and then place the
lid on top of the soap dish. This allows airflow. It also
helps keep in the moisture, thus the seeds germinate. The lid
creates a miniature greenhouse effect however there MUST air
circulation to prevent mold.
Additionally, I add a bread tag with the name of the seeds in
Another thing to keep in mind regarding the Fabulous Four (broccoli,
cabbage, kale and turnip) is that broccoli is slow to start. It does
catch up, however I have found broccoli takes one additional day
before germination begins.
During the initial growth process
↓ appears along the roots. These
tiny hairs are not mold.
From left to right: day four, day three at the top,
and day two on the bottom right.
I keep the
microgreens covered in the initial stages of growth. They will
remain yellow until I expose them to sunlight. Within a few hours
(three or four) the plants turn green.
When the plants start to push up
the cover of the soap dish, I remove the plastic. The ambient light
in my cabin is enough for them to green up in just a few hours. The
microgreens nearly double in size to 3" tall over the next couple of
days. It is then that I consider them ready to eat.
There are various methods of
harvesting the microgreens. In the trays with just water the highest
they grow is about 3.5" tall.
Please note that were I to grow these plants in dirt my results
would be approximately double the size after just a few days longer.
I could also go to the grocery
store and buy the fully grown plant.
This is ↑ kale. I
am not fond of the taste of the fully mature plant. As a microgreen
kale is yummy.
Instead of dirt farming, I opted
for a more tidy plant growing option. Hydroponics would produce
larger crops. Bigger plants grown in dirt with fertilizer would also
yield a greater quantity of edible product. The space and time
required for said plants is more than I can manage aboard Seaweed.
One of the things
boaters learn is that everything must be adapted for
space constraints. For my small home, soap dishes are an ideal
Harvesting has a couple of options. Some professional growers chose to use very sharp
knives and cut close to the surface of the dirt. Experts advise the
purchase of an expensive "razor sharp" knife. That won't work for a
budget boater. Instead I get out my scissors.
I cut above the paper towel,
starting at one end and working my way across the soap dish.
This photo was taken during my foray into using
screen. The screen did not effect plant growth.
Washing the bits of plant from the screen was water intensive,
and a pain in the transom.
I find that
cutting just above the seed casing is easiest. Also note that the
seed shells/casings are not hard. Although some advocate rinsing off
the shells from the seeds, I do not do so. Rinsed microgreens seem
to wilt faster in the refrigerator.
Sometimes I am more careful and
try to cut closer to the paper towel. That would net a slightly
larger crop. I have also attempted to pull the plant through the
paper towels. Tugging generally fails or leaves bits of paper towel
in my greens.
The whole process
of growing my own garden
takes me between five and fifteen minutes per day.
After harvesting the microgreens, I throw away the
root embedded paper towel, wash the layers of foam and start afresh.
The foam is reused. After washing, I wrap the foam in a new paper
Red clover sprouts and broccoli microgreens with store-bought kielbasa piled on top makes a great lunch.
During the days of
World War II folks in America were advised to grow Victory Gardens.
Because so much of our goods were going overseas to support the troops, it
became up to our families left here at home to grow what we could to supplement our
diets. These became known as Victory Gardens. My parents did this,
and now aboard Seaweed I have my own Victory Garden.
You can do this too. The biggest
problem I had was that as I ramped up production, I needed a place
to put my crop. The next article will show you what I made. I'm very
happy with the results.
Thank you for reading. And please,
consider starting your own Victory Garden.
Date: 28 February 2020. Microgreens
Shelves Installed (part 4)
I have had so much fun creating my
Victory Garden aboard Seaweed. Knowing I will no longer have to
forego fresh salads while tucked away in a remote anchorage gives me
a feeling of relief. A permanent place to store them out of the way
yet easily accessible was needed. I opted for a $40
solution. Here is how I built my nifty new shelves.
Deciding where I wanted to
store the soap dishes took more time than the actual staining,
varnishing and construction. This is normal for most boat projects.
The planning stage is generally longer than actual implementation.
I opted for two shelves, above the
aft window by my dinette.
Because this is a permanent improvement I chose first-rate top
quality parts. My soap dishes are 3" by 4.5", thus I
selected a piece of
oak three inches wide. I did not want the shelves to protrude too
far. I purchased two 3" x 36" by 3/8" thick planks of oak, an 8'
length of wood that looks like 3-strand rope, plus 4 L-brackets to
hold up the shelves.
Fortunately I had both stain and
varnish to finish the wood.
I stained the "rope" mahogany and varnished both the
oak and the rope for a shiny waterproof finish.
One of my L-brackets was
↓ so I decided to exchange them
for larger ones.
necessitated another trip to Home Depot. I did not check the package
before leaving the store. Plus, I should have initially bought
longer L-brackets. These originals did not extend far enough to fully
support the new shelves.
The new L-brackets were secured to
the teak frame of my back window.
I needed a short screw driver in order to screw into
the shelving from below.
Thankfully a while back I had spent
$10 at Walmart on a ratchet kit with a stubby driver.
Having the correct
tool is a matter of time. Eventually most boaters end up with an
extensive tool armory. I have far more than I owned originally and
am glad for it. As I am able I buy more, mostly used if at all
Because the wooden shelves would go atop the
stainless steel L-brackets, I wanted a cushion.
Vibration is a real issue on a boat. I don't particularly care for
Eons ago I took
apart one of those seat cushions that used to be legal as a floatation
device in Algae. Rules changed and mine was no longer usable.
Like our standard life preservers, once the cover is torn it no
longer counts as a safety device.
I cut apart the cushion to see what was inside.
Two squares of 1/8" thick rubbery stuff was in there. Since then
I've used that rubber time and again. One use is detailed in the
Red Fish, Green Fish (visual clues)
This is a piece of the flexible rubber I used in the
With scissors I cut pieces of the rubber to sit atop the stainless
steel shelf support. Using my lantern and a *pokey stick I made
holes in the rubber where the screws would secure the L-bracket to
the wooden shelf. In retrospect, I probably should have also added some
rubber to where the
bracket attaches to the window frame...
*Pokey Stick is what my family
called a sharp object that can be make a hole through or into wood.
We would sharpen the remnants of used welding rods. Nowadays folks
buy awls, however we made our own.
The bottom of top shelf is slightly
above the top of the window. Outbound the overhead curves.
Because of the curvature, that top shelf has the
smallest microgreen plants. That's my starter area.
installation, I tested/checked that the shelves would fit properly.
I verified that a person sitting at the dinette would not bang their
head. I also had to relocate my Hella fan down a few inches. Every
project has complications. Fortunately this time none were too
The second shelf L-brackets were
installed 4" down from the top.
Because the window slides I had to nudge out that
bottom shelf just a smidge so it could open easily.
The stubby ratchet from Walmart was
utilized to secure the shelving in place permanently.
The rubber layer between the stainless steel
L-bracket and the wooden shelf will prevent rattles.
The rope trim is slightly above the
top of each shelf. That is to prevent the soap dishes from sliding
off easily. Of course in a rough sea, or if waked badly my plants
will fall down. This is only good at a dock.
I secured the wood rope trim to the
edges of the shelves with an adhesive. I've forgotten which one I
My Hella fan ↑
was relocated to just below the bottom shelf support. The rope trim
is only on the two sides that show.
Thus far I have
not worked out what sort of fiddle system to use as a more permanent
solution to the microgreen containers sliding. I suspect I will be
utilizing the old valance/curtain rod and a net of some sort.
Testing the first row of microgreens on my new shelves:
I admit to being
inordinately pleased with my gardening efforts.
Fully utilized, these shelves allow me to have a
small scale microgreens garden aboard Seaweed.
Truly this whole experience has
been eye-opening. I have worked out the kinks and believe that
anyone can have success if you do as I say. For those interested in
pursuing this endeavor further, I've created a couple of pages that
you may find useful.
An overview/printable is located
Microgreens Summary for Success
or, without photographs, here:
Microgreens Summary for Success (no
If you have any questions, just
My email address is
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your indulgence as I shared my
joy and celebrated the success of my own Victory Garden this month.
Do you have any ideas on how to secure my microgreens while
And, please tell me if you have decided to give growing microgreens a
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