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Date: 29 February 2018. Microgreens Aboard Seaweed (series)

janice142

 

This article is the aggregate of the four parts published in the microgreens series. In it I tell how I successfully grow my own small-scale microgreens garden aboard Seaweed. That I have my own Victory Garden aboard a 23' trawler is totally cool. You can do this too. The complete series is on this page.
 

For those that prefer smaller articles, these are the links you need. I do suggest you read them in chronological order for best results:



An overview/printable is located here: 
Microgreens Summary for Success (cheat sheet)

or, without photographs, here:

Microgreens Summary for Success (no pictures)
 

 

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 2018. 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.
 

The Basics: 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.
 

Free advice: Start small-scale. If growing microgreens is for you, enlarging will be easy.
 


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 successful.
 

 

Shopping List for growing microgreens on a small scale:

 

#1) Travel 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 day.
 

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.

 

#2) 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.
 

Side Note 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 of styrofoam.

 


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.

 

This is your goal:

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.

 

#5) 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.

 

#4) Seeds: 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 set-it-and-forget-it garden.
 

Purchase 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.
 

Side Note: 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 importance:

#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 rinsing.
 


 

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 with watermakers.
 

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 Most Excellent.
 

To Recap: 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 2019. 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 steps.
 


In
Microgreens Shopping List (part 1) these are the items I believe necessary to ensure success:
 

#1) 8 or so travel size soap dishes.
#2) Foam, such as the white stuff that is wrapped around online purchases.
#3) A few paper towels.
#4) Opaque plastic to cover the seeds.
#5) 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 seeds.
 

 
Like this:
Not like this:
 


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.
 

If the 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 ratio.

 


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.


Side Note: 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 pre-cut foam.
 

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 happen.
 

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 process.
 

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 moist.

 

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 the dark.
 


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 well.


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 2019. Microgreens Seeds to Harvest (part 3)
 

Memory Lane: 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 Disney 2017 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.
 

Side Note: 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.
 

Having fresh 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 microgreens garden:
 

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 watering the
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 the container.


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 FUZZ 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 however, 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 solution.

 
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 towel.
 


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 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 DAMAGED so I decided to exchange them for larger ones.

 

The exchange 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 possible.


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 rattles.
 

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) article.


This is a piece of the flexible rubber I used in the shelf project:


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.
 

Before 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 onerous.
 

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 used.

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 here: 
Microgreens Summary for Success (cheat sheet)

or, without photographs, here:

Microgreens Summary for Success (no pictures)
 

If you have any questions, just ask.
My email address is janice@janice142.com


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 underway?
And, please tell me if you have decided to give growing microgreens a chance.
 

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2020

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