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 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.
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 to grow through
perfectly. Those same roots 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.
I'd love to hear if you're going to try microgreen
And, have you grown food for yourself in the past?
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Microgreens Shopping List (part 1) ~
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Microgreens Seeds to Harvest (part 3)