My family and I love the taste and texture of those uber fresh, nutrient-dense micro greens available now in the produce section of most supermarkets, but boy, are they expensive.
Not only do a couple of ounces cost plenty, but they come in big plastic boxes designed to keep them fresh and pristine. We are trying to avoid bringing one-use plastic containers into our home. For a long while, those containers kept us from enjoying those nutritious, tasty tidbits.
If you, as we do, love fresh, organic micro greens in your salads, wraps and omelets, but dislike the cost and the plastic boxes, you may have thought of growing your own. It’s easy! Child’s play, really.
Teach your child a love of gardening with this easy project
My six-year-old granddaughter and I planted our first windowsill container of beet micro greens a year ago. For the next couple of weeks, whenever she came over, she ran to the window to see how our miniature food garden grew. We picked and ate some of our greens on the spot, right from the planter!
She loves them as much as we do. They’re tasty and good for us!
With this simple project, I show my grandchildren one way we can make a difference just by growing a small amount of our own food from seed.
If you think you might not have the right growing conditions in your home, consider this: We have only north and east facing windows on streets bounded by other multi-story dwellings, so our daily dose of sunshine–when we get it here in San Francisco–is very short. Yet we grew the lovelies you see on this page in just a couple of weeks.
Here’s how we did it.
How to grow fresh microgreens, step-by-step
Beet microgreens with bean plants
We started by gathering a few essential tools and materials. Then we had a blast building a “dirt layer cake” in our container and planting the seeds.
- About 1/2 pound sterile pottery shards or pea gravel per container
- Organic potting soil
- 1 package organic beet, broccoli rabe or other vegetable seeds (must have edible leaves) OR
- 1 package organic micro green seed mix
- Bread Pan or planter to fit your windowsill
- Chopstick or similarly shaped tool for digging furrows or poking seed holes
- Small bit of tape or contrasting marker to mark hole depth on chopstick
Decide what kind of micro greens you want to plant.
At our local hardware store, we bought a variety of organic seeds, including beets, broccoli rabe and three kinds of micro greens mixes. For for our first edible garden, my granddaughter chose the red beets.
Line the bottom of a long, narrow, window sill-friendly planter with sterile pottery shards or pea gravel, 1/2″ deep.
This first layer of your “dirt cake” provides drainage in case you, or your little one, should over-water one day. We used a 12″x4-1/2″x3″ bread pan, which rests nicely on our windowsill with no overhang, is deep enough for the gravel or shards plus enough soil to nourish the plants. Because it has no holes in the bottom, we don’t have to worry about the pan leaking and damaging the sill.
Add organic potting soil to about 1/2″ below the top of the pan.
Press this second layer down firmly to give the seeds a solid footing as they grow. Now, add more soil, again to the 1/2″ mark, and press down. Continue until you cannot press more soil into the pan, again leaving 1/2″ between the soil and top of the pan.
We use organic potting soil because we want to assure we are growing our seeds in the healthiest medium we can. We never use artificial fertilizers or pesticides in our food planters or on our plants.
Use the chopstick to make furrows or seed holes.
Check your seed packet instructions for seed planting depth and make your furrows or planting holes accordingly. For our red beet seeds, we needed 1/2″ deep holes. Our digger/hoe of choice is a chopstick because it is pointy but not dangerous.
Before we began, we wrapped a piece of tape around our chopstick to mark the 1/2″ line. We needed a guide to assure we did not dig too shallow or too deep.
Because our soil was a little crumbly and bumpy, we quickly discovered we could not get a nice straight, evenly deep line by raking a row with our chopstick, so we decided to dig a hole for each individual seed ball. We could have used a marker, but I wanted to reuse this stick for changeable seed depths.
Plant your seeds closer together than you would in a garden.
You will harvest the tiny plants shortly after they get their second set of leaves. There is no reason to space the seeds far apart for growing purposes. Our beet seeds came in little pods guaranteed to contain at least three seeds, so we chose to plant them 1/2″ apart, to give each of those seeds room to sprout and grow. We learned from this batch that we could plant even closer together, which we did with subsequent crops.
Continue making holes and planting seeds in an evenly-spaced grid until your planter is full. The first time we did this, we used all the seeds in our packet. The second time, we had a different variety of seeds and used only about half the packet.
If you are sharing this project with a child, digging and planting is especially fun. We raced along, one of us making holes, the other following behind with seeds, giggling and laughing when we got in each others way.
Pat soil over each hole as you go.
When all the seeds are in, cover lightly with surrounding soil and press down firmly once again, then lightly tickle the top with your fingers to leave tiny spaces between the soil particles for water to seep through easily.
Give your new garden a good drink.
Pick your planter up and get a feel for its dry weight, then gently add water. You will have to guess a bit here. You don’t want to add so much water that the soil becomes soggy. Moisten it thoroughly, but do not soak it. After adding a bit of water, heft the container again, to get a feel for how much weight the water adds.
Keep these weights in mind–the dry weight and the wet weight–when checking the planter for water over the next few days and weeks. If the planter is heavy, it has plenty of moisture. If light, sprinkle gently.
Place the planter in a well-lit, preferably sunny, windowsill.
For a few hours each day, we get strong morning light in an east-facing window, and a little sunlight in a north-facing window, so I try to move the planter each evening and morning to maximize light and chlorophyll development.
Check your planter every day for dryness and to see when the first shoots come up.
Our first sprouts appeared just two days after planting. Click on the photograph to open a larger version so you can see the sprouts in the upper left quadrant.
Water the plants.
Water when the container begins to feel lightweight and the soil is dry when you disturb it a bit with your finger. Enjoy watching your sprouts grow! This is our tiny garden one week after planting. Lots of seeds have sprouted.
Harvest your delicious greens!
Less than two weeks after planting, we picked our first micro greens and ate them straight from the pot. My granddaughter was thrilled to eat produce she had helped to grow and equally delighted to discover how much she liked the greens.
Her dad and mom liked them too. Together, we helped celebrate a family member’s birthday with veggie wraps that included our micro greens. We also use them in omelets, on pizza, in salads and to garnish stir-frys, soups and, well, almost anything.
This mango kale salad is just one way we enjoy our micro greens.
What’s growing on your windowsill? Have you tried growing micro greens, or do you think you will now? If you do, tell me about it! Or just let me know what you think of this idea.
♥ ♥ ♥
Dear Reader: If you think you’ve seen this tutorial before, you may well have. In June 2014, as a writer on the now-defunct site Squidoo, I first published this article under the user name graceonline. In August 2014, HubPages, where I am known as ecogranny, bought Squidoo. I opted to have my Squidoo pages, including this article, transferred to the new site. Now, in January 2016, I’ve brought it home–to YayYay’s Kitchen.