Microgreens are a tasty, colorful, nutritious addition to your diet, though they might not be exactly what you think they are. Any vegetable, if harvested just as its first leaves unfurl, is known as a microgreen. Research has proven that microgreens are nutritionally more sound than their mature vegetables, sometimes with as much as 40 times the vitamins and nutrients. Unfortunately, for being so tiny, microgreens are also expensive because they are so delicate and difficult to ship. For these reasons, many people have decided to grow their own microgreens. When growing vegetables, people worry about the seeds, the containers, and the amount of light, but the type of soil is often last on the list.
Why Not Topsoil?
Because there is already so much expense related to gardening, you might be tempted to cut corners on the soil and use topsoil that you already have laying around in your garden. However, the technique for planting microgreens involves soil that is spread in trays or in small containers. Because of the nature of topsoil, it would harden if spread out like that and impede the growth of the plants. Without nice loose dirt, there will be no air for your plants.
A potting mix is better because it contains perlite or vermiculite, which have tiny granules that serve to break up the soil. The addition of peat moss to many seeding mixes offers both an airy soil and a natural fungicide. Your garden topsoil has many spores that can cause fungal diseases or “damping-off.” After all your work, the last thing you want to have happened is to have seeds rot at the soil line. Your topsoil also likely contains weeds or pests that will inhibit the growth of your microgreens. To avoid this problem, seedling mixes and potting soil have been sterilized and pasteurized.
Seedling Mix Versus Potting Soil
The best choice for growing microgreens is a seedling mix, potting soil, or a combination of both. Each choice has strengths that help individual microgreen plants to thrive.
- Seedling mix is used for plants that grow quickly, in 1-2 weeks.
- This soil mix contains enough plant nutrients for about 2 weeks.
- The roots of microgreens anchor more easily in seedling mix, so your plants will be hardier.
- Radishes, lettuce, mustard greens, turnips, and bok choy grow quickly and will find success in seedling mix.
- Potting soil offers an exceptional growing medium for plants that take about 2-3 weeks to grow.
- A combination option is to put potting soil at the bottom of the pot and seedling mix on top. By the time the seeds germinate and the roots reach the layer of potting soil, the plant will be ready for the nutrient boost the potting soil offers.
- If your microgreens take 4 weeks to grow, add fertilizer to the mix to augment growing.
Hydroponics is the art of gardening plants without soil, but using only water and nutrients. The hydroponic plants are grown in a substrate or growing medium. Common growing mediums include coco coir, crushed granite, rock wool, or burlap. These can get messy when growing microgreens. The best choice for microgreens is using polyethylene foam pads combined with a liquid fertilizer.
There are several reasons why using hydroponics is a good idea for microgreens:
- Because microgreens are so delicate and fast-growing, this is a great technique to use because you don’t have to worry about soil since they are not growing large roots.
- If there is no soil, you don’t risk bruising the delicate microgreens when you clean off the soil to get ready to eat the microgreens.
Microgreen Soil Tips
There are several tips that will help you to make the most of your soil and get you started on the right track to growing microgreens.
- Normally you would want to buy your soil in bulk to save money, but start small by purchasing smaller amounts so you can find the soil that is right for you.
- Be careful that you don’t over-fertilize. You really don’t need to add fertilizer unless you plant long-growing microgreens, those that take 4 or more weeks to grow.
- Be wary of organic soils. Although using organic soil seems like a good idea, you need to read the fine print because they could still contain materials from factory farms and slaughterhouses, or other additives.
- Prepare the soil by putting it in a bucket and adding water. Make sure the soil is wet but not saturated.
- Be willing to experiment and get the right combination of potting soil and seedling mix to grow the healthiest plants.
If you would like to experience tasty, colorful, nutrient-packed microgreens without breaking the bank, growing your own is a viable option. Although many gardeners spend a lot of time thinking about the seeds and the containers, sometimes they think that the soil does not matter as much. But using the proper soil is integral in growing vibrant, healthy microgreens. Since microgreens grow so quickly, it is easy to experiment and find the soil combination that works best for you.