How to Plant Microgreen Seeds

Ed Wike
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Prepare the Tray

The first step in Microgreen planting is to line the tray with a paper towel. If you have a large tray and small seeds, you may need to use several layers of paper towel. Do not use newspaper, foil, plastic wrap, or wax paper.

The towel or paper should be a little bit larger than the tray with an extra inch or two to fold over the edges. If using more than one layer, smooth the top few inches of the towel out so that there are no wrinkles.

pH Your Water

If you are using city water you should first add a couple drops of acid to your water, or if you are using a rain barrel you need to add a couple drops of vinegar. This is necessary because you want to keep the pH of the water around 6.0-6.5 which is similar to rain water. If you have alkaline water you will be adding a base rather than an acid which will raise the pH of the water. The proper pH is very important because it will affect the speed at which the seeds germinate, and the speed at which the baby plants grow.

For example, if you add vinegar (which is an acid and lowers the pH) or lower the pH with some rainwater the seeds will germinate in 24 to 48 hours. If the pH is raised or higher than 6.5 the seeds will germinate in 72 hours.

Make Sure You Have a Smooth Surface

Not all materials clean easily, but smooth slick items make it much easier. If you have a clay pot, colander, hexagonal net or any other surface that allows water to run through, you are on a winner.

As I mentioned above, some seeds need light to germinate. Using a clean black plastic lid from an ice cream tub is great for those seeds. If you don’t have anything black available, another option is to cut a hole in thick dark plastic, like a garbage bag.

If you have a slightly more expensive option, then you can buy a special germination kit. These are usually available through mail order or on line.

You may also use a clear glass cloche as well. This can be placed over the seeds to protect them from birds and other pests. The cloche will allow light to pass through, but still protect them. To make the cloche, simply cut the bottom out of a large plastic yoghurt cup. You can use a scissors to do the job.

Clean and sterilize the container you have chosen before use. This will help keep everything in the container nice and fresh.

Make sure that you have all the necessary items close to the area where you will be sowing the microgreen seeds. This will help to make the whole process easier when planting microgreens.

Plant Your Microgreen Seeds

Once you've found the ideal growing condition for your microgreens, it's time to plant some seeds, most likely from a seed packet, containing a blend of several different microgreen types and varieties of seed. Planting instructions vary, but generally amount to the same. Sprinkle the tiny seeds on the growing media and then water daily with a fertilizer-water mixture.

Fertilizer should contain a ratio of 16:10:16, which represents percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The nitrogen makes the vegetables green, the phosphorous gives them structure, and the potassium gives the plants some staying power.

You can start with a simple fertilizer formula and gradually adjust it over time, according to the results you see. Some microgreens can do well will a little less phosphorous or potassium (while others need more).

You may be able to get away with using a liquid fertilizer as opposed to one that is dissolved in water. You will just need to be careful that the microgreen's roots don’t come in direct contact with the fertilizer.

After the seeds sprout and the first set of true leaves appear, you will have to start feeding your microgreens with fertilizer in a different manner. This is because the seeds won't create enough nutrition for the plants, so you will have to supplement their diets with fertilizer sprays.

Give Your Seeds Some Water

You have two options for watering seedlings. You can either submerge the entire seedling in a half inch of water, or you can apply drops from your finger to the soil around the seedling. It is better to dip the entire seedling and allow water to penetrate the soil. Your finger’s moisture will be enough to nourish the seedling and help the seedling makes a transition from soil to water. However, you may also want to add a few drops of water directly to the soil surrounding the seedling to ensure that the germ that forms at the bottom of the seed gets enough water. People find the touching solution more effective than the flooding method for most small and delicate seedlings. When you dip a seedling in water, be sure to submerge the root. If you submerge the seedling at a slight angle, all the roots that are on the surface will be submerged.

Black It Out!

The seeds need darkness to germinate and grow. There are several ways to get this essential darkness.

You can create your own little blackout pod by bringing a towel over a 1"-diameter plant saucer or jar lid. Secure the edges of the towel with an elastic band.

Place the thin plastic, wet paper towel into the bottom of the saucer or jar lid.

Place the seeds on top of the wet paper towel.

Cover the seeds with the two pieces of plastic wrap that have been laid over each other.

You can cut a hole in the plastic wrap and slide the plastic that is resting on top of the paper towel into the saucer or jar lid.

The last step to create a blackout pod is to screw the saucer or lid down.

The promise of darkness sends the seeds into a growth-ready mode. This little pod reduces light to the point that it is just below the visible spectrum, but still allowing the pod to receive the necessary light that will be converted into energy. Keep the pod away from bright light because the clear plastic lets light in. You do not have to worry about the seeds receiving water because the water will be given to the roots through the paper towel.

TIP! If your blackout pod is opaque, you can place a kitchen towel over the plastic and then use tape to secure it. Or, you can place a black curtain over the saucer.