Growing microgreens is an exciting gardening adventure that allows anyone, from novice seed-starters to experienced green thumbs, to cultivate a crop of nutrient-dense, ultra-fresh ingredients right at home.
As both a passionate gardener and a home cook who loves infusing dishes with intense, fresh flavors, I’m always eager to grow microgreens to garnish my meals and snacks now that I know what they are and how to plant, grow, and harvest them (big thanks to Jamie, the founder of whyfarmit.com).
Read on below, where I share with you everything you need to know to dive into the vibrant world of microgreens. I guide you as you explore the best varieties to grow, how to sow and care for your crops, optimal growing conditions, when to harvest, and creative ways to enjoy your microgreens in the kitchen.
Or, if you prefer, head over to our Plant Guides page and learn about another species you’re dying to know about.
What Are Microgreens?
Before I explain/you learn everything you need to know to plant, grow, and harvest microgreens at home, first let me run the definition of microgreens by you for beginners. These tasty little greens do not belong to a single species/type of plant, or even to a family of plants for that matter, but rather, the term ‘microgrens’ is an umbrella term.
So, then, what exactly are microgreens, you may be wondering by now. The truth is that microgreens are simply the tender, young seedling versions of a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and sometimes other miscellanious edible plants. Once a freshly planted batch of microgreens reaches between an inch to 3 or 4 inches tall, they are harvested. That’s because, to qualify as authentic microgreens, the speciments are picked just after the first set of true leaves have developed. From start to finish, including germination, most microgreens typically require anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks before harvesting.
Another way to describe microgreens, physically, is that they are smaller and more delicate than “baby greens” which are allowed to grow slightly larger, but much taller than their sibling sprouts.
If you are new to the world of microgreens, there is a lot to learn about these healthy little treats. The petite seedlings known as microgreens pack an outsized nutritional punch, often containing higher densities of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals compared to their mature counterparts. Their flavors are also intensely concentrated – almost any microgreen variety will offer a more robust, lively taste than the full-grown plant.
With minimal space requirements and a quick crop cycle, these tasty little greens are the ultimate way for gardeners to delight in fresh-from-the-source ingredients year-round.
Best 3 Microgreens to Grow for Home Cooks
One of the joys of growing microgreens is exploring different varieties to discover various new flavors and colors for your palate.
Here are some of my favorite types of seeds to grow as microgreen in my home garden and use in the kitchen:
1. Vibrant Leafy Greens
- Spinach – A familiar flavor with dark green, crinkly leaves. Spinach works well mixed into dishes.
- Swiss Chard – Offers striking red, yellow, and orange stems. It is often noticed that Swiss chard tastes similar to spinach.
- Kale – Earthy, cabbage-like taste and a nutrition powerhouse. The curly green leaves add an appealing texture.
- Arugula – Delivers a pleasantly spicy, peppery bite. Mix your fresh arugula into salads or use as garnish.
2. Zesty Herb Microgreens
- Basil – The Italian herb, basil, is one of my favorites; it takes on a concentrated flavor as a microgreen. Use it to infuse pasta, pizzas, and more.
- Cilantro – The popular herb, cilantro, is bright green, citrusy, and has an overall taste, as a microgreen, that enhances many Asian, Mexican, and Southwestern dishes.
- Dill – The feathery, aromatic leaves of dill microgreens perfectly complement seafood, chicken, vegetables, and egg dishes.
3. Peppery Brassicas
- Broccoli – Grown as microgreens, broccoli is much more nutritious and comes with a mild broccoli zing. Scatter over soups, tacos, rice bowls, and more.
- Cabbage – The crunchy and refreshing texture of cabbage as microgreens comes with a familiar bite, but sometimes slightly on the sweet side rather than peppery like some mature cabbage specimens. Delicious in coleslaw or as a salad topping.
- Radish – Peppery, crisp stems and leaves are a signature of radish cultivated as microgreens. Use their zippy flavor to accent savory foods.
- Mustard – Spicy green leaves liven up sandwiches, grain bowls, and salads.
This list just scratches the surface of the diverse microgreen varieties available. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types to discover new flavors you’ll love.
How to Grow Microgreens: Step-by-Step
Growing microgreens is remarkably easy and fast – even on your first time giving it a go. In all honesty? These healthy snacks are one of the easiest things to grow, period.
With just a shallow container, seeds, and proper care (more than likely in addition to a bit of a growing medium or mesh for the roots to hang onto and support their upward trajectory), gourmet microgreens are ready for harvesting, quite often, as early as in 2 to 3 weeks.
Follow these 8 simple steps for achieving a successful first-time microgreens production (of any varieties you wish):
Step 1 – Select Your Growing Container (or Starter Kit)
I always recommend starting off with a starter kit from a reputable company, when venturing into a new hobby/activity. The same advice goes for getting started with microgreens. Uing a microgreens grow/starter kit, like the one I shared above from ZestiGreens goes a long way in helping you both successfully start and finish your first batch of microgreens but also in mastering the art of microgreen growing.
Most complete microgreens growing kits include:
- Container(s) and/or tray(s)
- Seed mat(s)
- Warming mat(s)
Some microgreens starter kits include more, like recipe books and air tight foo containers, while others come with less than the mentions on my bullet-list above.
The humble seedling tray is a microgreen gardener’s best friend. If you skip going the kit route, look for a sturdy plastic tray no less than 1 to 3 inches deep. Or, if you prefer, repurpose plastic food containers like rectangular ice cream containers – just punch drainage holes in the bottom of each one before you get started.
Special microgreens growing mats (normally made of either hemp or coco coir) are another good option, allowing you to simply roll up the mat to harvest your crop. Talk about growing healthy food quick, fast, and in a hurry, eh? It doesn’t get any more convenient than that, folks.
In addition, products like VIVOSUN’s seedling heat mat may also be worth your investment. In some cases, a heating mat may even be included in the microgreens starter/growing kit you purchase.
Step 2 – Fill Container With Seed Starter Mix (or Skip Ahead if Using a Mat)
Microgreens don’t require soil, technically speaking. Instead, use a sterile, soilless seed starting mix, which will discourage mold growth. Dampen the mix before filling your tray. Remember that your container must be fast and well-draining or it isn’t going to work out I’m afraid.
Step 3 – Sow Seeds into Containers/Trays or Seed Mats
Sprinkle your seeds evenly over the surface. Aim for dense but not overcrowded spacing, as your sow your microgreens. Gently press the seeds into the starter mix, and repeat, repeat, repeat, until done.
If using a seed mat, instead of trays or containers, simply sprinkle the seeds onto the mat and water them (unless the instructions on your seed mat calls for a different approach/additional steps).
Step 4 – Mist Soil & Cover Tray
Lightly mist the planted seeds to moisten the soil surface. Then cover the tray with a humidity dome or plastic wrap to retain moisture while seeds germinate.
Fair warning: if you allow excess moisture to seep into and stay in your growing medium or seed mat, or fail to provide enough light, warmth, and overall, humidity, your microgreens probably won’t make it to the harvest.
Step 5 – Provide Warmth & Light
Place your covered tray somewhere nice and warm, around 70°F (21°C). Bright indirect light is optimal, but even an indoor windowsill will work. You can also use a grow light positioned 2 to 4 inches above the tray.
Step 6 – Uncover & Thin Once Germinated
In 1 to 5 days, your seeds should germinate. Once the seedlings emerge, remove the cover and thin crowded clumps so plants have breathing room.
Don’t wait to long to take the top off of your tray/containers, or remove the wrap from your seed mats or your greens will remain transclucent, turn white, or fade to yellow, rather than turn the vibrant color green you are aiming for.
Step 7 – Continue Watering & Light
Lightly mist your plant growth daily to keep the soil moist but not saturated. If your greens are too tall and skinny, before their first true leaves develop, move to a sunnier spot or use a grow light to prevent spindly growth.
Make sure to take into account, on the next go-round, everything you learned from your first attempt at cultivating microgreens from start to finish.
Step 8 – Harvest in 7 to 21 Days
Cut microgreens when the first true leaves appear, typically 7 to 21 days from seeding depending on variety. Trim just above soil line with scissors.
Growing microgreens indoors is an easy, fun gardening project for any season – so, whether you are looking for a new hobby,
Want to teach your kids (or class) about gardening, or otherwise, I recommend giving it a go. Nothing beats the taste of fresh-picked greens, especially when you grew them yourself, from start to finish.
Caring for Your Microgreens Crop
Proper care, while your microgreens grow, will ensure your seedlings stay healthy and achieve their best flavor.
Here are the five key microgreen care factors:
- Lighting – Microgreens need 12 to 14 hours of bright light per day. Supplement natural light with grow lights as needed.
- Temperature – Ideal temps are 60 to 75°F (15 to 24°C). Heat mats can provide warmth for an indoor garden.
- Moisture – Keep soil consistently moist but not soaked. Water from the base to avoid fungal issues.
- Air Circulation – Use small fans to prevent dampness and strengthen stems through gentle breeze.
- Clean Tools & Hands – Disinfect cutting tools, avoid overcrowding and wash hands before harvesting to prevent disease.
Give your little green plants attentive care and you’ll be rewarded with a vibrantly flavorful (and highly nutrious) crop!
Harvesting Microgreens for Maximum Flavor & Freshness
Learning when and how to harvest microgreens is the final reward after patiently nurturing your crop.
Follow these four tips:
- Time It Right – Begin checking crops around 7- to 10 days after germination. Taste a sample leaf to test flavor.
- Snip With Care – Use clean, sharp scissors or knife to cut just above soil level when harvesting. Handle gently.
- Rinse & Dry – Swish harvests in cool water and spread over a towel to dry before storage.
- Partial Harvests – You can harvest these greens in stages, cutting outer mature leaves while inner ones continue developing.
Proficient harvesting ensures your microgreens retain optimal texture and flavor. With practice, you’ll get a feel for the perfect harvest timing.
Getting Creative With Microgreens in the Kitchen
The fun really starts once it’s finally time to enjoy the fruits of your gardening labors!
Here are some delicious ways to use microgreens that I’ve discovered:
- Garnish soups, grain bowls, tacos, pizza, sandwiches, and more with them for a burst of color and flavor.
- Mix them into green salads, veggie slaws, and creamy potato salads.
- Blend them into smoothies, juices, and protein shakes for concentrated nutrients.
- Fold them into omelets, frittatas, pancakes, and other egg dishes.
- Use them as a fresh bed for cooked proteins like fish, chicken, and steak.
- Make microgreen pesto by pulsing them with olive oil, nuts, garlic, and parmesan.
- Mix with olive oil and vinegar for a simple chilled microgreen salad.
Let your imagination run wild playing with these tiny flavor-packed leaves! Homegrown microgreens make every meal feel gourmet.
Microgreen Storage Tips
For best flavor and texture, use those fresh greens as soon as you are done harvesting, or preserve them in essential oils or in your freezer. Otherwise, you can extend their shelf life up to 5 to 7 days by:
- Gently drying the leaves after rinsing.
- Storing in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Layering a dry paper towel in the container to absorb condensation.
With proper storage, you can continue enjoying your bountiful green harvest all week long!
Frequently Asked Microgreen Questions
What’s the difference between microgreens and sprouts?
Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs, harvested after the first true leaves emerge. Sprouts are germinated seeds harvested just a few days after sprouting, before leaves form.
Do you need special equipment to grow microgreens?
All you really need is a shallow tray, seed starting mix, and somewhere to place it with light. Mini greenhouses, grow lights, and heat mats can be helpful additions for an indoor garden.
How much sunlight do microgreens need per day?
Most microgreens need 12 to 16 hours of bright, indirect light per day. Using grow lights lets you provide sufficient illumination indoors.
Can you grow microgreens year-round?
Absolutely! An indoor microgreens garden can provide fresh garnish and nutrition whether it’s snowy outside or sunny and green. Grow lights and heat mats allow year-round cultivation.
How often do you need to water microgreens?
Check soil daily and mist with water whenever the surface is almost dry. Avoid oversaturation. Base watering works better than overhead watering.
Final Thoughts on Growing Microgreens
As a passionate home gardener, I find cultivating microgreens to be an extremely rewarding, fulfilling hobby. In just a few short weeks, it’s incredible to witness those tiny dried seeds transform into an edible work of art overflowing with natural flavors and colors.
Beyond the gardening journey, I love having access to the freshest, most vibrant ingredients right on my kitchen counter. It feels good knowing exactly where your food comes from while also reducing waste from store packaging.
While microgreens require some diligent care, the process is very scalable – you can grow a few trays on a windowsill or fill your whole basement under grow lights! I encourage all gardeners, cooks, and anyone seeking a fun green thumb project to give nurturing microgreens a try. Your tastebuds and your wellness will thank you.
- Microgreens Starter Kit with Seed Starting Mix – Contains everything needed for starting your first microgreens garden indoors.
- Microgreens Growing Trays – Sturdy plastic trays perfect for growing tasty microgreens crops.
- Microgreens Seeds Variety Pack – Provides a diverse mix of microgreen seeds to grow a rainbow of flavors and colors.
- Microgreens Handbook – Helpful in-depth guide book with microgreen growing tips and techniques.
- Full Spectrum LED Grow Light – An efficient grow light panel for nurturing abundant microgreens indoors.
- Mini Personal Greenhouse – Creates ideal microclimate conditions for growing sturdy microgreens at home.
I hope this comprehensive guide gets you excited to grow and enjoy your own delicious microgreens at home! Let me know if you have any other microgreen gardening questions.
Suggested Reading Section: DIY Gardening Ideas and Inspiration