Growing microgreens is one of the best ways to make money on fast-turning crops. But there are some easy beginner mistakes that a lot of people make that can cost you cash and waste time. Don’t fall for common microgreen mistakes!
No fluff, no intro, just the tips:
- Don’t harvest wet microgreens. Depending on how you’re watering (mister, drips, overhead), you are most likely going to get the soil immediately around your greens nice and damp. Damp soil sticks to plants, and it’s more likely that you’ll get them dirty when you harvest wet. So, have your micros look nicer and save yourself time washing them by only harvesting dry. Plus, damp greens can negatively affect shelf life – a big no no.
- Don’t buy high PPF (re: expensive) lights. PPF refers to photosynthetic photon flux and is the best measurement of how much light is hitting your plants. But, your plants don’t actually need that much at this stage. In fact even high-end light manufacturers have to tone down their lights to work optimally with seedlings and microgreens. While there are always benefits to using higher quality lights, they’re marginal and not worth the high costs unless you are really scaling your microgreens operation. If you are in less than 200 sq ft, don’t worry about spending the money.
*At the same time, don’t buy cheap, bad lights either. These are worse in the long run and not great for your sustainability record. And, as always, using the sun is great!
- Don’t overfill your trays with soil. I prefer seedling soil as my medium for microgreens. First, it composts. Second, compared to other non-soil compostable media, it’s cheap. Finally, you can tweak the normally fast-drying seedling mixes (they do this so the plants get more wet/dry cycles, accelerating growth) with vermicompost or something (hopefully made from the remnants of past trays!) to suit your watering needs by increasing your soil’s water holding capacity, allowing you to go longer between watering. That’s a nuanced bit of insight that won’t work in everyone’s system, but is worth remembering.
But, all this being said, it’s worth comparing the amount of soil you are using to the sheets of hemp or rockwool alternatives you can buy just to get a sense of how thin your layer of soil can be for sowing your micro seeds. The point being, if you use less soil, you’ll save more money because however much you buy will last you more trays.
- Don’t over fertilize. Along the same lines as saving money with less soil in point 3 and diminished returns for seedlings/micros in point 2, it doesn’t really make sense to add nutes (NPK fertilizer) to your micros. The seeds have enough nutrients stored in them to get started and if they really need supplements, there is usually something in your soil mix to provide it for them.
- Don’t skimp on the water or the seed quantity. Many people under-sow their seeds when they first start growing microgreens. What I’ve learned is to sow them thick and water them well. You want seeds growing close together so you can get more production/tray and don’t have to waste grow space (and other potential money-making opportunities) with redundant trays. But when you have that many seeds, they’ll suck up water fast. So, don’t waste time and money throwing away trays with micros that are too leggy or even dried up from under-watering. What I’ve learned for growing microgreens effectively is “seed heavy, water heavy.”
There you have it, 5 ways to grow the best microgreens. For more microgreen insight, check out this interview with 6-figure microgreen business owner Chris Thoreau of Food Peddlers and Urban Micro. By focusing on these easy mistakes to avoid when growing microgreens, you’ll be able to save yourself time, money, and be able to do the hard work of learning what to do instead of what not to!
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