A small soil microgreens setup

Starting small with bare essentials for a basic microgreens production. Easy to set up, maintain and upgrade.

The first method of growing microgreens we will be looking into is probably the easiest one to set up but quite impractical when compared to its alternatives. I’m starting with this option to possibly learn more about a soil, even though I don’t plan on using it much in the future. I suggest this solution for a low-scale production because of the amount of soil needed and manipulation with it. You will need a plenty of it for planting and ideally be able of composting it afterward. For larger commercial production, I would either recommend some other systems, which we will be describing in other articles, or having an answer for later soil handling.

In general, you should be able to buy items for our setup in a basic gardening and hardware shops. Everything here can be modified based on your needs and options, you don’t need to look for a specific brand, dimensions and such. My other advice is to start small to try things out first. You will know what to expect and if you keep some kind of scalability in mind, you should be always able to expand later.

A few items from our shopping list: a power supply, an electrical outlet timer, LED strips, gloves, seeds and a mister

Items

A fundamental item in our shopping list is a tray. You can buy a specialized tray for growing microgreens but it is not necessary, you can opt for some plastic tray with another primary purpose. For example, I went for a flower pot saucer because it was much cheaper. Nonetheless there are few important attributes to look for: you definitely want to have grooves there so that the soil stays at one place. You will be looking for a decent height of the tray for the same reason. You should also decide on a style of watering your microgreens, either you can buy a tray with drain holes and water them from the bottom (don’t forget to buy another saucer in this case, you don’t want the liquids all over the place) or a tray without holes and water from the top, which might be a little bit complicated but doesn’t change any results.

Next item on the list is soil. The best option is a potting soil, which can be found in every shop or you could try looking for some local seller, just make sure it is an organic one. If you feel adventurous it is also great to create a soil mix according to your specific needs. I was surprised by the actual amount of soil needed so be sure to supply yourself adequately.

Another crucial piece is a light source. Now, you can, of course, use natural sunlight, however, I like to focus on urban farming aspects of my builds and therefore we will be using artificial lighting. There are various options to choose from, including LED strips, bulbs, and others. All of them has its pros and cons obviously, so you will need to do a little research on what is the best one for your setup and volume.

And moving to the microgreens! The awesome news is that you can use almost any salad greens, lettuces or herb seeds. You can pick from microgreen seed mixes or go with a single type package. Be brave and buy some seeds you can get in bulk, you will need a ton of it to fill the whole tray. Some of them have specific needs such as presoaking so be sure to check instructions first – speaking of which, I will be posting articles on specific microgreens, but for the start I would suggest a radish or basil since they are easy enough.

The last but not the least is water. You will be moisturizing the soil so that the seeds stick to it, get in contact with soil, and stay in one place. It is obviously a valuable source for the plants from the biological point as well (more on that in plant biology category). I found ideal using a sprayer or a mister for this, since you will be watering the greens during their grow too.

To harvest your product get yourself a pair of scissors or similar tool and a sieve to wash the greens from dirt. If you would like to note your yields, prepare a kitchen weight.

A grown radish microgreens

Growing

Select a place where you would like to grow the greens, there are few requirements for this. Make sure it can be lighted for 16 or more hours a day and it won’t disturb other people or pets. Since we are using soil and water, it can get messy, so cover any surfaces accordingly. Some additional space for manipulation before and after growing will be nice to have too. And you will need to hang lights of your choice above trays, so keep all of this in mind.

Pick some kind of a cup (you can use a container from a yogurt for example) and start spreading the soil evenly into your trays. It should reach about a half way up of the tray, you want to have a sufficient support for the plants when they are grown and tall. Flatten it properly, just press each tray down, don’t fear to apply some pressure and make the soil more solid in there. You can also build a tool of the size of the tray that will do the job even better.

After the soil preparation you can advance to seeds. Again, you can use a plastic cup or anything with a basic shaker lid. The weight of seeds that you will be using depends on dimensions of your trays and type of microgreens. In this case I suggest keep writting it down and eventually finding what works best for you. Go through the whole tray once and make it little bit thin for the first time, then you can go a couple more times and see where it is just not dense enough. You can really fit in much more then you would expect.

When you are done with seeds, you can put pressure on them again with your created tool or by hand (but it is very likely that seeds will stick to your hands or gloves), to make sure they are fixed in their place. Next you take your sprayer or mister and water the whole thing, making sure that there are no dry spots and that all seeds are in firm contact with the soil.

Following that you will cover the surface, which can be achieved either by putting a moisture paper towel over the soil with seeds or preferably you will stack two trays onto each other and switch them from top to bottom after one day. They don’t need to be under lights during this period.

Two and a half or three and a half days later you will uncover all the greens and put them under lights with electrical outlet timer or similar device. Different microgreens require different light cycles and watering so get yourself educated on this before moving to this step.

And that’s it. After a defined period of time your product should be ready to be harvested. You want to check the bottom after cutting it to prevent any dirt in there. Depending on your production scale you can be harvesting into plastic containers, clamshells or just some bowls for your own use. Record all data needed and you are ready for another batch!

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