10 Microgreen Mistakes You Need to Avoid


microgreens under a lighting system

By Jennifer Poindexter

Are you struggling with growing microgreens? Are you new to growing microgreens and want to know what you should avoid?

No matter which category you fall under, you’re in the right place. There are a few common reasons why gardeners struggle when growing microgreens.

I’m going to share these reasons and how you can avoid making the mistakes of those who gardened before you.

If you’re interested in growing your knowledge of microgreens, tune into these microgreen mistakes to avoid:

What You’ll Learn:

  • The importance of providing the right amount of light for growing microgreens.
  • Why covering and weighting microgreens is essential.
  • Understanding the differences in germination and growth rates among various plants.
  • The importance of cleaning and sanitization processes for your trays.
  • Why reusing growing mediums could potentially lead to disease.
  • How to distinguish between roots and mold in your microgreen crops.
  • The significance of using the correct growing medium for successful cultivation.
  • How to avoid clumping when seeding your microgreens.
  • The benefits of starting your microgreens indoors for better environmental control.
  • The risk of overwatering your microgreens and how to avoid it.

Common Microgreen Mistakes to Avoid

Before you launch into growing microgreens for the first time (or the millionth time), explore these common mistakes gardeners make with this style of crop:

field pea and sunflower microgreens

1. Provide the Right Lighting

Microgreens are small, immature versions of some of the most common plants. You can grow microgreens from basil, sunflowers, amaranth, beets, radishes, and the list goes on.

However, these plants have specific requirements they need in a growing location. One of these requirements is light.

Yet, balance is vital in the growing process as too much light can scorch these delicate plants. Instead, provide a growing location with bright, indirect light. This can be from the sun or from the use of grow lights.

I made this mistake myself the first time growing microgreens. One day my plants were beautiful and healthy. The next day they were crunchy, so pay close attention to ensure you don’t overpower your plants with too much lighting.

2. Don’t Forget to Cover Your Microgreens

This was one of my biggest mistakes when I began growing microgreens. When I want seeds to sprout for full-sized plants, I don’t cover and weight them down.

I place them in soil, cover them lightly, and keep the soil damp. It should be the same with microgreens, right?

Well, not exactly. Microgreens should be covered and weighted to ensure they remain pressed into the growing medium and to compact the soil. This is beneficial during harvest.

Don’t forget to start your seeds in a damp growing medium, in a warm growing location, covered, and with a small amount of weight on the seeds. This should improve your growing experience. 

kale microgreen

3. Don’t Get Too Far Ahead of Yourself

Many people look at microgreens and think, “There’s nothing to it!” It depends upon what you’re growing.

Some seeds germinate easier than others and some germinate faster than others. Therefore, it’s wise to research the plant before trying to produce a microgreen.

Easier microgreens to grow are plants such as radishes and sunflowers. These plants produce faster and are more lenient on the gardener.

Some of the less forgiving plants that produce slower are basil and amaranth. You may grow these microgreens, but get a little practice under your belt with the easier options first.

4. Don’t Skip the Cleaning Process

When producing microgreens, it’s common for gardeners to reuse growing trays. This is prudent, but it can also spread disease.

Before starting new microgreens, be sure to clean your growing trays thoroughly. You do this by washing the trays with warm soap and water.

From there, spray the trays with a sanitizing agent that’s considered food safe. Allow the trays to sit in the sanitizer for approximately 30 minutes, then rinse the tray and let it dry.

arugula microgreen sprouting

5. Don’t Reuse Growing Mediums Too Quickly or At All

Some people choose soilless growing mediums (such as hemp mats) to grow their microgreens. Others prefer growing in soil.

The benefit of soilless growing mediums is you have less risk of disease as soil-borne illnesses don’t live in these spaces.

However, if you use hemp mats, they should only be used once. Most of them are a great addition to your compost, but not being able to use them over and over is a downside to some gardeners.

If you decide to go with soil, be sure to sanitize your soil between uses. You do this by spreading it on a baking sheet and baking it in your oven at 200-degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. This should kill any disease which remains in your soil.

This is an important step because if you plant in the same soil you harvested from, any disease that was there can impact your new plants.

6. Know the Difference Between Roots and Mold

If you’re new to gardening, especially when growing microgreens, it can be hard to tell what’s friendly and what isn’t.

Some people look at the tiny hairs which grow at the base of their microgreens and think the plant is producing mold.

How can you tell the difference? The most common way is to look at the substance growing. If it’s mold, it resembles a web and will grow on the seed.

Yet, root hairs don’t resemble a web as much as mold and will gather at the root system of the sprouted seed.

You may also try the water test. If you water the seeds, your root hairs will vanish whereas mold won’t. Instead, it will collect drops of water.

7. Using the Wrong Growing Medium

There is no one type of growing medium for microgreens. You may choose soil or soilless mediums. However, the wrong type of medium is one that doesn’t drain well.

Microgreens like consistent, even moisture. In fact, you don’t want your growing medium to dry out, or the seeds becoming dry, as this has a negative impact on your germination rate and on the productivity of the seeds once sprouted.

Yet, you don’t want to grow in soil that won’t allow excess moisture to drain away. This leads to rot. The only type of bad growing medium is one that leaves your microgreens in an oversaturated state and a growing medium that isn’t sterile. Both can lead to disease.

8. Growing Seeds in Clumps

This is a hard one to avoid when you’re a beginner. It’s wise to soak your seeds for your microgreens overnight.

When you pour them over your soil for planting, it gets a little tricky. If you’re using a soilless growing medium, the seeds stick to your fingers when you try to spread them out.

If you’re using traditional soil, sometimes the seeds are hard to see once poured onto the dark soil. Be mindful to spread your seeds out the best you can to avoid them growing in clumps.

When seeds grow too closely, it leads to rot. The seeds which do sprout, can leave you with plants growing too closely. This traps moisture around the plants which can lead to disease and damage your harvest.

9. Start Your Seeds Indoors

Microgreens aren’t like typical plants. I have a greenhouse, and I enjoy starting seeds there, but my microgreens don’t perform well in this setting.

What causes this to happen? It’s because microgreens like to grow in areas with temperatures between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit.

They don’t want things to be too warm or too humid as this can lead to mold. To avoid issues with disease, it may be best to grow your microgreens indoors where you have more control over the elements.

arugula microgreen growing

10. Avoid Overwatering

Our last mistake to discuss is to avoid overwatering. I’ve discussed this a little when warning about the wrong growing mediums.

Yet, overwatering can still occur no matter the medium you choose. Microgreens want to be evenly damp, but they don’t want to swim.

If your plants are left in standing water on a regular basis, this can lead to rot. Be sure to find the balance between supplying water without overdoing it.

You now have ten different mistakes gardeners make when growing microgreens. If you’re interested in growing these delicious and beautiful greens, it’s important to learn the common mistakes along with tips for a good outcome.

By understanding the entire picture, it could increase your chances of a solid growing experience. Hopefully, you’ll find great success and enjoy many delicious meals based around your homegrown microgreens.

Key Takeaways:

  • Providing the right lighting for microgreens is crucial, as too much light can damage these delicate plants.
  • Microgreens need to be covered and weighted for successful growth and easier harvest.
  • Some microgreen plants are easier to grow than others; start with simpler ones like radishes and sunflowers.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing your growing trays prevents the spread of disease.
  • Whether you use soil or a soilless medium, make sure to sanitize it properly between uses.
  • Distinguishing between roots and mold is crucial. Root hairs disappear when watered, whereas mold collects water droplets.
  • Choose a growing medium that drains well, as oversaturation can lead to rot.
  • Avoid seeding your microgreens in clumps to prevent rot and disease.
  • It’s often better to start microgreens indoors where you have more control over temperature and humidity.
  • Overwatering can lead to rot, so it’s important to keep the medium evenly damp but not saturated.

Learn More About Growing Microgreens

https://extension.psu.edu/growing-microgreens

https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/2018/02/what-are-microgreens/

https://extension.arizona.edu/sites/extension.arizona.edu/files/attachment/Microgreens.pdf  

The post 10 Microgreen Mistakes You Need to Avoid appeared first on Gardening Channel.

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