Microgreen growing mats can be a lifesaver for hydroponic microgreen cultivation. They can make the process easier for you. Furthermore, they can make prepping, cultivating, and harvesting a tad bit more understandable for those just starting with hydroponics. However, utilizing them can be costly in the long run. As such, it is very tempting to cut some corners and find out if microgreen growing mats are reusable.
Microgreen growing mats are typically not deemed reusable. They are considered for single use only and then replaced for the next crop. Still, some types can be re-used if you put enough effort into cleaning them. It can be a fifty-fifty process, and all the work does not guarantee their reusability.
We understand that it can be tempting to reuse your microgreen mats more than once. They can save you a ton of money and be environmentally friendly. However, does the process justify the end result? Let us look into it in more detail.
What Are Microgreen Growing Mats?
Before we go more into details if you can reuse microgreen growing mats, let’s first clarify what growing medium we are talking about.
Microgreen growing mats are a soilless growing medium used for growing microgreens. They are used when growing hydroponically (this means that you are using water to grow your microgreens without using soil).
The growing mats come in different materials and textures. They are favorable to use because they are easy to work with. You can cut them to the exact size to fit your tray or container, and they have good capability to retain water. Depending on the material you use, the retention level varies.
In summary, growing mats have some great benefits:
- They are easy and less messy to use in comparison to soil
- There is no waste of usage, as you can cut them to the exact size you need
- Many mats are sturdy and are favorable for growing small seeds
- Many mats have a high level of water retention
- Mats made out of natural materials (not synthetic) are environmentally friendly and can have a second life as compost
Some of the more common growing mats used for microgreens are:
Hemp growing mats are commonly used for growing microgreens. The loose fibers are great at holding water, and at the same time, they allow the roots to grow through the mat. Another advantage of this type of mat is that they are compostable. These mats are often sold in rolls, and you can cut them to the size you need.
Coco coir growing mats are what the name implies, made out of coco coir. They are fibrous and water-retentive and excellent for growing microgreens. Being 100% natural, you can feel great about using these and then putting them in the compost for a second life!
Jute growing mats are another great source of growing medium for microgreens. This material has been used for ages for making rope and textile, and it is 100% all-natural. They have a high level of water retention.
To learn more about what growing mediums are available and which ones are best to use, read our article The Best Growing Mediums for Microgreens
Now when we know how many great options there are for using growing mats for microgreens, let us dig deeper into their usability.
Can You Reuse Microgreen Growing Mats?
As we know all the greatness of using microgreen growing mats, should we take a closer look at whether they really are reusable?
Microgreen growing mats are not commonly marketed as being reusable. They are often considered single-use as there are challenges with making them fit for another growth. Most of the mats have a fibrous structure, and they are compostable but not reusable. That said, some will argue that microgreen growing mats can be reusable. There is, however, a great deal of work that you must do to make them fit for growing another round of microgreens.
Whether you should reuse your growing mats depends entirely on the circumstances and the context. The main concern about reusing microgreen growing mats is related to health issues.
Skimping On Mats Can Be A Potential Sanitary Issue
Reusing microgreen growing mats can cause sanitary issues. The reason is that you have to clean them and remove any debris before you can use them again. However, it can be difficult to get rid of mold spores that can harm your second growth. If you have had any mold growing in your first growth, we recommend against reusing the growing mat.
This sanitary issue is exponentially relevant considering that microgreens are foods often consumed raw, increasing the risk of contamination.
According to a study published by researcher Mistra Gina in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, funded by the USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, microgreen mats in hydroponic systems can inhibit bacterial growth. The growing mats can be a catalyst for Salmonella growth, some more than others. As per the study, hemp and Biostrate exhibited bacterial growth (Salmonella and Listeria in this context). The development was substantial compared to peat and coco coir microgreen growing mats that have inhibition properties to a certain extent, making bacteria decay over time (Gina, M., 2020).
The conclusion of the study, however, is that it was not proven if microgreens, grown in Biostrate(TM) and hemp, actually does take up greater amounts of bacteria, but it can still be useful information for indoor growers.
If you use microgreen mats that are not peat or coco coir, skipping the reusing process may be better.
How To Reuse Your Microgreen Growing Mat?
As we have outlined in this article, microgreens growing mats are in general not deemed reusable. There are some options out there that are promoted as reusable. Examples are mesh screens made out of steel or silicon. These mats can easily be cleaned as you can use a scraper or a soft scrub to remove any roots.
When you have grown microgreens using growing mats made out of coco coir, hemp, or jute, you will find that the cleaning process is more complex. Scraping or scrubbing to remove any organic matter will destroy the texture, so you will have to do this by hand.
Before you consider getting into it, you have to be certain that they are in a state to do so. You must always check if they are in reusable condition. There are a few conditions to go through before calling a microgreen mat in “reusable condition.” These are the following:
- Are they made of organic material and not synthetic?
- Is the mat intact and not rotting?
- Are there no molds growing?
- Is it possible to remove all organic matter in the pads?
If you have answered no to any of these questions, then your microgreen mat is not in “reusable condition.”
If you want to try re-using them, you should always dry the mats out. Then when they are dried, you have to remove and pull all of the leftover stems and roots out. Finally, when you have cleaned the mat, you should sterilize it; you can use food-grade hydrogen peroxide.
Cleaning the mat from roots can require a significant amount of time. Most buy these mats to make the process easier, and reusing them is a lot harder than just purchasing new mats.
On the other hand, we also have to consider the price of these growing mats. If we can reuse a mat 2 or 3 times, that is a significant money saver. So have this in mind when you choose to reuse your growing mats or not.
No matter what, when your growing mats are ready for disposal, you can still give them a second life.
Other Ways To Reuse Your Microgreen Growing Mat
If the growing mat you have used is natural and not synthetic, you can reuse it by putting it into compost. The mats will then end up in a natural process of recycling and turn into valuable fertilizer in your garden.
If you are a home grower and want to experiment if you can reuse your microgreen growing mats, you can try it out. However, as you have read there are certain risks of getting unhealthy crops, and it will take time to prepare them for a second round!
It can certainly be tempting to leave your growing mats for a second round after harvest. You want to save some money and reduce waste. If these are concerns, there are alternative growing mediums that are reusable.
We hope that you will find the solution that is best for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
If your mats are biodegradable, you can use them for compost fertilizers. That is, as long as you do not use them on your microgreens (using compost fertilizer on microgreens is unsanitary). They can be awesome compost fertilizers for your garden.
To reuse your mats, follow this process:
1) You will need to dry them first. This process allows you to remove organic matter easier as it makes the organic matter brittle.
2) Make gravity do some of the work. Please place them in high places so that some organic matter falls off.
3) Use sanitizing agents to clean the mats from bacteria. Remember: these mats exhibit bacterial growth, so don’t skip this step!
Some are biodegradable, while some are not. Coco noir and hemp, for example, compost quickly. Meanwhile, Biostrate pads can only be composted in industrial composting facilities. Not recommended for backyard composting