Microgreens are one of the latest health food crazes and for a good reason. Packed with nutrients, microgreens are the young shoots of a variety of leafy greens and vegetables.
One of the amazing benefits of growing microgreens is that it can be done indoors and no garden is required. It also doesn’t matter what climate you live in since you can grow it indoors. Growing microgreens is a rewarding way to get yourself involved in some indoor gardening, as well as a relaxing excuse. There’s hardly any upkeep, and it’s fun to watch the process!
If you have space in a basement or garage, this is a great place to set up. It requires low-maintenance, its cheap and easy to setup. Once you have set it up you can, later on, scale it and even make a business out of it.
We’ll guide you through it, step-by-step.
It’s easy to learn how to grow microgreens in your basement. Once you’ve got everything set up, the only variables are the actual seed and plants. Plain and simple, you can grow microgreens in your basement by setting up a shelf-type growing space with lights, trays, growing media, and of course, seeds.
Whether you want to grow just a handful of microgreens to eat on your own, or a full crop to sell for profit, the growing methods are pretty well the same. All you need is the space, a few supplies, and some organic sprouting seeds, and you’re ready to go!
Plan it Out
You’re probably excited to get started on growing your own crop of microgreens right from your basement (or garage), but there are some things you’ll need to figure out beforehand. The first thing is to plan it out. You need to know if you want to grow in a smaller or larger scale. This decision will be the basis of how you want to go about to set up your growth plan for your basement.
You must consider how many microgreens you would like to grow. If it’s just for you or you and your family, then just a few trays ought to do. If you’re looking to make a profit, start small but aim big. The easy maintenance provides you with an opportunity to expand your growth (given that you have the space available).
Step One: Ready Your Basement
The first thing you need to do is to ensure your basement is fit for purpose. This is probably the hardest part. The main thing to watch for when growing in a basement, especially in damp climates, is mildew. Mildew can ruin an entire crop, considering the plants are hardly big enough to stick up for themselves against such a vicious fungus. It can also be extremely difficult to get rid of once you’ve got it, so prevention is key.
Once you’ve ensured that no pathogens might find their way into your basement, start to map out where you would like your setup to go. Many growers use industrial wire shelves to house their growing trays, and mount growing lights onto, so you’ll need less space than you probably thought you would!
Make sure that the temperature in the basement will be well-regulated. Room temperature or even a tad colder is fine, but microgreens do best at spring temperatures, usually between 65-75 degrees. Fluctuating temperatures could possibly damage the sprouts, causing them to either grow too fast or too slow, which isn’t ideal.
Make sure the basement gets power and has proper lighting for you to be able to see what you’re doing during setup, or you’ll have a very difficult time getting things going! It also pays to set up near a safe, regulated electrical outlet so that you don’t have to use an extension cord.
Step Two: Gather the Materials
If you don’t want to spend the money on ready-to-go growing systems, you can with small work do it yourself (unless you really don’t want to put effort into it). The ready-made growing systems are expensive and difficult to ship and these systems may not be as dependable as something you’ve built yourself. After all, a little elbow grease is all it takes to build a nice setup.
Here’s what you’ll need for one standing rack:
- A wire shelving unit, with as many shelves as you would like (consider the volume you want to grow)
- A corresponding number of plastic or glass tubs, growing trays, or other containers that are easy to clean, sanitary and BPA-free
- A corresponding number of full-spectrum LED lights (they don’t have to be fancy, expensive grow lights as long as they are full-spectrum and fit inside the shelves)
- A large pack of zip ties
- Growing medium such as organic soil, or if you want to use hydroponic mediums such as hemp mats, coco coir or burlap
- Organic seeds of your choosing
- Watering can or drip system near a spigot or faucet
- Surge protector/power strip
- Wall outlet timer
- Long-nosed trimmers or kitchen scissors
- Spray bottle
This is all you need to get started! In addition to these staples, you may also be interested in purchasing some extras in case your trays start to snap or you wish to expand.
Step Three: Build Your Setup
Next up is to set up your shelving unit, whichever you decide to use! Be sure to follow all instructions and that the shelf is stable and able to hold some weight. This is very important, as a weak shelf will likely collapse after a short time, so avoid plastic shelving (the wires serve a purpose).
Once you have your shelf built, it’s time to add in the lights. Lights are key to grow in a basement as you will most probably not have the ability to benefit from natural sunlight.
First, ensure that you position your shelf near an electrical outlet. Try to avoid using a very old outlet or one that hasn’t been properly installed (like something hanging out of the wall).
When you plug your lights in, you may find that you need an extension cord. Make sure to check the packaging to ensure that it will support your lights.
This is where the zip ties come in. You will need to use these to attach the lights to the wire shelves. Ensure that the part of the light fixtures you are securing are parts that do not get hot; for instance, secure them by the sides, where the bulbs are hidden by plastic and do not heat up at the surface.
You will need a light on each shelf, facing down onto the shelf below it except for the very bottom of the shelf, where there is only a couple of inches or so between the shelf and the floor. All you have left to do is plug in the lights to the timer and then to the wall outlet, then place the trays on the shelves.
To give you insight on what the setup can look like, though on a larger scale, have a look at this youtube video. I’m sure you will get inspired and just eager to get started!
Step four: Select what you want to grow
Once you have prepared your setup, unless you have already thought about it, it is time to decide what kinds kind of microgreens you’d like to grow. Some of the more commonly grown microgreens are broccoli, radishes, and beans.
You can even grow a variety of different kinds of microgreens. Lettuces of all different varieties produce different tastes and consistencies, so if this is your first time, you may want to try a small batch of each kind of microgreen you’d like to grow to see how they do and how well you like them.
Similarly, if this isn’t your first time growing microgreens, but you’d like to branch out a bit, consider doing the same- perhaps you’ve been missing out on some tasty microgreen gems this whole time! There are so many ways to grow your little operation.
Step Four: Start Growing
Now for the fun part! There are different ways to grow your microgreens. It can be done in soil or in water (referred to as hydroponic solution).
To grow in your basement we will guide you through how to use soil.
In your growing trays, spread about an inch of your organic soil across the bottoms. You’ll want this soil to be slightly moist, not dry or soaked. Depending on the seeds, you may need to soak them overnight. This is a process to speeds up germination. Once you have your soil in place, you can sprinkle the seeds over the top. Don’t pack it on, but be plentiful.
The seedlings will not need a lot of root space since they will only grow to about 1-2 inches in height. You can sprinkle the seeds as if you would be shaking sprinkles into a birthday cake. You’ll want as many microgreens as possible form each tray but not overloaded.
Once you sprinkle the seeds, some types may need a very thin layer of soil over them. To do this, you can either use your hands to gently shake the soil into place, or you can simply use a trowel to spread the soil. Make sure that you aren’t upsetting the seeds too much when you do this.
With all the seeds and soil in place, you can water your trays! Using your spray bottle, gently spray the trays equally with enough water to heavily moisten the soil without any water buildup in the bottoms of the trays. Too much water will promote mildew and rot, while not enough will stunt the growth of the microgreens. Water lightly when the soil is dry.
Step Five: Set the Timer
This is a very important step. Once you have your lights all plugged into the power strip, you’ll need to plug the power strip into the outlet timer. You can leave the power strip itself in the on position, but you’ll need to program the timer to be on for 12-15 hours.
It isn’t especially important to time the timer up with the sun; any time of day will do. If you prefer to check on your microgreens at night, you can set the lights to be on during that time. They aren’t especially picky in this respect.
You’ll want a timer that can handle the current of the lights, so make sure to check the packaging for limitations. You can purchase these at any hardware store or online; they’re very easy to find.
Step Six: Wait and Harvest!
Finally, your work has paid off! Wait for your microgreens to grow as tall as you would like them; most growers harvest their crop once it has reached 1 to 2 inches in height. This can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity in your basement or growing space.
To harvest your microgreens, use your sharp knife or scissors to cut the greens just above the soil. You should collect them in a large bowl or colander that you can easily rinse them in to remove any dust that may have collected on the leaves.
Once you have harvested the greens, you’ll need to compost the soil in the trays, as it can’t be reused after the first use. The great thing about this is that it’s a great addition to your compost pile! You can also reuse this soil as potting soil for indoor or outdoor house plants or toss it into your vermicompost bin if you have one.
Now, simply wash out your trays with nontoxic soap and water and then sterilize them, dry and begin the process all over again! Some growers will start their trays a couple of days apart from each other so that they have a constant supply of fresh, new microgreens. Refrigerate your microgreens in a sealed container for up to two weeks. Ensure they are dry before you store them.
Expanding Your Microgreens Horizons
If you’re growing at home just to have microgreens in your house, but you wish to start growing for other people to sell at your local farmer’s market, you might want to consider adding additional shelves to your setup. It’s easy: to grow more microgreens, you’ll need more of the same supplies.
Simply follow the steps to build more shelving units with their components. If you wish to sell your microgreens, plan accordingly by documenting how long it takes for your microgreens to grow to the height you would like them to be, then plant that far in advance to ensure you have a good crop.
Also, be sure to plant enough to distribute in quantity. You may also consider transferring your microgreens into perforated containers for distribution, much like the ones you see in the grocery stores. This will help regulate how much you are selling. Remember to keep these cuts greens frigerated until distribution.
Growing Different Types of Microgreens
If you’ve grown one or two types of microgreens but start to get a little burned out on the same ones over and over again, then you may want to try growing a variety of microgreens. This can easily be done with the setup you already have, especially if you have everything down to a science.
Different types of microgreens can be grown in the same tray, per se, but you’ll most likely want to grow different types separately. You can even purchase some smaller growing trays if you’d like to just try a new plant before you go all out and start a whole batch. You can also do this in a Tupperware dish or shallow bowl, so long as you grow them under the right conditions.
If you want to try some new types of greens and vegetables, there are quite a few eligible, tasty additions for you to consider. These are all fantastic microgreens to grow:
You can grow any kind of edible herb or veggie, but these are typically the most popular and most delectable. It’s easy to see how many different plants and species make great microgreens.
What If I Have Mold?
If you start to notice tiny white fuzz on the microgreens seeds as they begin to sprout in their growing trays, don’t panic- this is not usually mold but the root hairs. If, however, you find that it is mold that begins to grow and multiply, then you may have a mold problem.
You can wash off the mold from the microgreens if it happens right before they are ready to be harvested; however, if the mold prevents the seeds from growing, then it’s time to restart. Compost the contents of all of your trays, wash them with soap and water or vinegar and water (no cleaning agents), and allow to air dry for at least a day.
Once you have cleaned the trays, wipe down your shelves and lights with disinfectant and a cloth. If you use any trimmers or small trowels, disinfect those as well. They could carry spores. Some mold can have airborne spores, but don’t panic; if you’re allergic to mold, you can wear a protective mask to prevent you from breathing them in.
Once you have everything clean, check your soil and seed. The spores had to have come from somewhere, and these are the most likely culprits. If there are no spores in either, then the mold likely came from your basement or growing environment. It’s best to clean everything thoroughly before you begin again.
Some new microgreens growers experience some setbacks on their first few tries. Sometimes the seeds won’t sprout; sometimes, the seedlings grow long and stringy. These issues can be especially frustrating but are easily dismissed with a few tricks.
Seeds Won’t Sprout
If your seeds don’t sprout, try soaking them overnight to ensure their volatility. Soaking the seeds allows the membranes inside to open up and become more accessible to the sprout. It also tricks the seed into thinking that it’s in a prime environment to grow. Use lukewarm water for this.
If soaking the seeds still doesn’t make them sprout, then you could simply have expired seeds. Some seeds are difficult to germinate and take several days to so, but wait at least a week before you decide to toss them. If you do, try some different seeds to determine if the original seeds were the issue. Use whatever you have lying around.
Seedlings Are Stringy
If your seedlings sprout, but then immediately turn into the stringiest plants you’ve ever seen, you might need to turn down the temperature in your basement a bit and move the lights closer to the trays. This will encourage the starts to stay short and stalky without hindering their growth.
You can adjust the lights by loosening the zip ties, or by creating a chain system for them to hang on. Chains and small hooks are great to use for lights because they are very easily adjustable and widely available.
Bugs can really put a damper on any gardening endeavor, indoor or outdoor. We’ve all had aphids on our roses, but what about whiteflies or gnats in our basement? If these insects are all over your microgreens operation, it’s time to take some measures.
Cinnamon is a great way to repel these insects. Since you are going to be consuming the plants, refrain from using any kind of insecticide or other pesticides near them, even if they claim to be organic. Washing this off is very difficult when it comes to microgreens since they are particularly frail.
You can sprinkle cinnamon on and around your microgreens station to prevent gnats and other insects. Just as if these insects were mildew, make sure to clean everything thoroughly if the problem persists. You can also use insect traps nearby if you feel that there are too many for you to tackle on your own.
This same method goes for mildews and fungus as well. Cinnamon is incredibly strong and pungent, so it prevents almost everything undesirable from intruding. Try not to use too much or use it before your seeds sprout, though, because it could even keep the seeds from germinating before they get the chance!
Soil Too Wet or Dry
Ah, humidity, the one most difficult aspect of growing microgreens to control. It’s always annoying to see that your trays are swampy or even that they dry out too quickly. There are tricks for this as well.
If your soil ends up being either too wet or too dry, perlite or vermiculite may help. Make sure to buy organic or unaltered/untreated versions, because some perlite products come with fertilizers in them, which puts a damper on your entire “tiny greens” platform. It makes them grow too fast.
Mix this in with your soil before planting to help regulate moisture. Additionally, for overly wet soil, you can punch a few small holes in the bottoms of the trays to help the airflow through them. Make sure you put a tub underneath to catch any falling water.
If your soil is too dry, try watering more. If this isn’t possible, you can drape some painter’s plastic or greenhouse plastic over the top of the shelving units, so long as they don’t come into contact with the lights (fire hazard). This helps to hold in moisture for longer.
Growing microgreens is great, but growing them in your basement is even better. Low-maintenance, cheap, and easy to set up, they’re probably one of the easiest crops to grow indoors. If you need some extra greenery in your living space, you can even move some of them into your kitchen, given there is plenty of sunlight and room.
Some hobbyists like to keep a steady crop in their windowsills year-round for a fresh, springy taste throughout the seasons. There’s really nothing better in the winter than feeling like you’re eating right out of your garden. It also helps you to eat healthier if there are healthy options just growing around the house!
Remember that it takes some practice to get just about anything right down to a science, so don’t give up if you can’t get things just right straight away. Fortunately, you only need a couple weeks’ worth of patience until you get to reap the benefits of your trial-and-error process, which makes it super worth it in the end.
Microgreens are a great way to spice up your meals, including salads, pasta dishes, and even pizzas and sandwiches. You’ll grow to love them- pun intended. At some point, you’ll probably just snack on them by the handful, which is a great way to ingest some valuable vitamins and nutrients. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the fresh greens!