If you find that your microgreens are consistently wilting and falling over, you might be able to improve them and avoid repeated failure by adjusting a few factors. Microgreens are essentially the baby form of edible plants and herbs and they can be a great addition to any diet, especially for anyone looking for a simple way to eat more greens.
10 Reasons Your Microgreens Are Wilting:
- Under Watering the Greens
- Mold or Mildew Has Infiltrated the Crop
- Contaminated Soil
- Incorrect Amounts of Sunlight
- Too Much Heat
- Poor Soil Quality
- Incorrect Soil pH
- Trying to Grow in the Wrong Season
- Incorrect Storage After Harvest
Wilting is a common problem for both established and beginner microgreens gardeners. However, there are usually a few common culprits responsible and once identified, steps can be taken to either recover the wilted greens or to prevent future crops from sharing a similar fate.
Lack of Water
One of the most common culprits for wilting microgreens is simply that they aren’t receiving enough water. Luckily, this is easy to fix. Simply giving the greens a bit more to drink can result in the plants perking up right away.
Sometimes, however, the plants may not recover because they were chronically under-watered in their vital development stages early in growth. Different microgreens require different demands of water, so it might be helpful to do a little species-specific research if you continue to have difficulties with particular varieties.
A general rule of thumb when watering is to make sure the soil is damp but not overly soggy. Standing water or excessive soil moisture can lead to mold, which is another problem entirely. Make sure your container has holes at the bottom to drain away excess water.
Typically, microgreens are planted in relatively small containers. This means that each seedling is competing for limited amounts of resources, such as sunlight, water, and soil nutrients.
Planting copious amounts of seeds might seem like a good idea at the outset because more seeds mean a higher yield of plants, but it will actually work against the gardener. The increased competition created by over-seeding will usually result in none of the seedlings receiving an adequate amount of resources, and thus the entire crop being malnourished and wilting.
Over-crowded seedlings will result in a soil that doesn’t have a proper amount of aeration due to too dense of a root system and too much competition for oxygen. Cramped growing conditions also make for less regulated levels of water evaporation, creating soggy pockets that are ripe for growing mold and mildew.
To avoid this, pay careful attention to the recommendations for seed spacing when planting. Keep in mind that different species will have different requirements for space.
Mold or Mildew
While we do want to make sure microgreens receive an adequate amount of water to avoid wilting, overwatering can result in its own set of unique complications that can sabotage a crop.
Mold and mildew are a very common problem for anyone trying to grow microgreens. The problem can result from soggy soil, either because the soil isn’t draining properly, i.e., no holes in the bottom of the container to allow water to exit, or because the plants are being watered too much. Too much water results in poor airflow through the soil, making a stagnant environment in which the roots of the microgreens will begin to rot and mold will take over.
Mold can also result simply from an environment that is too humid for the greens. Keeping greens in a well-ventilated area with less humidity will help reduce the formation of mold. If you think the humidity is to blame, you can invest in a low-cost dehumidifier to help keep the air drier.
If seeds are overcrowded, it is also easier for mold and mildew to creep into the crop. Lack of sunlight also encourages mold to grow. Sunlight is usually the best at destroying microbes, but if the light is too strong and harsh it can also damage the microgreens. It is important to find a proper balance between light and shade.
If a container of microgreens becomes infected with mold or mildew, it may be not safe to consume any of the greens raw, even those that don’t appear to have mold. If the greens are cooked in high heat, this can kill most types of fungus, but it is still best to avoid getting mold in the container in the first place.
To prevent mold, you can sanitize seeds before planting with a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide and avoid overseeding. Also, ensure containers have adequate drainage to avoid soggy soil and prevent risks that would result in contaminated soil mediums.
Even if you are watering at the perfect amount of frequency and your environment is ideal for growing microgreens, if you start with contaminated soil your efforts will be in vain every time.
Contaminated soil means any growing medium that already has an unwanted population of microbes present before the seeds are even planted. To avoid contaminated soils, don’t use low quality grow mediums and consider cleaning any garden tools between uses, as a tool that has been used in contaminated soil elsewhere can spread the microbes to clean soil.
Some experts recommend sterilizing a growth medium before planting. This can be done by baking soil at low temperatures for a short period of time. However, there is some debate as to whether soil sterilization can actually have a bad effect by killing off all microbes. Some microbes in the soil are useful for reducing other harmful threats to seedlings and aerating the soil, so eliminating them completely may be a disadvantage.
If in doubt, some soils for sale are already treated or pasteurized, so you can try out a sterilized growth medium without having to take any extra effort on your part.
In general, it is a good idea to use fresh soil and a clean container whenever planting a new crop of microgreens. Keep garden tools clean to avoid cross-contaminating crops. Don’t forget that whatever implement you are using to water, whether it be a watering can or a hose, can also potentially carry nasty microbes, so it might be a good idea to routinely clean it.
Incorrect Amounts of Sunlight
Many microgreens are started in darkness when first planted, but after a few days need to be moved into sunlight. If microgreens remain in darkness for too long, they will not be able to grow properly.
If microgreens are kept in darkness for too long in the beginning stages of their growth or are in too much shade at later stages of growth, they will likely look yellowed, weak, and have long stems.
This is because the plants need sunlight to start the process of photosynthesis. They will not be able to achieve a green color or thicker growth until photosynthesis starts in earnest. Too much shade means none of the crops receives adequate amounts of nutrients to thrive.
Sometimes this can be fixed simply by introducing the plants to more light, but if the plants are too far along in development there is a chance that the crop will not yield much. It is best to grow microgreens in areas with steady amounts of indirect sunlight or timed grow lights. Be sure to rotate trays to ensure all the seedlings receive a balanced amount of light.
Be sure to pay attention to the type of microgreens being planted, as this will determine how long the seedlings need to be kept in darkness during the germination process. If you expose the seedlings to too much sunlight too early, you run the risk of scorching the delicate seedlings and causing them to wilt and die early.
Too Much Heat
If plants are in an environment that is too hot, this means that water in the soil will evaporate quicker and lead to a higher probability of the microgreens being dehydrated.
Also, plants can be burnt to death if in too harsh or bright light. This means that full days of direct, unobscured sunlight may be too harsh for many microgreens and result in withered, shriveled leaves and stems. If using grow lights, incorrect wattages that are too high or placing the lamps physically too close to the seedlings may also result in wilting microgreens.
Poor Soil Quality
Microgreens can be grown in a variety of mediums. Some gardeners prefer shallow trays or containers of soil, while others opt for soil mats that come with preset kits. Still, others wave goodbye to soils completely and opt for hydroponic growing setups. If your microgreens are wilting, it may be prudent to consider the type of medium you are using.
Growing mediums can be a mix of soil, compost, or 50/50 blends of soils with minerals such as perlite and vermiculite to achieve better soil aeration. Higher quality soils will usually yield higher quality results. Poorer quality soils are more likely to have issues with mold.
Choosing a growth medium often depends on what type of microgreens you are looking to grow. It may take a few tries to find the best soil blend for your microgreens to grow best.
In general, as a good rule of thumb, larger seeds require soil while smaller seeds work best with grow mats. These grow mats are generally not reusable and usually fall apart or become too compacted to grow more seedlings after the first harvest.
Incorrect Soil pH
Microgreens, like all plants, will have a preferred pH level for optimal growth. While some microgreens like Asian greens will like alkaline environments (a pH around 8,) other plants prefer more acidic conditions. If your microgreens are struggling, it is worth doing a little research to see if the species prefers a certain pH balance.
The easiest way to adjust the pH level of your growing environment is by modifying the pH of your water. While alkaline water is now readily available in most grocery stores, you can also achieve the same effect by adding a bit of baking soda to your watering can. If needing more acidity, add a splash of lemon juice to your water.
Trying to Grow in the Wrong Season
More likely than not, if your goal is to be able to grow microgreens year-round, this can be accomplished but it will need to take a little thought and planning.
Some seeds need a warmer environmental temperature for germination while others require a colder setting. As such, this will determine when it is best to grow what microgreens. If you try to sow seeds in the wrong time of year for your climate, it will likely result in a hit or miss crop.
Some gardeners suggest that it can also be crucial to consider at what point in the month you are planting. Specifically, planting with consideration to the cycles of the moon can affect the success rate of a crop of microgreens. The thought behind this is that the gravitational pull of the moon affects soil moisture and sap flow, just as it affects the rise and fall of the tides.
By planting seedlings during a particular moon phase, it may result in better moisture absorption and a faster growth rate.
Incorrect Storage After Harvest
Often overlooked, one of the most common times you may encounter your microgreens wilting is after you have picked them! If you have harvested your greens but don’t intend to use them all at once, there are a few simple steps that can be taken to ensure longer shelf life.
Use sharp scissors to cut the microgreens from the container, and then wash the cuttings in water and rinse thoroughly. Be careful not to bruise the microgreens as you wash and rinse them.
If you are harvesting during a hot or humid season, it might be advantageous to use a fan to cool off the greens before or just after harvesting to prevent wilting. Place clean microgreens in a sealed container and store them in the fridge. When stored properly microgreens can remain fresh in the fridge for days.
Overall, it’s easy to grow microgreens and the success rate to end up with fresh and nutritious plants is high. Though, there are times when we fail and then it is good to understand what we can do to get our plants back on track. To avoid the frustration of losing your microgreens, consider the reasons provided. A good saying is “practice makes perfect” and with some minor adjustments, you will again be growing healthy microgreens.