Microgreens are great for both new and experienced farmers. They are especially popular because of their low starting costs and high returns. One accessible resource for many farmers is birdseed. So can I use birdseed for microgreens?
The answer is yes; in theory, you can use birdseed to grow microgreens. Is it safe? Practically no. Birdseed, as the name suggests, is food explicitly curated for birds. Those seeds are not good seeds to use to grow your microgreens. It may seem cheap and accessible, but they’re far from it.
Using birdseed as a replacement for actual seeds used in the growing of microgreens is a tall order. The seeds have undergone a level of processing that most seeds used to grow human consumable food have not.
We recommend laying off the birdseed if you’re interested in starting a microgreen business or just want to grow for personal use.
Keep reading and learn more about microgreen growing and the materials required.
- Can I Use Birdseed For Microgreens?
- What’s The Conclusion To All Of This?
- Some Helpful Microgreen FAQs.
- Additional Sources
Can I Use Birdseed For Microgreens?
As shared earlier, in theory, you can. However, as the name suggests, birdseed is for birds. And most of the birdseed in the market is not suitable for human consumptions.
But first, let’s set a couple of things straight.
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are baby plants. Farmers and consumers consider plants to be microgreens when they are between the sprout and maturity stages of the growth cycle.
Once they’re in that midpoint level of growth, you can consider them as microgreens. However, not every plant can produce microgreens. The best plants that are suitable for microgreens are:
- Salad greens
- Leafy vegetables
- Edible flowers (not so common in the microgreen industry)
Anything else that does not meet these categories is unsuitable to be microgreens. Maybe they can get to that stage, but you cannot consume them at that mid-level growth point.
Microgreens started its rise to fame in 2006. So they’ve been in the market for some time now. Restaurants have been using them as a decorative addition to plates. And thanks to the self-care movement in early 2019, many people are eating better and taking care of themselves, using microgreens in the process. Experts consider microgreens to be a superfood with high nutrition values.
What Is Birdseed?
Birdseed is a mix of different seeds that birds consume. You can typically find them in bird feeders and they usually contain some of the following seeds:
- Sunflower seeds
- Safflower seeds
- Nyjer or Thistle
- White proso millet
- Shelled and cracked corn
- Milo or sorghum
- Golden millet
- Red millet
- Canary seed
Manufacturers make birdseed to feed domestic or wild birds. Birdseed also include seeds that specific breeds enjoy. For example, the curved-billed thrasher is known to enjoy milo over sunflower, so if you have thrashers in your area, most likely, experts will advise you to procure birdseed that contains milo.
Now that the basic definitions are out of the way, it’s time to dive deep into the central parts of this article.
What Bird Seeds Can Be Used For Growing Microgreens?
Now you have a basic idea of what microgreens and birdseed are. So let’s discuss the intricacies of birdseed and where they cross the line for human consumption.
As shared earlier, you can get microgreens from salad greens, leafy vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. These are the main farming categories that produce the best microgreens.
There are a lot of seeds on the list of birdseed. But so far, you can only use three types of seeds from an entire bird feeder, to grow microgreens. According to experts, you can use:
- Sunflower seeds
There are some cases of corn you can use. However, you may find that the manufacturer has crashed or cracked the corn seeds making them less viable for growth.
Besides the mentioned seeds above, we haven’t found any other seeds, in our research, that you can use for growing microgreens. The majority of the other seeds do not grow into profitable or consumable microgreens. Not only that, but the responsible bodies have not cleared their resulting plants for human consumption.
Keep reading for more information below.
What Is Birdseed Made Of?
Birdseed consist of a combination of seeds for the sole purpose of both domestic and wild consumption. You can mainly find birdseed in feed stores and pet stores.
But first things first; to grow great microgreens, you need to start off using quality seeds.
Quality seeds should meet the following characteristics:
- Trueness to variety
- Germination percentage
These characteristics aren’t just for show; seed organizations like the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA) test seeds before shipping them off to farmers nationwide.
Trueness to variety
Trueness to variety informs farmers that the seeds in the bag match the information on the label. How do these organizations determine trueness to variety? Well, they use seed records as sources and field inspections of the plants that bore the seeds.
Not everyone has the qualification to certify these characteristics. Some several bodies and organizations conduct these tests and field inspections. It shows the effort and hard work that ensures that the market consists of quality seeds.
Germination percentage is the viability of a seed population. Poor quality seeds will have a germination percentage of 50%, whereas high-quality seeds will have a germination percentage of 98%.
There is no information on the germination percentage of birdseed. Why? Because it’s not a credible source of quality seeds. All crop seeds will have the germination percentage added to the label; the law requires it.
As the name suggests, it showcases the cleanliness of the seed. The seeds undergo a purity test that separates the pure seeds from the impure seeds. Again, a verified organization does the entire testing process. The body has a list of requirements that all seeds must go through to earn the label of pure seeds.
On the other hand, you have vigor. It’s a property that gives the seed the potential to grow and develop rapidly and uniformly in various external conditions.
Testing for seed vigor is quite thorough. Credible organizations test the seeds in favorable conditions and unfavorable conditions. A good to follow is that a good seed producer will include seed vigor in their label, it’s not mandatory, but it says a lot about the brand you’re getting your seeds from.
Last and certainly not least on this list is appearance. Quality seeds will have an appearance that matches their growth and development. They will have great color, come in suitable sizes, and be a good shape.
The majority of birdseed will not have undergone similar quality crop seed tests. Why? Because seed companies and the like do not supply birdseed for human consumption.
Is Birdseed Good for Growing Microgreens?
Unfortunately no. Microgreens grown from birdseed tend to have poor results. Let’s say, for example; you’re trying to supply microgreen to a restaurant. If the microgreens don’t look good, the restaurant will not buy them.
That’s the risk you’re taking with birdseed. There’s a high probability that the seeds are not viable for growth. Not only that, but they do not meet all the checkboxes required for quality seeds.
It’s simple logic, if you use poor quality seeds, you will have poor quality microgreens. Quality pays off.
If your microgreens don’t meet the standard, you’ll have to start all over again (with quality seed this time) and make up for lost time and resources.
Did you know that some seed brokers or seed companies offer free samples? You can pick up free samples and that way, you can rule out what would not be a good seed choice for your microgreen growing.
Here Are The Best Seeds To Start Growing Microgreens
Now that this article has laid out all the critical stuff. Here are some seeds you can buy starting at $3 at some of the best seed companies, or you could check local stores in your area.
Here are the best type of seeds to start growing microgreens:
|Seeds||Avg. Years Viable (when stored correctly)|
Ready to Buy Your Seeds?
We have created a comprehensive list of microgreen seed suppliers around the world. It’s split into regions, which makes it easy for you to find a supplier that ship to your country.
Seed Germination Testing And Seed Certification
Earlier, this article mentioned the topic of seed germination testing and seed certification. When buying seeds for your microgreen business or farm, you will notice that the seed provider (for example, True Leaf Market) shared their certification.
True Leaf Market shares that their organic seeds are Omri and Organic certified, making them one of the top seed providers. OMRI is short for Organic Materials Review Insititute, and their certification specializes in the organic sector.
It’s a good form of certification that shows that the seeds on the True Leaf platform meet what they are advertising. Birdseed doesn’t give you that level of assurance or guarantee.
Probably because you should not use birdseed for production or microgreen farming, though it might seem like a good idea. The certifications are in place to guarantee the safety of the consumers.
Please note that different states in the US and countries, in general, have different seed certifications. You can confirm your state’s and country’s seed certifications, testing, and laws if you’re interested. Maybe then you can better understand the care that goes into ensuring that vegetables on your table are fresh and nutritious.
What’s The Conclusion To All Of This?
It’s simply a case of pros and cons. Sure, you can buy birdseed from your local feed store, but you’ll have to open it up and sort the seeds one by one. It’s a birdseed mix. Manufacturers make it for birds, and the plants that come out of them aren’t very nutritious.
Selling and eating microgreens from birdseed will be tough because they will not compare to the microgreen in the market. Experts do not recommend using birdseed because, honestly, it’s a waste of your time and effort. It may seem like cutting corners, but at the end of the day, your microgreens might be lacking, and you may incur losses.
It would be best if you buy quality seeds from credible seed providers. That way, you have the assurance that your microgreens can compete in the market. If you run a microgreen business you will make a pretty penny, and you can do it over and over again.
Some Helpful Microgreen FAQs.
Yes, you can use sunflower seeds to grow sunflower seeds. Sunflower microgreens are one of the most popular microgreens to supply to the market. There’s a high demand, and restaurants, caterers, and other users require a steady supply of sunflower microgreens. Ensure that you use the right kind of sunflower seeds (crop seed certified sunflower seeds) to grow your microgreens.
Again, in theory, you can, but there’s a high probability that the result will suffer quality. We recommend using quality seeds. You will have the assurance that the microgreens will turn out right for selling. Cutting corners may seem easy and possibly cheap, but it’s best to do things the right way.
We recommend using quality seeds. Check out our comprehensive list of microgreen seed suppliers around the world. The list is divided into regions, so it’s easy for you to find a supplier close to you.
Eric Franks, Jasmine Richardson, Microgreens: A Guide To Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens (Layton: Gibbs Smith, 2009) 192.