By Michael Jenkins
A while back, we posted a blog about gardening indoors during the winter months. At Gardzen, we believe that gardening is for everyone, and that nearly everywhere and every time fo the year there’s some sort of gardening you can do. Well, that resonated with our readers and you asked for more details, so we’re going to do a deeper dive into growing greens and microgreens indoors during the winter months!
Growing greens or microgreens can be done year round, with minimal materials and space. It’s a fun easy way to keep your gardening groove going during the winter months or when you’re limited for outdoor space. It can also be a fun way to introduce new gardeners or children to get started—growing greens this way allows you to observe the growth cycle of your plants a little more intimately. It’s easy to get started, so let’s dig in!
We should start by defining what we’re talking about. Greens are just that—the green leafy veggies we love. Spinach, lettuce, arugula, and similar greens are easiest to grow this way, but you can try larger greens like kale as well. Microgreens are a little different—they’re green plants grown as vegges but harvested as sprouts. Microgreens are typically grown in trays and harvested by cutting them off just above soil level with a pair of sharp scissors or garden clippers. They’re then used like sprouts or as a garnish, adding nutrition, flavor, and a fresh crunch to dishes.
To grow either greens or microgreens indoors, there are some basic materials you’ll need. The good news is that it’s affordable and easy to find this stuff, so take a look at the list before we get started:
- Seed trays, plant trays, or a similar flat container to hold the growth medium.
- Seed starting soil or another seed growth medium like grow mats or vermiculite. We like the grow mats made out of coconut crore or jute, but you can use whatever works for you!
- Sharp scissors or garden shears
- A spray bottle for watering—do not reuse a spray bottle that has contained harsh or toxic chemicals! A spray bottle helps you water sprouts and seedlings without disturbing the roots or damaging you plants the way a watering can might.
- A grow light, if needed—a sunny windowsill can do just as well in most circumstances.
The basic process for growing both greens and microgreens indoors is similar: fill the seed tray or plant tray with the growing medium, spread the seeds on the surface of the tray, water, and move to a warm place with plenty of good light. There are a few little tricks, however, to help you get the most out of your indoor garden, and some important distinctions between greens and microgreens in how they like to grow:
- If you’re growing plants as greens—meaning that you want to harvest them when they’re at or near full size—you’ll probably want to use a larger tray or even a regularplant container with deeper soil. This allows the plant to take root, gather nutrients and water, and reach the size you’d like. You should also pay attention to the recommended spacing for your seeds and plant them accordingly; there should be instructions on the seed packet.
- Microgreens are harvested as sprouts by clipping them off just above ground level, and that bring some special considerations. You may want to use a non-soil growth medium like coconut crore or a grow mat—this will make it a bit easier to harvest your microgreens without getting dirt in them! Because microgreens don’t grow to full size, you can crowd them a lot more than you could with other types of gardening. Just spread the seeds evenly over the surface, water gently with a spray bottle so you don’t disrupt the roots, and put them in a warm, well-lit place.
- While some garden supply stores sell packets of seeds as microgreens, the truth is that you can use most edible greens as microgreens. Mesclun and lettuce mixes are popular, as is spinach. You can use mustard greens for a spicy kick, or stick with herbs for depth of flavor. It’s up to you! Those same seeds can be grown as indoor greens with appropriate spacing and soil, so feel free to experiment with both!
- Covering your seeds and seedlings with a clear plastic tray cover or just a couple of sheets of plastic film can help keep moisture in during the early stages of growth and thus promote a more successful harvest.
- As we mentioned above, you can grow your greens or microgreens on a warm, sunny windowsill or any place with warmth and light. A grow light or grow bulb is affordable, can be found at most garden stores, and will help give your plants the light they need if your windows are shaded.
Growing greens and microgreens indoors is both a chance to do some year-round gardening and an opportunity to experiment. Try different plants, different combinations of growth medium and light, different seeds, and use the end results in different recipes. The sky is the limit, so we hope you’ll take this blog as your inspiration for growing greens and microgreens indoors all winter long!