If pink is the new black then microgreens are the new kale. Packed with nutrition and gleaming with vibrant color, microgreens are some of the best of the best. Fresh, homegrown vegetables loaded with flavor and nutrients, straight from your windowsill, no outdoor space required.
Grow them in recycled containers or handmade planters with only the cost of seed and the time it takes to keep them watered. You’ll quickly have your own “garden extract” to add to your daily meals, making the everyday amazing — proof that good things come in small packages.
Make your own micro-garden planters using recycled containers or flats (shallow wooden boxes).
I’m not a huge fan of plastic but the clam shell containers raspberries, basil and other fruits and veggies are sold in are incredibly handy and can quickly be repurposed into micro-gardens that typically fit well on windowsills. Simply add an array of holes to the bottom for drainage using a nail or other device with a fine, sharp point. I like using a nail because it’s easy to hold and gets the job done hassle free. Just be sure to keep fingers clear when running it through.
Plastic performs well. Containers with lids act as a mini greenhouse, trapping in moisture and heat, speeding up germination. Plus, it feels good to extend the life of anything disposable. But the aesthetics and health benefits of plastic are questionable. If you’re looking for an alternative with rustic appeal, buy, build or repurpose wood boxes or flats, like the one below, or use anything that will hold soil and provide drainage.
Flats are perfect for seed starting. They drain well, are easy to clean and can be built to the size. This is helpful, especially when working with unique spaces or you’re looking for a multi-use container, such as a seedling tray to accommodate a heat mat.
I made this flat using lath and a stick of 1” x 4” redwood stock plus a few galvanized nails. It’s held up for 5 years and seems to have plenty of life left. But if you’re looking for a simpler fix repurpose a shallow wine box (such as the packaging for port or liqueurs) or buy a seedling tray.
Seeding & Havesting
Grow anything you would eat when mature. The brassica family is a fab place to begin. Mustards, broccoli, kale, arugula, radishes or Tatsoi are all tasty and packed with nutrition. Chard, amaranth, beets, fennel, sugar snap peas and sunflowers are also some of my favorites and can add a burst of color when you need it most (amaranth and beets in particular).
Prepare your soil as you would if planting outdoors. Use a peat-free seed starting mix or an organic planting compost. Smooth the soil surface so it’s even, with no depressions for water to collect and pool. Try using a piece of cardboard or wood to help level it or use your hands.
Sow seeds close together. I spread seeds out over the top of the soil, moving them around as needed, then cover. With sugar snap peas and other, large seeds I simply push them down into the soil. With smaller to average seeds I cover them with an 1/8 to 1/4 inch of soil, gently tamping down on the surface to be sure they’ve made good contact.
Water gently, I’ve found a salt and pepper shaker to do the trick, and keep covered until the minute you see seedlings appear. As soon as you see a bit of green pop the lid off or prop it up if attached. Continue to water so the soil is moist be not waterlogged.
Harvest when you see the first set of mature leaves appear. The seed leaves are the initial pair of leaves you’ll see emerge (often with the seed coat still attached as with the sunflower starts below – unless it’s a monocot, like wheatgrass, in which case it will one only one seed leaf), about 4 to 7 days after planting. The true leaves grow in after the seed leaves, about 10 to 21 days after planting.
To harvest simply cut the seedlings as close to the soil surface as possible, enjoy and replant.
*Even a mint tin can be used as a planter! See Small Space Gardening | How to Make a Mint Tin Garden