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At the start of lockdown in March 2020 I decided to try to see how well I could grow what are termed Microgreens. What are microgreens? At a simple level, these are a posh version of “mustard and cress” that we all grew at school, and comprise several dozen different crops that can be grown indoors at eaten very young – usually when the cotyledons have grown, and sometimes when a few leaves have also developed. Typically these are nutritious and flavoursome, and perhaps colourful, small plants that can be used as a garnish or flavouring, or as a portion of salad. Some of the microveg are “cut and come again”, so several cycles of harvest are possible. The time from planting to harvest is anything from perhaps 6-10 days to 20-30 days. So by planting in waves every couple of weeks, it is possible to keep a continuous supply of microgreens rolling. Examples of microgreens are mixed salad greens, water cress, beet, dill weed, rocket, mizuma, coriander, alfalfa, basil, various other herbs. The current header picture for this Gardening blog is a closeup of Dill Weed and Watercress from my second batch. Fortunately I was able to get to our local 'hardware and everything' discount store (“GJ and Daughter”), and buy a selection of seeds etc. just before everything locked down around 20 March. There is also a category known as “sprouts” (sprouted seeds), which are consumed even younger. My drivers were a desire for some more difference in what I eat, a reluctance to go into the garden every time I want a herb, and a north facing conservatory that was ready for a new purpose after my mum passed away in November 2019. I started with a goal to experiment and see if I could grow the equivalent of one portion of veg a day in my north-facing conservatory in a space about 2m wide and 2m high, using a couple of bays of (yacht varnished) IKEA IVAR shelves as I have umpteen of these available. There is still a long way to go, but I can see a route to get there. I am now into my third cycle of experiment. 1 – The first was a couple of trays just to get an idea as to how it works. 2 – The second was about 10 types of microveg planted in early May to be a bit more systematic. 3 – For the third cycle I have a few growlights, as my lower shelves get significantly less light than the top shelf, and I will be buying seed in bulk to grow the plants close enough to be self supporting. Photos to follow. For this first article I think there are two or three major insights worth mentioning: 1 – The amount of seed needed is startling. To grow a normal 18cm x 50cm seed tray of microgreens, which may give up to (I hope) 150-200g of crop, will require around 10g of seeds. This is about the same amount of seeds as 4-5 packets, which makes clear that seeds need to be bought in bulk, as otherwise it may need £5+ worth of seed per tray. Bulk seed is many times less expensive. Packets of seeds is fine for playing or going for garnishes to add interest to salads or soups or smoothies, but bulk suppliers are worth investigation. One supplier I am looking at is Moles' Seeds, where 50g of seeds for eg Sweet Basil is around £5, compared to approximately £1-3 per for about 2-3g of seed if bought in a packet. An official “5 portions a day” portion is about 70-80g of vegetables. 2 – There are a wide variety of systems and growing mediums that can be used. I am using – as mentioned – IVAR shelving, and conventional potting compost. There is no need to feed as I am replacing the compost each time and putting using the compost in the garden. It works with normal sized seed trays, of which I inherited approximately 30 in the potting shed. The site I mention below uses a system of 4” x 2” shop display racks, and large 10” x 20” trays, using a growing medium of COIR (made from coconut fibre) with hydroponic chemicals. They use shop undercounter display lights for growlights. 3 - The thing can be done with relatively little time, but regular input – essentially daily – is needed for example to check whether watering is required and misting. A 48 hour break is possible. A one week break is likely to kill some things. So timing is important. A auto-watering system may help, and is readily available. 4 – There is a potential small cost saving here (or at least a lower cost for interesting flavours and better food) as microgreens from supermarkets can be quite expensive, in addition to the benefits of growing our own. For example a portion of microveg can be anything from under £1 to about £2 or £3 depending on the shop and the product. I have gained quite a lot from a site called “On the Grow!” which the story of a couple who grow their microgreens in a specially fitted out small-container-on-a-trailer, and maintain a videoblog. There is also their excellent written walkthrough / get started article here: How to Grow Microgreens And a particular video walking through how they do one particular crop. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcqnIHnK-75WdpaVPQOUxtw I’ll post further articles about my experiments over the next weeks. Ferdinand * Blame the title on a youth spent p-p-p-picking up penguins and being asked what I would be doing when I reached n-n-nineteen.
Working this up into something that I think will work well. I think this is the best rack I have seen with mesh shelves, modular, strong, adjustable, available in various sizes and not too expensive. I think it is powder coated. Will take 10kg per shelf. Risk of rust but could just be resprayed. https://www.amazon.co.uk/SONGMICS-Stackable-Organiser-Adjustable-LMR08B This version has 7.5m run of shelves. Dimensions are .74m wide by .3m front to back. Will happily take full or half size normal seed trays. Would be possible to mount grow lights or a watering system. I would see it being used with one lot of microveg / herbs growing and eaten, and another one germinating in another lot of trays next to it - varied for each item depending on timings. Ferdinand