Can Microgreens Grow Indoors? (Solved & Explained!)

Microgreens (AKA vegetable confetti) can be grown indoors near a well-lit window, on a vertical shelf with LED lighting or with a home hydroponic system.  There are more sophisticated systems available for commercial use, such as aquaponics and aeroponics.  The use of full spectrum ultraviolet light can greatly increase the growth rate of these high value crops to as quickly as 5 days.

Why go to the trouble of growing microgreens indoors?

Microgreens are slightly larger than sprouts but still hold the cotyledons (premature leaves), which give them their crunchy, delicious texture.  Microgreens are packed full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes!  Their short shelf life, usually between 5-7 days from harvest time, has led many to the well-suited undertaking of growing them at home. 

When is the best time to grow microgreens indoors?

Microgreens can be grown indoors all year around but growing them during the winter months is especially useful, due to the dependence of imported fruits and vegetables during this time from other parts of the world.  Growing microgreens indoors during the winter months, not only provides fresh nutritious food but reduces fossil waste caused by transporting produce from one location to another. 

What are the overall benefits of microgreens compared to other crops?

The reputation of microgreens as a value crop stem from their ability to be grown indoors with very little space, time, labor, water, pesticides, and fertilizer.  At the same time, a study by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources reported microgreens to contain as much as 40 times the amount of nutrients as their mature vegetable counterparts!

What are some of the best types of microgreens for growing indoors?

Todd Marsh is an independent environmental scientist and the owner of home microgreens.  Marsh has found that some the easiest microgreens to grow indoors are radish, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, arugula, and basil.  These microgreens were chosen for their ability to grow quickly with minimal light and at normal room temperatures.   

Do I need artificial light to grow microgreens indoors?

Studies show that using full spectrum LED lighting can reduce the growth period to as little as 5 days, while increasing the size of the crop.  However, for non-commercial use, a well-lit room or windowsill will suffice. 

How can different varieties of microgreens be incorporated into our diet?

Microgreens are meant to be eaten raw, so as not to destroy the nutrient content.  Their crunchy texture makes them great to add on top of a sandwich, a salad, pizza, an omelet, or even a bowl of butternut squash soup!

Why is it important for microgreens to be grown locally?

Microgreens have a very short shelf life, typically between five and seven days, which makes them hard to find in grocery stores.  By the time the microgreens arrive, the stores have little time to get them sold.  Therefore, they can typically only be found in fine dining restaurants that serve them on a regular basis.  

What other supplies are needed to grow microgreens?

In order to get started you will need a 3-4-inch-tall container with a few holes in the bottom for drainage. You will need soil, and compost is highly recommended to increase the nutritional content.  Two other great things to have include a spray bottle to protect their delicate structure when you water them and a fan to allow adequate airflow.   

How to pick the right location for your indoor microgreens

The best spot to pick for your microgreens is near a well-lit window. If possible, it should be away from any extreme temperatures like AC vents, a heater, or a cold draft. 

What’s important to know before sowing the seeds?

Most varieties of microgreens can be densely scattered.  This is mainly due to their short growing time and lack of any extensive root system.  However, it’s best to follow the package directions for each type to achieve the best results.  When sowing the seeds, the soil should be moist but not dripping with water. 

What do I need to know before watering my microgreens?

The delicate nature of the microgreens makes them especially prone to damage from intense water pressure.  For this reason, it is best to use a water mister to water them.  Alternatively, with the proper container, they can be watered from the bottom if the container contains a tray underneath to allow the roots to stay moist. 

How do I know when it’s time to harvest my microgreens?

Most herbs like basil and cilantro should be harvested right after the first true leaves appear. However, it is always best to follow the package directions.  The typical growth period is between 7-20 days from germination.  Yet, some microgreens can be harvested in as quickly as 5 days from germination by using a full spectrum, modulated, ultraviolet light. 

How can I tell the difference between the cotyledons and the first true leaves?

The cotyledons differ greatly from the true leaves of the plant because they are much more uniform in nature; whereas the true leaves are more vascular and will have a much more intricate form to their edges. Simply put: when you start seeing leaves that look very different from the first cotyledons leaves, you know the true leaves have begun.  You can now start to harvest your microgreens! 

What are the pros of growing microgreens indoors using a hydroponic system?

Hydroponic systems make use of a nutrient solution, which alleviates the need for a soil medium.  This can eliminate problems arising from soil born diseases.  It also reduces the need to transport the soil itself or compost to aid in the nutritional and chemical content of the soil. 

What other types of large-scale systems are used to cultivate microgreens?

Commercial systems used for the cultivation of microgreens include hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics.  Aeroponics uses mist without a soil medium, which reduces the amount of water needed to grow the crop.  Aquaponics combines aquaculture to farm fish, while using the waste of the fish to fertilize the microgreens.  The benefit here is that it eliminates the need to remove the fish waste.  The disadvantage of these systems is that if the systems fail, the crops produced risk being destroyed.