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It All Starts With a Seed...

To get this website rolling, I decided I would start at the beginning. I thought I would share my process for growing these beautiful microgreens.

It starts with the seeds, of course. I use mostly organically grown seeds that are non-GMO, vegan and come from a phytosanitary certified source, meaning they are tested and certified as safe by USDA. Most of my seeds come from True Leaf Market located in Salt Lake City, Utah. These seeds are specially produced to grow microgreens. They have a high germination rate and have all the nutrients the baby plant needs for their first few weeks

of germination and growth contained in each seed. They are chosen to grow microgreens because they germinate at the same time and grow uniformly. Seeds can be soaked for a period of time to help with germination or can be planted directly in soil or grown hydroponically, depending on the type of microgreen you're growing.

The next step involves the media or lack of media to use when planting the seeds. As with everything else, there are easy to grow seeds, not so easy to grow, and downright near impossible to grow seeds. I've tried a lot of seeds and have found some types to be so difficult, it's just not worth it. Some seeds do best in soil. Some do great on hydroponic mats, and some will even grow with only water and no soil. I grow all of mine in either organic coconut coir (soil) or on organic hydroponic mats. Some seeds like to be soaked in water before being planted. Some like being planted directly, with no soaking. Some like being buried or partially buried in soil, some like to be spread on top of soil or hydroponic mats. There's definitely a learning curve that comes with this hobby.

The next step is planting the seeds. Planting microgreens seeds is one of the easiest, and one of the hardest, things about growing these baby plants. It's easy because all you have to do is prepare the seed bed, measure out the seeds, plant the seeds, and water the seeds. That's it! Sort of.

It's one of the hardest because I have to decide what varieties to plant. I want to plant every variety, but there are so many. I only have certain varieties on hand, but there are still too many for my grow space. That leads me to planting the varieties on my menu and experimenting with some of the other types, but what kind? What if I plant too much? What if I don't plant enough? What if the crop fails? What if nobody wants them? What if everybody wants them? And round and round it goes. Lol!!

Anyhow, back to the easy part. Planting the seeds. I start with making my choices about seeds to plant. I try to plant 2 days each week to make sure I keep a good variety in stock for everyone I sell to. I usually plant 8 types of seed for the varieties I use in my samplers and on my menu, plus 1 or 2 unusual varieties.

I sanitize my trays to make sure no molds or bacteria gets spread from crop to crop. This can result in total crop failure that leads to throwing everything in the trash and starting all over.

I use 2 trays for each variety measuring 10 by 20 inches, one with holes in it and the other without holes. The holey tray fits inside the tray without holes. I put a measured amount of coco coir or a sheet of hydroponic mat in the bottom of the holey tray and level the coir out. I put a measured amount of water in the bottom tray. Not too much. Not too little.

Next, I measure out the seed to be planted. I use a scale to weigh the seed for each tray. Smaller seeds like amaranth and basil require about 1 ounce per tray, while larger seeds like radish use 2 ounces of seeds. Peas and sunflower use 8 to 12 ounces of seed in each tray.

I put the seed into an old spice jar and sprinkle them evenly onto the media in the tray. Once the seeds are in the tray, I spray them with water to get them started germinating.

This is where it gets weird. I place one of the empty trays without holes on top of the planted seeds and put weights in that tray to keep the humidity in and weigh down the baby plants as they germinate to help the baby roots grow downward into the coir or mat. Otherwise, once the seeds sprout you get a jumbled mat of seeds and roots.

After that I put them on a shelf system and wait....and wait another day...and maybe one more day.

By that time, the seeds will have sprouted and will start pushing the tray with the weights up. At that stage I take the weighted tray off and remove the weights. Then I flip the tray over, using it as a blackout dome, and put it back over the seeds and put the trays back on the shelf. And then I wait again...only 2 days this time.

By now you have to start watching for mold. If you leave the dome on too long, the baby plants can mold or grow too tall and fall over and die. It's pretty perilous at this point.

I take the dome off when the baby plants are growing tall, but are not falling over. Then I put them under lights and start watering them. I bottom water in the bottom tray, creating a semi-hydroponic system to complete the grow cycle. They get water once or twice a day.

That's when the magic happens. They start to green up (or red up) almost as soon as the light starts to hit them. Some take a few hours, some a day or two to reach their full color.

With that, I'm going to stop for now. The next step is harvesting.

This is the best part! All of your hard work has manifested itself into these beautiful green shoots. I never water the microgreens on harvest day. This keeps them relatively dry and fresh, so they will last as long as possible. I use a produce knife to cut them. This knife is like a razor blade with a knife handle. It's sharp and it cuts through the little forest of greens with little effort and the least amount of damage possible to the tender stems. I harvest partial trays for small orders and full trays for large orders. I prefer not to harvest until right before I'm going to package them and get them to my customers. This ensures the freshest produce with the longest shelf life.

I package them in 16 ounce or 8 ounce containers made of a biodegradable, compostable material made from plants. I try not to contribute to the tons of plastic already in our oceans and landfills whenever possible. Each 16 ounce container holds anywhere from 1.5 to 5 ounces by weight of microgreens or sprouts. Eight ounce containers generally hold about 1 ounce of microgreens. Once they're in the containers, they're ready for labels and dates, then on to my customers.

After the harvest, it's time to clean up and start all over again. I clean and sanitize everything I use as I use them. This is one of the most important steps in growing microgreens. Sanitation can mean the difference between success and failure of these tiny crops. I choose success!

That's it in a nutshell. It's not as easy as I thought it would be, but it's worth the challenge and time to get a great quality product out to my customers.

In closing I'll say thanks for reading! I'll try to keep the articles coming. Let me know if you have ideas for my blog. I don't want to bore you and it would be even better if you were loving what you were reading. Take care and I'll see you next time!

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