Growing microgreens can be done on either a small or commercial scale. While there might be different motivations as to why you might start growing microgreens hydroponically, the process is something very manageable and fun to do! Here’s a guide to how you can avoid the messiness and start growing your microgreens hydroponically.
Why Grow Your Microgreens Hydroponically?
Essentially, growing your microgreens hydroponically just means growing it without soil. Instead, the microgreens would be cultivated in an aquatic-based environment. This technique has been proven to have several benefits. For example, you can set up your hydroponics system literally anywhere and also have complete control over how it grows. Additionally, you won’t have to deal with the soil that may potentially cause a mess in your house.
Growing your microgreens hydroponically is as easy as if you were to do it with soil. It’s not as hard as you might perceive it to be!
What Will You Need?
To start your journey, you will need trays of approximately 10” x 20” (which is the standard size that most growers use). If it comes with drainage holes, great! But if it doesn’t, you can manually poke it yourself. Next, you’ll need to have your seeds ready. Avoid using seeds that have come into contact with fungicides. After, all you’ll need to do is to take note of the factors that can influence the growth of your microgreens and adjust those accordingly. For lights, fluorescent lamps are most popular among growers. Alternatively, you can consider the cheaper option of using T8 lights as well. For pH levels, you can consider getting pH test strips to keep track of the acidity of the water. Most importantly, you will need to ensure that your microgreens receive the nutrients that they should be getting. We recommend adding additional nutrients to the water.
Growing Microgreens At Home, Step By Step
1. Preparing Water
The optimal pH of your water should be balanced at a pH of 5.5 – 6.5. We recommend using distilled water. Before using boiling water, you’ll need to remove any gas particles by letting it sit out. To increase basicity, add wood ash, while phosphoric acid can help raise the acidity.
2. Soak Your Grow Mat
Grow mats should be fitted perfectly into your trays. To do this, you can simply cut them up according to the sizes of your trays. Before putting grow mats in, remember to soak them so that they retain the water for the seeds you’re about to add.
3. Add Your Seeds
Depending on what microgreens you’re planning to plant, each microgreen has a seed density you’ll need to take note of in order to maximize your yield. You can find out the density of your microgreens by simply doing the research before starting to plant.
4. Cover Your Seeds
In order for your microgreens to grow well, you will need a lightproof cover – we recommend simply getting another tray and flipping it over.
5. Early Stages
Microgreens require complete darkness to sprout and germinate. You should ensure that the only light they receive is during their misting time every 12 hours. The average number of days to keep them in the dark is approximately 5 days.
Once the seeds start germinating, you can transfer them under fluorescent lighting. At this stage, you can also replace misting with small amounts of watering.
Approximately 10-12 days later, you’re ready to harvest! Snip them off at the base of their stems and store them in the refrigerator till you would like to use them.
Growing Microgreens on a Commercial Scale
Growing microgreens commercially is exactly like doing it at home, just larger. When growing on a commercial scale, it will take up a lot of space and this requires the capacity. To save space, consider using vertical racks.
Extra Commercial Supplies
Before setting out on your commercial-scaled microgreens journey, you will need extra supplies. Apart from the racks we’ve previously mentioned, you will need to install a drainage system that allows excess water to flow back to a common body. To prevent unwanted fungus or mold from flourishing, it might be helpful to install a fan that keeps the air from going stale. Once you’re done with the basics, it’s time you consider automating some systems. To do so, pumps, reservoirs and tubings can help provide your microgreens a more consistent water flow. Automating the system helps you save hundreds of man-hours. Your hydroponic microgreens not only need water, but they also need oxygen too. In order to oxygenate your water, you will need an air pump that constantly injects air into the water. Lastly, large scale commercial systems require you to harvest a large area. To cut down the work done and time spent on harvesting, investing in additional harvesting tools can help greatly.
Types of Commercial Hydroponic Systems
To start off, wicking systems are the most popular method among hydroponic growers due to its largely hands-off system. Next, ebb and flow systems are an excellent choice for specifically microgreens as it floods your trays only a couple of times each day. However, you might occasionally run into some problems with the system as it might malfunction and your plants might not be getting the right amount of water it needs.
Hydroponics Microgreens Growing Tips
Microgreens grow best in temperatures ranging from 15-21 degrees celsius with sufficient sunlight. Wilting plants can indicate underwatering. Make sure that your grow pads are soggy and not just damp. On the other hand, rotting plants can indicate overwatering. In that situation, you might want to consider spreading your seeds less thickly. Bugs are common when growing hydroponic microgreens. Make sure that you identify any potential bug-infested areas and eliminate them early.
Growing microgreens hydroponically might seem like a daunting task for a rookie grower. However, once you start your journey and learn along the way, the process is a lot easier. We hope this guide will help kickstart this exciting journey for you.