Growing microgreens in the cold

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Growing microgreens in the cold, winter is a time of rest in the garden throughout most of the country. It’s a time when gardeners traditionally get comfy near the stove or fireplace, delve into the new season’s seed catalogs, revisit the last season’s triumphs and disasters, and plan for next year. Us microgreen growers don’t get to stop we keep growing 365 days a year. Growing microgreens is an excellent way to produce one’s own healthy food cheaply. It can be done throughout the year, and since it’s commonly done indoors in a controlled environment, can give consistently good results with little effort.

Seed germination and development of all warm-season crops will be slower in cold weather, so for late sowings of vegetables they may be delayed, or may even rot in relatively cold, wet soil. This may also lead to perfect conditions for “damping-off,” a fungal disease that attacks germinating seedlings. Recent cold weather has frustrated many vegetable gardeners. Plants such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, cucumbers and melons must be successfully pollinated in order to produce their fruit. Extreme temperatures, below 55 F or above 90 F, will dramatically decrease pollination. Fruits that do form may appear distorted when they mature later on. Southern crops such as okra, lima beans and sweet potatoes are even more sensitive to cold. Not only will the okra and limas not set fruit, their roots likely will not grow much during cold weather. Microgreens do need proper light to achieve perfection, they’ll still make a pretty respectable crop in somewhat lower light levels, since the young plants are still living off of stored nutrient reserves from the seed.

Growing microgreens in the cold, is often mitigated by growing under lights.  There are numerous options available, LED’s, halogens, high intensity discharge, high intensity fluorescents—it’s a long list, and it’s important to evaluate carefully and choose the best type for your situation. Some lighting gets very warm, other types may not be very intense, and so it’s crucial to allow the correct distance between the lights and the plants.

In addition,  pay strict attention to the  day-length you’re creating in your indoor environment. It might seem counter-intuitive but the longest days do not necessarily make for the best growth. Some plants will react to super-long days by running to seed. Lettuce and spinach will quickly bolt in days running much above 14 hours; onion seedlings might actually bulb up under long days. So it’s important to understand the needs of your indoor crops and fix the length of their day light accordingly. You can arrange timers to make it easy on you, and consistent for your plants.

Thinking about windowsill growing? It’s not impossible, but it’s not as easy as it might seem, either. Winter sunshine is far less intense than summer’s, but some plants can grow or at least stay healthy until growth resumes. The only windows likely to succeed would be south-facing ones, for in winter the sun is at a low angle in the southern sky (at least in the northern hemisphere!). Remember, on cold winter nights, the window-sill environment is colder than the room’s interior; it gets even worse if curtains are drawn, isolating the poor greens right next to the cold glass! But it can work if the plants are removed from the windowsill at night and held at room temperature until next day. Heating mats, can be very useful when growing your microgreens on a cool windowsill; a small fan is good insurance against disease in warmer, humid conditions, as in a lush planting under grow-lights.

The best way to start an indoor garden is simple, START. We offer a larger grow kits, designed for a family or a true lover of health. If you want a smaller more trial kit then see here. Each kit comes with directions and a way to directly contact a grower who can take a look at what is going on with your greens and tell you what is coming next.