November 13, 2013

Activity: Grow Microgreens with Kids!


Darwin stoops in the chilly November air, reaching past his coat sleeves to clutch a handful of soil, which he drops carefully into a recycled plastic mushroom container. I help him level and pat it down, then a few moments later, he's sprinkling radish seeds onto the new surface, swirling his hand like a chef salting a pot of stew. How did my little bundle become so big, such a determined student of everything I show him?

Kids and microgreens are a natural pairing. They both start small and seem to grow before our eyes, brimming with zest and vitality. And they both love dirt! Today's post shares my little tutorial on growing your own microgreens, indoors or out, to captivate and nourish the people you love.


The tiny leaf vegetables we call microgreens grow from seeds and are ready for harvest when their first true leaves appear, usually only a week or two after planting. You can grow almost any leaf vegetable as a microgreen, from broccoli, kale, and radishes to lettuces and herbs.

Planting and tending a crop of these little veggies with kids is so much fun, and it earns you super-parenting points, because everybody in the family gets to:
-learn how seeds sprout and plants grow
-welcome a burst of fresh color into the home (especially as the weather cools)
-choose responsibility for some of the family's food 
-garden using almost no money or space
-enjoy spicy new flavors
-benefit from great nutrition, with vitamins 4-6 times more concentrated than in mature plants

I hope you'll give it a try! Check out the instructions below, and have fun!


Grow Your Own Microgreens
If you're new to microgreens, try a first crop of radishes or mixed lettuces. These are fast to germinate, easy to grow, and they taste delicious.

Materials:

-one or more small plastic food containers, such as those mushrooms or baby spinach are sold in
-a small bag of organic potting soil or seed starting mix
-one or more packets of seeds, such as radish, mixed lettuces, kale, broccoli, peas, etc.
-a sunny window
-a plate for drainage
-a paper towel
-a clean water bottle spritzer (optional, but helpful)


Directions:

Planting
1. Have a grownup use a sharp knife to carefully pierce several small holes in the bottom of your plastic container(s).


2. Fill your container(s) almost to the top with potting soil, pressing it down gently.


3. Water the soil until it is very wet.


4. Sprinkle seeds thickly and evenly across the top of the soil, leaving only a few millimeters between each seed. (Some overlap is OK.)


5. Press the seeds gently into the soil. (They will nestle in a little, but will still be visible.)


6. Drape a damp paper towel across the top.


 7. Place the container on a plate for drainage, and put it in a sunny window.


Tending and Harvesting:
Note: this schedule is approximate, and different conditions and seed varieties could require different numbers of days in each step.

Days 1-3: Once or twice a day, remove the paper towel, mist the seeds, then replace the paper towel (the seeds like darkness and moisture to germinate, but are easily dislodged. If you don't have a mister, try gently drizzling water from your hands.)

Days 3-5: After seeds have germinated, remove the paper towel. Continue misting the seeds once or twice daily.

Days 6+: Now that the seeds are beginning to take root and leaf out, switch to watering only once a day, but increase the volume of your watering. Try using a small watering can, or bottom-watering by pouring a cup of water into the drainage plate for the roots to soak up. (Bottom-watering is a good strategy to prevent crowded leaves from growing mold, but I usually water from the top, and rarely have a problem.)

Day 14+, Harvest Day! When the greens have sprouted their first one or two true leaves (or the third and fourth leaves, if you count the cotyledons), harvest them! Hold your container(s) mostly upright over a large plate or bowl, and use clean scissors to snip the greens off at the stem. Rinse and enjoy the flavor and beauty of your tiny veggies!


2 comments:

  1. What a fun little tutorial! Those greens are darling. I love the idea of growing vegetables inside during the long winter months, and my kids would get such a kick out of doing this project. What plants did you grow in the pictures above?

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    1. These are radishes. They're very quick and easy and they always turn out well. :)

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