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Stages of Production - Soak, Plant, Blackout, Humidity Dome, Lights, Harvest, Pack, etc.

April 28, 2024
Written by Garrett Corwin
Stages of Production - Soak, Plant, Blackout, Humidity Dome, Lights, Harvest, Pack, etc.

Introduction

Microgreens, those tiny but mighty greens, have surged in popularity for their nutritional punch and the splash of color they add to dishes. If you’re curious about starting your microgreen garden but find the variety of growing methods and stages overwhelming, you’re in the right place. This beginner-friendly guide will walk you through the critical steps of microgreen production, outlining which stages are essential and which can vary depending on the crop.

Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Microgreens

  1. Seed Selection: The journey begins with choosing high-quality seeds specified for microgreen production. Look for seeds free of treatment or pesticides, ensuring a healthy start for your greens. Many seed suppliers have sections on their websites dedicated to microgreen-specific seeds. Try searching websites like True Leaf Market, Johnny’s Select Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Mumm’s Seeds in Canada.
  2. Soaking Seeds: Some seeds benefit from soaking in water for 8 to 12 hours to kickstart the germination process. This step is crop-dependent, with larger seeds often requiring soaking more than smaller ones. For example, sunflower, peas, and fava seeds.
  3. Planting: Spread your soaked (or unsoaked, depending on the variety) seeds evenly across a prepared growing medium in shallow trays. Ensure good seed-to-soil contact by lightly pressing the seeds into the medium.
  4. Germination Period: This critical phase, where seeds awaken and begin to sprout, typically lasts 2 to 7 days, depending on the variety and conditions.
    1. Weighted or Unweighted Germination: Decide between using a weighted or unweighted germination method. Weights can encourage even germination and root development, but this step varies based on crop type and grower preference. Either form of stacked germination is the go-to germination method for a majority of crops.
    2. Humidity Dome Germination: An alternative to stacking your trays during germination is to place humidity domes over top each tray. Humidity domes create a conducive environment for germination by maintaining moisture and warmth, essential for germination. Humidity dome germination is better for seeds like basil, celery, shiso, and sorrel.
  5. Blacking Out Crops: After the initial germination under a humidity dome or cover, some varieties of microgreens benefit from a blackout period. This step involves keeping the sprouting seeds in complete darkness for a few days. The purpose of this blackout period is to encourage the seedlings to stretch and seek out light, resulting in taller greens. Not all microgreen varieties require this step, and its duration can vary based on the specific crop and desired outcomes. Typically, the blackout period ranges from 1 to 3 days. After this phase, the microgreens are then exposed to light to continue their growth until harvest. Incorporating a blackout period is crop-dependent and should be adjusted based on observation and the specific growth characteristics of each variety.
    1. The only crop that requires a blackout phase is popcorn shoots, which grow in complete blackout their entire life. This results in sweet, tender shoots that are white and light yellow in color.
  6. Transition to Lights: Once your seeds have sprouted, it’s time to introduce them to grow lights. This marks the end of the germination period and the beginning of active growth.
  7. Growing Under Lights: Arrange the trays under grow lights, ensuring the light spectrum and intensity are suited to microgreens. Proper lighting is crucial for preventing leggy growth and promoting robust development.
  8. Light Cycle: A consistent light cycle of 12 to 16 hours per day simulates natural daylight, encouraging photosynthesis and growth.
  9. Watering and Nutrient Application: Keep the growing medium consistently moist (but not waterlogged), and apply a diluted nutrient solution if necessary, depending on your medium and crop needs.
  10. Monitoring Growth: Regularly check on your microgreens, adjusting light height as they grow to maintain the optimal distance and prevent any issues.
  11. Harvesting: When your microgreens reach their desired size, usually between 7 to 21 days after planting, it’s time to harvest. Cut them just above the soil line with a sharp knife or scissors.

Conclusion

Growing microgreens is a rewarding venture that brings fresh, nutritious greens to your table or business. By understanding the stages of microgreen production, you’re better equipped to start your growing journey, adapting the process to fit different crops and your personal or business needs. Remember, each step, from seed selection to harvesting, contributes to the success of your microgreen harvest. Happy growing!

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide a broad overview of the steps involved in growing microgreens and is not a detailed guide on how to perform each step of the process. Its purpose is to familiarize beginners with the general sequence of events in microgreen production, highlighting essential stages and those that vary by crop. For detailed instructions on each step, please seek out specific guides or resources tailored to the particular variety of microgreens you wish to grow.

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