Monthly Archives: February 2018

Fight the Winter Blues – Grow Nutritious Microgreens Indoors

Microgreens photo_credit_MelindaMyersLLC
Microgreens photo_credit_MelindaMyersLLC

Dress up salads, sandwiches and snacks with homegrown microgreens. “These mini sprouts are easy to grow indoors, ready to harvest in less than two weeks and require no special growing equipment,” says gardening expert Melinda Myers, host of The Great Courses Food Gardening for Everyone DVD set. Myers shared these tips for getting started:

Simply purchase seeds labeled for microgreen growing or organic sprouts such as sunflowers, kale, radish or cilantro. These are meant for this purpose and have not been treated with harmful chemicals.

Radish microgreens add a bit of zip to salads and sandwiches. Cilantro microgreens have a similar, but much milder taste than leaves harvested from a mature plant. Kids of all ages love sunflower sprouts. They have a nutty flavor and make a tasty snack when eaten alone.

Sprout seeds in a shallow container with drainage holes. Purchase sprouting containers or make some from clean repurposed fast food containers. Just punch holes in the bottom for drainage. Use the clear tops to create a mini greenhouse, helping retain heat and moisture to speed sprouting.

Fill the container with a quality seed starting mix like Hsu Germination+ organic seed starting mix that retains moisture and contains naturally occurring beneficial soil microbes. Leave about half an inch of space between the lip of the container and the seed starting mix.

Sprinkle seeds over the soil surface and lightly press them into the soil. Water seeds in place with a very gentle stream of water or spray bottle. Cover the planted container to increase humidity and speed sprouting. Place in a warm dark location.

Once the greens break through the soil, remove the cover and move the container to a sunny location or under artificial lights. Water often enough to keep the seed starting mix moist, but not too wet.

The microgreens are ready to harvest once they form a set of true leaves that look like those of the plants sprouting. This takes about 10 to 14 days and the microgreens will be about two inches tall.

Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the greens just above the soil surface. Rinse thoroughly right before serving. Store any extra unwashed greens in a ventilated plastic bag for several days in the refrigerator.

Microgreens are easy to grow and tasty to eat, tempting many to plant even more. For a continual supply of this nutritious treat, simply plant a new batch every four or five days and enjoy!

Starting Plants Indoors with Lights Yields Better Results

Compact 3-Tier SunLite Garden_photo_credit_Gardeners_Supply_Company
Compact 3-Tier SunLite Garden_photo_credit_Gardeners_Supply_Company

It’s time to break out the seeds and potting mix to start garden plants indoors. “It’s a great way to keep your green thumb in shape over winter,” says Melinda Myers host of The Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD series. “Plus, you’ll save money, increase the variety of plants and jump start the growing season. And when you start seeds under LED grow lights you’ll have better results.”

Indoor growing conditions often offer limited light and that can mean tall leggy transplants with weak stems, explained Myers. Gardeners can greatly increase their success by investing in quality grow lights. Adding artificial light to any seed starting regime results in stout transplants with strong stems and deep green leaves. Myers offered these tips for getting started.

Invest wisely when shopping for indoor plant lights. Fluorescent tubes used to be the standard because they provided a wide spectrum of light needed for plant growth and flowering, were relatively inexpensive and readily available. Unfortunately, they used significant amounts of electricity and needed to be replaced every few years. Then many gardeners shifted to full spectrum fluorescent grow lights. Many last longer than the older and larger fluorescent tubes, but new LED grow lights provide even better light intensity with much less energy.

In the past, LED lights tended to be pricey and many suffered from sticker shock. Fortunately, the prices have dropped. Plus, if people consider the fact that LED plant lights typically use half the energy of fluorescent tubes, provide consistent light quality and last up to five times longer, the long-term savings outweighs the initial investment. They’re also mercury-free and won’t add contaminates to landfills.

When replacing fluorescent tubes with LED grow lights, look for compatibility. Some of the newer LED grow lights are compatible with existing T-5 light setups. Consumers simply need to replace the bulb, not the whole lighting system.

Get the most out of this investment and grow better transplants with proper use. Move seedlings under lights as soon as they start breaking through the soil surface. Keep the lights about six inches above the top of seedlings. This means raising the lights or lowering the plants as the seedlings grow. Or make a light stand using adjustable supports to raise and lower lights as needed. Use a reflector above grow light tubes to direct the light downward toward the plants. Bounce light back onto seedlings by using reflective surfaces under and around the plants. Even easier, invest in a quality grow light stand like the SunLite® Garden.

Set the lights on a timer. Seedlings need about 14 to 16 hours of light. Plants do need a dark period, so running the lights longer wastes electricity and is not good for the plants. If using grow lights to supplement natural daylight, gardeners may only need to run the lights a few hours a day. Monitor plant growth and increase the duration if the plants appear leggy or pale.

Increased light along with proper watering, fertilizer and growing temperatures will ensure a bumper crop of transplants for gardens and containers this season.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments.