CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hate vegetables? Or don't have space for a large garden? Try this.....

                                          Photo credit: the
                                          By Linda Langelo, CSU Horticulture Program Associate

Micro greens are the young “seedlings” of any vegetable which are harvested at either the cotyledon and/or first-true-leaf stage of their growth.  The cotyledon are the first leaves that appear after germination once the plant has established its root system.  As the plant continues growing, it sends out leaves which take a distinct shape.  One plant is distinguished between another.  These leaves are called “True Leaves”.   The plant continues growing for one to two weeks and they are called micro greens.  Once past the micro green stage, they are considered baby greens-like spring mix.    

Micro greens are another source of fresh food.  If you don’t like eating a particular vegetable like beets, try beet micro greens.  In ten to fifteen days, you can harvest many different choices of vegetable micro greens.  You can also grow herbs as micro greens but this will take longer than 15 days and up to 25 days or more.  Think of planting a flat of seed of red cabbage and then harvesting the leaves within fifteen days and enjoying a nice mild flavor of the seedling’s leaves.  These seedlings do contain a lot of nutrition, but I am not a doctor, just a gardener.  So do have a discussion with your doctor if you want to use these for supplemental nutrients.  I am just suggesting this might be a way of having a larger palette of greens with a wide array of flavors.

Micro greens can be used as garnish, in soups or salads, for juicing, added to your sandwich and yes, even stir-fried.  For some, this may be a way of gardening because of lack of proper outdoor space or location.  For others, this may be a way of satisfying their need to garden during the winter or during the season because of their busy lifestyle, age or disability.   You can add containers to your kitchen counter or windowsill and within a couple of weeks be enjoying the “fruits of your labor” without much labor.  A windowsill with eastern, western or southern exposure will work.  It is best if the micro greens get up to 4 hours of sunlight.  If not you might want to think about supplemental lighting.
                                                             Photo credit:
My favorite is sunflower micro greens with their nutty flavor.  Pea shoots are another favorite of mine which taste like peas without eating peas. Both sunflower and peas as micro greens, you can only take one cutting.  You can take any vegetable seed and grow it in a flat.  Cover the flat with seed; spacing the seed from ¼ to ½ inch apart and cover lightly with the soil mix.  Then make sure the seeds have a soil temperature of 75 degree Fahrenheit.  Once they germinate, reduce the temperature to 60 degree Fahrenheit for the soil temperature.  Keep the sowing mix moist at all times by watering from the bottom and not splashing water on the leaves of the seedlings.  These seedlings have such a short-life span that they rarely acquire any diseases or pests.  You can reuse the flat if you choose.  After cutting the stems of the current micro greens in the flat, leave the roots and plant more seed on top of the soil and lightly cover again with soil. 
For fertilizing your seedlings, you can start out with fertilizer in the soil mix or you can add fertilizer when watering, also from the bottom. 
When you are thinking about choosing micro greens to grow together in a flat, be sure they all have the same or similar growth rates.  All fast-growing varieties should be sown in separate rows or sections in the same flat as you would sow all slow-growing varieties in separate rows or sections in the same flat.  You could just grow one variety, if you end up picking a favorite you could not live without. 
If you are thinking of using just one flat for your favorite micro greens, you can divide the flat into sections.   As many sections as you like.  For fast-growing vegetable seedlings you could plant separate sections of red cabbage, radishes, mustard and kale.  For slow-growing vegetable seedlings which take from 16-25 days, you could plant separate sections for beet, chard, carrot and amaranth.  For herbs there are slow-growing choices such as fennel, basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, shiso, sorrel and salad burnet.
                                              Photo credit: Linda Langelo, Will Allen's Growing Power,
                                              Pea shoots in flats lining the bench.


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  2. We are going to try this at the after school kids program. What would you recommend? We have 4 warming trays and are thinking of just after Mother's Day to harvest. Peas, mustard, basil, dark lettuces. Sunflower may be added, also we have one peanut issue. Any more ideas? The school already has an outdoor garden and this will add an extra dimension to gardening.

    1. The peas, mustard and dark lettuces as well as the sunflowers should do well for being able to harvest after Mother's Day. Basil is often slow. My apologies for not answering you sooner. I have been traveling on business or off. I hope it is going well for the students.

  3. Just to let you know the Hong Vit image at the beginning of the article is mine,