Cultivating microgreens through a hydroponic setup is a great way to add to your cooking essentials at home. You can grow microgreens in the soil as well but growing them hydroponically confers a number of unique advantages, which you will get to know about in this article.
You'll be able to cultivate a significant quantity of food without space, time, or skill level constraints. Moreover, you'll be able to do this irrespective of the surrounding climate.
This article will cover everything you need to know about growing microgreens hydroponically. We’re going to talk about what microgreens are, the benefits of growing them hydroponically, a step-by-step guide on how to grow them, the ideal hydroponic system for growing them, and other frequently asked questions about growing microgreens.
Let’s get right to it!
What are Microgreens?
The term microgreen is used to refer to the seedlings of edible herbs and vegetables. Microgreens are harvested prior to reaching the adult growth phase.
The reason for the early harvest is that the seedlings have great texture and amazing taste. Microgreens gained popularity in the 1980s when chefs were looking for inexpensive ways to add flavor to dishes.These days microgreens are common garnishes for a lot of restaurant dishes.
What’s so special about Microgreens?
As we mentioned earlier, microgreens have amazing flavor. You get a lot of flavor in highly compact servings. Microgreens are an excellent complement to salads. Looking to add some spice to your dish? Microgreens are your answer.
Another benefit of growing microgreens is that you can grow them at any time of the year and at very little cost. Finally, microgreens can be harvested within a week to two weeks, so you can grow them repeatedly in the comfort of your home easily.
Microgreens Ideal for Growing Hydroponically
Some of the tastiest microgreens actually flourish best if they are grown in a hydroponic setup. Kohlrabi, kale, collards, alfalfa, radishes, and clover are some of the most popular and flavorful microgreens. They are also highly nutritional.
Alfalfa, kale, radishes, and clover are particularly known for their health benefits.Any microgreen can be grown hydroponically, so there's no restriction there. Basil, carrots, and beetroots are other options you can try out.
Why Grow Microgreens Hydroponically?
Growing microgreens in a hydroponic setup have a number of advantages. Firstly, you’ll get to harvest your microgreens faster than you’d be able to if they were being grown in soil. This is because the microgreens will be getting the nutrients through direct exposure to your nutrient solution. They won't be relying on their roots to absorb nutrients through the soil.
Secondly, you can grow your microgreens anywhere in the house since you won’t need to worry about the presence of natural sunlight. Good indoor lighting or grow lights equipped with timers are more than enough to do the job. Thirdly, a lot of microgreens get the majority of the nutrients they require from the reservoir water alone (with its pH adjusted, of course).
A Little about Hydroponics
Essentially, hydroponic systems do not use soil as a medium for growing. Your grow medium is fresh water, with its pH adjusted to 6 - 6.5. Apart from that, all you need is root support (peat moss and vermiculite are good options), oxygen, grow light, and nutrients.
Benefits of Growing Microgreens in a Hydroponic Setup
Some of the obvious benefits of growing microgreens hydroponically include that you don't need soil to grow them, your setup will be water efficient, and you're not dependent on natural sunlight. You also don't have to worry about growing them outdoors. You're free from the hassle of maintaining the soil, mixing nutrients with fertilizers, or dealing with weather-related complications.
Troubleshooting is easier in hydroponic setups. This is because the number of variables involved is lesser, making it easier to identify the source of any problems. Moreover, if complications are to occur, they will occur immediately, making it possible to address them timely.
How Do I Get Started Growing Microgreens?
Now let’s get into the process of growing microgreens hydroponically. We’ll start with the things you need prior to starting up.
What Do I Need Before I Can Start Growing Microgreens?
Firstly, if you don't already have one, you'll need a hydroponic setup. If you have the money, you can definitely install high-end hydroponic setups, but it isn’t essential. You’ll need fresh water to begin. It is essential that your water is pH-balanced and has adequate phosphorous, magnesium, and calcium.
Oxygen is also a must, for which a good air pump and air stone will suffice. The next step is finding root support. Since we aren’t using soil, we need to get hydroponic grow media. Rockwool and coco coir are good options. It's important not to use media that absorb moisture, such as sand or gravel.
Now you’ll need your light sources. Microgreens do not require intense lighting, so you don’t have to invest in expensive grow lights. A simple grow light with a timer is more than sufficient. Fluorescents and small LED grow lights are also excellent options.
Seeds vs. Cuttings
One of the unique benefits of microgreens is that they will regrow many times after you cut them. This means that you can harvest a single set of seeds multiple times. If this is the first time you’re growing microgreens in a hydroponic setup, it’s easier if you start with seeds. The cuttings can be used again for growing additional batches.
Two things to keep in mind here. Firstly, it's important to leave some stems every time you take a cut. Secondly, subsequent harvests will have lesser flavor compared to the initial batch.
Care Tips for Hydroponic Microgreens
There are a couple of things that you need to ensure on a daily basis.
- You need to make sure that your microgreens have adequate water and light. Light exposure needs to be balanced with exposure to darkness as well. Plants, in general, require the dark as well as light.
- It’s good practice to check on your microgreens twice a day at twelve-hour intervals. Wilting indicates that your plants are getting less than adequate water. Rotting indicates the opposite, i.e., too much water.
- Check the pH of your water consistently.
- Check your trays for mold consistently.
- Check the depth at which you’re planting your seeds. Read the instructions that come with your seeds for this.
Hydroponic Systems is best for Growing Microgreens
If you’re looking to just add to your cooking essentials for home, you can do with a basic hydroponic setup, as detailed above. Or you could opt for a hydroponic micro-garden, which we’ve talked about below.
However, if you’re growing commercially, the ideal choice for you would be a flood and drain setup. We have excellent options for those!
Also, check out our recommendations for the best hydroponic systems for the year!
If you’re looking to grow microgreens for home purposes, your best option would be a hydroponic micro-garden. Micro-gardens are small-scale hydroponic systems specifically designed for small plants like microgreens.
One option is the SunBlaster Grow Light Gardens. These come in six different sizes, depending on the quantity you want to grow. One of the best features is that they come with a grow light as well! So all you’d need to get is an appropriate nutrient package and pH-balanced water. The micro-garden is fully automated and uses a wick for feeding nutrients to the plants.
The SunBlaster is small enough to be placed on your kitchen counter or even a small desk. Just select your seeds, assemble the system and enjoy the fruits of your labor (well, microgreens in this case)!
Another excellent option is the Hydrofarm MegaGarden. If you opt for this, you'll have to get a light source separately or place the system near a source of natural sunlight.
Ebb & Flow Systems
If you want to grow microgreens on a commercial scale, an ebb-and-flow hydroponic system is a worthwhile investment for you. Ebb and flow systems are also called flood and drain systems. In the ebb and flow systems, you have a grow stand and tray, a water reservoir, an air pump, a water pump, and grow media.
Here at GroIndoor.com, we have a range of ebb and flow systems. One of these is the Sananbio Radix S-Vertical grow kit. The system is built in racks, which means you can maximize the use of your grow space. Also, each rack has LED lights, so you won’t have to worry about getting a separate light source.
These are some of the most commonly asked questions about growing microgreens hydroponically.
Can Microgreens Regrow after you Take Cuttings?
Most microgreens do regrow once you’ve taken cuttings. As we mentioned earlier, this is one of the benefits of growing microgreens. Just leave some stems when you're taking cuttings. Remember, the subsequent harvest won't be as tasteful as the first!
Do Microgreens Require Fertilizer if Grown Hydroponically?
No, they do not. All the nutritional requirements for your plants are provided by the nutrient feed.
Is Growing Microgreens Hydroponically more Beneficial?
We believe that there are far more benefits to growing microgreens in a hydroponic setup compared to a conventional soil garden. This is particularly true if you're located in an urban area.
Are Microgreens really Good for Health?
Yes, microgreens have a lot of health benefits. As mentioned above, alfalfa, kale, radishes, and clover, in particular, have a lot of health benefits.
How long do I Need to provide Microgreens with Light during the Day?
This can vary depending on the microgreens you are growing. As a rule of thumb, they should have light for 12 hours during the day.
Is it Possible for Microgreens to Grow into Adult Plants?
It is, but then they’ll be full-fledged adult plants, not microgreens. If you’re aiming to do that, then you’ll have to adjust your growing space and nutrients accordingly.
Now you know everything you need to know about growing microgreens hydroponically! All you need to do now is get your supplies and a hydroponic setup. Here at GroIndoor.com, we have everything you require, so contact us now!