Grow Your Own: Winter Lettuce and Microgreens Winter is a tough time to grow food, we all know that. This article shows us how to grow winter lettuce and micro greens inside over the winter months. If SHTF this may be all we can gather, especially if you get a lot of snow and freezing …
During winter when it’s cold and dreary, you might be in need of something fresh and bright to remind you spring will come sooner than you think. Why not grow microgreens indoors?
Microgreens are the new shoots of a vegetable plant. They are tender, sweet and incredibly healthy – so much that newly sprouted microgreens have up to 40 times the amount of nutrients that their mature counterparts do.
Microgreens are delicious in the winter for salads and sandwiches. The best part about them is that they sprout fast and are easy to grow, so you will always have fresh greens available to you and you can proudly say you grew them yourself.
Here’s what you need to get started:
- Seeds. You can use almost any vegetable seed for this, but a lot of companies offer microgreen seed mixes that are a fantastic option for first-time indoor growers. If you don’t want to use a pre-made mix, then options such as cilantro, kale, radishes, basil or beets are usually great options.
- Soil. The best bet for this is a seed-starting medium, but any potting soil will most likely work as long as it doesn’t have chemical fertilizers. Many local groceries carry organic varieties, too.
- Trays or containers. Some gardeners use the seed-starting trays available at local garden centers, but really any tray or container will work. The microgreens won’t stay in the containers very long.
- Lighting. You can use either a natural or artificial source for this. If you have a large window, then you can simply place the tray under the window and you’re all set; however, if that’s not available, then a florescent light source will provide the same benefit.
Fill the trays with soil. Plants will be in the trays for about 10-12 days, so they won’t develop a deep root system and therefore you don’t need a lot of soil. About two inches of soil should be sufficient.
Next, spread the seeds over the tray. Unlike traditional gardening, you don’t need to worry about giving the plants space because they won’t be in the tray long enough to develop roots. It’s a good idea to spread a pretty thick coat of seeds.
Sprinkle soil over the seeds, being careful not to bury them too deep; a light cover of soil is sufficient. Then, water your seeds. You don’t want to drown your seeds, although the soil should be quite wet.
Place the trays in light. Spray the soil with water a couple of times a day.
Depending on what you planted, you might see sprouts in a few days or up to a week. Beginning at about day 10, you can harvest your plants – but it’s really up to you when to do it.
Harvest them by either clipping them with sharp scissors or by pulling the plants out of the soil and rinsing them. If you are going to use the latter route, then make sure the plants are dry so they don’t rip or tear; to do this, stop watering the plants a day or so before you’re ready to harvest.
Once you have your system down, you will be able to grow multiple varieties of microgreens year-round. Enjoy!
Have you ever grown microgreens? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:
The outdoor growing season is ending for much of North American, but don’t despair — you can continue to grow food to eat. With the help of grow lights, you can provide fresh vegetables to be harvested during the cold months of winter.
And if you get started soon, you can be eating your vegetables in January. All of these vegetables can be grown in two months or less:
1. Microgreens are a delicious choice for an indoor garden. The leaves are harvested when young and tender, which makes a wonderful addition to salads and winter dishes. They can grow as quickly as two to three weeks. When the plants develop at least one set of true leaves, they can be harvested. You only harvest the part above the soil. The leaves are not only tasty but also are rich in important nutrients.
2. Bok choy or Pak choi. These greens need lots of water but are fast growers. Plant them in large pots so they will obtain moisture better. The plants reach harvesting stage at about four weeks. Clip only the outer leave, allowing the plant to continue producing on the inside. Or, you can harvest the whole plant at baby size if you want it for stir frying.
3. Beans can be grown under grow lights, and bush beans are the best choice for indoor use. Supports aren’t necessary, and harvesting is a lot easier, too. You may want to think about planting several plants so that you have a bigger yield. Beans can be picked between 50-60 days after planting.
4. Radishes are an especially great vegetable to grow indoors. From seed to actual radish takes about one month. If you plant them back to back, you can have a continuous supply of radishes all winter. Plus, it’s just not the tuber that’s good to eat, but the greens can be added to salads, as well. The radish seeds can be sown in five-inch-deep trays of compost and well-drained soil in straight rows. They need to be covered with paper until they begin to sprout. Seedlings can be thinned out when two to three true leaves appear on them.
5. Spinach & lettuce grow well under grow lights. If harvesting for baby greens, you can harvest when the leaves are about three to four inches tall at about 20-30 days. If you’re harvesting for a larger plant, then harvest between 45-60 days.
6. Arugula is a plant that has an even higher yield when grown under grow lights. The more you cut it, the more it grows, giving an unending supply of leaves. It can be harvested about 30 days from when it’s planted. Pick only the outside leaves of the plant.
What are your favorite vegetables to grow under lights? Share your tips in the section below:
Homesteading on a small plot of land offers many advantages that a larger plot cannot. For example, a small plot allows for easier control and management of space, soil and plants.
A half acre or less, utilized wisely and strategically, will produce just as much as a large plot of land interspersed with vegetation will. So, for those of you without a large 20-acre farm to work with, here are tips and tricks to small-scale homesteading to achieve all the perks of a large-scale farm and to grow all the food you need — with half the work.
Physical Solutions for the Farmer
A small scale homestead is less physically demanding. Walking and bending to tend the garden places a strain on homesteaders of all ages. On a smaller plot, plants are clustered closer together so that instead of walking far distances to tend to another part of the garden, you simply take a few steps or turn to tend the garden.
Vertical gardening is one of the best solutions. You can go vertical in just two steps:
- Use trellis made of just about any material.
- Plant cucumbers, squash, pole beans, and fruit trees near the trellis so that they may “climb.”
While most vertical growing plants will cast a shadow and seem to be problematic, they really are not. Simply use the shade to grow greens that can’t take the heat of the sun.
Don’t Forget Planting Combinations
Growing plants closer together will produce more and keep weeds away. Growing on a small plot of land is all about efficiency — making the most of a small area. Interplanting gives you an additional benefit of companion planting. Try planting together tomatoes, basil and hot pepper. Then, when it’s time for tomato sauce, you have your tomatoes, basil and pepper in one place to pick. Corn, beans and squash are also a familiar garden trio.
Use Your Home
One place most gardeners don’t utilize is the house itself. South facing walls draw a lot of heat. Espalier trees against the house produce extra food. Placing thorny berry bushes under the windows will provide extra berries and keep prying eyes out of your windows.
Seed sprouting, growing micro greens, and mushrooming are all popular growing practices easily reproduced in the home, whether in the kitchen, garage or basement. Most edible plants — such as radishes and mung beans — make great candidates for sprouts. Eat the sprouts fresh or cook them in soups and other dishes.
Seeding Made Easy
- Place sprout seeds in Mason jar
- Soak them in water overnight
- Drain and rinse
- Set upside down in a dark place
- Rinse and drain twice a day, each day, for 5-7 days
Microgreens grow fast and are packed full of vitamins. They contain up to 10 times the nutritional value of the adult fruit. Eating one ounce of broccoli sprouts is about the same as eating 10 ounces of broccoli. It only takes about two weeks to harvest microgreens, so it’s a great salad option. Many seed dealers offer sprouting seeds and mixes that will be tasty in any meal.
To squeeze in extra plants in the garden, consider spiral garden beds. In this, rocks are used to make a stylish spiral bed that may be filled in with herbs or strawberries. The stones absorb heat and warm the soil while the design doubles the planting area.
Hanging baskets and planters on decks or balconies can be used for flowers or to further produce sustenance. For convenience, a planter box in the kitchen makes fresh herbs easily accessible. Planters do, however, require a healthy dose of watering to ensure that they don’t dry out.
Go Forward By Looking Back
There is so much “new” old technology you can employ. Hugelkultur is a planting method using buried decaying wood to produce moisture, heat and nutrients for plants. The “Hugel” starts as a mound between 2-4 feet high and as long as you like it. They may contain swells to catch additional water, depending on your needs and space. I like “Hugels” because they simplify and double the harvest. A strategic layout includes planting high crops and low crops together while the mycelium growing in the wood enriches the soil. Even in droughts, “Hugel” plants are resilient.
Rabbits on the homestead offer benefits to the soil and the freezer. Rabbits produce ready-made soil for your small plot of land with their excrement. Chicken manure must be composted for about a year and then still needs to be applied cautiously because of the high nutrients. Rabbit manure, however, is great for immediate use. These efficient farm animals are also a great source of protein and are almost cholesterol-free. One female rabbit can produce about 200 pounds of meat each year!
Self-sufficiency and homesteading does not necessitate a large plot of land. A small plot of land will do just fine, as long as measures are taken to ensure that all space is used to its maximum capacity and that layouts are strategic.
What advice would you add for homesteading on a small plot of land?
Microgreens are essentially immature plants, such as greens, lettuce and herbs, that are harvested when they are about an inch in height after about 10 days to three weeks of sprouting. Just about any lettuce, green or herb can be grown as a microgreen and harvested for powerful plant nutrition.
Microgreens can be grown as single or mixed plant varieties (such as mesclun mixes), and the flavors range from mild to spicy.
Specific examples of plants that can be grown as microgreens include mustard, kale, endive, arugula, beet greens, spinach, tatsoi, radish greens and watercress.
Why Grow Microgreens?
Microgreens have a very concentrated flavor compared to the original vegetable, and can be used in a variety of dishes, such as adding them to salads, sandwiches or stir-fry. They also can be grown during winter, helping you get your “garden fix” when temperatures are frigid.
Microgreens pack a lot of nutrition inside their tiny leafy bodies.
They contain many of the health benefits that sprouts do, but unlike sprouts, which are grown only in water, microgreens are grown in soil or another growing medium where they absorb minerals, adding more nutrition. Microgreens undergo more photosynthesis than sprouts do, which increases their nutrition even more. They also have more fiber content than do sprouts.
For example, leafy greens are good sources of beta-carotene, iron and calcium, and dark leafy greens such as kale and chard are high in lutein and zeaxanthin.
Microgreens require minimal amounts of sunlight and space, and therefore can easily be grown inside homes within compact spaces, including in your kitchen or on your windowsill.
Microgreens are expensive to buy at grocery stores, making growing your own a very economical option. By doing this, you also will be able to avoid pesticides.
How to Grow Microgreens
- A suitable growing container with drainage holes. This can be just about any type of container that you can grow plants in, including a nursery flat, takeout boxes, peat pots or traditional plant pots.
- Organic potting mix or soilless seed-starting mix (with vermiculite).
- Can be either microgreen mixes or any sort of greens, lettuce or herb that you would like to grow.
- Lightweight plastic or clear plastic domed lid.
1. Fill your chosen container with the potting mix or seed-starting mix. Place a drip tray or a saucer underneath to catch excess water.
2. Scatter your seeds so that they are about 1/8 to ¼ inch apart and lightly cover them with approximately 1/8 inch of soil/potting mix.
3. Gently and thoroughly water the seeds. If you are using a soilless seed-starting medium, sprinkle the vermiculite on top of the soil just prior to watering.
4. Place your growing container in a spot that will receive at least four hours of sunlight every day. South-facing windows are best, but eastern or western-facing sunlight is also sufficient.
5. For optimal sprouting conditions (warm and moist), place the lightweight plastic or a clear plastic dome lid over your growing container. After the seeds sprout, remove the plastic.
6. Keep the soil medium consistently moist like a wrung-out sponge, but not too soggy. If the soil medium is too wet, the sprouting plants cannot properly take root.
Harvesting Microgreens and Starting the Next Crop
Microgreens can be harvested in about 1 ½ to three weeks after sprouting, depending on the size of microgreens that you would like to harvest. They are ready to be harvested once they have developed their first set of true leaves. The very first leaves that develop after germination are the seed leaves, which don’t resemble the true leaves of the plant.
To harvest the microgreens, snip them with scissors just above the soil level.
Because microgreens are essentially sprouts and are in such an early stage of development, you cannot re-grow a second crop from the stems of harvested microgreens. To grow another crop, scatter new seeds and cover with soil. You can remove the old roots if you wish, but they are a good source of organic matter if left where they are.
By planting a new crop of microgreens a few days to one week after planting the first one, you will have a continuous supply throughout the year, even during winter when your outdoor garden is still “sleeping.”
Have you grown microgreens? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below: