Microgreens are the royalty in the food industry. High in nutritional content and some of the healthiest plants, they are the baby sprouts or the seedlings of a mature plant. They are epic gardening plants.
Microgreens are easy to grow hydroponically or with soil. The process is cost-effective and takes minimal time and effort to grow microgreens. Are you facing problems while growing microgreens? Like anything in this world, even growing microgreens has its own problematic areas.
In this article, we are highlighting the common problems you face while growing microgreens. Read ahead to know the problem, its cause, and how to fix it or prevent it.
How To Grow Microgreens
Growing microgreens isn’t that difficult, although a minimal amount of care needs to be taken. Epic gardening can be achieved by harvesting a bunch of high-quality microgreens. The microgreens can be grown having either water or soil as a medium to propagate.
The plant becomes microgreen when the microgreen seeds sprouts are fully developed from cotyledon leaves to fully-fledged mature leaves. Growing the greens is done in the following steps:
Step 1: Getting the required materials
For epic gardening, good quality materials need to be bought for smooth growth of the process. Get a deep tray or container to culture the greens and grow them. You can buy a mason jar or glass beaker, which would be on sale in the market.
Alternatively, pick the tray which would be suitable for holding the water inside the plant. The tray is easily available in the local marketplace.
The greens need to be grown in a proper container or tray for the microgreens to germinate properly. Next, buy a bit of soil to fill the tray or container for proper growth. You can get the soil from the garden market or your home.
There are many varieties of microgreens available in the market. Buy organic microgreen seeds to get the proper nutrients. Organic seeds help you avoid getting contaminated by any pesticides or unwanted toxins to ensure quality.
Step 2: Provide proper light source
To ensure proper growth, the microgreens need to be grown under a good light source. The microgreens would need to be provided with enough light for proper germination.
Keep the seeds under direct sunlight to get the required nutrients. In cases where there is no proper sunlight, set up a light source and grow them under artificial light. On the other hand, microgreens can use ultraviolet light.
Step 3: Gardening the seeds
Fill your tray or container with soil completely. Three parts of the potting soil are mixed with either coconut coir or vermiculite to prepare the potting mix. For epic gardening, even out the soil to make a flat seeding surface.
Read the information provided on the seed packets to know the germination rate and time for that specific variety. Then, spread the seeds on the soil in an even manner.
Add fine soil and mediums like vermiculite or peat over the top of the seeds. The vermiculate can be sprayed on top of the seeds for potent seed propagation. Place the tray or container under the light source.
Step 4: Providing water
The water needs to be sprayed on the surface of the seeds regularly to ensure proper germination. Sprinkle water on the seeds at least once a day during the germination phase.
Check the moisture present in the soil before watering to see if it’s dry. The soil should have a good moisture balance; it should neither be too dry nor be left too wet.
Cover the microgreens with a plastic bag or any lid. Ensure to put holes for the plants to breathe. Water them regularly and wait for the greens to germinate.
Step 5: Harvest and Storage
The seeds would are ready to be harvested within 2-3 weeks. Cut the base of the green with scissors just above the soil. Take the microgreens freshly or store them in an airtight ziplock cover and keep it in the refrigerator.
The Benefits Of Microgreens
The microgreens contain a lot of nutrients which makes them a solution for health conditions. The microgreens, as a consequence, have numerous health benefits. They are one of the most preferred nutritional foods to be taken.
The microgreen’s nutritional intake has the capacity to prevent many diseases and act as an excellent source for our physical and mental health. Microgreens are used as an organic alternative to genetically modified plants. These mainly have the best anti-oxidant and anti-cancerous properties.
Hence, their intake is highly beneficial to us. Some of the reasons you should end up growing microgreens include:
- Rich in vitamins and minerals, which provides strength and prevents many diseases
- Have many micronutrients and bioactive peptides which has medicinal value
- It relives hypertension, stress and elevates our mood
- It helps fight against many cardiovascular and respiratory diseases
- Regulates our blood as it contains high antioxidant properties
- The microgreens are known to fight against some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s
- The greens boost the overall immunity of our body
- Some microgreens help in reducing weight as they contain low cholesterol levels
- They are useful in fighting against many cancers
- Some microgreens like fenugreek are recommended for diabetic patients as it lowers and blocks the blood glucose from entering into the cells
- Studies show that microgreens are also beneficial for improving eyesight and skin
Common Microgreen Problems
There are some common microgreen problems or difficulties you might face while you grow microgreens. Each problem has a cause and mostly easy fixes. Your microgreen might face these issues because of the tiniest of missteps while growing them.
1. Mold And Fungus
Mold and fungus are one of the most common microgreen problems. Mold comes in various forms. They could be whitish fuzzy spiderweb-like things, yellowish spots, bluish/greyish round type, or simple black patches on your tray.
Avoid consuming microgreens raw if they have been infected with mold. Let’s examine what causes the mold.
Causes Of Mold And Fungus
There is a multitude of things you could be missing out on that causes mold and fungus. Some of the common causes of mold and fungus are enlisted below.
- Soggy environment- While your microgreens require adequate moisture to grow, making your growing media too wet with water can be harmful. When your growing media is too wet and soggy, the roots of your microgreens are unable to get oxygen. Moreover, the flooded soil creates a stagnant environment and forms a breeding ground for mold growth.
- Humidity- Microgreens do not thrive in extreme temperatures. If your trays are placed in a warm and humid place, mold and fungus have a way to grow.
- Lack Of light-Sunlight or fluorescent lights kill microbes and germs. While strong light may destroy your microgreens, lack of adequate light is a cozy home for mold and fungus.
- Poor Ventilation- If the circulation of fresh air cannot be done, there will be a lack of oxygen, and cannot be controlled the humidity and temperature.
How To Fix/Prevent Mold And Fungus
If you want to ensure your microgreen trays are devoid of mold and fungus, make sure to take care of the following.
- Your trays must have drainage holes to remove excess water. This ensures that your growing media does not get soggy.
- Make sure you sanitize and pre-soak your microgreens seeds with hydrogen peroxide before sowing. This significantly reduces the chances of mold and fungus occurring.
- Do not over-seed your microgreens. Overseeding causes a heavy density of microgreens, which means the leaves become thicker.
- Ensure you use appropriate growing media with adequate lighting and ventilation systems for proper air circulation.
2. Slow Germination
Microgreens seeds usually are very quick to sprout and germinate within 2-3 days. The microgreens problem occurs when there are no signs of germination in the pots. Then, the germination is too slow.
Causes Of Slow Germination
The slow germination problems can be due to a lot of reasons like
- It could mean the soil or the potting mix was too dry
- Some microgreen plants also can have a slow germinating rate
- The temperature could not be optimal for growth according to the microgreen plant chosen
- The humidity or moisture could have been high
- The microgreens might not have gotten enough light
- Low-quality seeds
How To Fix/Prevent Slow Germination
The solution for these common microgreen problems is you can fix the germination by continuously checking the moisture conditions in the soil. Spray the soil surface regularly to keep it moist. Using a wet towel or paper towel, do a germination test on the seeds.
The paper towels are used as a way of moisture control in the seed. Check the temperature; if the temperature is not favorable, wait for a better environmental condition.
Pre-soak the seeds in water for at least 8 hours before spreading them in the soil. This makes sure the seeds are not in their torpid state. The quality of the seeds needs to be checked before buying them in the market. These measures might prevent the seeds from growing slowly.
3. Yellowish Microgreens
Yellowish microgreens seedlings are unfortunately way too common. They look yellowish as chlorophyll in the leaves hasn’t performed the photosynthesis process yet.
Causes Of Yellowish Microgreens
Have you noticed a full growth of microgreens but they are yellow? What causes this?
- When your seedling gets too much light
- Even too little light causes chlorosis
How To Fix/Prevent Yellowish Microgreens
Depending on why your microgreens turned yellow in the first place, you can fix this issue. If the yellowing process occurred due to the plant’s natural shedding, you could not fix this issue. You have to wait for new growth.
If the condition occurred due to infections like viruses or other infections, it wouldn’t turn back to green. Don’t worry; this is a rare complication in seedlings or microgreens.
Unfortunately, the only solution to this is prevention by ensuring high-quality seeds and some other factors that ensure a proper growth process.
If your plant is facing yellowing issues because of an overabundance of light, move your trays to a post where there is less light. Your sunflower microgreens or other variety of microgreens will turn back to their resplendent green color.
When seed clumping occurs, the greens will not get sufficient nutrition. The microgreens will not grow properly. When the seeds are about to sprout, there won’t be sufficient space for all.
Clumping happens when the seedlings push the other seeds from the soil. This makes the dirt come up, and the root hair of the sprouts gets pulled up.
Causes Of Clumping
Clumping of seeds occurs due to the following conditions:
- When the seed is too dense
- Seeds have not been evenly spread in the soil
- Over-seeding the trays
- If the seeds are sticky or mucilaginous
- If the seed is too small
How To Fix/Prevent Clumping
To prevent these common microgreen problems, ensure that the seeds are getting spread evenly. Smoothen out the soil properly using a dispenser or a flat-edged spade to level them.
Plant fewer amounts of seeds in the trays and plant them with proper distance between the seeds. Avoid overcrowding or over-seeding the trays.
5. Poor Quality Microgreens
The poor quality microgreens show the microgreens are made to look weak or indicate that they have gone bad. It is hard to know what exactly is causing this issue. The greens look weak and might even attract a lot of fruit flies. They might lack color, texture, structure, and flavor.
Causes Of Poor Quality Microgreens
A lot of factors that contribute to the poor quality of the microgreens are
- They lack moisture control
- Reducing the blackout period
- Seeds weren’t presoaked and were left in the dormant stage
- Infected with the mold
- Not properly watering the plant
- Not have been stored properly
- It can be due to more or less exposure to sunlight
How To Prevent Weak-looking Greens
The solution for preserving the richness of the greens properly is by watering and misting them at regular intervals. Taking the microgreens freshly is advisable, and storing the greens should be done correctly.
Make sure to wash the microgreens before seeding and after harvesting to prevent any bacterial or fungal infections.
Check the moisture, humidity, temperature, and 12-15 hours of exposure to sunlight. The blackout period of the microgreens should be a minimum of 9 hours for better propagation. The blackout period would vary according to the different varieties of plants.
If the leaves look shriveled, mushy, or if they smell bad, throw the greens away. They would no longer be edible and can lead to food poisoning or constipation. Read the information provided in the seed packages you buy more properly. This way, you can make sure if its standards are good.
6. Falling Over
When you are growing microgreens, one of the major problems you might face is falling over your microgreens. Fallen microgreens look wilted; they lean to one side or have lost their vitality.
Causes Of Falling Over
Your microgreens can fall over for several reasons.
- The major reason for microgreens falling over is the lack of water
- Your microgreens might be too tall and leggy; this occurs when your plants are too thin
- Overseeding in a small and restrained area that makes your microgreens struggle too much for vital elements
- If your microgreens are sick and have harmful bacteria over them
How To Fix/Prevent Falling Over
To fix the problems of microgreens falling over, you need to ensure optimum conditions while growing microgreens.
- Ensure there is proper air circulation to your trays
- Make sure your microgreens are getting adequate water with more nutrient solution
- Ensure proper lighting and keep rotating your trays so that the microgreens do not lean over on one side
- Calculate the seed density properly and avoid overseeding or underseeding
- Control the temperature and humidity using dehumidifiers
7. Uneven Growth
The microgreens need not always grow in the same length; some greens might be taller than the others in the same tray. While some microgreens are small and the others are short, the growth is uneven.
Sometimes, the leaves are smaller, and the stem is larger, while other times, the leaves are longer than the stem. This uneven growth of microgreens is one of the most common microgreen problems.
Causes Of Uneven Growth
Uneven growth can occur due to some problems like
- Due to insufficient lighting or lack of light, the microgreens can grow in the direction the lights fall
- Overpopulation of the microgreens can lead to the plant’s root area competing for the basic nutrients
- The quality of the potting mix
How To Fix/Prevent Uneven Growth
One solution is to prevent the microgreen’s uneven growth by keeping the tray directly under the sunlight or artificial lights. Proper exposure to bright light should be given, especially for growing long stems. The entire tray needs to get an equal amount of brightness for even growth.
Watering the plants regularly will improve the harvest and propagation.
Crowding of the greens can be avoided by evenly spreading the seeds into the soil. You can spread the soil evenly using a seed dispenser to spread out.
Placing fewer seeds at proper distances can help avoid the microgreen problems like clumping and growing unevenly. Testing the quality of the soil can also be beneficial. Make the potting mix to be proper.
8. Dirty Harvest
Harvesting dirty crops can also be a huge problem, especially if they’re contaminated with diseases. The green leaves and roots can grow up to be dirty. When it’s time for harvesting, the greens can lack in quality.
Causes Of Dirty Harvest
- Improper or unhygienic sanitization
- By covering the top of the seeds with soil
How To Fix/Prevent Dirty Harvest
Although we used to cover up the seed for good germination, this isn’t good for harvesting. They would grow up with dirt in the leaves.
Covering the microgreen seed with two soil layers- a loose layer and a compact layer – would help them grow well. Spreading the seedlings evenly in the sprout would also prevent the leaves from getting dirty.
Make sure to harvest correctly by tilting the tray and cutting the sprout just above the root hairs. Do cover other parts of the tray with your hand or cover the soil up with any plastic or paper towel.
Microgreens are nutritive crops that contain many health benefits and play a significant role in the well-being our mind and body. They are most preferred for the abundance of fiber, energy, vitamins, and minerals present.
Their nutritional value has given a lot of attention to the crops and has made them popular in our diet. Despite containing a lot of health benefits, these greens are susceptible to facing lots of problems.
They can be contaminated by molds or other fungi, look yellow, get clumped up, fall over, grow unevenly, look weak, and get dirty. The plant hence needs to be monitored and taken care of properly. The harvesting needs to be done at the right time, and the greens needed to be stored appropriately.
If you are starting gardening in your home, growing microgreens is the greatest option. These are the easiest to grow and the quickest crops to harvest. However, taking care of microgreen problems is extremely important to take the necessary precautions.
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.