Growing the perfect microgreen is actually really simple if you follow a few basic rules. Growing rates and methods vary. Temperature, humidity, airflow, and medium have an impact on the growing cycle. Trust the equipment and find the growing rhythm that suits you.
Step 1 - Prepare
After laying down your filter paper, empty your soil into the provided growing tray (The ones with the holes at the bottom). Give the soil a nice firm press with your tamper to create a smooth surface. (This is so the seeds are all level and can spread easily)
Step 2 - Sow
Sow your seeds evenly, making sure they dont bunch together. Each seed pack is measured for a single grow, so dont be scared of sowing them all. for some of the larger seeds, you can give them a gentle press into the soil with the tamper. Follow the special instructions on your seed pack.
Step 3 - Spray
THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP! Take out that spray bottle and give your greens a good shower. This kicks off the growing process.
Step 3.1 - Weight (For select varieties)
Depending on the crop type, this is where you put the blackout trays (The ones without the holes) lid facing down, so the seeds are directly in contact with the top of the lid. This "lid down" method adds a bit of weight to the seeds to help them get a good rooting in the soil. This is usually done for crops such as Sunflower, Pea, Coriander etc). Again, your seed pack will indicate this under the special instructions. Once the seeds have germinated, and the crops are starting to lift the tray, its time to flip the lid, and start the blackout period, see Step 4.
Step 4 - Blackout period
Cover your seeds with the blackout trays - the ones without the holes. This gives the seeds time to grow nice and tall, so when you harvest you have tall stems that are easy to cut. Skipping this period generally results in shorter microgreens.
Step 5 - Harvest
Depending on the variety of crop that you are growing, you can start harvesting in as little as 7 days. Some varieties take up to 3 weeks to mature. Harvest the whole lot at once, or simply take as you need, the crops will continue to grow and stay fresh and nutritious as long as they are in the system.
How to tell if I have mold?
Mold and root hairs are very different. Root hairs or cilia are these fuzzy little shoots that come off of the roots of plants in order to aid in water absorption. Mold on the other hand, is actually a type of fungus that grows when specific conditions are met and will cause problems in your microgreens because the function of fungus is actually to break down in natural materials. Mold and root hairs can actually look very similar to an untrained eye, so let me explain what to look for so you can tell the difference on your own.
Root hairs are bright white and always appear to congregate around the root itself. Remember, they radiate out from, and are attached to, the central root. Mold on the other hand can be many different colors including gray, black and even blue. If the mold is white, it actually won't be as bright white as root hairs are and will actually have a grayish tint.
If you have any doubts, a simple google image search will give you a good idea on what to look out for.
What are the little white specs in the soil?
Perlite and/or vermiculite.
Perlite is used to provide good drainage for the crop roots. The little gaps it creates in the soil allow for the roots to "breathe". It has high permeability, lowers water retention, and helps prevent soil compaction. It's naturally occurring and is regarded as an organic additive in most horticultural applications.
Vermiculite is used to increase water retention. Although we don't generally use vermiculite, it is used in a multitude of cutting mixes, potting mixes, and grow media.
My greens are not germinating
Seeds need water and a stable temperature to germinate. Our Homefarm units are built for indoor use, so most household and workplace internal temperatures are sufficient to encourage normal growth. Anything less than 10 degrees Celsius will stop most seeds from germinating, so just check that room temperature in the winter months. Remember to give your seeds a good spray after sowing and before covering. Some seeds also require soaking for a few hours before planting(Peas, Sunflower, Fenugreek). Be sure to follow any special instructions on your seed pack for a good grow. Finally, make sure your Homefarm unit has enough water. If you see a red flashing light, it means you have a low water level and the pump wont run.
What happens if I leave the seeds to keep growing?
Ultimately the plant will try and grow into the adult version of the crop you are planting. Our units are not designed to grow beyond a certain stage, so you may find that the plants will keep growing until they outgrow the height of the lights, and/or will slow their growth due to lack of space and having used up all the nutrients in the soil. That being said, we have seen crops still looking healthy for up to 2 months in the unit. Again, this all depends on the climate and type of crop being grown.