Microgreens are an increasingly popular way to add a burst of nutrition, flavor and color into any meal. But for those who want to take the next step in their microgreen-growing journey, substrate is essential. Substrate is essentially the medium that your microgreens grow in – it’s the soil (or something similar) that you use as your growing base. It’s important to get the right kind of substrate so that your microgreens can thrive! In this article, we’ll explore what microgreen substrate is and why it matters.
Whether you’re a beginner or experienced gardener looking to try out microgreens cultivation, understanding substrate choice is key. If you choose incorrectly, your microgreens may not have enough nutrients available to them or could be prone to disease; if you pick correctly, however, they will have just the right amount of moisture and nutrient availability necessary for healthy growth! We’ll cover everything from what types of substrates work best for different varieties of plants, how much water and fertilizer should be added and more.
By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what kind of substrate works best for which type of plant – so let’s dive in!
What You'll Learn
Types Of Substrates
As the foundation of a successful microgreen garden, substrate is essential for optimal plant growth. There are various types of substrates available to use in cultivating your own microgreens, each with its own unique properties and advantages.
Coconut coir has been gaining popularity as an ideal substrate choice among microgreen growers due to its natural ability to retain moisture while still draining well.
Additionally, it’s biodegradable so it can be easily disposed of without harming the environment. Vermiculite is another popular choice, offering superior aeration and drainage that encourages healthy root development. Perlite also provides great air circulation around the roots but does not absorb water like vermiculite does.
Rockwool offers excellent insulation for young seedlings and strong support for long-term plants, however some people don’t prefer using this material because of possible health concerns related to breathing it in. Lastly, peat moss retains large amounts of both oxygen and water which makes it an effective choice for creating nutrient rich soil beds suitable for germination or transplanting established seedlings into larger sizes containers.
No matter what type of substrate you choose, proper hydration and temperature levels will determine whether or not your seeds successfully sprout into delicious vegetables. With careful consideration when selecting your materials and intentional management thereafter; your microgreens will thrive! Onward we go now to explore what soil requirements must be met in order to ensure that our little greens have all they need…
Growing microgreens requires specific soil requirements. Ideal soils should have the right texture, structure and nutrient levels for optimal growth.
- Loamy Soils: These are ideal as they provide good drainage while maintaining moisture and nutrients.
- Sandy Soils: While these drain well, they lack in holding onto essential nutrients needed by plants.
- Clayey Soils: These hold onto too much water which can lead to root rot or other issues with plant health.
Other Important Factors To Consider about Soil:
- Texture: A medium texture is best for growing microgreens, allowing for adequate drainage but still providing enough water retention without becoming soggy from over watering.
- Structure: The soil should be crumbly when squeezed so that air pockets form between particles aiding in aeration of the roots.
- pH Level: Most vegetables prefer a slightly acidic soil (pH 6 – 7). It’s important to test your soil regularly to ensure it is not too alkaline (pH 8+) or too acidic (pH 5-) as this could result in stunted growth or even death of your plants.
- Nutrients: Microgreens require very little fertilizer compared to other crops, however some light application may help improve their overall health and yield potential. Choose natural fertilizers such as compost tea or liquid fish emulsion to give them an extra boost if needed.
Knowing what kind of soil you have available will go a long way towards helping you grow healthy microgreens at home. With proper preparation, any type of soil can become suitable for growing microgreens – whether using potting mixes or garden soils amended with organic matter and other additives. For those looking for another option outside traditional gardening methods, hydroponic systems offer an alternative approach that doesn’t use any soil at all!
Similar to building a house, setting up a hydroponic system requires many pieces fitting together. Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil; instead, nutrients are delivered directly to plant roots in an oxygenated nutrient solution. A typical hydroponic system includes these three components: lighting, media, and nutrient solutions.
Lighting plays an essential role in providing energy for photosynthesis. While natural sunlight can be used, supplemental lighting such as LED or fluorescent lights should also be employed to ensure maximum growth potential.
The second component of a successful hydroponic system is the substrate or media that supports the plant’s root systems. An inert medium like rockwool or clay pellets will provide adequate support while allowing water and air flow through its structure. The final piece of this puzzle is nutrition – namely, the nutrient solution circulated throughout the system which supplies all necessary minerals for optimal plant growth.
Having reviewed the basics behind constructing a hydroponic system, one must now prepare the substrate for planting before reaping any rewards from their endeavors.
Preparing Substrate For Planting
Preparing substrate for planting microgreens is an important step in the process that must not be overlooked. Substrate selection and preparation are key components to ensure a successful crop.
Many materials can be used as planting substrates, such as soil-less potting mixes, coconut coir fiber, vermiculite, and perlite. The table below provides more details about each of these common substrate materials:
|Soil-less Potting Mixes||Well aerated and sterile; quick draining||Contains organic matter which can cause root rot; may contain unwanted weed seeds or pests|
|Coconut Coir Fiber||High water retention capacity; 100% biodegradable||Can hold onto too much moisture leading to root diseases or nutrient deficiencies|
|Vermiculite||Excellent water holding capabilities||Expensive compared to other media options|
|Perlite||Very lightweight; good drainage properties||Dusty when dry; expensive compared to other materials|
The specific type of material chosen should depend on the desired outcome from prepping the substrate. For example, if one was looking for a more sustainable option with high water retention capability then coconut coir would be most suitable. On the other hand, if wanting something less messy but still well aerated then perlite might be best suited for the job. When making this decision it’s also important to consider cost effectiveness and any potential health risks associated with certain substrates.
Once you have selected your substrate material, prepare it according to package instructions before adding it into trays for seeding. This ensures proper hydration levels prior to sowing which promotes better germination rates. Afterward you will want to make sure the top layer of medium is level throughout all trays so seedlings receive adequate light exposure once they emerge from their shells. From there you’re ready to sow your greens!
Harvesting microgreens is a truly delightful experience. All you need to do is reach up into the clouds and pluck away with your bare hands! Of course, that’s not really how it works – but at least we can dream. In reality, harvesting microgreens requires careful planning and attention to detail in order to get the best yield possible.
When harvests come around, there are several techniques available for gathering these tiny greens. Timing plays an important role here; ideally, they should be cut when their first set of true leaves appears (this usually happens seven-ten days after planting). It’s also important to use the right tools: small scissors or sharp kitchen knives work well for trimming off individual plants at soil level.
The process itself is relatively simple, though it does take some practice before one can master it completely. Once harvested, the microgreens can either be stored in airtight containers until ready for sale/consumption or used fresh immediately. With perfect timing and technique comes greater yields – so don’t give up if your first few attempts aren’t as successful as desired!
In conclusion, microgreens are an easy to grow and nutritious addition to any diet. With the right substrates, soil requirements, hydroponic systems and harvesting techniques you can successfully have a bountiful crop of your favorite greens.
I’ve found that home-grown microgreens contain 4 – 6 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts. This statistic is astounding and shows just how powerful these tiny plants are in terms of nutrition. Even though they may be small in size, they shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to health benefits!
Growing microgreens at home provides us with fresh produce year round as well as peace of mind knowing exactly what we’re consuming. It’s also incredibly satisfying for me personally to witness my own harvest from start to finish. If you haven’t already tried growing your own microgreens, I highly recommend giving it a go!