Why Not to Grow Microgreens on Dirt? Alternatives Explored

HomeGrowingWhy Not to Grow Microgreens on Dirt? Alternatives Explored

Growing microgreens on dirt can present certain challenges. Dirt may carry pests and pathogens that can harm the delicate microgreens. Additionally, using specialized substrates, such as coco coir or vermiculite, provides a controlled environment with more balanced nutrient content, promoting healthier growth. These substrates also offer better control over moisture levels, preventing overwatering or underwatering.

Risk of Pests and Pathogens

Growing microgreens on dirt can put you at risk of pests and pathogens, like a thief in the night sneaking in to steal your harvest. One study found that soil-grown microgreens are far more likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria than those grown on sterile substrates. This is because the soil can contain a variety of organisms, including fungi, bacteria, and viruses which may cause disease.

In addition, there is also a risk of cross contamination from other plants growing nearby. If any of these organisms contaminate your microgreens crop, it could result in significant losses for growers.

Soil fertility is another concern when growing microgreens on dirt. Soils vary greatly in their nutrient content and organic matter levels depending on where they are sourced from. To ensure optimal growth and development of your crop, you need to carefully assess the soil’s nutrients before planting and supplement as necessary to provide adequate nutrition for the plants. This requires additional time and effort compared to using sterile substrates which are already formulated with balanced nutrients for quick germination and healthy growth.

Furthermore, using dirt for growing microgreens also involves dealing with weeds or competing vegetation that will compete for space as well as resources such as light and water used by your crop plants. Weeds can easily spread through wind or water dispersal while other unwanted vegetation can slow down growth rates significantly if not properly managed early on during establishment periods.

In sum, there are numerous risks associated with growing microgreens on dirt that should be considered before making this choice. However, if done correctly, it can still result in a successful harvest provided all potential hazards have been appropriately addressed ahead of time.

Fewer Nutrients

When growing microgreens with dirt, you may not receive the same level of nutrients as if you were to use a specialized substrate.

The nutrient availability in soil is often poor compared to substrates specifically designed for microgreen growth. Additionally, soil lacks trace elements that are essential for optimal plant growth and development.

Furthermore, the pH levels of soil can be unpredictable which can lead to uneven growth over time.

Poor nutrient availability

Unlike growing in a specialized substrate, soil-based microgreen cultivation offers significantly fewer nutrients to the crop. Low levels of macro and micronutrients, poor buffering capacity, lack of consistent pH balance, limited water holding capacity, and potential for nutrient leaching are all factors that contribute to poor nutrient availability. This means that crops grown in soil may be missing out on essential minerals and vitamins required for optimal growth.

Furthermore, the lack of a balanced nutrient content makes it difficult to ensure the health and quality of the plants. Without proper nutrition available to them, microgreens can become stressed or even die off. To avoid these problems altogether, many growers opt for soil-free alternatives such as hydroponic systems or nutrient-rich substrates like coir or vermiculite instead.

These options offer more control over the environment and provide superior nutrition that is tailored specifically for growing microgreens.

Lack of trace elements

Without trace elements in the soil, microgreens’ growth is stunted and they’re unable to reach their full potential. Trace elements are essential for plant development, but they can be difficult to come by when growing microgreens on dirt.

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This is because alternative fertilizers and container gardening techniques don’t always provide the necessary micronutrients. Without these vital nutrients, microgreens won’t be able to grow optimally or have access to all of the nutrition they require.

Additionally, using dirt as a growing medium can lead to an accumulation of pests and pathogens that further reduce the nutrient availability in the soil. Growing microgreens in specialized substrate ensures that plants receive adequate access to trace elements which are necessary for healthy growth and production.

Specialized substrates also offer a pathogen-free environment with fewer chances of pest infestations which eliminates additional sources of contamination from outside sources. Growing in this way allows microgreens to reach their full potential without being limited by poor nutrient availability due to lack of trace elements.

Unpredictable pH levels

You risk unpredictable pH levels when growing microgreens in dirt, as some soils have a pH of up to 10, more than double the optimal range of 6-7 for microgreens. This can cause problems for seed germination and plant growth, and create an unsuitable environment for beneficial microbes. Soil-based substrates lack water retention capabilities and pH buffering capacity compared to specialized substrate mixes, resulting in more extreme swings in soil pH over time.

This makes it difficult to maintain an even soil pH level, creating an unpredictable environment for your microgreens. When growing microgreens on dirt, you will need to monitor the soil’s pH regularly and adjust as needed with additives such as lime or sulfur.

Here are five disadvantages of using soil instead of a specialized mix:

  • Poor water retention
  • Low buffering capacity
  • Unpredictable nutrient availability
  • Greater risk of pests and diseases
  • More frequent adjustments to soil acidity required

Soil Compaction

Growing microgreens on dirt can lead to soil compaction, which can make it more difficult for the roots to absorb essential nutrients and water. Soil compaction occurs when the soil is compressed by heavy machinery or equipment, making it harder for air and water to penetrate deeper into the ground. This can reduce seed germination and limit the growth of your microgreens.

Furthermore, soil compaction makes it hard to control weeds in a garden, as they may be able to take root even in compacted soils. Additionally, when you’re growing microgreens on dirt, you’re not able to monitor the pH levels of the soil easily. Unpredictable pH levels can cause nutrient deficiencies in your plants or an excess of certain minerals that could damage them.

Compacting of soils also has long-term effects on your soil’s health as well; over time it will become less porous and will struggle to retain water or provide adequate aeration for healthy plant life. When working with dirt beds for microgreen production, you’ll need to make sure that there is enough space between rows so that adequate drainage is maintained throughout the bed.

Finally, because growing mediums such as rockwool offer more consistent results than dirt does, many growers choose this option instead because of its predictability and ease of use. Rockwool requires less maintenance than tending a garden bed and offers better weed control than traditional gardening methods do.

Difficulty in Controlling Water Content

Another factor to consider when growing microgreens on dirt is the difficulty in controlling water content. This is an issue because if there’s too much or not enough water, the crop can become stressed and produce lower yields. The issue of water control is especially pertinent for farmers who farm in areas with unpredictable weather.

Weed control and pest management are also more difficult when using dirt as a substrate. Dirt can harbor weeds and pests that can quickly take over the crop, leading to reduced yields or complete loss of the entire harvest. When growing microgreens on soil, it’s essential to be familiar with local weed patterns and take preventive measures before planting to reduce chances of an infestation. Pest management is another important factor for growers to consider – if left unchecked, pests can rapidly spread throughout the crops leading to significant losses in yield.

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Furthermore, without proper maintenance of water levels, plants may suffer from drought stress which further exasperates pest issues by weakening their defenses against them. The use of specialized substrates such as compost or coco coir reduces these risks significantly as they provide better control over water levels and are often free from weed seeds or harmful pathogens that might affect crops grown on dirt-only substrates. Additionally, specialized substrates provide higher nutrient density than dirt alone which accelerates growth rates and increases yield potentials for commercial production operations.

For those looking to grow microgreens commercially or at scale, it’s highly recommended that they avoid using soil as a substrate due to its inability to prevent weed outbreaks or manage pests effectively while offering limited nutrition compared to other options available on the market today. Investing in a quality substrate will ensure optimal results with fewer risks involved, making it well worth the initial investment down the line.

Benefits of Growing Microgreens in Substrate

Using specialized substrates to grow microgreens offers a plethora of benefits, making it a much wiser choice than dirt alone. For starters, growing microgreens in substrate allows for:

  1. Faster Germination Timing – Specialized substrates are designed with the right water content and composition to encourage quicker germination times than soil.
  2. Greater Nutrient Content – Substrates provide more nutrients for the plants that help them mature faster and with greater yields than when grown in soil alone.
  3. Fewer Pests & Pathogens – Growing microgreens on substrate significantly lowers the risk of pests and pathogens due to its sterility compared to dirt or other natural soils which can be contaminated with bacteria or fungi.
  4. More Efficient Harvesting Techniques – By using substrates, harvesting techniques can be made simpler since there is no need to sift through rocky soil or other debris that may be present in regular dirt to harvest your crop of microgreens.

The use of specialized substrates also makes it easier for growers to have control over their environment. They can tailor the amount of light, energy, and water content needed for optimal growth rates without worrying about contamination from outside sources like bugs or weeds that may affect their crop if grown in regular soil.

Additionally, because these substrates are so lightweight, they are also more cost-effective when compared with traditional garden beds. They require fewer resources such as water and labor costs associated with preparing your soil before planting your seeds each season.

Finally, by choosing an organic substrate, you’ll ensure that your crops are free from harsh chemicals or fertilizers that could otherwise damage your plants’ health and productivity over time.

In short, growing microgreens on substrate offers a much safer and reliable way for growers who want consistent harvests year-round. They can also ensure that their crops have access to all the nutrients necessary for healthy growth rates without fear of contamination from outside sources like insects or pathogens found in regular soils. With all these advantages combined, specialized substrates are quickly becoming one of the most popular methods for cultivating microgreens today!

Overview of Different Substrates Used for Growing Microgreens

You might be wondering which substrate is best for growing microgreens. From coco coir to perlite and vermiculite, there are a variety of substrates you can use. You can even try a soilless potting mix if you’re feeling adventurous!

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Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each substrate to help determine which one is right for you.

Coco Coir

Coco coir is an excellent alternative to dirt for growing microgreens. It offers a safe and nutrient-rich environment that’ll ensure your greens turn out perfect every time! Coco Coir is a sustainable material made from coconut husks. It’s particularly advantageous for growing microgreens because it provides an optimal nutrient balance in comparison to soil. So, you won’t have to worry about adding additional fertilizers.

In addition, coco coir offers superior pH control compared to dirt. This makes sure the soil acidity stays within the acceptable range. It will also help prevent common pests such as aphids. These pests can ruin your crop if they were to infest the soil. Furthermore, coco coir is free of disease-causing pathogens that could potentially contaminate your plants when using dirt as substrate.

All these benefits make coco coir an ideal choice for any gardener looking to grow their own microgreens with maximum efficiency and fewer risks than traditional methods.


Moving from the discussion of using Coco Coir as a substrate for growing microgreens, another option to consider is perlite. You may be asking yourself why you should use perlite instead?

First and foremost, it offers excellent drainage control due to its porous nature which helps keep your plants healthy and hydrated. On top of that, it also provides an ample nutrient supply since it contains several minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.

Additionally, because of its lightweight structure and airy texture, it allows oxygen to circulate freely around the roots of the plant aiding in proper root development.


Vermiculite is an ideal substrate for growing microgreens, as it provides excellent drainage and aeration while also supplying essential nutrients.

Vermiculite helps to keep the soil moist by absorbing water and releasing it slowly. It also adds many trace minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus that are beneficial for the growth of microgreens.

In addition to providing necessary nutrition, vermiculite can help with disease control by reducing damping-off (a fungal disease) when mixed with compost or peat moss. Vermiculite also aids in pest management by providing a physical barrier against insects and other pests that may attack the plants.

Using vermiculite instead of dirt eliminates some of the risks associated with growing microgreens on dirt such as pests, pathogens, and fewer nutrients than specialized substrate would provide.

Soilless Potting Mix

Try soilless potting mix for your microgreens and enjoy the benefits it can provide – it won’t let you down!

Soilless potting mix is a great alternative to traditional dirt. It does not contain any pathogens or pests that could be detrimental to the health of your microgreens. It also offers better water retention than dirt, allowing for more consistent hydration of your plants.

When selecting seed for planting in soilless potting mix, make sure you choose smaller seeds as they’ll be easier to plant at the correct depth. The optimal planting depth when using soilless potting mix is 1/4 inch. At this depth, the seeds will receive enough moisture and can easily germinate without being too shallow or too deep in the soil.

Additionally, with soilless potting mix, there is no risk of compaction or nutrient deficiency like there can be with traditional dirt.

Overall, soilless potting mixes offer an excellent growing medium for microgreens while avoiding many of the risks associated with traditional soils.

Kathy Turner
Kathy Turnerhttps://mastermicrogreens.com/
Kathy Turner is the founder of MasterMicrogreens.com, a popular blog dedicated to helping people become master microgreen growers. Kathy is passionate about helping others learn how to grow the healthiest, most nutrient-rich microgreens. She believes that with the right knowledge and resources, anyone can become a successful microgreen grower. Learn more about Kathy by viewing her full Author Profile.

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