Micro Herbs and Microgreens have made a bang in the industry of late. Every second restaurant that you go to, can have some micro herbs sprinkled around the plate. But even more than that, micro herbs are making an appearance in daily meals at home. And we’re here to tell you exactly why, how to grow your own microgreens and how you can even start a small business in your backyard farming with these petite greens.
What are Micro Herbs and Microgreens?
Micro Herbs or Microgreens (We will be using these terms interchangeably inthis blog post) are like normal plants. With one exception: Micro herbs are planted, then harvested once they show their first leaves (Usually about a week after planting).
These tiny little sprouted seedlings packs one hell of a punch when it comes to flavor, nutrients and, textures.
Why eat/ grow micro herbs?
As mentioned above, these little sprouts and seedlings packs a punch. They are a more concentrated form of an array of characteristics.
Micro Herb Nutrients
These micro herbs might be tiny, but they have BIG nutrient values. A study done back in 2012 confirmed that microgreens contain 4 to 40 times the nutritional value than their all grown-up counterparts. You heard us! Some of these microgreens have 40 TIMES the nutritional value than their grown counterparts.
This is astounding for such a tiny plant.
Microgreens might be small, but they carry an immense amount of flavor in those tiny stems. Because of this, you don’t require a massive amount of microgreens to flavor whatever dish you are throwing together.
There’s a massive variety of microgreens available for almost any dish. While the price for the microgreens might be slightly higher than that of their grown counterparts,you will not need a bucket load of mcrogreens to get that pang of rich flavor in your daily dishes.
Okay this is a more superficial aspect, but the aesthetics of these tiny plants are insane. These micro herbs look beautiful, they are colorful, bright and, looks really pretty on any plate.
That is why chefs have been using these micro plants as decorations for years!
Types /List of Micro Herbs
As with any vegetables and herbs, there is a multitude of options to choose from when you want to delve into the world of micro greens. To be honest, you can most probably make a “Micro green” version of almost any type of edible flower, vegetable and/or herb.
Some of the most common Micro greens that you can find at your local farmers market or grocery store are:
- Pea Shoots
- Mung Beans
- Garlic Chives
And now for the most important part, how do you add these magical micros to your daily diet?
How to grow Micro Herbs:
Microgreens are not your usual farming practices. There are a bunch of things that you need to consider and constantly keep in mind when starting your very own micgrogreen farm. Whether it is just for subsistence farming for you and your family, or to sell to the public, you need to know what you’re doing!
That is why we reached out to some experts in the field of Micro Herbs farming, Bumblebee Organics.
They agreed to let us in on some of the best tips and tricks when it comes to microgreen farming in South Africa.
Step 1 – Measure out your seeds
When you are farming with microgreens, you use large rectangular trays.The size of the tray will determine how many grams of seeds you require to fill it up, but still have enough room for all the seeds to germinate and grow. This can be somewhat of an experiment. But once you get the right measurements, it is smooth flowing from here.
Step 2 – Prepare cocopeat or Potting Soil
Cocopeat is a 100% organic compressed from of coconut “peel”. Why do they choose to use cocopeat? Because it is mostly free of bacteria and fungal spores which means that it yields a higher harvest due to the fact that there is little to no mould/fungi in the growing trays.
Cocopeat is usually bought in solid blocks, to prepare it, you put it in a container with water. It then swells and become usable to fill your trays with.
If you cannot find any cocopeat near you, potting soil will also work.
Step 3 – Plant & stack your seeds
When it comes to microgreen planting, it is relatively easy. Spread the seeds out on the tray. Thereafter, you can sprinkle some additional cocopeat on top f the seeds (barely covering it). Wet the seeds and cocopeat one last time. Some micro green seeds require stacking. This is when you stack your trays on top of each other to create pressure. The pressure assists in the germination process of your seeds.
Step 4 – Wait for Microgreens to sprout
When the seeds have been planted and stacked, it is basically just a waiting game.Ensure that your greens are in their individual optimal environmental condition (These differ from micro green to micro green, for example: Peas like having sun half of the day, and darkness at night, whereas radishes like having light all day, and additional light from a growing light at night)
Step 5 – Harvest
Micro Herbs are usually ready for harvest 7-14 days after planting them. When harvesting, ensure that you wash your microgreens thoroughly to prevent any bacteria or fungi that might be present to be transferred into your packaging.
Some Additional Tips from Bumblebee Organics
As mentioned previously, Jan-Hendrik and Melanie from Bumblebee Organics were kind enough to supply some extra tips and tricks:
- Store your seeds in hygienic containers
Because the microgreens are constantly damp and in dark areas, it is easy for mold and fungi to take hold of your trays. Therefore, keeping all your equipment and seeds as sterile as possible, is highly encouraged. Failure to do this will result in lower yields from your microgreens.
- Do not put trays on solid slab tables/structures
In order to avoid rotting, fungi and/or bacterial growths, it is important to keep water flowing. Therefore, Jan-Hendrik highly recommends building a rack with CCA Treated Laths or Square-Cut Timber that allows the water to flow off/through the surface and not “pool” around the trays where it can cause problems. They did this by building a rack with the surface resembling burglar bars.
- Ensure you have temperature control measures
Microgreens are very sensitive to light, heat and water. Therefore, he recommends bulding a greenhouse specifically to be able to control the amount of wind, heat and water that the microgreens get. Additionally, he also installed CCA Treated Poles around the greenhouse. These poles are used to support shade netting on the days that the sun is too intense in a certain spot of the greenhouse.
Building Greenhouse for your Microgreens:
Microgreens are very easy to grow, but they do need a certain amount of light, water and direct sunlight. Therefore, it is easier to grow them on a commercial scale, in a greenhouse.
A greenhouse allows you to control the temperature and light to a certain extent while allowing for natural air circulation.
The size of the greenhouse will depend on the scale of your farming operation. But when you are looking at building your very own greenhouse, it is important that you take note of a few expected conditions:
- Greenhouse frame will be exposed to weathering
- Size of Micro Herb farming operation
- Will be exposed to water and constant dampness
While it might be simple to just instantly think about building your frame with steel or plastic, there can be dire consequences. Steel is not only expensiveinitially, but cost a lot to treat. More often than not, the steel frame will have to be treated, repainted and, looked after multiple times due to the fact that it will be standing in sun and wet conditions most of the year.
Plastic might also seem like a logical option. However, plastic standing in the sun for long periods of time, can become brittle and start cracking. Furthermore, it is not as strong as other building materials. Threrefor, it might not last as long as you expect.
Finally, this leads us to CCA Treated Timber. CCA Tanalith Treated Timber will ensure that your frame is:
- Easily Sourced
CCA Treated Timber can protect your Greenhouse from weathering ( sun damage, water damage) etc.
To get the most out of your purchase, we highly recommend that you buy the correct CCA Treatment class for your end-use application. There are 5 different CCA Treated classes, which we discuss in detail in this post: Which CCA Treatment do I need?
You will need H4 Treatment class for a greenhouse as there will be in-ground contact. H4 CCA Treatment Class is usually used for agricultural structures, fencing, garden boxes and more.
DIY Microgreen Greenhouse plans
As always, we won;t leave you on your own to figure everything out. Here are some basic plans on how to build a Greenhouse for your microgreen adventures:
You can click on the links above to check out some of these awesome, low-cost DIY Greenhouse plans.
CCA Treated Products you can use for this project:
At Sabie Poles, we always strive to always give our clients the highest quality timber products and service.
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