Growing Greens and Micro-greens Indoors

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With the price of food rising and availability dicey, boosting food production in any way possible can only help. There’s nothing cheaper or more available than the food you grow yourself! Both greens and micro-greens can be grown indoors, even in winter, even in an apartment. This article will tell you how!

How to grow salad micro-greens

Growing salad greens is the easiest of these two options, so we’ll tackle that first. If you’re already starting your own seeds, then you may have all of the equipment you need. A good, bright, south-facing window might be enough but grow lights will be better, especially if you live in a colder area.

The winter sun’s light tends to be weaker than during summertime because of the Earth’s rotation and tilt of its axis. So in winter, when the tilt puts our windows a bit further from the sun, the light coming through them is weaker. Also, the winter cold will affect any plants you try to grow by a window. Therefore, grow lights (and possibly a heat mat) can help.

You’ll also need trays or pots with some drainage, potting soil or other growing media, and of course, seeds. Pot them up, give them water and 12-14 hours of light per day, and in 30-60 days, you’ll be eating yummy food that you produced yourself!

I’ve also grown cat grass in this way. Why should I pay $5-$15 to Chewy for a little grow bag kit when I can grow my own, much more cheaply and in greater quantity?

So set up your trays, seed them, water them, and let Nature take her course!

(Make sure you check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on what to eat when the power goes out. Micro-greens could play into that!)

But what about growing micro-greens?

Micro-greens are just as easy, really. First, what exactly is a micro-green? It’s the cotyledon and first true leaves of the plant. They’re usually cut at 1” to 1-1/2” high, which means you won’t be able to save the seed from them. These are different from sprouts, which are simply germinated seeds that are produced almost entirely in water. Sprouts can certainly be added to your diet and like micro-greens, are a good use for old seeds.

The nutritional benefits of micro-greens are many. They’re high in antioxidants, for one thing. They also contain protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins B and C, and others. What’s not to love?

What equipment is needed to grow micro-greens?

Pretty much the same as above, since, unlike sprouts, these are grown in soil. You can also use peat moss, coco coir, or seed mats. Since the plants won’t develop deep roots, they won’t need a deep space like a nursery pot. A shallow tray that drains well will work nicely and can be obtained cheaply from a number of sources. Better yet, clean food containers can be used for this purpose! A few drainage holes are very easy to make, and repurposed containers are free. Drainage, as with any other plant, is necessary to keep mold from developing.

So what’s the procedure? Well, pretty much the same as above.

Prepare your flats, soak your seed, seed them, water them, give them plenty of light and keep them warm. Seed them heavily as the more you seed, the more greens you’ll have. There’s no need to worry about seedlings crowding each other out since you’ll harvest them long before then. Covering them with plastic or a humidity tent can speed germination, but remember to uncover them as soon as you see them break the soil.

Since you’re not growing them to maturity, your greens can be ready to eat in as little as 14 days! You might even consider succession planting by planting one flat every week, so you can harvest fresh greens one week at a time rather than having all of your greens ready in quantity too large to eat before spoiling.

What seeds should I buy?

What seeds are best for this purpose? A surprising variety! Broccoli, kale, peas, arugula, radish, amaranth, chia, mustard, beet, buckwheat, chard, cabbage, cilantro, fenugreek, and basil, to name a very few. While you can use your old excess seed for this purpose, please be aware that some seeds intended for garden use are treated with fungicides to inhibit damping-off disease for one thing. You don’t want to eat that!

Also, you’ll need way more seed for this purpose than you’ll get in a standard garden seed packet. You may need five grams or more of seed to seed a flat of micro-greens, which is much more than you’ll get in a seed packet. Micro-green seed packets are much cheaper, and you can, in fact, use any extra seed in your garden!

So unless you have a ton of old seed to get rid of, buying seeds specific to the micro-green process is actually more economical than using garden seed. As an aside, bird or wild animal seed isn’t good for this purpose, partly due to how it’s packed and treated. So nix that idea!

Caveats you need to know about

 There are some contamination risks, however, for example, E. coli. Some varieties are more susceptible than others, and the risk increases with storage time. Risk can be mitigated in a number of ways. Some use commercial chlorinated packets, some rinse the plants frequently, and some simply spritz with chlorinated water from the tap before eating. The shelf life of micro-greens is 10-14 days after harvest, similar to any other leafy green. If it’s been a few days since harvest and your greens are looking like a college biology experiment, don’t eat them.

What happens with the end product?

So what are we going to do with all of the food we’re producing? If you’re looking for new ideas, check out the Cookbook Bundle! Three cookbooks, including shopping lists that can help you provide tasty meals for you and your family on a budget!

 Do you grow your own greens/micro-greens indoors? Tell us in the comments below!

About Amy Allen

Amy Allen is a professional bookworm and student of Life, the Universe, and Everything. She’s also a Master Gardener with a BS in biology, and has been growing food on her small urban lot since 2010.

Growing Greens and Micro-greens Indoors
Amy Allen

Amy Allen

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  • Amy,

    Do you know how many calories are in a whole pound of greens like, let’s say, broccoli?

    A WHOPPING 150 calories!!!!

    Do you know how much broccoli or other greens you would need to eat to get the recommended 2,000 calories needed for bare subsistence survival?

    13 POUNDS!!!!!!

    Do you know how much space and work and resources and time it takes to get those 2000 calories of broccoli or other greens?

    And that’s only ONE DAY’S worth of food for ONE PERSON!!!!!!

    And do you know how sick and malnourished you would get from eating all those greens?

    And let’s not mention what it would be like on your many frequent trips to the bathroom!!!!!

    Why does everyone think that the solution to a food shortage is to spend all that time, money, and effort on growing things that PRODUCE NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE AND NO CALORIES!!!!!

    You would literally STARVE TO DEATH on the most successful garden or indoor greens project!!!!!

    Now….do you know how many calories are in just one pound of grass-fed 80/20 ground beef?

    ONE THOUSAND!!!!! Yes, that’s right……1,0000 high quality calories loaded with good fats and nearly 100 grams of high quality complete protein!!!!!

    Why in the world are you encouraging people to waste all that time and money and effort on a project that would cause them to STARVE TO DEATH?

    I know you are a good person and have the best of intentions but please STOP GIVING PEOPLE ADVICE THAT WILL HARM THEM!!!!!!

    In love and respect, Mike.

    • This isn’t meant to be the only food you eat. It’s meant to be a fresh, nutritious addition to your stored food. Not everyone can have a cow. Your criticism is quite excessive.

    • The alleged love & respect poorly covers the screaming. I agree, the criticism is excessive and unnecessary. Good day Michael.

    • This is what happens when folks who don’t actually do anything comment or are professional commenters from various places designed to disrupt.

      They’ve no concept of layers. No concept of putting meals together from various sources. Only knows caloric take from something they read somewhere and not based on real work output in a crisis, size of person and age. Didn’t bother to consider proteins, carbs or vitamins because their meals come from packaging.

      The comments also don’t take into consideration of feeding animals such as chickens, rabbits or even supplementing cattle with the enriched greens. Probably because again they have none as they do nothing but peck at keys from the basement in sad little man attempts to put down others to build their pathetic selves up with lack of any real value.

      If you don’t understand that the author is trying to help everyone plug the holes in their game then you are on the wrong webpage

  • Please elaborate on what you mean exactly when you say “grow your own food indoors.”

    Do you really believe that anyone, let alone a whole family or community, could actually live on that?

      • It appears someone failed reading comprehension.
        The very opening line says, “With the price of food rising and availability dicey, boosting food production in any way possible can only help.
        No where in the article does it say you have to rely on greens and greens only.
        Kinda like that fred guy, claiming you can live wholly on a vegan diet and you are stupid if you dont.
        I like me my bacon, some steaks, and chicken, but I also like cabbage, potatoes, carrots, broccoli and others too.

        • “Kinda like that fred guy, claiming you can live wholly on a vegan diet and you are stupid if you dont.”

          Hey! You caught that too!? Man! This article seemed like it was tee’d up just for him. Would have love to see a cage-match battle royal between these two guys. I’d get nothing done today.😁

          • Oh my, I’ve just about fallen out of my chair laughing at the imagined argument.
            I like my animal proteins too, but with a salad or other vege alongside. Maybe even some beans to round things out.

    • Yes, it is absolutely possible.

      Look up a company called Kalera, based in Orlando, Florida. They are one company doing this commercially, but their concepts can be scaled down for those who are so inclined to do so.

      Also, consider reading up on the Closed Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) that was part of the NASA Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). Also, the Biomass Production Chamber (BPC) at the Kennedy Space Center was the first controlled environment vertical farm in the United States. The BPC reused a decommissioned hypobaric chamber leftover from testing the Mercury space capsule. It was not physically very big, but a lot of solid work was proven in that effort.

      Both were R&D projects focused on identifying and proving concepts for the technologies required to grow fresh crops in space as humans leave Earth to start colonizing the planets in our own solar system. These efforts were also used to develop ‘spin-off’ technologies made available for commercialization by private companies.

      Had the SEI program not been cancelled, humans very likely would be living on the Moon and Mars right now. There was a mind numbing amount of R&D work done all over the planet on the technologies required to support this colonization. Most of it remains on the shelf today, because no government leaders would provide funding for the next steps.

      I worked on both CELSS and the SBC programs.

      • Kelvin Sky while very interesting and I seem to have had some interest in this sort of thing some decades ago when NASA was a going concern, instead of requiring hitching rides on Russian Rockets.

        For the joe 6 pack who’s going to have to learn emergency dirt farming-scrounging-wildcrafting (the HARD WAY) when the economic collapse shuts down their job along with electricity a nice NASA dream.

        I’ve been involved in earth ships and New Alchemy style projects over the years, very cool but often in the search for perfection they miss the bliss of good enough. I do a fair bit of ongoing Permaculture and most of that requires an alert thinking mind and no fear of shovel work 🙂

        Aquaponics is a wonderful thing with the fish waste fertilizing your veggies and all that BUT I’ve run into a roadblock I dislike intensely. Commercial feed inputs for the fish. Seems that closed system requires very close management and the natural ebb and growth of the natural food stuffs of the fish is not good. So, I went to the old school experts the Chinese Fishpond gardens.

        As in Farmers for 40 Centuries where the shovel and the plank are the sluice gate to drain the main pond into one of several garden ponds for fertilizer-irrigation. Low tech but the eye of the alert farmer skillset.

        I really don’t want folks to de-evolve into true hand to mouth daily struggle dirt farming-scrounging. It’s a brutish, short and miserable life I’ve seen when I was doing missionary work in Africa. One of the greatest gifts we could bring to Africa was modern homesteading skills and GOOD SEEDS.

        Thus, my concerns about folks literally EATING their Seeds for a nice snack, while having no way to grow up replacement seeds. Don’t eat your seed corn saying came from days when winter was almost over BUT the root cellar is nearly empty and bellies needed feeding. To eat your seed corn would fill your belly a few meals BUT you’d have NOTHING left to plant and thus die anyway as starvation rolls in.

        • Thank you for those interesting thoughts Michael. You might consider reading up on what is going on at the present time with human space exploration. You seem to be unaware of the extent of what is happening in that domain. What used to be science fiction is being implemented on a massive scale, and it is not being done by NASA. Although they always play a key role, they are not the ones who typically perform the work. The intent of my posting was not to suggest a state of perfection, simply to make people aware there are many additional sources of valuable information out there, just like all the good ideas people post on this forum. Some of this can hopefully be used to help people figure out what works for them in their own situation. I personally know more than one person who grow a wide range of vegetables indoors in their houses using fairly simple methods. Some with technology, some without. The concept of seed corn, I suspect, is well understood by most readers of this forum based on all the postings I’ve been reading. It also applies to knowledge and skills in addition to food production. My grandparents lived through the great depression, and I learned a lot from them when I was growing up. Having met and worked with many people from all over our planet, I understand and appreciate your perspective. It sounds like you have a lot of knowledge and skills to share. For me personally, I am doing my best to share the knowledge I have gained in my life with others are interested in learning, including many who are younger than me – and I’m also learning new skills from them in the process. Despite the uncertainty facing human civilization at this very moment, I have personally seen what humans from all over the planet can do when they come together and solve problems (while sharing knowledge) for the benefit of all. I’m an incurable optimist. Now more than ever – we must all keep sharing knowledge and skills with each other.

        • Michael seems to be very bored and looking for something to argue about. No one said you could live on microgreens alone. You are a silly little man. Shame on you.

  • Amy, given you need a LOT of perfectly good seeds to make a pretty small snack WHY?

    Why not put a little extra effort in your growing containers and GROW an indoor garden? 5 grams of a typical seed packet grows a pretty good-sized basket of food AND if you have learned how to grow and save seeds NEXT Years seeds too. You already have bought the grow lights and heat pad for microgreens (or at least in dreary NE Winters you must have them anyway).

    Yes, that’s a VERY Generalized comment about productivity as a 5 gram packet of cabbage you suggested in your seeds useful for microgreens would be FAR MORE than a large laundry basket of real food. More like 150 seeds on average a SNACK if Microgreens OR given 50% success growing them 75 X 3-pound cabbages.

    It’s 21 degrees outside and I have several 5-gallon pails of Yukon gold potatoes almost ready for harvest. Yes, a small harvest as I got about 3 pounds of potatoes from each pail BUT at 354 calories per pound from a 90 day grow cycle seems useful for Winter in New England when everything is frozen outside.

    Maybe after I harvest those potatoes, I’ll try growing a trio of cabbage in the buckets. I’ve grown cherry tomatoes in my buckets along with basil and they keep on producing as long as I harvest and side dress them with mild fertilizer each two weeks.

    • Michael, during times when shopping isn’t possible, the one thing I really wanted and couldn’t get was some greens of some kind to use on my wraps. That’s the reason I now do microgreens during the winter when it’s too cold to grow outside. I have enough calories stored, but need something green and fresh for both my health and my tastebuds.

      • Nonya B (cool screen name btw) I have nothing against your doing so. I prefer my Lettice and such larger but it’s ok for you.

        I just brought up that real food can be grown inside even a studio apartment and that the era of plenty of cheap seeds seems not to be quite so anymore.

        I grow most of my own seed replacements and even some wheat mulched with shredded leaves in what I call my Bread Garden :-). Looks like this year I might have to expand that Bread Garden given the worldwide shortage of fertilizers.

        Since you should never plant nightshades after nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers) because of serious fungal plant diseases I generally dump that soil into a startup compost pile as so two years later it’s ready for use again.

        However, I’m thinking of planting some cabbages in the used Potatoe buckets to see just how well they do before the last frost in my area is done.

        Spring long before grocery stores was well known as the Starvation Season as the stored food and root cellars were down to the wilted leftovers and the FIRST Harvest was some 100 days away.

        Thus my 5-gallon bucket experiments.

  • Wow! What’s with all the criticism towards Amy…oddly enough from 2 guys names Michael LMAO!!? I grow sprouts and greens indoors….I love them on my sandwiches (which usually contain a slice of meat aka protein) and some cheese and mayo. Dang….she’s just offering another option for adding variety to our food menus. Sheesh!! Thank you for the informative article Amy!

    • Two different Michaels, I can assure you of that.

      My reply was asking why to use up all those seeds for a very small amount of food VS doing just a little bit MORE and getting a respectable amount of food AND even grow Replacement Seeds.

      Maybe you have not noticed but “supply chain issues” has greatly reduced the food and other useful things on our shelves. Last year about this time Seed Companies were NOT TAKING ORDERS because they were running out of seeds.

      Already three of my favorite seed companies have OUT OF Stock on many popular seeds.

      So, between choosing to use up a package of Cabbage seeds between a nice snack of Cabbage microgreens or perhaps 75-100 3 pound heads of cabbage AND since Cabbage is a Biannual you have to overwinter them for seeds on the 2nd Year MORE Cabbage Seeds for later. What’s your choice friend?

      BTW I do agree about sprouting grains for additional nutrition for my chickens while it’s a frozen wasteland outside, but then again, I like them healthy (food is MORE than Calories) AND having fresh eggs while my neighbors’ chickens are just eating Bagged Laying Feed and very few eggs. We’ve discussed it but she thinks only the science foods is correct, so I occasionally give her a few of my extra eggs. My German Grandmother taught me about sprouting greens for the girls.

      Maybe I should start growing cabbage indoors for my rabbits, they do love it 🙂

      Looking past my pots of ginger and turmeric to watch the snow fall, it’s peaceful.

      • Well friend…since you asked….I have already stocked up on plenty of seeds that stored properly I will have for at least 5 years. I purchased 2-5lb bags of sprouts and microgreens very cheaply 2 weeks ago so I’m good to go on all of it. I really don’t see the need for the aggression regarding seeds vs. microgreens lol. Some of us enjoy variety and are able to plan for it. Have a great night…friend. 🙂

    • You’re welcome! Please enjoy your sandwiches. There’s nothing like eating food you’ve grown yourself to enhance well-being! Yum!

    • Hi Dann! That’s a great setup. I love the repurposed food containers! My basement is a bit too cold for it, but it’s a great way to utilize space for those who can. Of course, with a bit of heavy plastic to make a nice micro-environment and some HO lights for the high heat output, who knows what I could accomplish? Thanks!

  • Wow! I didn’t think an article on micro-greens would be so controversial either. A couple of points:

    As has been pointed out, micro-greens aren’t intended to be an only food source. They’re intended to supplement other sources. They’re one small piece of the home food production puzzle. Even vegans don’t live by broccoli alone!

    Different people have different situations. People in apartments have extremely limited space and may not be able to utilize containers, especially for large crops like broccoli. Micro-greens are better than no greens and can be grown on a countertop.

    If you research some prices you’ll likely find that 5 grams of micro-green seeds are cheaper than garden seed packets. Same seeds, different packaging. The economically astute gardener who has garden space on the side can make use of that fact.

    Thank you to those who enjoyed my article, and good luck to you.

    • It’s not controversial. The commenters are controversial. They create it to build themselves up as the are the smartest in the room.
      They will also create the biggest drama in close quarters group dynamics when things go bad and will have to be dealt with. This is great training for those who haven’t dealt with sharpshooters in crowds. This is what you look for when you weed out problems when building your survival group.

      • Thanks Matt! Thank you for standing up for me. I agree-this person is likely a keyboard warrior bagging on what others are doing out of sheer disagreeableness. Potatoes are a pretty hungry crop to grow and take up lots of room. If he’s growing them under lights in winter, I’d be really surprised. And yes, it’s great training. I have too many things to do myself to bother with his kind! No sense being drawn into an idiotic FB fight, right?

        • Amy I’m not the Keyboard Michael that was yelling at you, just the one that really has potatoes growing in my house. Really has ginger and turmeric in the bay window next to my computer watching the snow fly in 19 degrees F winter.

          My comment which you have yet to address properly is the idea of using a limited amount of seeds (per my comment that several seed companies are already OUT OF STOCK of some) for a microgreen vs really growing them to maturity.

          Potatoes are not that hard to grow, starting with good soil and compost off they go 🙂 Probably the same level of good soil your microgreens require perhaps? Equipment? Your microgreens are using the same equipment aside from a larger growing container.

          I did notice your praise for the fellow who linked to their inside gardening efforts.

          Feel free to continue to “bagging” on me just because someone else with my screen name hurt your feeling. BTW what is “bagging” anyway? Sounds from its use something rude or such.

          • I’m not the author but I have Zero space for growing fully mature plants. Between how many people live in the house, how the windows are laid out and general space constraints there simply isn’t any room for growing plants. I do however have enough room to set up a small tray of greens/sprouts and use that as a vitamin boost. If you’ve got space, great. But not everyone has the luxury of abundant room for growing things indoors.

          • some people like micro greens more than fully grown. do you eat fingerling potatoes or wait until they are full-grown? some people like fingerlings, such as myself. mircogreens are easier to grow with limited space and the turn-over is quicker.

      • Exactly, and appropriate to share….thanks Matt. People like that would most likely not be able to survive in space, away from Earth for very long.

  • Growing greens n micro-greens sounds like an interesting worthwhile project to me.
    Anything that you can do to provide more nutrients and variety in a diet is beneficial in more ways than one. Micro-greens with cream cheese on a bagel, yummo!!
    I know that anything green n growing in my living environment would enhance my happiness factor. I m sure children would love the process.
    Thanks for this article!!

  • My grandkids and I made a project out of growing some foods about a year and a half ago in the only south facing window I have. We planted the seeds for several herbs and some tomato p;ants, kept them well lit (opening the shades early each day included), watered regularly, and kept watch over how they grew… The kids loved being part of it, I loved that they were learning something school no longer teaches, and we all loved those herbs and tomatoes in our meals! The tomatoes didn’t survive the snowy season in CO, but the herbs are still growing strong so long as I regularly trim them and dry the bounty.
    Thanks for giving me a new idea for another project to liven up this dull winter for the grandkids! I’m heading out today to find the seeds for a microgreen patch. (Maybe you could give us a primer on aquaponics sometime?)
    Thanks again!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed my article! Yes, even a few greens & tomatoes from your own efforts help, not only your diet but also sense of well-being.

      Aquaponics, eh? Maybe I will! Thanks for the idea.

  • Im a full time cattle and sheep rancher. I love turning grass into high quality nutrient dense protein. I do it because I’m a fair stockman. But, it is not practical for everyone. In fact, there are homesteaders I can drive by right now that should be ashamed of themselves for the way the keep their livestock in their quest for self reliance.

    On top of that, a diet of nothing but animal protein is boring and unhealthy for almost everyone. I wouldn’t dream of plating lamb chops without a side of asparagus and spinach. Or serving my steak tartare without a scattering of chives. And a nice 12oz steak without having a green side salad? Forget that!

    I’m glad for the writing of it and the encouragement for others to provide and supplement themselves with easy homegrown ideas and I do hope she writes more of them soon.

    Thank you Amy. Or, should I say..

    THANK YOU AMY!! AHHHHH..!!

  • This can be a decent first attempt, but to get any usable amount watch a y-tube video on how professionals do it. Keep the greens covered until they are well over 1″ tall, as this keeps them growing tall enough to more easily cut. In a window, my greens were hard to cut because they were all tangled together – I ended up spending a lot more time making sure I discarded all the roots with dirt that came with the cut ones. I don’t have that problem when under lights. Since these are just greens (and not a fruiting plant), nothing more than a shoplight is needed (flourescent or LED).

  • A couple years ago, Daisy wrote an article about sprouting and recommended SproutPeople.org. I began sprouting their seeds and I love it! They have many different seed blends (all organic) and sprouting containers. I bought 3 containers so that I could have a new harvest every 2 days (takes about 6 days to grow a harvest from 2 tablespoons of seeds), if/when my access to mixed greens from the store is ever interrupted. I use mixed greens and sprouts in my daily smoothies. I recently purchased a rechargeable electric mixer to make my smoothies (in case the power goes out). I think a continuous supply of sprouts/greens is a good plan for nutrition during tough times. No sun or electricity needed to grow sprouts! And I may have gone a little crazy buying seeds. I have more than 10 pounds safely stored. 😊

  • My mother grew up in rural Kentucky in the early part of the 20th century. She said that by the end of winter they were longing for something green and fresh to eat like curly leaf dock, poke greens, etc., before the gardens were producing. If growing micro-greens on the windowsill was a thing back then, her family didn’t know about it, but I’ll bet they would’ve loved it!

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