If you grow microgreens frequently, but you are tired of all the mess that can come from working with soil, then you might have wondered if you can grow microgreens without soil, and if they even need it at all.
Of course, working with a potting mix can save a lot of time and will ensure that your plants are healthy, but if you are clumsy, or do not have a lot of space to work with, the soil can get everywhere and will take ages to clean up.
Because of this, we have always wondered if you can just grow microgreens without it.
Luckily, yes, you can grow microgreens without soil, so you can save this step of the process, if you know what you are doing!
This is because microgreens are harvested early in their development, because of this, they do not actually require the nutrients from the soil, or not even a nutrient solution.
This means that microgreens are perfect to grow if you do not have any space for bags and bags of soil, or do not want to clean up after this notoriously messy process.
If you want to know how to grow microgreens without soil, this guide will help you learn how to!
But, if you do not need soil or a potting mix to grow microgreens, then what growing media do you use instead?
If you do not follow this terminology, essentially, growing media is what you are growing your plants in, which is usually soil.
When it comes to growing microgreens, there are plenty of different options available, and others will work better than some choices.
Because of all the options available, we have put this guide together to give you all the aid you need with growing microgreens without using soil!
One simple option you can go for is growing hydroponic microgreens, you can do this using a grow pad, or instead a growing mat.
Using one of these options does not need soil, and instead uses something easier to work with like wood fibers or jute, and these will hold in moisture efficiently and make it simple for the microgreens to grow on them!
However, when it comes to what microgreens to grow using this method, there are some which work a lot better, so look at the next section to see which are the best options!
Which Microgreens Grow Best Hydroponically?
Luckily, there are plenty of different microgreens which will grow well using a hydroponic growing system, however, some of the best options include; amaranth, broccoli, basil, chia, kale, curly cress, mustard, salad mix, radish, and turnips.
In the next section, we will go over our guide on how to grow your microgreens without using soil and using a hydroponic method, so for the best results, you can try using one of these microgreens to start with!
Growing Microgreens Without Soil
So, now you know that microgreens can grow without any soil and instead use a hydroponic method, then you probably want to know exactly how you can do this.
While the method can take some getting used to, once you know how to do it, it should not be that hard to practice!
For this method, you are going to need the seeds of whatever microgreens you want to grow.
You will want to ensure that the microgreens you are growing can actually grow hydroponically, and ensure that they are non-GMO and organic if possible.
Then you will also need 2 plant trays as well, one of these will be used to hold the growing tray, while the other will be used as a blackout cover.
And then, you will of course need your growing tray. You of course will need your hydroponic grow pads, as well as a spray mist bottle.
There are some other optional pieces that you will want to get to make the process slightly easier in certain circumstances.
For example, you can use a grow light like an LED or a T5 fluorescent, this is perfect if you do not have a sunny area indoors.
And, if you want to avoid having to buy everything separately, you could also buy a specific hydroponic microgreen kit which will provide everything you need, except usually a grow light, this can save a lot of effort and money if you do not already have a lot of the tools needed.
Firstly, you will want to pour water into your solid plant tray, for a tray that is 10 x 20, we recommend using about a cup of water, but adjust this based on the size of the project.
Then, once you have put the water in, you can put the grow trays with the holes in the bottom inside of this tray.
After you have filled the plant tray with however many grow trays you are using, you want to add the grow pad into each of these grow trays.
If you just wait a few minutes, the water will come up from the bottom and dampen the whole area of the pad!
Once you are happy with how damp the pad at the bottom is, you can densely plant the seeds on the pad so they cover most of the surface area.
However, while you want the seeds to be densely packed, you do not want them to overlap each other either.
Then, once the seeds are on the pad, you can use your spray bottle to spray the seeds using your water, and this should help them settle into the pad.
Then, once this is done, you can simply add the other plant tray on top making sure that it covers the seeds, this will retain humidity as well as create the blackout needed to germinate.
After you have set this up, you will want to mist the top of the seeds once every 12 hours, and in general, depending on the microgreen seeds you are using, they will take between 3 to 5 days to germinate.
So, once the seeds have actually sprouted, you will want to give your microgreens around 8 hours of light every day.
You can do this on a sunny windowsill, or if you do not have this consistently, then we recommend using a grow light instead to ensure the best results.
You will only want to be watering your plants if the grow pads are not damp, if you want to know how to water them, you do not do it directly, but instead add water into the bottom tray, and ensure that the water is evenly spread by swirling it around a little, then once the pads have gotten wet, you can simply discard any extra water you have.
Furthermore, you will then be able to harvest these microgreens after around 10 days, but make sure to refer to the seeds that you have bought as the exact timing will depend on this, to do this use clean scissors, and then compost your used grow mat!
Growing Microgreens With Paper Towels
So, what do you do if you do not have easy access to grow pads? Luckily this is not too much on issue, and you can just use paper towels.
While this method is a little less conventional, you can still get some great results, you just need to know what you are doing.
Using paper towels can actually be very effective when growing microgreens since they use small containers, and the best microgreens to grow using this method are the types that have a more shallow root, like arugula, or lettuce!
If you are planning to grow your microgreens using a paper towel, then there is some advice and tips you should keep in mind to get the best results.
The main advice to get the best results is to use towels that do not have any chemicals, this includes any fragrances or dyes.
You also want to ensure that the towel does not get too wet as this will encourage mold instead of growth.
Make sure to squeeze out your towels so they are not dripping. You also want to use a few layers of paper towels for the best results at the bottom.
But, other than these differences, there is really not too much that makes working with paper towels different from working with a grow pad.
They will likely dry out at a different rate, but all you have to do is add moisture back in the same way you would with a grow pad.
However, the germination should start sometime around the 3rd day, similarly to with a grow pad, and then around day 5, you will want to remove the plant cover so you can give your microgreens the light that they need.
Also, for either method, if your grow containers do not have any holes in the bottom, you can instead use a watering can to have good control over the water that is getting into the tray.
Or you could instead use the spray bottle to directly mist the towel.
And again similarly to when you are working with a grow pad, when growing with a paper towel, they will be ready to harvest at about day 10, so you can pull them off the towel gently, or just use scissors!
Can You Grow Sunflower Microgreens With No Soil?
Yes! You can grow your sunflower microgreens without using soil as well, and this is just about as simple as growing other microgreens without soil, so you do not have to worry about the process being a little more convoluted.
We have found that growing sunflower microgreens will work especially well when using coconut fiber, also known as coco coir, and this is because it gives extra room for the roots to grow which is ideal for these microgreens!
If you have not heard of it, coconut coir is an organic fiber that is completely natural and it is actually sourced from coconut shells.
It is pretty useful to use when working with microgreens, mainly because it has a great water retention, and the airflow is also great just like when you work with standard soil.
When buying coconut coir, it usually comes in a solid puck, and all you need to do to get it to work is to soak the puck in water and it will expand!
One thing which you should keep in mind is that before planting your sunflower microgreens you will want to soak them for anywhere between 8 and 24 hours, doing this will make it so the seeds shells have been softened and this will make the germination a lot easier as well.
If you do it for less than 8 hours they will not soften enough, but for longer than 24, it could damage the seeds.
Something else to consider when growing sunflower microgreens is that putting a weight on top of the cover for the blackout will help.
This will knock off the sunflower shells while they grow as well as help with the roots anchoring to the coir.
Generally speaking, these microgreens will germinate between 2 and 3 days and will need harvesting between 12 and 14 days.
Growing Microgreens Without Media
So, do you have any options is you do not have access to paper towels, hydroponic grow pads, or coco coir?
For example, with supply chain issues, all of these have seen time periods where they have been difficult to access.
As it turns out, yes, it is possible for you to grow microgreens without having to use any media whatsoever.
For example, some enthusiasts were able to use an inner mesh tray to hold up larger microgreens like wheatgrass and mung beans.
This method is of course, not the most simple, and you have to have perfectly sized seeds for your microgreens to ensure that they do not just fall through, and technically this method does not use no media, it just uses unconventional media, however, knowing that methods like this exist can be useful.
However, since these supply chain issues are no longer as pressing, hopefully you can at least get access to paper towels to use as media!
Hopefully this guide has put into perspective just how many options there are for growing microgreens that are not just in soil, so if you hate working with soil, there are other options you can try.
The best thing to do if you are looking for a method to go with, you just need to find a growing medium that will be able to support the varieties of microgreens that you want to grow.
You might also be wondering if it is better to grow your microgreens in soil, or just using water like these hydroponic methods, however, this really depends on what works best for you.
As you have seen in the guide, almost all of these methods work effectively when you know what you are doing, and you can get very similar results to when you are working with soil.
We also love how simple it is to work with microgreens when growing hydroponically since you can get everything you need in one kit.
While you might find that you get a slightly better harvest when you are using soil, you will not be able to work as efficiently as you can when you are working with grow pads and hydroponically.
Frequently Asked Questions
Microgreens are vegetable greens that you harvest right after the leaves have started to develop, and the reason they are harvested at this stage is that research has shown that the nutritional value is very high.
They have been shown to have high levels of vitamins and their flavor compliments a variety of dishes well!
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