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Indoor microgardens can stop winter blues

By Gary R. Bachman

MSU Horticulturist
Coastal Research & Extension Center

Winter can be hard on avid gardeners because cold temperatures prohibit many gardening activities. They may become bored, restless and perhaps even show irritation at the slightest annoyance.



RADISHES (top) -- Grow microgreens, such as these Hong Vit radishes, to enjoy winter gardening and keep fresh greens on the table. MIXED GREENS (middle) -- This colorful microgreen mix contains radish, cabbage and bok choi, all of which can easily be grown indoors during winter months. RED CHOI (bottom) – Growing microgreens indoors requires only a small container and a light source. These Red Choi are growing in bedding plant trays. (Photos by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman) Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge
RADISHES (top) -- Grow microgreens, such as these Hong Vit radishes, to enjoy winter gardening and keep fresh greens on the table.

MIXED GREENS (middle) -- This colorful microgreen mix contains radish, cabbage and bok choi, all of which can easily be grown indoors during winter months.

RED CHOI (bottom) – Growing microgreens indoors requires only a small container and a light source. These Red Choi are growing in bedding plant trays. (Photos by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)

These are classic symptoms of gardening cabin fever. For the active gardener, it only gets worse when all those catalogs start arriving.

A simple cure is to bring the garden indoors until spring arrives. Many of those incoming catalogs offer indoor gardening options that border on the extravagant, with fancy grow lights, recirculating pumps and special growing pods.

But an indoor garden can be as simple as some fresh microgreens on the windowsill in a pot. In fact, having a microgreens garden in the winter is the perfect way to satisfy the need to garden and to have delicious and nutritious salads at the same time.

Microgreens are colorful and take as few as seven days to produce a wonderful addition to the dinner table. Asian greens such as bok choi, cole crops such as cabbage or broccoli, or foliage of carrots, radish, Swiss chard or beets are often used.

Herbs like basil -- the lemon or lime basil selections work quite well indoors -- cilantro and parsley can be grown indoors. Lettuce is not a good choice, as the plants tend to stretch too much when grown indoors.

Growing microgreens is easy and requires only a small space on a windowsill or under a light. Any size container will do. Small containers will provide enough to spice up a single dinner or salad. If you use bedding plant flats, you can grow enough to supply fresh microgreens throughout the week.

Always grow your microgreens in a good potting mix marketed to be used in containers.

Thickly sprinkle seeds of your favorite greens on the surface of the moistened growing mix. Because the plants are small and you will harvest them after only a short period of time, overcrowding will not be a problem. You actually want your container to be thick and lush with the growing microgreens.

Gently tap the seeds into the soil and cover. A large zip-top bag covers containers well, while a plastic dome is ideal if you are using a bedding plant flat.

The seeds will start to germinate after a couple of days, and most greens will be ready to start harvesting after seven days. Some microgreens, such as beets or basil, take 21 days before they are ready to harvest.

Sow seeds weekly to ensure a steady supply of microgreens and keep you free of cabin fever.

The best way to water your microgreens is to place the container in a saucer, add water to the saucer and let plants soak up water from the bottom. Because the plants are small, sprinkling from the top will beat them down.

If you plan to grow more than just a few containers over the winter, consider ordering your seed in bulk quantities to save money. However, buying individual packets from the garden center is a great way to try a variety of microgreens.

So if you are exhibiting any of the symptoms of gardening cabin fever, try growing some of these fresh microgreens indoors. Not only will you scratch that gardening itch, but you’ll have some tasty salads this winter, too.

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Released: January 17, 2012
Contact: Dr. Gary Bachman, (228) 546-1009

Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.

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