Well here we are snowed-in and locked-down, so what kind of growing can we do at home?
In last month’s blog I briefly mentioned ‘window-sill’ gardening, so this blog will give some more details and tips on various methods you can use to grow some seed sprouts and microgreens. Good candidates for sprouts and microgreens include mustard, cress, beetroot, cabbage and kale or herbs like basil and coriander, however most of the usual garden leafy veg can be used according to availability and your taste. PLEASE use only organic seed as many commercial seeds have been treated with chemicals.
In seed sprouting you are germinating the seeds without necessarily giving them the chance to grow beyond the first seed-leaf stage, therefore light may not be required. Bean sprouts such as Mung Beans are a good example as if left in the light they can get bitter. Specially designed spouters can be bought which have multi sections as shown in the photo below.
To grow microgreens, you should let the seedlings which have germinated (see below for method) bulk up beyond the cotyledon (or seed-leaf) stage in the presence of light on your window-sill. This allows the ‘true leaves’ to appear giving an increase in the nutritional value as these microgreens contain significantly higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and other goodies such as carotenoids than bigger plants, weight for weight. You have to keep an eye on the sprouting mix and give them a gentle rinse from time to time to avoid fungal rots setting in, it’s not always best to see if they will get bigger before consuming them.
Microgreen growing methods
- Sprinkle some seeds into a jam jar, add a little water and cover the top with muslin or kitchen cloth
- Sprinkle the seeds straight onto kitchen towel on a saucer or you can reuse the plastic punnets from your fruit and veg supermarket shopping. These need a close eye kept on them to stop the cloth or tissue from drying out as even a short period of moisture loss can check the germination process.
- Or why not have a bit of fun with little ones by sowing mustard and cress in empty half egg shells. They can be drawn on too!
Growing on in compost and other substrates
Young veg plants for window gardening can be grown on to a larger size by growing on in a substrate such as compost or vermiculite. This can be done by sowing the seed into small pots, trays or reused fruit/veg punnets placed on a narrow tray lined with capillary matting or, if unavailable an old tea towel to act as a reservoir of water.
These should be placed in a bright, sunny window and the containers covered with a thin piece of paper until germination, water can be poured into the tray or saucer if required. Sometimes the seedlings can become ‘leggy’ and fall over because the are drawn to the light source, this can be remedied by growing in a cooler position with sufficient light and by regularly turning the pot or container by 180 degrees. Another method in the ‘Blue Peter’ is to line a suitably sized cardboard box with silver foil (see PLANT workshop video 23rd April 2020).
A deluxe piece of kit which was a bit of an indulgence that we bought at that Swedish emporium, is a miniature hydroponics system which allows us to grow young salad and herb plants in the kitchen away from a natural light source.