Imagine fresh cut greens anytime of year. Moist, mouth-watering bites to savor in the dead of winter or the heat of summer. Sounds too good to be true? Its not, when you grow greens indoors.
There are many advantages to cultivating leafy edibles inside your home. Besides being able to enjoy greens off-season, you can save space, time and money.
Micro greens are the latest trend for the indoor garden. These plants are compact and fast growing. You can harvest your tender tidbits in as little as 25 days. Just snip shoots slightly above soil level. Like leaf lettuce, the same plants can be harvested over and over.
But micro mixes are more like Mesclun than garden lettuce. Mesclun is a blend of several types of leaf lettuce with greens such as Arugula, Radicchio, and Chervil. The difference is that most micro mixes are actually the tops of immature plants.
Producers combine exotic species of beets, mustards, cabbage and other plants to create a tasty flavoring for a wide range of culinary dishes.
You can also make your own mixes by buying seeds at your local health food store. Seeds considered as “leafy green sprouts” can be planted as micro-greens. Some of these include Arugula, broccoli, cabbages and radishes. In order to get your seeds to sprout at the same time, you need to select plants with similar growth habits. Check your picks for sprouting times listed on the packs or in your garden catalogs.
You can use the cuttings in a variety of ways. Sprinkle on salads, toss into soups, add to sandwiches, mix into spreads or even nibble as snacks. All these uses add texture and nutrition to your meals.
Growing greens indoors is a little more complicated than growing houseplants. We choose potted plants according to our home environment. You can decorate a sunny windowsill or perk up a dark corner with a live plant. All you need to know is the light, moisture and temperature requirements for your selection.
The same principle applies for growing greens. These plants need a lot of light, be kept moist and cool temperatures. If you can start seeds indoors under artificial light, you can raise an indoor patch of greens. Only starting and keeping greens is much easier. There is no dark germination period. Just plant, mist and grow!
Choose a container that is wide but shallow, about 4 to 5 inches deep. A dish garden size bowl works well. Use a sterile potting soil less mix. Sow these seeds according to label directions. I use a light coating of seed starter mix containing worm castings and mealworm guano as a starter fertilizer.
Treat your greens garden like other seedlings. Keep them close to the grow lights, about 4 to 5 inches away from the plant tops for about 15 hours per day. Adjust the distance of the lights as the plants grow. Mist twice per day at ground level. If the air in your home is dry, you can lightly mist the seedlings. Do not overwater. Thin as necessary. Sample the thinned shoots to determine which kinds suit your taste.
Greens can vary in flavor from mild to spicy or even bitter. I personally prefer milder greens for sandwiches and spreads. Sharper flavors work well in salads and soups or stews. Again, it is up to your individual likes and dislikes.
Revive your taste buds and satisfy that early gardening itch with a few micro-greens. You’ll be glad you did!