How To Involve Kids in Gardening

From a kid’s viewpoint, microgreens are the perfect garden.

No weeding, no digging, no endless wait before the harvest. Micro-gardening gives all the benefits of outdoor gardening- except for exercise and sunshine- but without the hassles, wait, and expense. Each child can grow their very own crops which develops a sense of individual accomplishment and self-confidence.

Gardening provides plenty of life lessons

Kids growing microgreens from seeds that they have carefully nurtured develop a sense of purpose, responsibility, patience, critical thinking skills, an awareness of healthy eating habits, and the connection between choice and consequence. For parents struggling to find ways to encourage their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet, microgreens can be both a teaching tool and a solution to the problem of not liking ‘green things’.

Research involving children and gardening

 “Results indicate that school gardening may affect children’s vegetable consumption, including improved recognition of, attitudes toward, preferences for, and willingness to taste vegetables. Gardening also increases the variety of vegetables eaten.” (1)  According to multiple studies, gardening in a school, club, or home environment is not only fun for children and youth, but can encourage a life-long, positive change in eating habits.

a young child growing microgreens

 How to involve your children and youth in growing microgreens

  1. Give each child their own set of trays to provide a sense of ownership in the outcome. Planting and growing microgreens is easy enough that even young children can do most of the ‘work’ involved, even without supervision. Measuring the water and seeds is the most complicated part- and is a good exercise in being precise. Show each step, and then allow them to do it themselves. Microgreens are very forgiving as they grow and develop.
  2. Make it a non-stressful activity for yourself and your child. Set up the learning area so that you are not concerned about a little water, soil, or seeds being spilled. A kitchen counter is an excellent choice- easy to clean with water easily available.
  3. After you have grown the first crop of microgreens together, allow each person to choose which seeds to grow next. (2) Encourage children to grow many varieties as this also promotes confidence in tasting new vegetables. However, for those green-averse young people, make it ‘ok’ to grow a favorite type multiple times. The purpose is to encourage the eating of vegetables and each child has a different internal timeline for when they want to experiment with a new taste.
  4. Keep the growing microgreens near where they play and work. Keep them in sight to encourage curiosity. Show curiosity as you watch the growing process with the child. Curiosity is contagious!
  5. Make remembering to water an easy routine by attaching the task to something that is regularly done. Just before or after a meal or snack time, or anything else that is done on a regular, predictable basis. Make watering a time to also taste their crop each day, and to notice growth and changes. In short, make it fun – but quick.

Extend the learning

a kid growing microgreens

  1. Ratcliffe MM, Merrigan KA, Rogers BL, Goldberg JP. The Effects of School Garden Experiences on Middle School-Aged Students’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Associated With Vegetable Consumption. Health Promotion Practice. 2011;12(1):36-43. doi:10.1177/1524839909349182
  2. Making Choices- When to offer support, When to Step Back:

Choosing the Best Lights for Microgreens

Choose the best- and cheapest- lights for microgreens. No expensive grow lights are needed. This video will give you all the necessary information to make the best choice.

Some micro-farmers want to expand from the windowsill and use areas in the home that do not have sufficient light. LED lights are the inexpensive, best solution for lights for microgreens.

For those that prefer artificial lights, this video tells you all about choosing the best lights for growing microgreens. No expensive and impractical lighting for a home, just practical experienced advice for the right lights for the best nutrition.

What Kind of Lights Do You Need for Microgreens?

I started off with a 'BRIEF' answer and an explanation of the different kinds of lighting that are available... and got carried away making sure you had all the details. However, In 10 minutes, this video will give you the information you need without any hype. Watch it before you get carried away with expensive grow lights. Cheap lights for microgreens for the win!

What Are Microgreens?

Microgreens are tiny vegetables that are harvested at the most nutritious stage of a plant's life cycle.

Grown indoors on a windowsill or counter, microgreens are up to 40 times more nutritious than mature vegetables, and twice that of sprouts. With hundreds of important phytochemicals and micronutrients in each one, it means that you need to eat a much smaller portion of microgreens than you would mature vegetables to get the necessary nutrients in your diet each day.

For those that do not like the texture or taste of vegetables, microgreens are also the perfect answer- they taste much sweeter than full-grown vegetables and are small and easy to ‘hide’ in a meal.

Sprouts vs Microgreens

Both sprouts and microgreens are baby plants. However, they differ in the way they are grown, the way they taste, their nutritional content- and in safety. Sprouts are the first stage of a plant's life cycle, the ‘infants’ of the plant world. They have just barely germinated and are grown in a warm, humid environment for 3-5 days. The entire sprout is eaten, from seed to stem. They’re typically pale in color because they have not yet begun making nutrients through photosynthesis.

Sprouts also have a deadly side to them and unless kept scrupulously clean, and rinsed thoroughly 3-4 times a day, can become a health hazard. They are not recommended for pregnant women or young children.

sprouts grown in a jar

Microgreens are the 2nd stage in the plant's life cycle

This is the ‘toddler’ stage of a veggie plant- one of rapid growth and activity. Typically at about 10-14 days old, the plant has more key nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants per ounce than at any other stage of plant growth. At this point, the cotyledons (the seed leaves) are open and help the baby plant become a photosynthetic organism. The process of photosynthesis begins to rapidly increase the nutrients in the tiny plant. When we harvest at this stage, not only do we have the nutrients from the seed and cotyledon, we consume all the nutrients that it is packing on before it begins its growth spurt into a full-sized plant.

Microgreens are grown in soil in the open, with good airflow

Microgreens are usually 3-5 inches long and can be grown in soil or a growing medium such as coconut coir. Harvesting is as simple as cutting them just above the soil level with a pair of scissors.

An important difference between sprouts and microgreens- or why you should be growing microgreens instead of sprouts.

The warm, humid, and low-ventilation conditions used for sprouts are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. Sprouts continue to be a major offender in Salmonella outbreaks and are not recommended for those with health risks. Any bacteria present can multiply dramatically during the sprouting process because of the warm, humid growing conditions.

Microgreens, however, are grown with good airflow, no excess humidity, and light- exactly the way nature intended seeds to grow. They are planted in an organic, clean substrate that is prepared especially for microgreens. Each of these conditions provides a safe, healthy, and nutritious way to grow fresh vegetables indoors. The risk of contamination is dramatically lower than sprouts, as well as store-bought greens such as spinach. Microgreens are a healthy, safe choice.

How to Grow Popcorn Microgreens

Popcorn microgreens are AMAZING! Super sweet, tender, and full of micronutrients, they are easy-ish to grow.

I call it 'easy-ish' because they have an important and critical difference from all other microgreens- they need to be grown in darkness. Not just during the blackout period when the cover is on, but during the entire growing cycle. They also need good air circulation. It sounds complicated, but once you have grown them the first time, you will find that they are no more difficult than other microgreens.

Where to grow popcorn microgreens

A dark storeroom, a closet that stays closed, even a large cupboard will work. However, to avoid mold, they need air circulation. If you have a small fan in the growing area, it will help eliminate mold. Once the house is dark, open the growing area to get even more air circulation- just don't forget to close it again in the morning. This is one seed that benefits from H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) treatment- spray the seeds with 3% H2O2 when planting, and then spray the soil and seeds once each day during the first 5 days.

Where to get the seeds?

This is one seed that is easy to find- go to your favorite grocery store and buy non-GMO popcorn in a bag- not the microwave kind, but the bulk-type bags. Although they may not have as high a germination rate as those grown specifically for microgreens, you should have at least an 80% germination rate if the seeds are less than 3 years old. Germination goes down as seeds get older, but if they sprout, they are good. 

Directions for Corn Microgreens:

corn microgreen

For a 5x5 grow tray (the size of the trays in our grow kits), you will need 1/4 cup of seed.

  1. Soak seeds in cool water for 12 hours.
  2. Rinse under cool, running water.
  3. Prepare your tray with an inch of soil.
  4. Spread the seeds evenly over the soil.
  5. Spray the seeds with hydrogen peroxide and let them finish 'bubbling' before covering the tray.
  6. Cover with a second tray, and add weight (a can of beans, fist-sized rock, etc.).
  7. Leave in an area with good air circulation, but without direct light for 2 days.
  8. Remove cover and weight, spray seeds with H2o2, and place the tray in a dark area to germinate and grow. If you have a small fan available, place it in the growing area- but not blowing directly on the tray.
  9. Water from below and keep the soil damp but not soggy. If you notice any mold, spray with H2o2 daily.
  10. Harvest 8-12 days