Grow Methods for Microgreens in Aquaponics
We are blessed to have great neighbors! Late last summer I had my neighbor ladies over for some wine and snacks to catch up (any neighbor that you enjoy having a glass of wine with is a great neighbor in my book!). I took the girls out to “the project” for a tour of the latest and one of my neighbors mentioned that she had been growing microgreens and our set-up might just be ideal for growing them. She went on to discuss the pros of growing them...able to sell for a pretty penny, grow fast, and really nutritious. This sparked my interest. After discussing this with Mr. Martian and some research we decided to give it a go!
There were some logistics to figure out first. Like..”how are we going to grow these things in our system?” My lovely neighbor loaned me some books on microgreens. Even though they have great info in them, there was no info on how to grow in aquaponics (there are ways to grow hydroponically; however, the flood and drain of aquaponics is a different beast). I looked online and youtube without much success. I visited a local organic store, still no luck. Mr. Martian and I decided this is just going to have to be done by trial and error. We are like the first explorers on Mars....growing microgreens aquaponically (not sure if this is a word but it sound right). That might be a bit of a stretch but I’m going with it...it’s fitting;).
Trial #1-just throw seeds in grow beds. That was a bad idea...clean up is WAY too much work to get all leftover seeds/growth after trimming (with microgreens you don’t eat the seed/sprout –just the tiny plant itself and they don’t re-grow; therefore, you need to clean up all the mess left behind so it doesn’t rot). Sprouts have been associated with outbreaks of foodborne illness. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/11/business/11sprouts.html?ref=global-home).
Trial. #2-place hydroclay rocks in 10x20 grow trays. And what do ya’ know-it worked awesome! Beautiful pea shoots, so tender and so delicious (taste like peas). Only one problem...”How the hec were going to clean all those tiny hydroclay rocks out after cutting/harvesting?” We did give it a go; however, in the end we decided that this would take way too much time.
Trial #3=Fodder system. The fodder system is mostly used for growing feed for livestock. You just place all the seed in the bottom of your tray (we used 10x20) making sure the bottom is all covered (not more than ½ in deep to prevent mold) and that’s it! I was definitely a little hesitant that this one would work. And I was mostly right. You need a whole lot more seed for this method (even though hopefully it would produce more weight in final product), and they just didn’t grow very well in our system. The peas got off to a good start but then just didn’t look healthy (to their credit we did have a big freeze and they probably did freeze). The radish grew great, just not tall enough to where you could separate the sprout from the microgreen. I also didn’t put enough seed in, even though I did put 1/2 cup of seed and normally only 6T for hydroclay grow rock method. All in all, this method was just not my cup of tea. Back to the drawing board!
Trial #4=Grow Mats! The same lovely neighbor that recommended the microgreens also mentioned using grow mats. In the beginning we dismissed this idea due to the fact it didn’t seem economical to use something once and then have to toss it. However, after all of our other trials didn’t work out the way we had hoped we were running out of options. I was excited to try the grow mats due to their easy clean up! My hubby (the more frugal one-which I am both thankful for and at times annoyed with;)) wanted me to do the math to make sure we could still make money if using these mats (rightfully so!)w122112. The price came out to be $1.05 per grow tray when using this https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01L830MWS/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 grow mat roll. We are also testing these https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EV60WEI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 mats. Although, so far I like the less expensive ones better (go figure!). The more expensive pads (hydroponic grow pads) fell apart and the roll did not. However, hydroponic grow pads did fit almost perfectly in the 10x20 flats and the roll was only 9” wide (we may be able to find a roll 10” wide). The hydroponic grow pads are also biodegradable and the roll is compostable but doesn’t break up and can clog system (they also state it is not suitable for backyard composting). The roll is pH balanced, not sure about the grow pads. The grow pad states it is pathogen free and the roll does not say this. We are still in trial mode with the grow mats as they are just starting to sprout. So I will keep you posted on the progress. The jury is still out...but hopefully not for much longer. If you have any ideas please feel free to email us! Prayerfully these mats will work awesome!
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
Scripture for thought: 2 Corinthian 5:7