Back in April last year, we wrote an article about teaching children to grow food like vegetables and herbs at home — and its many benefits. It turned out to be enormously popular, so today we follow up with a guide to growing microgreens, for children. This activity is great fun, very educational and the result is extremely nutritious food!
What Are Microgreens?
Also known as micro leaves, microgreens are an easy-to-grow crop that can be grown by children and parents any time of year. What’s more, they can be grown indoors, without needing much room, and all at negligible cost. Take a look at the photos and you’ll soon get the idea of what type of crop they are; they’re basically the very young sprouting leaves and shoots of things like root vegetables, young herbs and leafy greens. We’ll go into more detail about those shortly.
Why Children Should Grow Microgreens
Microgreens are great fun and extremely easy for children to grow. Once ready, they can be used rather like salads and garnishes. They are very tasty and are extremely nutritious.
Because they’re so compact, they can also be grown in virtually any household. They can be grown indoors too, for example on a windowsill, so families without gardens can also enjoy growing them. What’s more, getting children to grow microgreens may save money for the household.
Growing microgreens will really educate children about nature and the importance of caring for a living thing. It’ll help them learn new skills, teach them to be responsible and also help them learn more about where food comes from.
Growing their own food may also make children more likely to try different foods, particularly natural ones like these that are so good for them. All things considered, this fun, natural, educational activity is a total win-win!
What They Are Grown In
Microgreens are traditionally grown in shallow seed trays, which are inexpensive to buy. However, at home, they can just as easily be grown in flower pots, used yoghurt pots, empty egg cartons, the trays from ready-meals or even cut-down cardboard cores from kitchen rolls. So long as water is allowed to drain from them and they can support at least a shallow depth of compost, these can all be suitable. Plastic cartons will need a few holes punched in the bottom to allow for drainage, so parents might need to organise that in order to avoid their children hurting themselves. Other than that, it’s plain sailing for supervised children to do themselves.
What Else is Needed?
Microgreens are usually grown from seeds and, for those, you have a couple of options. Both are very inexpensive. You can use either:
- seeds purchased in packets (e.g. from a shop or online),
- or seeds that you have saved from fully-grown herbs, fruit or vegetables. Learn more about harvesting your own seeds, potentially for free, from existing fruit, vegetables and herbs in our previous post here.
Suitable seeds include: rocket, a type of strongly-flavoured lettuce; beetroot, with their lovely red stems and mild, earthy taste; spinach, which also has a mild flavour and is full of goodness; red cabbage, which is also rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals; fennel, which will have a distinctive aniseed flavour; broccoli, which will grow into sprouts that have a slightly spicy taste; radish seeds, which also grow into leaves that taste a little fiery; and also mustard seeds (for children who are OK with even more hot, spicy flavours).
The only other things that are needed for children to grow microgreens are water, drip trays and some compost.
- For the compost, ‘Multi-Purpose Compost’ or ‘Seed & Cuttings Compost’ are both perfect. Peat-free versions of those are even better, as they’re kinder to the environment.
- You’ll need some seed ‘drip trays’ to place under your trays or pots of microgreens. As the name suggests, these are simply trays to catch the draining water and to protect your windowsill etc. They’re inexpensive to buy but, if you’re on a budget, a saucer or suitably shaped plastic carton of some sort will be fine, so long as it’s watertight underneath and is shallow enough. This is also a great way to recycle plastic and show your child how easy it is to do so.
Setting Up & Sewing the Seeds
Setting up is easy:
- First, your child should fill the seed trays, flower pots or equivalent, almost to the top, with some compost.
- Then firm it down a little so it is flat and even.
- If they want to manually space out the seeds individually, then they can use a fingertip to indent where the seeds will go, then pop a seed into each indent.
- Otherwise, the fastest and easiest approach is to lightly sprinkle the seeds onto the compost. Be sure to do it lightly (tip: sprinkle from a little bit of a height to make this easier). Your child should avoid allowing the seeds to clump or be spread too densely, otherwise problems can occur once they start to grow.
- Optionally, the seeds can then be covered with a light sprinkling of more compost, just to keep them in place while still allowing some light to get to them.
- Water lightly (outside may be best to avoid any mess indoors). Be gentle when watering so the seeds do not simply wash away.
- Place the pots or trays of seeds back on the windowsill or similar. Wherever they are placed, it needs to be in full daylight during the day and also ventilated.
- Optionally, they can be temporarily covered with a piece of kitchen towel or cling film, but this is only while the seeds germinate.
- Your child should check daily to ensure that the compost stays moist. If needed, water gently from above or, if seed trays are shallow, put some water into the drip trays so the compost draws it up.
- As as shoots begin to appear (usually after just a few days), remove any covering if used and continue to ensure that the compost is always kept moist, but not over-watered.
Harvesting your Microgreens
In just one to two weeks, you should have a nice ‘blanket’ of shoots and baby leaves growing beautifully. The idea with microgreens is to harvest them while they have baby leaves, before mature leaves start to form. So, they should be harvested while still very young. Snipping them at their bases instead of pulling them up may allow them to regrow, so they can be harvested more than once.
Once harvested, they should be rinsed to get rid of any stray compost. They are delicious to eat and, depending on the seeds grown, have a huge variety of tastes and colours. Children and parents alike can benefit from the nutritious and tasty shoots as part of a variety of meal types. Full of vitamins and minerals, they can be used in salads, as pizza toppings, garnishes, toppings for risottos, soups and pastas, as fillings in sandwiches, sprinkled on top of baked potatoes or into burgers and much more. They’re very adaptable and, with their distinctive tastes and textures, will make any meal really special.
Childcare Excellence in Streatham, SW16
Children will love growing these little edible plants and harvesting them for food. They will learn so much along the way, building to a great sense of achievement in what is a great home learning activity. Learning at home is just as essential as all the learning that takes place at nurseries like Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham. Children will learn best when it’s a true partnership between nurseries/pre-schools and parents, so we encourage regular feedback and cooperation.
If you are looking for outstanding nurseries in Streatham for your baby or under-five child, please get in touch with Little Cedars Nursery. Our nursery is also near Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Broadway, Tooting Common, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood, so get in touch if you’d like to discuss or register a place for your child. We’d love to show you around …