Can I Grow Microgreens Without Media?


Growing microgreens without media sounds great. Right? You get the greens without getting all messy in the process. But is this possible? Yes, microgreens can be grown without media in a hydroponic process. 

A “medium” is mainly a form of weight support in many hydroponic applications. It also acts as a means to conserve nutrient supplies, but it is considered a ‘bonus’ in some implementations.

As long as it is possible to sustain the plant’s crown and hold it secure, a medium is not required.

We will be answering all the questions you’d possibly have that border on this subject throughout this article. 

Microgreens are smaller than baby plants and bigger than sprouts. They are collected in a plant’s second growth phase, shortly after sprouting. Lately, microgreens have become a quite popular commodity.

There are two strong explanations for this. 

  • First, microgreens are a highly nutritious food component. 
  • Second, by garnishing your food with them, businesses can create pictures perfect for Instagram.

Besides being perfect for garnishing, they are also extremely nutritious. This research has demonstrated that microgreens are 4 – 40x more nutritious than their fully grown plants, and are therefore one of the most nutritious foods. And they’re perfect for your heart!

Previously micro-greens were mostly used in fine dining or high-end hotels, but they are now commonly used by the general public. It’s mostly because they are pretty easy to produce. You can grow them all through the year, and the resources needed to grow them (like seeds, growing medium, etc.) are very cheap and easy to get.

Here, we explore how to raise microgreens hydroponically or without soil. In general, there are two methods of growing microgreens – with or without soil. They both have their own benefits and drawbacks. However, in this article, we will focus on how to produce microgreens hydroponically (without soil).

Growing Microgreens Without Media: What Does It Entail?

At the most fundamental level, hydroponics is a form of soil-free agriculture. In this system, the microgreens spend their lives in an aquatic environment. Instead of getting nutrients from the soil, they can only get the nutrients they need, and oxygen, from water.

This implies that fertilizers have to be added to the water to allow the microgreen roots to absorb a nutrient-rich solution.

There are many growing media (also referred to as substrates) which you can use in a hydroponic system to sustain your roots.

Commonly used media include coco coir, hemp mats, clay pebbles, vermiculite, and rockwool. Also, certain hydroponic systems need no growing medium at all!

Why Cultivate Your Microgreens Without Media (Hydroponically)?

Water Usage is Reduced

The water in your hydroponics systems can be stored, so it takes about 20 times less water than soil agriculture.

They Can Grow Anywhere 

A hydroponic system can be carried out in your cellar, basement or even inside a tray. You can also cultivate microgreens all year round!

You Have More Control

Growing your microgreens in a hydroponic system ensures that you have direct control of how much your plants get of each nutrient.

No Compost Means No Waste 

You don’t need to think about spilling soil all over the house or unintentionally pouring a tray of dirt on your carpet. You also need not bother about how to dispose of all your used soil. So, hydroponics are awesome for growing in apartments for example.

Some Microgreens Grow Better Hydroponically 

Some microgreen plants such as wheatgrass, kale, and carbonate tend to grow better hydroponically and achieve higher yields than when grown in soil.

Tools You’ll Need To Grow Your Microgreens Hydroponically At Home

It sounds high-tech and innovative to attempt to create miniatures of vegetables at home, without dirt. But it’s a lot simpler than you would imagine!

There is actually very little difference between hydroponic or soil-growing when it comes to growing microgreen on a DIY home scale version.

The tools you will need to get started include:

Growing Trays

You can purchase plastic trays that are 10′′ x 20′′, which is the typical size offered by several microgreen manufacturers. Be sure to get one with drainage holes. Otherwise, you have to insert some holes into it yourself. 

Microgreen Seeds 

It is safer to buy organic seed specifically developed for microgreen production. Ensure to avoid seeds treated with fungicides.

Lights 

When working with microgreens, I prefer using T5 fluorescent lights, but standard T8 lights work as well and, generally, are cheaper.

Growing Medium 

Coconut coir, hemp mats or whatever is your ideal medium for cultivation. This gives the microgreen roots what to hold on to, to enable them to stay erect.

pH Test Kit or Strips 

To check the water’s pH level. Your water might be at a reasonable pH level to grow microgreens already, but you should definitely test to verify this. Any necessary adjustments can then be made.

A Spray Bottle

Purchase a brand new spray bottle. One that hasn’t been used for any other purpose (especially for storing chemicals).

Nutrients

Check preferably for an organic product specifically designed to hydroponically grow microgreens. However, if you can’t find that, any general hydroponic nutrients should perform very well.

6 Commercial Hydroponic Systems You Can Use To Grow Microgreens Without Media

Wicking Systems

These are the most elementary types of hydroponic devices you can use.

They need no water or air pumps of any kind. Your microgreen container and a separate container filled with nutrient-packed water are linked via a wick.

A felt or thread is normally used. Wicking systems aren’t ideal for bigger crops, but with small plants like microgreens that require little water and nutrients, they may be a decent option.

They are an outstanding hands-off method for beginners.

Ebb and Flood Systems

Also occasionally referred to as flood and drain systems. These are less popular for hydroponic cultivation but they can be an excellent alternative for microgreens.

As compared to systems I will address next, which expose the roots of your microgreens continuously to the nutrient solution, this device simply floods your trays a few times a day with water.

Underneath the trays is a large tank of water/nutrient solution and a timed water pump is used to periodically flood the trays. The surplus water is pumped back into the tank after the trays have been flooded.

The primary problem for ebb and flow systems is that if you don’t water them adequately, or if your timer or pump fails. the plants will dry up easily.

Deep-water Cultures 

Also known as DWC hydroponic systems, they are large reservoirs over which the plants are suspended, where only the roots of the microgreen plants are in the water. These offer a continuous supply of nutrients, water and oxygen to the plants.

To oxygenate the water, an air pump is needed. Special netting is required to support your plants as their roots go into the water.

The sole purpose of the medium in the DWC setup is to help provide support for the plants. The roots reach into the solution, and this is where all the food and water they need is obtained. Nothing in the medium is necessary as soon as the plants are large enough

Cultivating microgreens using DWCs is, however, space-intensive. It takes up more room relative to other hydroponic systems.

Nutrient Film Technique

NFT hydroponic systems are similar to DWC systems, except that the microgreens grow in channels with a continuously flowing nutrient solution.

Water does not fully hide its origins from which the “show” originates in the name.

The plants are protected by neoprene collars in NFT systems in particular and also in a few other applications. These are actually small neoprene disks that have a cut extending to the middle from the side so that it fits like a skirt on the crown of the plant. This neck is just a little wider than the hole in which the plant is lowered, thereby holding the plant in place.

Aeroponics

This could be the hydroponic device of the highest-tech level. It uses mist nozzles to softly spray the microgreens’ roots with a nutrient solution, instead of flooding them, immersing them or continuously running a film over them.

I don’t believe that aeroponics is the perfect alternative for microgreens. As their roots are so thin, it is difficult for them to extract adequate water from misting alone.

Drip Systems 

Drip systems are very popular for large-scale hydroponic cultivation of mature vegetables, but they are not as useful for microgreens.

In growing microgreens, there is no distinction between using drip emitters or ebb and flow systems other than the volume of water being circulated.

Note: Virtually every hydroponic device will have power outages issues. Especially susceptible are aeroponic and NFT devices. Ebb and Flow setups will last a long time, particularly if the power goes off just after the flooding period. DWCs have the potential to go the longest without electricity, but they won’t do so indefinitely.

Only aeroponics and wick system hydroponics can operate without power for long periods of time (as both need no electricity).

Conclusion 

So, from all we’ve listed here, you can see how that it is possible to grow microgreens without media using hydroponic systems which include Wicking systems, Ebb and Flow systems, Deep-water cultures, the Nutrient Film Technique, Aeroponics, and the Drip System. 

Try out whichever works best for you and let us know your experience. You can also drop your suggestions and ideas in the comments section below. 


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