What are Hydroponic Microgreens?


Microgreens are simple plants that are harvested just after they show their first cotyledon leaves. Microgreens have been used for years by chefs to garnish food and give it an extra nutritional punch. If you are a microgreens enthusiast, there are many ways to start off. Microgreens can be grown with soil or soilless media. When I say soilless, I mean hydroponically grown microgreens. 

Hydroponic microgreens are microgreens that are grown without the use of soil as a growth medium. Here, they spend the rest of their lives in a soilless based environment. Their growth medium is usually aquatic, hence the name derivative-“Hydro” which means water, and “(ponos) ponic” which means labour. The semantic meaning is thus “Water Working”.

In the course of this article, we would be doing a complete review of the Hydroponic system of growing microgreens, the best hydroponic microgreens systems out there, and also how to set up your own indoor hydroponic microgreens garden. Using hydroponics to grow your microgreens have a lot of distinct advantages.

 With this system of growing your greens, you get a higher growth rate, you save space and you also have better control of pests and diseases. It is indeed the best way to grow your microgreens, and that is what I would be reviewing in this piece.  Without further ado, let’s delve in.

Review of Hydroponic Systems For Growing Microgreens

Hydroponics is a super-efficient approach for growing microgreens. With a hydroponic system, the growing greens are placed in a water solution that is rich in nutrients. Therefore, instead of using a soil medium to grow the plants, the roots of the microgreens meet the aquatic-based nutrient-rich solution.

The microgreens also have access to a substantial amount of oxygen, which would help facilitate their growth. It is important to iterate here, that one of the most important advantages of using hydroponics for your microgreens is for quicker growth rate. In subsequent paragraphs, we would review the six different types of microgreens systems that can be used for your microgreens.

The Wick Hydroponic System For Microgreens

The Wick hydroponics system is one of the easiest forms of hydroponics to set up for growing microgreens. This Hydroponic system is passive, meaning that they have no moving parts. It is relatively cheaper than the Ebb and Flow Hydroponic systems.

The wick hydroponic systems have the microgreens nestled in the growing media in a tray that sits on the top of a reservoir. It is in the reservoir that the water solution that is dissolved in nutrients is housed.

The wicks travel from the reservoir to the growing tray. Water and nutrients flow up through the wick and saturate the growth media around the root systems of the microgreens.

The wick system is easy because it does not require any mechanical action to function. It is an ideal solution for growing your microgreens indoors, with or without an electricity supply.

The wick microgreen hydroponic works via capillary action. Just like a sponge, the wick absorbs the water that it is immersed in, and when it makes contact with the growth medium of the microgreens, it would then transfer the nutrient solution.

The wick hydroponics works best if they have a growth medium that supports both water and nutrient transfer. The fibres of the outer husks of coconuts, also known as coco fibres are a good option in this case. Coco fibres boast of having great water retention capacities. As a plus, the coco fibres have a neutral PH, which is an excellent factor for microgreens.

In their mechanism, the wick hydroponics work slower than other systems. Let us move on to the pros and cons of the wick hydroponic systems.

Advantages of the Wick Hydroponic systems for Microgreens

  • They are simple to use: Anyone can basically set up a wick hydroponic system for growing microgreens. After set up, it does not require much attention after its running. The job of the wick hydroponic system is to supply your plants with water and gives you a great return on your hands-free investment.
  • Provide sufficient space for your microgreens: They are excellent for being non-obtrusive in their mechanism. The wick hydroponic system can be installed anywhere and do not require electricity to run.

Disadvantages of the Wick Hydroponic systems for Microgreens

  • Limitations in the type of microgreens grown: There are microgreens that can grow at a very quick rate and there are some that cant. There are also microgreens that do not need a large amount of water in its development. For example, lettuce, basil and celery are fast-growing greens that do not need large amounts of water. In the wick hydroponic system, microgreens that do not need a perpetually moist environment would not thrive.
  • Your microgreens are susceptible to rot: There is a high risk of a fungal outbreak in a wick hydroponic system. This is so because the growth environment for the microgreens is always humid and damp. So, due to this, your microgreens can rot if not well cared for.

The Deep Water Culture Hydroponic System For Microgreens

The Deep water culture hydroponic system is simply microgreens suspended in aerated water. This system is also referred to as the DWC system, It is one of the most popular and easy ways of growing microgreens soillessly.

In the DWC system, net pots that hold the microgreens are dangled over a reservoir oxygen-rich nutrient solution. The roots of the microgreens submerged in the solution are an eminent feature of this system. This mechanism provides the microgreens with constant access to nutrition, oxygen and water. Deep water culture Hydroponics for microgreens is considered as one of the purest forms of hydroponics out there in the market.

For the survival of the microgreens, proper oxygenation is important as the roots are always submerged in the water.  The microgreens plant would drown in the solution if the roots were supplied with enough oxygen.

Also, note that in the DWC system, the solution should have the roots of the microgreens submerged in it. Not part of the stem or vegetation of the microgreens should be underwater. Now, let us move on to the advantages and disadvantages of the DWC hydroponic system for microgreens.

Advantages of Deep Water Culture System For Your Microgreens

  • The DIY appeal: Unlike much other hydroponics that can be used for microgreens the DWC, hydroponics has a Do-it-Yourself appeal. With the DWC system, you can easily and cheaply produce and replicate the system at home.
  • Easy maintenance: With the DWC system set up, you would have very few requirements for maintenance. All you need to do is to replenish the used up nutrients when needed. In addition, ensure that you have a pump that is moving oxygen to the plant roots. Depending on the size of microgreen plants, it might take an approximate routine of 2-4 weeks to replenish nutrients.

Disadvantages of the Deep Water Culture System for Your Microgreens

Limitation to certain microgreen plants: They can adjust to fast-growing microgreens. However, the DWC hydroponic system does not easily do well with slow-growing microgreens.

Temperature management: It is important to ensure that the water solution of the system does not exceed 68 degrees Fahrenheit and not below 6 degrees. It is very difficult to regulate the temperature of the water in the system because it is static and does not re-circulate.

The Ebb and Flow Systems For Your Microgreens

This hydroponic system works by flooding a grow bed with a nutrient solution from a reservoir that is set below. The pump in the reservoir has a timer that it is built with.

When the timer starts, the pump starts filling the bed with nutrients and water. When the timer stops, gravity now makes the grow bed drain its water and flushes it back to the reservoir. The plants in the ebb and flow system are not exposed to water all the time, unlike other hydroponic systems.

When the grow bed of the microgreens get flooded, the roots drink up nutrients. The roots then dry out when the grow beds and the water ebbs dry out.

Then, before the next flooding interval, the roots would oxygenate. The time of this interval depends largely on the size of your grow bed and microgreens plants.

This hydroponic system is very popular and with its supply of abundant oxygen, microgreens enjoy quick and vigorous growth. The Ebb and flow hydroponic microgreen systems are very versatile and easily customizable. And more than most conventional hydroponic systems, you can experiment with your microgreens and media.

Outside microgreens, the ebb and flow hydroponic system accommodates almost any kind of vegetation. The only limitation that you would have, is the size and depth of your growth tray.

Advantages of the Ebb and Flow Hydroponic system for your microgreens

  • Easy DIY appeal: The Ebb and flow hydroponic system always for an easy Do-it-yourself call. You can build an Ebb and Flow Hydroponic system for your greens at home. A  simple trip to a hardware store would give you all the supplies you need. This hydroponic system supports a broader scope of microgreens plant life.
  • Versatility: Outside microgreens, you can also grow other larger plants with this system. But this is very conditional. You need to actually provide the appropriate size of grow bed and nutrients that would match the size of the plant.

The Disadvantages of the Ebb and Flow Hydroponic microgreen system

  • Sometimes your pump might disappoint you: Anytime your pump ceases to function, your microgreens would die. You have to constantly monitor the overall mechanism of the system. This is to ensure that there are no hitches encountered in the long run. Also note that if the pump of the system is pumping water in and it too fast, the microgreens would receive less water.
  • Disease and rot: Adequate maintenance and sanitation is necessary for the Ebb and flow microgreen system. If the growing bed is not draining as it should rot and root related diseases might set in for the plant.  An Ebb and Flow system that is unsanitized can attract insect, pests and also grow moulds too.

The Nutrient Film Technique For Your Microgreens

This hydroponic system is used in suspending microgreens above a stream of flowing nutrient solution. This nutrient solution washes over the tips of the root system of the microgreens.

The channels holding the microgreens are tilted. This allows water to run down the length of grow bed before draining into the reservoir that is placed below.

 The water that is in the reservoir is then aerated via an air stone.  The pump of the system is used to move nutrient-rich water away from the reservoir into the top of the channel.

The nutrient film technique system for microgreens is a kind that recirculates its aqua nutrients. In the deep-water hydroponic system, the roots of the plants are immersed in water. However, in the Nutrient film technique, only the tips of the root of the microgreens are allowed to make contact with the nutrient stream.

Also worth stating is the mechanism of the NFT (Nutrient Film Technique system). Here, the channels in the hydroponic system must be angled at a gradual slope. You have to also ensure that it is not too steep, as the nutrients would rush down the roots without actually nourishing the microgreens. 

Outside the microgreen family, the Nutrient Film Technique hydroponic system can also support larger plants.

The Advantages of Using the Nutrient Film Technique System for Your Microgreens

  • It has a wonderful modular design: If you are gearing up for a commercial and large scale endeavour, then this hydroponic should be your must-pick.  It is very easy to expand once you have your NFT channel set up. Did you know that you can actually fill your indoor farm with many channels that support different microgreens? The NFT system for your microgreens is very scalable and modular.
  • Low consumption of resources: Since the NFT hydroponic system reuses water and nutrients via recirculation, they do not large consumption of these microgreen fuels. Also, with the constant flow of nutrients, it is not possible for salts to accumulate in the roots.

As a plus, the NFT system does not require a growth medium to flourish. This would save you from the hassle or stress of buying or even replacing one.

The Advantages of Using the Nutrient Film Technique System for Your Microgreens

  • Pump failure: If the pump of the NFT channel is no longer circulating the nutrient film, the microgreens plants would dry out. So, in a matter of hours, your entire microgreens might perish.

The Drip System For Your Hydroponic Microgreens

In the hydroponic microgreens, drip system, the nutrient-rich and aerated reservoir pumps solution through a network of tubes to the individual microgreen plants. The solution slowly drips into the growing media that surrounds the root system of the microgreens.

This hydroponic system is very popular amongst commercial hydroponic farmers. In the drip hydroponic microgreen system, there are two basic configurations. They are namely the recovery and the non-recovery system.

The recovery system is very popular with indoor microgreen growers. Here, excess water is drained from the grow bed back into the reservoir. From then onwards, it would be recirculated during the next drip cycle of the system.

The non-recovery drip system allows excess water to be wasted after being drained out of the grow bed. The non-recovery drip system is very common amongst commercial growers. In other to keep the waste at a minimum, the non-recovery system uses timers and feeding schedules.

If you are growing your microgreens in the recovery drip system, you would need to be familiar with the pH requirement of the nutrient solution. This is because, during recirculation, the microgreen plants would deplete the nutrient content and also alter the PH of the Nutrient Solution.

So, the microgreen farmer needs to adjust and monitor the solution reservoir more often than in the non-recovery drip system.

The Advantages of the Drip System For your Microgreens

  • A lot of options: Unlike other conventional hydroponic systems out there, the Drip system can support plants larger than microgreens. This is one of the reasons why commercial growers love this hydroponic system.  Kindly note that the drip system works well with media like coco coir, rock wool and peat moss.
  • The factor of scale: If the microgreen grower wants to add more microgreens, new tubing can be connected. The new tubing is usually connected to a reservoir and then made to divert nutrient solution to a new vegetation.

The Disadvantages of the Drip system for your Hydroponic Microgreens

  • Maintenance factor: There is a significant amount of maintenance that is involved in growing microgreens. This applies mostly to microgreens that are grown with the non-recovery drip system. For a start, you need to always check on the PH and level of nutrients that is available in your solution.
  • Complexity: As a home grower, the drip system is not the best system for your Hydroponic Microgreens. It would be better to thread parts with a simpler hydroponic system like the Ebb and Flow.

The Aeroponic System For your Hydroponic Microgreens

The Aeroponic system is a unique way of growing microgreens. In this popular system, the microgreen plants are suspended in the air. While being suspended, their roots are exposed to a mist that is filled with nutrients.

This hydroponic system consists of frameworks that have a cuboid or towering structure. The Aeroponic system can actually house a lot of microgreens plants at once. The nutrients and the water that would be used by the microgreens are usually stored in a reservoir. Then, a nozzle would be used to atomize the solution and have it distributed through the mist.

The mist in this case is usually released from the top of the tower, the allowed to cascade down the tower. Most Aeroponics usually mist the roots, while others use the working principles of the NFT or Ebb and Flow system. With the roots of the greens been exposed to air constantly, they drink oxygen and grow at a very fast pace. 
Unlike any other form of hydroponics, the Aeroponics system uses less water.

Advantages of the Aeroponics Hydroponic Microgreen system

  • There is enough oxygen: The vast quantity of oxygen that the roots of the microgreens take in boosts their growth. The most eco-friendly hydroponics system for microgreens is Aeroponics.  They are easily customizable and versatile for your hydroponic microgreens. So if you want high-quality yield for your greens, then make Aeroponics a must-choose.
  • They are very mobile: Aeroponic trays and towers can easily be transported from one place to another. This can be done without the interference of the growth of the microgreens. The aeroponic system is also very good for microgreen farmers that want to maximize space. With this cool system for hydroponic microgreens, you can actually grow green s at greater densities.

Disadvantages of the Aeroponics Microgreens System

  • They are quite expensive: The aeroponics system really does have a way of making you break the bank. Did you know that Aeroponics cost thousands of dollars to set up? To set up your pumps, timers, and complete reservoirs can be so expensive. You can still set up a DIY Aeroponics at a much lower cost, but it is quite difficult.
  • Maintenance issues: In other to maintain an aeroponic system, a delicate balance is required, and if disrupted can bring havoc on your hydroponic greens. For example, if your pump fails or the timer doesn’t go off, you might lose your entire microgreens. This can be resolved if you go about misting the roots of the microgreens by hand. 

Also, you need to regularly sanitize the root chamber to avoid the onset of root disease. On a general note, the Aeroponics system for microgreens really does require more technicality than other systems.

Best Microgreens That Can be Grown Hydroponically

We have successfully reviewed the six types of hydroponic systems that we have. They all can be built using a DIY approach, whilst they can also be bought from vendors in Walmart and Amazon. It would be noteworthy to say that there are a couple of greens that do well with the Hydroponic system, and there are others that don’t.

Some of the microgreen plants that do well hydroponically are :

  • Watercress
  • Mustards
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Amaranth

Growing Tips for Your Hydroponic Water Cress

The watercress microgreen is very popular for its flavour. As the name of this green implies, it is a water-loving microgreen. It does well in an aquatic nutrient-based growth medium. The Watercress does well in a system where its roots are made to be in constant touch with water. My best pick of a hydroponic system that suits the watercress is the Ebb and Flow Hydroponic system.

The seeds of the watercress take 5 days to germinate. They can continue growing up to 4 to 6 weeks. Watercress requires a temperature of 78- 87 degrees Fahrenheit to do well. They do not tolerate a stagnant nutrient solution, plus the pH of the solution should be 5.8 to 6.5

Growing Tips for your Hydroponic Mustard Greens

Mustard is a green that has a strong flavour. The mustard greens do well in hydroponics systems. The good thing here is that any of the 6 types of hydroponic systems can suit them. Some of the ideal conditions for their growth and development in a hydroponic system are as follows:

  • Temperature in the range of 52- 76 degrees Fahrenheit
  • A pH range of 6.0 to 7.5 for the nutrient solution

They take up to 7 days to show off their first true leaves. When harvesting your mustard hydroponic greens, it is best that you harvest 30% and leave the remainder of the plant.

Growing Tips for Your Hydroponic Basils

 The basil hydroponic microgreen is a woody herb that is sweet, peppery and savoury. In the world of microgreens, herb microgreens are more popular and profitable than leafy microgreens. Here are some of the ideal conditions for growing your basil microgreens hydroponically:

  • Temperature in the range of 65- 95 degrees Fahrenheit
  • A pH range of 5.6-6.6
  • EC : 1.6- 2.2

The basil microgreen can turn bitter if the following growing tips are not followed:

  • Harvesting the greens before they bolt to flower
  • Removing stems that are broken
  • And finally, throwing away any tough/old growth

Conclusion

Hydroponic microgreens are plants that are grown in an aquatic growth medium that is supplied with nutrients. The nutrients used have the NPK balance that any microgreen would need in other to thrive. It is the most sanitary approach to growing microgreens. It is very scalable and suits commercial growers more than subsistence growers.

There are over 6 types of hydroponics systems. While each of them can be purchased in stores near you, you can also construct a Hydroponic system all by yourself. Also, there are microgreens that do well when grown hydroponically. In addition to the above reviewed hydroponic greens, these kinds thrive well in hydroponics systems: Sunflower, Wheat Grass, Kohlrabi, Arugula.

And that’s it! All you need to know about hydroponic microgreens. You are now full equipped with the knowledge you need to start out with farming hydroponic microgreens. Do you have any questions, or feel like we left something out? Do well to let us know in the comments section below. Cheers!


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