Growing microgreens from seed to market. Well, we can only give you a peek into what it’s like for us at “Get Fascinated Microgreens”. What does it take for us to get from “seed to market” as urban farmers growing in Fort Mohave, Arizona?
A lot! But, we enjoy the work and find it extremely rewarding. It’s not just a business for us because we are also personally learning about permaculture and many other aspects of farming and sustainable living.
We have been growing microgreens for a little over a year and a half now. We started out with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever and literally learned by researching and watching YouTube videos. There are many great people out there giving all kinds of advice and knowledge. You just need to spend some time figuring out what might work best for you.
One important thing is where you live and what kind of climate you live in. Will you grow conventionally or be an organic grower? Will you be growing indoors or outside in a greenhouse? Will you use natural sunlight or grow lights? What type of growing medium will you use? Potting Soil, coco coir or some other kind of medium. Or perhaps you have decided to grow hydroponically. There are a lot of things to decide before you start to grow one tray of microgreens. Going through every one of these questions in detail is for another article though.
In this article we are going to run down a brief description of our process to get our microgreens from “seed to market here in the Mohave Valley” . We would love your comments and if you want to know more details about anything specific please just ask. We would love to share more of what we are doing. We’re learning and growing each day. We’ve had some great wins and some small failures but those failures have helped us in the process.
About us and our supplies……..
We are urban farmers growing organically indoors. We grow vertically on racks/shelves with grow lights. We use 10” by 20” heavy duty trays that we purchased from Bootstrap Farmer, a great company with lots of fantastic gardening supplies. We use trays with holes and without which we will explain more about a little later. We purchase all of our non-gmo organic seeds online from True Leaf Market. They ship fast and have wonderful customer service. The seeds germinate great and are dependable, that’s important as a grower.
We keep a supply of seeds in stock because at times True Leaf Market can be out of stock on popular seeds when you need them. I have premeasured the appropriate amount of seeds into a labeled container. These are simply little spice jars that we bought from Amazon. They work perfectly. Some of the seeds need to be soaked overnight in cold water before they are planted. I measure these out and put them into fine netted bags. I then put a small amount of food grade hydrogen peroxide into the water to deter bacteria growth and place the seeds under a cement block to weigh them down so that none float.
We use coco coir as our planting medium mixed with a little bit of vermiculite. We started out using an organic potting mix but found it unreliable and expensive. The coco coir comes in large compressed blocks and it can be costly unless you find a good place to buy it from. It takes time and effort to decompress the blocks into soil though, so we make sure to do this a few days before it’s needed.
We use 24 oz and 16 oz recyclable containers to package our microgreens. Ramon designed our labels with our logo, website and info. We have individual labels for each crop with their name and description. We are proudly a part of the USDA Arizona Grown Program so rolls of those labels are on hand as well.
We place a dri-rite liner inside of each tray before we package the microgreens. These liners help absorb excess moisture or condensation. We recommend that our customers store their microgreens in the veggie drawer of their fridge. Storing them properly helps them last 2-3 weeks unless you’ve eaten them all.
We use a lot of water each week so we found a great water filter to use also from Amazon. It’s great with the Mohave Valley, AZ water and it helps our microgreens to thrive.
Miscellaneous supplies… tons of paper towels, organic cleaners and disinfectants. Knives for harvesting, funnels, scales, bowls, measuring cups, net bags, disposable gloves and lots of other stuff are what we use on a weekly basis.
One of the most important and challenging aspects for microgreens growth or perhaps for their demise is temperature, humidity and air circulation. We have fortunately found a recipe that’s been working for us. The optimal temp for us here in the Fort Mohave, Arizona area is 74 degrees growing indoors. Ramon is very attentive to the humidity, which he tries to maintain around 70-72 degrees. The optimal humidity is really about 42-44 degrees but in Arizona’s summer heat of 100 to 120 degrees that can be quite challenging. So thankfully 70-72 degrees is working well and we aren’t having any issues.
Gratefully during the recent power outage we had a backup generator or we could have had a problem on our hands. We also haven’t had to use a dehumidifier as of yet. For air circulation we use 2 small fans on each grow rack and a very large commercial fan in the room that’s on high 24 hours a day.
At the beginning of the week Ramon and I discussed what we have coming up for the next grow cycle which consists of 10-14 days depending on the microgreen type. We look at the schedule to see what farmers markets are coming up. Do we have Lake Havasu? Bullhead City or Triple Farms Produce, in Fort Mohave? We discuss what businesses we might need to supply to and the quantities. Drifting Bistro in Fort Mohave, Sirens Café in Kingman, Island Bar and Cuveu in Bullhead City? Do we have deliveries to Rosebird Farms in Kingman or do we need to prepare orders for the various foodbanks for the AZ Food Bank Network? We also have regular delivery customers in the Mohave Valley so there’s a lot to discuss and figure out. How many trays of each microgreens do we need to plant to be prepared. Each different microgreen crop has different grow times and the seeds have different needs. The seeds that need to be soaked before they are planted need that time. So we need to take all of this into consideration and schedule all of this out for each week.
Once we have this figured out we input into our weekly schedule.
When we are ready to start planting we prep our work space .
As discussed, our soil is premade and ready to go. Our trays are clean and waiting. We go over one last time how many trays of each crop, how many trays are we planting today? I place the correct number of seed bottles out so they’re ready to go. If the seeds were soaked over night I now rinse them and put them into bowls. We start putting out the correct amount of trays. Putting a tray with holes inside of a tray with no holes on the table. Ramon puts a big scoop of soil into each tray as we begin leveling it while keeping it fluffy yet firm within the tray. We then take a no holed tray and lightly press the soil down evenly to give the crop a level growing surface.
Next we sow each tray with the required pre measured seeds that are ready and waiting. The larger seeds are sow and then tamped down, (pressed lightly into the soil), each tray is top watered evenly. The trays are stacked 4 or 5 high with a no holed tray on top, Ramon then places them on the germination rack. This rack of shelves has no lights on it since they don’t need light at this stage. He places a cement block on top of each stack of seeds being that the seeds do better with weight on them. Twice a day we remove the stack of trays and lay them out top watering each one evenly. When we restack them, we are careful to clean the bottom of the trays and the tables so that we don’t cross or mix the seeds from one tray to another. That way the crops stay separated.
The germination time for each crop is different with it varying between 3-5 days.
Once the seeds have adequately germinated they will begin to push the cement blocks up and it’s time to put each tray individually on the grow rack and place a no holed tray upside down on each one. Now the trays will be bottom watered twice a day not top watered so that they won’t get mold or root rot. This period is called black out since the crops are not yet getting light yet and are being forced to stretch and grow.
After about three days or so the top tray is removed and the trays are ready to go under the lights. The lights are on automatic timers for a period of 12 hours a day off for 12 hours. We continue bottom watering each tray twice a day until it’s time to harvest microgreens.
Harvest day is always a busy yet fun day. We get our work space all set up so that we are ready to go. Usually the crops got their last watering the night before so that they aren’t soggy when they are cut. Over time and with experience, we have found the perfect time to cut them so that they are crispy and perfect for packaging.
So we set up our work/harvesting station with a clean table, waste can, our rolling cart, a bin to put the harvested microgreens into, a scale, a knife for cutting, a knife sharpener, paper towels, disinfectant, disposable gloves, packaging containers for the microgreens, our labels and paperwork to document everything. We turn on our music, get a vibe and get to work.
We decide what crop we’re going to harvest first and Ramon starts cutting and weighing the crop as I document all the information. We start to package, label and stack the product on the table. Each container or bulk bag of microgreens is weighed, sealed and labeled. We also include a harvest date and product weight to remind the customer when they purchased their microgreens.
Once everything is labeled and counted we put the microgreens into our fridges and everythings ready to go.
There’s a lot of clean up that comes afterwards so it makes for a long day. Once the trays of crops are harvested the left over plant matter and coco coir are dumped into one of our many compost bins. When these are all filled we take them to our land once a week and dump them onto our main compost pile. Our goal is to have great compost to use in the future for other food crops, fruit trees and other plants we will be growing. Nothing goes to waste! All a part of this sustainable lifestyle that we are learning more about with each day.
Once the trays are dumped they have to be cleaned out. They are rinsed with a disinfectant solution to inhibit any bacterial growth and cleaned and rinsed again. They are air dried and stacked on the shelves.
It’s time to put everything away, wipe all counters and surfaces and sweep up really well. That means moving the racks to get all dirt and run away seeds. Now mop up and disinfect the floors, sweeping and mopping is a constant because with watering twice a day, seeds and dirt falls on the floor so we keep this all clean. It’s constant work!
Till next week then it’s time to do it all over again…..
Make soil for the upcoming week, refill the seed jars, cleaning and always more cleaning.
We’re up early
Ready to load the coolers with ice packs and our freshly harvested microgreens. We have everything ready to go for the day.
Whether we’re headed to a Farmers Market in the Mohave Valley or out to make a delivery to a business customer. We are ready and excited for our day. This is what we have been working for all week. Providing great microgreens just for you. It’s an honor and privilege to provide a vital source of nutrient dense, vitamin rich food to our community.
We hope this small look into our world interests you to ask more questions and get more involved. We love sharing with you and look forward to giving you much, much more about us at “Get Fascinated Microgreens”.
Till next time……
Ramon and Gayle