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In this article, I share with you my experience using the AeroGarden Microgreens kit. I show you the whole process of growing microgreens in an AeroGarden. I also share an experiment I did using two types of growing medium. I used the felt that comes with the AeroGarden Microgreens kit on one side. On the other side I used inexpensive and reusable window screen as a growing medium.
I wanted to experiment with a different growing medium because the growing medium that comes with the AeroGarden microgreens kit is a bit too pricey to make it practical. So, I wanted to come up with a microgreens growing medium alternative that would be more cost effective.
Pro tip: I purchase all of my microgreen and sprouting seeds from True Leaf Market. I’ve been a TLM customer for four years, and have been super happy with their products and service. Use this link to get $5 off your first purchase from True Leaf Market.
Growing Hydroponic Microgreens Using the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit
Now let’s get into how to grow hydroponic microgreens using the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit.
AeroGarden Microgreen Kit Components
AeroGarden Microgreens Kit grow deck
Microgreens growing trays
felt growing medium
Domes that cover the trays during germination.
The AeroGarden Microgreens Kit has four components:
• A grow deck• Two plastic trays with holes (one for the left and one for the right)• Felt growing medium• Plastic domes
The grow deck replaces the grow deck that comes with the AeroGarden. You’ll need to remove that and set it aside, but be sure to hold onto it so that you can use it in the future with AeroGarden sponges.
Experimenting with Growing Mediums in the AeroGardens Microgreen Kit
I was very happy with the results the first time I used my AeroGarden Microgreens Kit. But, being the frugal person that I am, I felt that the cost of the felt growing medium (at about $1 per piece) was just too much. It means that in addition to the cost of seeds, the cost of growing two cups of microgreens is about $1. While that might still be cheaper than buying microgreens from a specialty shop or at a farmers market, since my goal is to grow my own food on a limited budget, it just seemed like too much money.
Growing Hydroponic Microgreens Using Silicone Dehydrator Sheets
I initially got the idea to use silicone dehydrator sheets as a growing medium. I had seen someone on YouTube grow microgreens using that. They didn’t use the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit, but a type of plastic container. So, I ordered some silicone dehydrator sheets and tried them with my AeroGarden Microgreens Kit. The problem that I had was that the holes in the dehydrator sheets were too large for the seeds I used, and the seeds fell through. I tried overlapping two of the dehydrator sheets, and the seeds still fell through. I ended up with a big mess, and had to toss that batch.
Growing Hydroponic Microgreens Using Mesh Window Screen
Another time I saw a YouTube video with someone that used window screen together with plastic containers to grow microgreens. I copied his idea and made my own little microgreen set up, with plastic containers and screens. It worked fine, but I felt that the microgreens that I grew using the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit worked better. They grew faster, and were healthier than the ones that I grew in water without any type of water pump.
So I decided to experiment with the mesh screen in my AeroGarden. The determined that the best way to adequately judge whether or not the inexpensive and reusable window screen works as well as the felt that comes with the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit was to use them side by side.
Seeds, Water, Food, and Light Placement using the AeroGardens Microgreens Kit
Now let’s talk about seeds, water, food, and light placement using the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit.
Adding Water and Nutrients
Start off by adding water to the fill line in the basin of your AeroGarden. AeroGarden recommends changing the water at least once a week, with twice a week being even better. Since I typically like to let microgreens grow for 10 days, I like to switch the water out on the fifth day.
Microgreens don’t require any nutrients, but according to the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit instructions, nutrients may help them grow better. Nutrients may also increase the nutrient content of the microgreens. Since nutrients are optional, I decided to use plain tap water without any nutrients when I started my microgreens. Then, on day five, when I put in fresh water, I add a capful of AeroGarden nutrients.
One thing to be aware of is that when the pump is running, the Add Water light may go on. Do not add any water during this time. When the pump stops running and the water drains from the microgreens grow deck back into the water basin, the light will likely go off.
I used just one teaspoon of seeds on each side of my AeroGarden. I sprinkled them around as evenly as possible.
One slight problem that I had on the side with the window screen is that since the water flows pretty heavily about once every hour. The water flow didn’t really impact the seeds on the felt side, but a lot of the seeds on the screen side ended up in the bottom left corner of the screen.
I used my fingers to spread the seeds around a couple of times each day on the first couple of days. Once the seeds became more plump with water, and especially once they germinated and started growing, they stayed in place better and I didn’t need to keep redistributing them.
Generally speaking, when you start an AeroGarden, you start with the lights in the lowest position. According to the instructions that came with the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit, the entire time you’re growing the microgreens, place the light in the highest position. The instructions state, “Raise lights to their highest level for some extra “stretch” on your greens.” I’ve also heard from some that had problems with seeds rotting when they accidentally placed the lights in the lowest position, as you’d typically do when starting seeds in an AeroGarden.
While I haven’t read any official word on this from AeroGarden, it’s also possible that you’ll have problems if your home is too hot. I live in a very warm climate. Our current outdoor temps are in the high 90s and into the 100s Fahrenheit. We have our thermostat set at 78 degrees Fahrenheit, and that has worked fine for us.
The bottom line is that it seems that extreme heat either from the lights being too close to the microgreens or it being too hot in the home (or worse, a combination of the two) may cause your microgreens to rot.
Growing Hydroponic Microgreens Using the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit – Day by Day
Now here is a day by day record of the growth of the microgreens using the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit.
On day one, I did what I described above:
- Filled the basin with water without any nutrients
- Raised the lights to the highest position
- Sprinkled one teaspoon of seeds on each side
- Covered the seed trays with domes
- Used my finger a few times to redistribute the seeds on the mesh
On the beginning of day two, you can see that there was some condensation on the domes.
The seeds started germinating on both sides. From what I could see, the germination rate was the same on the felt and on the mesh screen.
I continued using the domes on the third day. There was more germination and tiny leaves began to form. My microgreens were actually starting to look green! 🙂
You’ll note that on the left, side, there was some fuzz. Those are roots, and nothing to worry about.
At this point it looked like the microgreens on the felt were growing slightly better. However, it’s possible that since the felt filled with water and expanded, that the extra “growth” was more a matter of the growing medium puffing up than actual growth.
At this point, the microgreens growing on the right, on the window screen appear to be growing slightly better than the microgreens growing on the felt. But the microgreens on both sides were growing well, and were more or less the same. It’s also possible that the ones on the right side look a bit better because on the right I focused on spreading out the seeds the first couple of days.
On the fifth day, off camera, I picked up the base, brought it into the kitchen, and dumped out the water. I put in fresh water, and for the first time, added a capful of AeroGarden nutrients. Note that in an AeroGarden Harvest, you typically use two capfuls of food, but since adding nutrients to microgreens is optional, I decided to use just one capful.
You can see how healthy the microgreens on both sides look. At this point, I decided to stop the daily updates since there likely wouldn’t be a huge difference in day-by-day growth at this point.
In the image above, you can see what the growth looked like on the morning of the 9th day. Since it was in the morning of the 9th day, this was after eight full days of growth.
While I didn’t measure the growth, I estimate that the microgreens were about three inches tall.
The growth is virtually the same on both sides. I originally planned to let the microgreens grow for 10 days, but felt they were long enough after eight full days of growth.
To harvest the microgreens, simply use scissors to cut them about a half inch above the growing medium. You could try to cut them closer to the growing medium to get slightly more yield. However, you may notice that there is a bit of rot down at the base of the growing medium. I noticed just a very small amount on the felt pad, but none on the window screen.
Each side yielded about two cups of greens, for a total of between four and five cups of microgreens. If I cut a bit closer to the felt or window screen, or if I let them grow a couple of additional days, I may have had a bit larger yield. But I felt that this was a good amount of yield for a total of two teaspoons of seeds.
The Final Verdict on Using Window Screens as Growing Medium in the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit
I was very pleased with how well the window screen worked as a growing medium in the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit. Some may have concerns about the window screen not being food grade, but since I harvest about a half an inch above the screen, I’m personally okay with this. With larger seeds such as radish seeds, you can use silicone dehydrator sheets, which are food grade.
Even if you prefer to use the felt growing medium that comes with the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit, I recommend having some window screen on hand so that you can continue growing hydroponic microgreens if the felt pads are out of stock.
I personally was excited enough about the results and how much money using the window screen will save me, that as soon as I harvested and used the microgreens in smoothies, I immediately ordered another AeroGarden Microgreens Kit.