Indoor soil sprouts are easy to grow, extremely nutritious, and can produce a steady supply in a very small area, with little work. Soil sprout gardening may be the most productive gardening method we know – a single square foot can produce 1.5 – 2 pounds of produce each week.
Traditional indoor gardening methods often require expensive trays and grow lights, and you might wait a month or more to harvest even microgreens. Sprouts require constant watering and hassle. Soil sprout farming, however, can produce a crop of greens in 7-10 days, and doesn’t require any special equipment. You don’t even need a south-facing window – just place in any windowsill. Most of the materials can be purchased at a local nursery, and you can also order seeds online.
The main idea behind this method is to grow seeds in actual soil (instead of water, for sprouts), but to layer them on top of the soil to speed up the sprouting process. A few days in darkness will encourage rapid growth, and then you finish them off on a windowsill. Voila: green, leafy vegetables in a week.
Another great aspect to this method of indoor farming is its scalability: want to grow a salad for yourself, then stick to a square foot; want to start a full-blown urban microgreens farm, just use bigger trays. Microgreens can be sold for top dollar to local restaurants, high-end grocery and health food stores, and at the farmer’s market.
While we recommend taking an hour or two to read Peter Burke’s guide, here is a basic tutorial:
- Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening | Peter Burke
- 3×6 inch aluminum loaf pans – disposable are fine
- Bag germination soil mix
- Kelp meal
- Sprouting seeds (black sunflower, pea, radish, buckwheat, or other sprouting seeds)
- Newspapers or paper towels
- Soak seeds 6-12 hours (use 1 tbsp of seeds for each pan). Drain and rinse.
- Combine 4 C water and 1 gallon soil mix
- In each tray, mix 1/2 tsp kelp, 1 tbsp compost, and 1.25 C soil mix. sprinkle seeds on top
- Press a piece of wet newspaper (folded until the size of the tray) onto the seeds and leave in a warm, dark place for 4 days.
- Move trays to a windowsill, water daily for 3-4 days, harvest with scissors.
- Compost the leftover soil
Not only does this process provide a steady supply of fresh salad greens throughout the year, but soil sprouts are among the most nutritious food you can eat.
Many dietitians bemoan the lack of omega-3 fatty acids in the western diet. Omega-3’s are found in leafy green vegetables, fish, and the germ (sprouting part) of grains. Since omega-3’s go rancid more quickly than the rest of the grain, the germ is usually removed from the grain before it is sent to market. Sprouting your own seeds is an easy way to incorporate these crucial nutrients back into your diet.
Soil sprouts are very versatile – they can be harvested early as sprouts, or grown for a few extra days and treated as microgreens or salad greens. Virtually any crop that works for microgreens will also work for soil sprouts.
Here are a few ideas:
- Toss with a simple viniagrette
- Blend into green smoothies
- Stir fry the sturdier greens (ex: pea shoots)
- Mix into omelettes
- Incorporate into any dish that uses microgreens
- Blend into a pesto
- Pile onto a pizza
- Grain bowls
- Add to your sandwich