Top Tips for Microgreens

Posted on April 30, 2019

By Suzannah Schneider, Communications Manager and Certification Coordinator

Certified Naturally Grown Microgreens"Microgreens" is a marketing term used to describe edible greens that germinate from the seeds of herbs and vegetables and are harvested without roots when they are seedlings. These flavorful cotyledons make a great addition to many meals and pack a real nutritional punch.

Microgreens are on the rise...literally!

Not only are these tiny vegetables trendy, but they also grow fast (they're often ready for harvest in about two weeks!), and can be sold at a premium. This makes them a great option for a wide variety of growing operations.

Just because these greens are little doesn't mean they go unchecked! Keep reading to make sure you're up to snuff on your Certified Naturally Grown standards for microgreens.

Microgreens versus Sprouts

Certified Naturally Grown Microgreens

While both sprouts and microgreens refer to crops that are harvested without roots at a very young age, they have a key distinction: sprouts are crops that germinate and grow without soil, while microgreens are grown in a soil medium.

If I grow sprouts, what do I need to know?

If you grow sprouts, we would require an annual water test. As with our Aquaponics Standards, the annual test should pay particular attention to levels of chloride, chloramine, and heavy metals. Additionally, seeds used for edible sprouts always must be certified organic or Certified Naturally Grown.

Soil Media

We define soil as, "Organic matter that is rich in plant-available nutrients that can sustain plant life with no additional inputs."

In the case of microgreens, the soil medium is often a potting mix or coconut coir.

Prohibited Substances in Growing Media

  • Ash from manure burning
  • Chemically-processed minerals, including quick lime and sugar lime
  • Compost with sewage sludge
  • Glossy paper or paper with colored ink
  • Rockwool
  • Synthetic compost starter
  • Synthetic fertilizers such as:
    • Ammoniacal nitrogen
    • Potassium Chloride
    • Synthetic nitrates
    • Synthetic phosphates
    • Urea and uric acid
  • Synthetic wetting agents

Learn more about our Allowed & Prohibited Substances for Produce here.

Organic Alternative Microgreens

Seeds

The same rules for our field vegetable seeds apply to microgreens seeds, for the most part. These rules are:

1. No GMOs. Never ever.

2. No chemically-treated seeds.

3. CNG members must use seeds that are Certified Naturally Grown or certified organic whenever they are commercially available. Seeds used for edible sprouts always must be certified organic or Certified Naturally Grown.

For microgreens, however, if you check with at least 3 major seed sources and still can't find the variety you need, you can use conventionally grown seed (as long as it's not GMO or chemically-treated, of course). Some microgreens varieties are so new to the market that only one major seed vendor sells them, and there is no available organic variety just yet. As microgreens gain traction, more organic seed varieties will become available and you would be required switch to an organic variety.

We've compiled a list of seed sources that offer CNG or Cert Organic microgreens seeds. Please note some of these sources also offer non-organically grown seed varieties, so be sure to double check before placing your order.

Don't see your favorite seed supplier on the list? Let us know and we can add them!

Harris Seeds Organic
Based in New York

Osborne Quality Seeds
Based in Washington

Fruition Seeds
Based in New York

High MowingAlternative Organic Wasabi
Based in Vermont

Hudson Valley Seed Company
Based in New York

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Based in Maine

Sand Hill Preservation Center
Based in Iowa

True Leaf Market
Based in Utah

While the below companies don't offer microgreens seeds specifically, you can certainly source from them as most seeds can be grown as microgreens.

Victory Seeds (CNG)
Logo_VictorySeedCo.jpgcrew_cropped.jpgFamily business devoted to preserving open-pollinated and heirloom varieties
Based in Oregon

Fedco Seeds
Based in Maine

Pests and Disease

Pests and disease may seem like less of an issue with microgreens than field vegetables. After all, you're growing in a closed environment such as a greenhouse! But, because of this closed and controlled system, problems are often "all or nothing": you have no disease or pest pressure until suddenly the issues arise all at once! As such, maintaining good hygiene and keeping a close watch on your microgreens in essential. A sterile medium, a clean source of water, and good air circulation will go a long way to ward off disease.

Though geared more toward our field vegetable producers, our CNG 101 training videos on Vegetable Pest Management and Vegetable Disease Management can be helpful tools in reviewing best practices for producing microgreens. Click here to sign up to receive these videos immediately in your inbox!