Eat Gardening

Sprouting Hard

This year we are going hard on sprouting.  I modified the methods used in Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening by Peter Burke for soil sprouted micro greens slightly to allow for better garden planting.  Basically, Peter Burke is concerned with microgreen salads, but they are too much work. I’m not really even that into salads. Give me the vegetables!! So I thought, “how can I turn micro greens into garden plants?” It’s hard to harden plants in non draining trays (too wet or too dry leads to quick sprout death). To harden you need water and direct sunlight, so I came up with a method where you can sprout in draining trays that can become self-watering. I recommend getting:

1) 3.5 inch square injection pots from with the Square Pot Carrying Trays – holds (18) 3.5″ Square pots.

2) Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic Compost and Manure, 40-Pound from

3) Heavy duty spray bottle for watering. Second bottle if you use optional liquid seaweed.

4) Old newspaper or weekly paper ads

5) Seeds.  I prefer American seeds.  I like and

6) Disposable aluminum baking trays.

*) Optional, Peter Burke suggests liquid seaweed, I got Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed off and it works great. However, sometimes it encourages mold and is more harmful than helpful.

**) Seedling heat mat.


1) Soak seeds twenty-four (24) hours (I do blends, my garden blends all have herbs mixed in that keep pests out, helping me go organic).

2) Prepare 3.5 inch pots by adding dry compost soil 80% to 90% full.

3) Drain seeds (I usually just place my finger on edge of cup so only tiny crack allows water out, then I drain almost all of water).

4) Sprinkle seeds evenly on top on soil in pots.

5) Use one pot to gently press the top of soil in pots down, forcing the seeds into soil (helps root growth).

6) Spray liquid seaweed One (1) squirt if you are using it, then spray water until top layer of soil saturated (five (5) to ten (10) squirts).

7) Cut newspaper material into squares just larger than 3.5 inches squared (top of 3.5 inch pots (approximately 4 inches). Wet with water, and gently push down on paper until it touches the soil.

8) Place seeded news papered 3.5 inch pots in warm dark place for four (4) to five (5) days. Water newspaper with spray water bottle (two (2) squirts) the second day and every day after, on the last day remove paper.

9) Fill baking trays with water, place pots in trays. This makes the pots self watering.

10) After true leaves form (second set of leaves), four (4) to eight (8) days, begin hardening by placing plant outside. If it’s the spring they can go all day if self watering. In summer, graduate exposure be starting with two (2) low intensity sunlight hours and increasing two (2) hours a day until full exposure.

11) Once the plants have had three (3) to six (6) days of full day sun exposure in self watering containers, transfer pots to eighteen (18) 3.5 inch container trays.

12) Water daily for one (1) to four (4) weeks before you plant. When you plant, water.

Alternative method, you can stack the trays on top of each other instead of newspaper on top of self draining pots. These trays are not self draining, so its difficult to harden delicate seeds. This does work good sprouting peas in January because they are frost tolerant and don’t need to be hardened to be thrown outside in January. Also, for bigger seeds like beans and corn. This method is also more inexpensive than the 3.5 inch pots. Also, because of stacking, it’s possible to do large volume sprouting in a limited space.

Sprouting self watering (left) and stack (right) methods.
First Day out of the closet.
Sprouting Method One
Day five in the closet.
Sprouting Stack Method
Staking method in closet.
Second day out of closet.
Second day out of closet.
Early March radishes (left) and peas (right).

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