Microgreens can be grown on a surprisingly small budget if you play your cards right. These young leafy greens that have taken upscale dining and restaurants by storm can be grown in your own home or apartment, and for surprisingly cheap.
There are certain things you’ll want to spend your money on before others, and some things you can avoid altogether.
To grow microgreens on a budget:
Spend your money on high quality seeds and soil first. Improvise the rest with what you already have, and look for second hand deals on online marketplaces. Use sunlight, or put a new bulb in a light you already have instead of buying expensive grow lights.
The rest of microgreen supplies and equipment are really optional. With the tips and tricks below, you can grow microgreens for extremely cheap.
What to Spend Money On
If you want to get the most microgreens for your money, start with good seeds, and if you can afford it, good soil.
It’s 100% worth buying the right seeds to start, and you can improvise almost everything else.
Without high quality seeds, you’ll have a much more challenging time growing big crops of delicious and safe microgreens.
Sterilize Garden Soil
It’s not pretty, but if your budget is really tight, you can sterilize outdoor soil in the oven for use in microgreens, but you need to get a few things right!
Don’t re-use soil without composting it first. You need to fully compost soil otherwise you’ll end up with mold and other pathogen problems. It’s not worth risking it.
Choose the best soil you have access to outdoors, if you have rich garden soil, or otherwise black, well-draining soil, pick that.
To sterilize the soil you’ll put it in the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- Place the soil into a pot, deep baking dish, or some other oven-safe container, and cover with tinfoil or a lid.
- Bake until the internal temperature reaches 180 F (82 C) and stays at least that hot for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have an oven thermometer, you can also spread the soil out on a baking tray in a thin layer to heat it up more quickly.
- But watch out for getting the soil too hot, it will burn and smolder! (I’m speaking from experience!)
What to Buy Later or Never
You can grow your own microgreens for years without buying anything other than high quality seeds and soil. Everything else will make your life a little easier in various ways, but it’s all optional.
Some of it will help you cut down on the time you’re spending, and some of it will just help you be a little more precise, or get a little bit more yield.
Shelving can be a great way to fit more microgreens in a tight space, but you can always use what you have, or grow on a table or desk that’s near a window.
Advanced harvesting equipment can speed things up a lot if you’re growing a lot of trays, but it’s not even close to worth it if you’re just growing for yourself, your family, or a few friends.
Growing trays are probably the third piece of equipment you should invest in after soil and seeds. A solid 10” x 20” growing tray, with a perforated tray on top is the easiest and tidiest way to grow microgreens. But! You can definitely get away with growing in almost any shallow container that you have on hand.
Look to Second Hand
If you decide you want to upgrade some of your growing supplies and equipment on a budget, a great option is to look to second hand markets.
Craigslist is an online marketplace, with a huge presence across the world, and a lot of really good deals on used items. Keep an eye out for what you’re looking for, and check back once in a while and you can pick up some really good deals.
Another good place to look is your local Facebook marketplace. People sell used items on Facebook every day.
Convert Desk Lamps with a New Bulb
If you want to avoid buying specialized grow lights, you can convert a light you already have!
An easy way to light a small microgreen grow is to put a desk-lamp over it, with a compact fluorescent, or LED bulb. It’s not quite as full-spectrum as a specialized light, but it will work great for microgreens!
Microgreens don’t need a lot of light, just enough to turn green. Actually the more light microgreens get, the more they produce chlorophyll, which has a bitter taste.
You can replace old fluorescent bulbs in T12, T8, or T5 fixtures with LED swap-ins. They fit right into the normal fluorescent sockets, and you can pick them up at a lot of hardware stores. They’re way more electrically efficient, and LEDs can last for decades!
Growing in Containers you Already Have
A big misconception with microgreens is that you need to buy a kit or specialized grow trays. Trays are nice to have, but you definitely don’t need them.
You can grow in whatever you have on hand:
- Baking trays
- Pyrex dishes
- Bowls, dishes
- Get creative!
Use a Timer for your Lights
If you’re using artificial lights, you should consider a timer. A timer can cut your electricity costs in half by turning your lights off for 12 hours a day.
I calculated that it costs around 6 cents per day for a 10” x20” flat for electricity, that works out to over $21 per year. So if you can cut that in half, you’re saving $10 per year.
That means a timer like the following one from Amazon will pay for itself in just over a year!
Use a Window instead of Artificial Lights
Microgreens don’t need as much light as a lot of people think. Put them near a window and they’ll happily grow.
In northern climates, be careful that in the winter cold window air doesn’t freeze your microgreens, especially if you crack your windows open for a bit of fresh air.
In hotter climates, watch out for AC units, or bright direct sunlight. Young microgreen seedlings are tender and don’t hold a lot of water, so they can dry out and wilt easily.
Use a cheap light, you don’t need to spend a lot
Full spectrum specialized lights can cost an arm and a leg! If you don’t shop carefully, you can end up spending a princely sum.
There are a huge variety of lighting options out there. I think an important principle is to only buy what you’ll need in the near future.
Technology is always evolving, so a good deal or a sale on a bigger light, or a set of lights today, can be old-news in a few years.
T5 LEDs with integrated power supplies are by far the best deal. If I had to recommend one light online, it would be this one on Amazon.
Avoid Fertilizers and Additives
You can spend a fortune on special organic fertilizers and additives. They claim the micronutrients and trace elements fortify your microgreens and give you incredible health benefits.
There might be some truth to those claims, but keep in mind that microgreens grow so quickly that they get most of their nutrients and energy from the seed. Some people even grow microgreens hydroponically, without any nutrients at all, and they do just fine.
Fertilizers do give an increase in yield and I think they taste better when using hydroponic grow mats, but if you’re growing in soil they’re un-needed.
Use a high quality organic soil, or the best you can afford, and your microgreens will have everything they need and more.
If you want to get the most for your money, read my recommended supplies and equipment page. I’ve looked at a lot of different options and picked out the options that have worked best for me. I’ll also update it as I try new things that come on to the market, or find even better options.
If you’ve been having trouble with any aspect of your grow, read my troubleshooting guide. It’s almost 6500 words long! So your problem should almost definitely be covered.
Thanks for reading!
I’m Alex Lafreniere. I learned a lot about plants when I built and operated a landscaping company. I learned even more when I started growing and selling Microgreens. But, learning is a journey, not a goal. Ever since travelling across the world, I’ve wanted to find ways to bring more delicious and exotic plants into my life. This is the site where I share everything I’ve learned with you. And maybe we’ll learn a thing or two together.
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