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Vijai Pandian column: Grow A Healthy Green Snack

6:04 PM, Mar. 8, 2013  |  Comments
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Nothing can excite a gardener more in winter than admiring the germination of plants from seeds.

Though it is a little early to start seeds for outdoor garden use, you can grow micro-greens in winter to quench your garden thirst and enjoy fresh sprouts in two weeks. The tender leaves and shoots of micro-greens are one of nature's super foods; the green tissues are rich in vitamins and minerals.

Fresh pea shoots contains vitamins A, C, E, K, B-6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, potassium, and fiber. Micro-greens are easy to grow, less expensive and offer an excellent rewarding winter activity for everyone.

A wide array of vegetable plants can be used for micro-greens. To get a unique taste and balanced nutrition, you can blend different micro-green vegetables in the seed starting tray.

Common fast-growing micro-greens are Chinese cabbage (Kogane), kale (Red Russian), kohlrabi (O.P. Purple), mustard (Golden Frill, Ruby Streaks), Pac Choi (Red Choi, Kinkoh), radish (Daikon, Hong Vit, purple radish), spinach, and lettuce. These vegetables can be harvested in about two to three weeks.

Slow growing greens like carrot, celery, chard (Ruby Red), amaranth (Garden Red), basil (Dark Opal), beets (Bull's Blood, Early Wonder), peas (Dwarf Grey Sugar), arugula, and fennel (Magnafena) can take three to four weeks for harvest.

Start your micro-green garden with a clean seed tray/flat or shallow plastic container with drainage holes. If you reuse old flats rinse, disinfect them with a water/bleach solution (90/10) and allow to air dry.

Fill the flats with a moist potting mix to about half an inch from the rim. If you're using shallow plastic containers, fill with the potting mix to about 1 to 2 inches.

Scatter the seeds evenly across the soil surface and cover them lightly with potting media or use your fingers to press the seeds lightly into the soil. Then carefully water the seeds with a gentle sprinkle from a spray bottle.

Place a clear plastic dome or plastic wrap over the flats to hold in moisture. Set the flats under regular fluorescent bulbs for 16 hours using a timer.

Take off the plastic dome/plastic wrap when seedlings begin to emerge. Mist seedlings at regularly with a spray bottle to keep the soil moist until harvest, but don't overwater.

To maximize nutrition, harvest the greens when they are 3- to 4-inches tall with 4 or more leaves. Lettuce and spinach can be re-sprouted for a second harvest. Greens like alfalfa, sunflower, and peas can be harvested at sprout stage when their first true leaves begin to unfold. Use a clean scissors to snip the greens at their base.

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