How To Grow Broccoli Microgreens Without Soil

Grow soilless broccoli microgreens in the comforts of your kitchen in only a few days!

Want to grow your microgreens without the mess of using soil? Or maybe you’re just looking for a new, inexpensive method to explore growing your nutritious microgreens.

Well… using a paper towel may just be an option for you.

Using a paper towel to grow microgreens is not such a new concept, it has gained a lot more popularity in recent times. 

Using this method, the paper towel acts as a base allowing the seeds to take root and grow as they would in soil.

So if you’re interested in having some fun with your microgreens, this article will explain what to expect using the paper towel method, and what you can do to get started with growing your own.

Materials needed:

Microgreen seeds (broccoli, or your favorite variety)

Paper towels

5x5 Inch seed trays with holes

10x10 Inch drip tray


1. Seed preparation

To get started you need to choose the seeds of the vegetables or herbs you wish to plant. Many companies will have special microgreen seed mixes that you can opt for if you’re a beginner, that will give you a nice variety of veggie microgreens.  


In this article the focus will be on broccoli which have pretty small seeds. Measure two teaspoons and place them in a small glass dish. Cover the seeds with water and soak them overnight before planting, as this helps the seeds to sprout faster. This step is optional.


2. Planting the seeds

Once your seeds are ready, you will want to grab your 5x5 inch trays and line each with a paper towel which will act as a substrate (base) for the seeds, instead of soil. Fold the paper towel in quarters, which is basically folding it in half and then half again, and this should fit perfectly into your 5x5 trays.

If you have an issue with bleached paper towels, then you can always choose to use unbleached paper towels or coconut coir as an alternative.


Place your 5x5 inch trays with your folded paper towels in your 10x10 inch drip tray, and pour your pre-soaked seeds along with the water onto the paper towels. You can fit four 5x5 trays (with holes for the water to drain) into the 10x10 tray (without holes to act as a catch tray.) The seeds will most likely be clumped together in some areas, so use a spoon to evenly spread the seeds.


After pouring your seeds, add a few spritzes of water and cover them with a sheet of paper towel. You also want to place your other drip tray on top to block out the light, they should be kept in the dark until the fourth day.


3. Day one after planting

The day after you’ve planted your seeds, you should see some germination happening. Some seeds however, may take a bit longer to germinate.  The picture above shows beet seeds, they take much longer to germinate than broccoli seeds.

You will want to check the moisture level of your seeds to see if they need additional water. If they feel wet, you can cover the tray and continue onto day 3. If your seeds feel dry you can add a bit more water and then cover them again.

On day three you can repeat the process by checking to see if germination is still taking place, and ensuring that there is enough moisture.


4. Day four after planting

On day 4, you should see some sprouting happening with your broccoli. Some seeds will take a bit longer and at this stage may only have a few tails breaking through the seeds, but no sprouts.  Broccoli seeds should have sprouted by this time.


5. Day five after planting

On day 5 you can expect to see some even more sprouting, you may also see a bit of white fuzz attached to them, not to worry though as this is usually not mold, but tiny roots.

At this point you can go ahead and harvest your broccoli as sprouts, if you choose to. Many people enjoy their veggies at this stage where they can add them to a smoothie or to top a dish, but our goal here is to get them to the microgreen stage, so we will need to let them grow a bit longer. 

As in the previous stages, cover them up and give them some more time to grow. The process of covering them up allows the sprouts to grow taller as they seek out light.


6. Day six after planting

On day 6 your broccoli sprouts will be looking really great but will not be at the microgreen stage just yet. You can keep them uncovered once they start to show leaves, usually on day five or six.


7. Day seven after planting

So you’ve made it to day 7, by now your broccoli should be getting nice and tall. At this time you want to leave your broccoli uncovered so that the leaves can get some light, and undergo photosynthesis to get green.  For better results you can water your plants with an hydroponic nutrient solution.  Plain water works fine, but your microgreens will grow faster and larger if you feed them nutrients.


8. Day eight after planting

You’ve made it all the way to day 8, your broccoli after one day of full exposure should be nice, green, and ready to harvest.  Or leave it to grow for another couple of days for even more yield.

Because we used the paper towel method to grow broccoli microgreens, it is very easy to pick the microgreens out of the tray with the roots intact, which are also edible.

If they were grown in soil, you would have to cut the microgreens at soil level, leaving the roots in the soil. With this technique you have the option to eat the entire plant, root, stems, leaves and all.

In closing, if you don’t like the mess of soil, growing your microgreens on paper towels is much cleaner and you get to enjoy all of the plant. You can clean the hulls of the microgreens by swishing it around in a bowl of water, the hulls will float up.  But you can eat the hulls as well, your choice... you’re now ready to create a delicious meal or smoothie in no time, and enjoy!

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