Within SUNY Cobleskill’s community of forward thinkers, Heather Anthony is always thinking ahead. While winter can be unpredictable and seem unending, from the controlled environment of SUNY Cobleskill’s greenhouses Anthony has perfected the practice of preparing seedlings for springtime growth.
Microgreens are plants indoor growers can raise, harvest, and eat in a month or less. These plants give the grower the ability to determine exactly when the plants will be ready for harvest, says Anthony, who recommends incremental planting. It starts with the soil.
“When we plant microgreens, we fill the [soil] almost to the top of the tray,” says Anthony, using a square planter. “Leave about one-quarter of an inch of head space.”
Evenly distributing seedlings across the width of the planting surface is an inexact science. Anthony rolls the seeds evenly through her fingers as she drops them into the soil.
“It is important to start watering off the tray, instead of right on the tray,” says Anthony, so as to sprinkle the seedlings rather than douse them, and avoid creating a divot. Anthony waters the seedlings twice before letting them germinate.
Heartier greens, like Kale, are also excellent candidates to grow in controlled environments in late-winter. Kale seeds are small, so proper planting technique is critical for these seedlings. Using a pencil or small dibble, make a channel and plant the seedlings one and a half to two times the width of the diameter of the seed deep.
“Close enough is good enough,” says Anthony, when planting kale. “With small seeds it is difficult. One or two seeds per [channel] is plenty.”