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A comprehensive guide to understanding your growing medium options 

You may surprised to learn there is a wide variety of growing medium options at your disposal when it comes to successfully growing microgreens. I grew up on a family farm, so the growing medium I was most familiar with was good old-fashioned Wisconsin dirt! It turns out this is just one option when it comes to growing microgreens in your home. 

One of the most important aspects of growing nutrient-packed, delicious microgreens is selecting the right growing medium. Since there is no perfect option, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of some of the more popular growing mediums among home gardening enthusiasts. 

1 - Coco Coir 

This natural fiber is extracted from the husk of coconuts and has gain considerable popularity as a growing medium for microgreens. It typically is packaged in puck form, requiring you to break them apart when preparing your growing trays. (The most common pronunciation is “coco core.”) 

Pros:

Excellent water retention – Ensures consistent moisture levels without becoming waterlogged.

Good aeration – Promotes healthy root growth.

Eco-friendly – Utilizes a renewable resource.

Pest-resistant – Naturally repels pests and diseases. 

Con:

pH adjustment- Sometimes necessary for optimal growing of specific microgreens. 

Tips for success:

Balanced watering – Avoid overwatering as coco coir retains moisture efficiently.

Nutrient supplement – Use a balanced hydroponic nutrient solution to feed your microgreens.

Monitor pH levels – Since municipal water systems and private wells all have different water chemistry, you may need to adjust the pH of your water as needed. 

 

2 - Soil 

Traditional soil-based mediums may be old-school, but they remain a common choice for microgreen gardeners. 

Pros:

Nutrient-rich – Filled with essential nutrients.

Supports microbial life – Microbes enhance the growth and disease resistance of microgreens. 

Cons:

Messy – Dirt is … well, dirty. And it may compact over time, stifling root growth.

Disease risk – Potentially harbors pests and pathogens. 

Tips for Success:

Sterilize soil – Use sterilized potting soil to minimize the risk of disease.

Avoid overwatering – Ensure your growing trays have proper drainage to prevent root rot.

Fertilize regularly – Soil does not have an unending supply of nutrients. You may need to supplement with organic fertilizers when necessary. 

 

3 - Hemp Mats 

Made from natural hemp fibers, hemp mats provide a sustainable option for growing microgreens. 

Pros:

Clean and easy to use – Minimizes the risk of soil-borne diseases.

Superb water retention – Keeps microgreens well-hydrated.

Eco-friendly – Biodegradable and compostable. 

Cons:

Higher cost – Can be more expensive than other growing mediums

Limited nutrients – Similar to coco coir, they need supplemental feeding for optimal performance. 

Tips for success:

Even watering – Avoid pooling water to prevent mold growth.

Nutrient solution – Use a mild hydroponic nutrient solution.

Proper storage – Store unused mats in a cool, dry place to prevent degradation. 

4 - Other Hydroponic Grow Mats or Confetti 

There are other hydroponic mats used by microgreens growers beyond hemp including coconut, wood fibers and synthetic materials. 

Pros:

Sterile environment – Reduces the risk of pests and disease.

Convenient – Easy to set up and maintain.

Uniform growth – Provides more consistent results. 

Cons:

Cost – Typically more expensive than traditional soil.

Lack of nutrients – Requires a nutrient-rich water solution for best results. 

Tips for success:

Regular monitoring – Keep an eye on moisture levels and potential mold growth.

Balanced nutrition – Ensure your nutrient solution has the right mix for microgreens.

Proper disposal – Dispose of any biodegradable mats responsibly.

 

5 - Wood Fiber Mats 

This relatively new entry into the microgreens community features mats made from processed wood fibers. 

Pros:

Eco-friendly – Biodegradable and compostable.

Even moisture distribution – Promotes consistent growth throughout the tray.

Natural look and feel – Appeals to those growers seeking an organic growing method.

Resists disease – Wood fiber mats have a low risk of harboring soil-borne diseases. 

Cons:

Quicker decomposition – Not suitable for plants with longer growing cycles.

Cost – May be pricier than other options. 

Tips for success:

Avoid overwatering – Prevents premature decomposition.

Nutrient solution – Since wood fiber mats lack nutrients, it is essential to use a hydroponic solution.

Mold watch – Good air circulation can help prevent mold growth.

 

6 - Jute Mats 

This type of mat comes from the jute plant and is another sustainable option for microgreen cultivation. 

Pros:

Eco-friendly – Jute is a renewable resource and the mats are fully biodegradable.

Good water retention and aeration – Jute mats strike a balance between retaining enough moisture and allowing sufficient air flow to promote strong root development.

Pest-resistant – Naturally reduces the likelihood of pest infestations. 

Cons:

Durability – Jute mats break down more quickly than some other mats, especially with damp conditions or prolonged use.

Low nutrient supply – Like other hydroponic growing mediums, jute mats require additional nutrient solutions for optimal plant growth. 

Tips for success:

Regular watering – Keep jute mats moist, but not saturated to avoid mold growth.

Use nutrient-rich water – A balanced hydroponic nutrient solution will ensure your microgreens receive the necessary nutrients.

Proper storage – Store your unused jute mats in a cool, dry place to extend their shelf life.

 

Conclusion 

Each type of growing medium has its own set of advantages and disadvantages for growing microgreens, meaning there is no single slam-dunk best choice. Your decision will come down to several factors including cost, sustainability preferences, and even the requirements of specific microgreens varieties you wish to grow. 

Successful microgreen cultivation is not just about choosing the right growing medium; it is also about understanding how to optimize that medium for the health and productivity of your plants. With the right care and attention to detail, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of these nutritious and flavorful wonders of nature. 

To your health and happiness!

Bonnie Groessl