The more densely you plant the seed the less air circulates around the individual plants. This can cause some fungal growth - we call it fuzzies. This is not a problem, except that it is unattractive. Some crops will have mold or rot issues. That is a problem. If you get brown pockets at the soil level, where the plants just die, you are probably in need of more air circulation, so plant fewer seeds next time. If you do encounter rot spots like that, scoop them out - if you're growing on a fluffy medium, and try to nurse your crop to completion. In summer we grow our Greens outside (from the point when we uncover the tray) for optimal air circulation.
We have grown Greens - on soil - in Trays, for almost 2 decades. But, we now have options. We have multiple Soilless Mediums (including Baby Blanket and Vermiculite), and organic liquid Kelp Fertilizer to provide your plants some nutrients to draw upon as they grow. Baby Blanket is a thin organic material that you soak before planting upon. It holds moisture and is the least messy and compact medium we know of. Vermiculite is a mineral which holds moisture supremely, dispenses added nutrients over time and in general acts much like soil. We think you should try all of them if you can - there are differences and though they are minimal you may prefer one method over the other.
Instructions are pretty much the same, regardless of what medium you use, but we have specified differences where they exist. We may be offering other, or different Mediums (products are always coming and going) then when we wrote these instructions, or you might be using one you got somewhere else. Please follow our instructions that refer to Baby Blanket for other thin mediums (i.e. STG Pads). Consider Perlite, Potting Soil or other such fluffy mediums to be the same as Vermiculite, and so follow directions labeled for Vermiculite. There may be some small differences, but they're likely to be minor.
Virtually any soil will do for Greens. We used sterile composted cow manure for the tens of thousands of Trays we grew during our days as professional growers, but any sterile bagged soil will do, and should be available at any garden center, and be inexpensive (depending on the general cost of living where you are of course). You can use expensive soil if you prefer - we might even be selling some - it is your choice - always. The deal is this - Greens (garden greens anyway) are aided by the presence of the nutrient Nitrogen, in the soil. Nitrogen is the nutrient responsible for plant growth (a very good thing when growing lettuce, spinach, collards or other leafy crops, but too much nitrogen is bad if growing peppers or tomatoes or any plant where the fruit is what we eat). Manures contain varrying amounts of nitrogen depending on the animal that originally produced it. Too much nitrogen will burn plants - almost literally burn them - hence the word HOT is used in reference to nitrogen. The higher the nitrogen content the HOTTER the manure (or fertilizer) is considered. Cow manure is the least hot - it was perfect for our needs - it supplies the growing plants with a little extra boost. Chicken, other bird manures and Bat Guano (another word for manure) are much hotter, and Earthworm castings are hotter still (castings is yet another word for manure). The catch is this: Greens, Grass and Sprouts are theoretically all too young to benefit from nitrogen and other nutrients. It is written that every seed has, within itself, all the nutrients it needs to grow to the cotyledon stage. That's as far as we grow any of our seeds (with the sometimes exception of Micro-Greens). So - though it is contradictory, it is our experience that nitrogen does help Greens in some cases (most obviously when growing Sunflower Greens). Like we always say - EXPERIMENT FOR YOURSELF. Draw your own conclusions. If you are familiar with our rap on Dogma, you'll agree with us when we say; Just because it is written does not mean that it's so. Whatever the reality - a little nitrogen can't hurt. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could get our teenagers to use the words Guano or Castings instead of %&$# when they get ticked off?;-D
We do not grow hydroponic Greens. We have tried but have never gotten the yields we get with soil, and the flavor of the crops is nowhere near as fine. They taste watered down. Now that we have a soilless alternatives (Baby Blanket, Vermiculite, etc.) we are even less interested in hydroponic Greens growing. But, if you want to try - go to Val at Go Green/Green Smoothie - she is the queen of home hydroponics. Tell her us Sproutpeople sent you!
Your Planting Tray (the one with the soil or medium in it) MUST have drainage holes or slits! Nothing will grow in a medium that can not drain - that condition is commonly called "flooded". When using Baby Blanket or Vermiculite your Planting Tray must also have drainage, but we do use the Drip Tray to hold some water at times in the growing process. (You'll see the TIP in our instructions, above.)
As I've said time and time again on the site, we hate dogma, so take my dogma with a grain of salt. You can grow in trays without drainage (the amazing people at the Hippocrates Health Institute have long done so), but you do have to be able to drain excess water away. Tipping is a possibility, but we think it risky - especially for the novice grower, hence my dogma.
Re-Growing Your Crop
Greens can produce a 2nd - so you may continue to water after you cut your first crop. The 2nd and crop will not be as tender, and it may have fungal problems, but it is good to try growing a 2nd crop. Decide for yourself if it is worth it! Vermiculite is the best medium, as far as water retention is concerned - which is a very big deal if you want to go for multiple cuttings, but soil enriched with Earthworm Castings is perhaps a better choice as it gives the Greens nutrients to draw upon. Soil enriched with Earthworm Castings and with about 10-20% Vermiculite might be perfect. Funny that never occurred to me before.... Whatever you use, it's worth a try if only for the experience and the knowledge gained.
Some years ago a person wrote an article stating that consuming huge quantities of buckwheat greens juice, as he had done, could cause skin sensitivity to the sun. After reading his article we agree that consuming such large amounts is not recommended. We have always promoted moderation in food consumption and that applies here. Buckwheat in small quantities can promote health. Although some people may be sensitive to even small quantities of buckwheat lettuce, for most people it is a healthy addition to their diet. It contains rutin, a bioflavinoid not found in beans or grains, that can help strengthen blood vessels. The author of the article makes this statement near the end: "I would like to make the disclaimer that I am not advising people to stop eating buckwheat. The Latin expression dosis sola facet venenum (the dose makes the poison) attributed to the ancient Romans could be applied here. A small quantity of buckwheat greens (or buckwheat lettuce as it is often called) in an individual diet could allow for healthy nutritional benefits without the negative effects of large amounts......" Fear spreads. Please be careful not to take just anyone's claims at face value. Use your common sense. Avoid Dogma. Read the article - thoroughly - and make your own decision.
Dry Groats await their Soak.
12 hours later.... Harvest your crop before it gets too sprouted.
Cultivar: Manor or Mancan