• Featured Garden Help Articles

  • Featured Recipes

  • Get Garden Help by the Month

  • Get Garden Help by Topic

  • more info

The Easiest Vegetable Garden Anyone Can Grow Anywhere, Anytime!

January 05, 2009

So, you’re interested in growing your own food? Maybe you have no experience. Maybe its the dead of winter. Maybe you live in a one-room apartment. Regardless of your situation, you can grow these edibles! Within as few as 3-7 days you’ll be enjoying your crops that with a little care won’t stop producing.¬† Hard to believe? Well, I won’t sell you a set of knives to go with this promise, but I do guarantee that with less than 3 minutes of attention daily, space smaller than a throw pillow, and very little cost, you’ll have fresh greens to keep you healthy year-round.

Day Seven: Top View of Sprouts Ready to Eat!

Day Seven: Top View of Sprouts Ready to Eat!

If you’re a locavore trying to find lettuce to put on sandwiches in the winter, you probably aren’t having any luck. After our latest freezes, local farmers don’t have many leafy greens to offer. Yesterday, I stopped at every veggie farm stand at the Ballard Farmer’s Market. I came home with root veggies galore — parsnips, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, golden beets, red beets, carrots and onions. I scored some cabbage too, but no kale. And certainly no lettuce for sandwiches! Thankfully, I can replace my sandwich lettuce with fresh sprouts from my kitchen window garden.

Fresh sprouts are a fantastic way to maintain a healthy diet. Sprouts are the youth stage of plant growth. Much of their energy is derived from stored nutrients bursting forth from the seed; some comes from the photosynthesis process that begins as the young sprout unfurls green leaves. They are rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and even protein. And it requires pennies to grow them. All you need is sprout-ready seed and water. Sunlight isn’t even required and can sometimes ruin the taste of your sprouts.

To start, be sure to avoid trying to eat just any old sprouted seed. Some seeds like tomato and eggplant seed can be toxic. Some seed has been treated with chemicals that don’t make for good, fresh sprouts. Look for seed that is certified for sprouts. Many bulk grocery stores, for instance, offer mung beans for sprouting. Many nurseries offer broccoli, spicy blends, and salad blends to sprout. Just be sure you know you’re sprouting something that’s safe to eat before you start. You’ll find sprout seeds on sale now in the Garden Help Garden Store Edible Gardening section.

Next, you’ll need a sprouting tray or jar lid for your project. When I was growing up, we used a mason jar with a screw on “sprouter” lid. These are inexpensive and fairly easy to use. Often they come with an adjustable lid so you can change the hole size depending on the size of your seed. Today, I’m using a two-tier system that allows me to grow different sprouts, starting batches on different days. The amount this produces is smaller, but I can usually bring in a fresh batch every couple of days. You’ll find sprouter lids, sprouter lid kits and tier kits on sale now in the Garden Help Garden Store Edible Gardening section now.

Since I use a two-tier system, I start one tier on day one and tier two on day two or three. This staggers my harvest. Depending on the size and type of seed you are sprouting, your harvest times may vary. In my window garden, broccoli seed sprouts are ready within about 3-7 days. Mung beans I prefer to sprout in a dark spot as I find they become somewhat bitter if they meet with sunlight. These are also usually ready within about 3-5 days. If you have a rotation crop going, I find that the second crop comes on faster than the first. This may have to do with growth hormones that the sprouting seeds emit, but I’m not certain. (Anyone out there know?)

**It is important to never eat anything that may have turned. If you have any question about whether your sprouts have gone bad, toss them out! If the roots or leaves are browning, toss them. Just don’t risk it!**

Now that you have a sprouting system and some seeds, your next step is to sprinkle a layer of seed in your jar or on your tray(s). Moisten with a gentle stream of water and let the water drain out. Repeat moistening 2x/daily until the seeds have opened, roots have begun to form and small dicot leaves appear.

Following is a photo journal of a recent 7 day sprout garden from seeding to harvest!

Day One: Dry Broccoli Seed Added to First Tray

Day One: Dry Broccoli Seed Added to First Tray

Day Two: As First Tray Germinates, I Add Seed to the Second Tray

Day Two: As First Tray Germinates, I Add Seed to the Second Tray

Day Three: Germination Continues

Day Three: Germination Continues

Day Four: Germination Continues. Sproutlings Starting to Show

Day Four: Germination Continues. Sproutlings Starting to Show

Day Five: Sprouts Beginning to Look Tasty!

Day Five: Sprouts Beginning to Look Tasty!

Day Six: A Handful of Sprouts That I Could Eat, but...

Day Six: A Handful of Sprouts That I Could Eat, but...

Day Seven: The Bottom Tray is Ready; The Top is Nearly There Too!

Day Seven: The Bottom Tray is Ready; The Top is Nearly There Too!

Local St. Jude's Tuna with local Parker's Pickles & Broccoli Sprouts on locally-made sprouted grain toast.

Local St. Jude's Tuna with local Parker's Pickles & Broccoli Sprouts on locally-made sprouted grain toast.

There are lots of ways to enjoy fresh sprouts. Pop them in your mouth as is, toss them in a salad, add them to a stir fry, stir them in a soup or add them to a sandwich for a bit of green crunch. It’s not hard to start sprouts and they take such little effort and provide so much reward! If you have questions about sprouts, please get in touch. If you have recipes that include sprouts or if you would like to share your favorite sprouts, please get in touch! After writing this, I think I may just need to go make another St. Jude’s tuna sandwich with my next batch of fresh broccoli sprouts!

For additional reading:

8 Comments

  1. Ohh I do love sprouts and their health benefits, and how easy they are to grow…yes they are one spectacular veggie to grow. Thanks for the reminder, I’m going to go and find my sprouter right now!!! Kim

  2. Karen says:

    Hm, a good project to do with kids, I think! I stopped eating them because of contamination concerns (PCC stopped carrying them in the veggie aisle, you have to ask for them to go get them from the back now). So, it’s safe as long as you just make sure they’re not rotting? Looks fun!

  3. rhaglund says:

    Karen,

    The contamination topic is a good one. I added a few additional links to this post to give readers more information about contamination. From what I’ve read, and I haven’t read everything, the e. coli and salmonella outbreaks related to sprouts have been connected to poor hygiene practices and potentially to contaminated seed. And, I have yet to read that someone has gotten sick from sprouts they’ve grown themselves, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this has happened.

    Using sprout-certified seed and eating sprouts that are fresh is critical. If in doubt, throw it out!

    If other readers have more definitive information about health related risks tied to fresh sprouts, please share them. This is a place for education and discussion. Thanks!

  4. Karen says:

    Thanks for the links! I dunno, seems a bit risky, but I guess any raw food can be contaminated. I’ve eaten many a sprout in my day and never gotten sick, but I’m not sure I’d take the risk with my kid. Hm, food for thought!

  5. lulu says:

    This was good. Thanks for sharing. I love your seed trays…perfect job of discribing the process.

  6. […] The Easiest Vegetable Garden Anyone Can Grow Anywhere, Anytime! – … I think I may just need to go make another St. Jude’s tuna sandwich with my next batch of fresh broccoli sprouts! For additional reading:. Sprouts for Your Health; Risks Associated with Sprouts; Growing Sprouts for Your Health. […]

  7. carolyn says:

    I made sprouts w/ my 3 y.o. all of last winter. He loved helping rinse the seeds a couple of times a day, and measuring the length of the tails (he was/is into numbers and rulers). I’d say health-wise as long as you are rinsing frequently and have good air circulation (the sprouting trays give some peace of mind vs. jars), it’s lower risk than buying much of anything in the store!

    I also tried growing microgreens (arugula, etc.) a couple of times, and had less success w/ that — having a substrate made them get fuzzy. This year, I may supplement w/ some larger greens under a grow-light.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by yardhalf, gardenmentor. gardenmentor said: Now that the lettuce is slowing in the garden & summer CSA is done, it's time to start up a window sill sprout garden: http://bit.ly/3sp0wZ […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>