Oh, the joys of summer — the vegetable garden, the fruit trees and berry bushes. But we know quite well what William Shakespeare said in Sonnet 18: “And summer's lease hath all too short a date.”

With all that beauty and bounty in the rearview mirror, we now face months without that handy store of fresh food. But fear not! The idea and concept and principles of growing food indoors comes to the rescue.

“If you’ve never grown microgreens, now is the time,” according to the Home Garden Seed Association. “These little bursts of flavor pack a substantial nutritional punch, and you can grow them in the light of a south-facing window in as little as two weeks.” No south-facing window? Again, fear not! LED grow lights continue to get more affordable and more effective.

You know what that means? That means you can add some fresh, grown-at-home produce to a Thanksgiving feast.

Begin with fresh, high-quality seeds. To get the most nutrition out of the smallest space, don’t skimp on sowing, according to the association.

Five microgreens to try:

Broccoli can be sown thickly. Has mild cabbage flavor and is nutrient dense.

Cress are peppery and delicate and are super-fast to grow.

Pea shoots are sweet and crunchy, taste like young snow peas and are excellent in salads.

Radishes have a nice crunch, and in particular Dikons have an intense radish flavor.

Sunflowers make an excellent snack. Soak these seeds four hours before planting.

Start by filling a low container, like a tray, with two inches of pre-moistened, soilless mix. (A soilless mix is a potting medium that contains a mixture of substrates, but does not contain any soil. Soilless mixes are considered sterile because they do not contain the bacteria and fungi usually found in soil.) Sprinkle seeds evenly over the mixture; there is no need to cover seeds. Gently water to keep soilless mix consistently moist.

Some varieties go from seed to your table in a little more than one week. Seeds will sprout and when the little plants look and taste ready, snip just above the soil line with scissors.

Do not confuse microgreens with sprouts. They are not the same. Microgreens deliver delicate bursts of flavor and grow in a soilless mix, often in one to three weeks’ time. And they require light to germinate and grow. Sprouts are germinated in water, without direct light. Sprouts impart flavor, crunch and also nutrition to sandwiches and salads. Sprouting seeds requires humidity, a condition in which bacteria can thrive. Reduce the risk of illness by cooking sprouts or follow these precautions from the Home Garden Seeds Association with these tips for healthy sprouts.


Sanitize or sterilize sprouting containers by boiling for 10 minutes or soaking for at least five minutes in a solution of three tablespoons bleach per quart of water. Rinse well.

Begin by treating seeds to sprout with a three-percent mix of hydrogen peroxide or use two tablespoons of vinegar in one cup of water. Immerse seeds in small batches using a mesh strainer. Soak for five minutes.

Rinse one minute with tap water and place soaked and rinsed seeds in a water-filled container. Skim off floating debris. According to the seed association, these floaters are tied to most contamination issues.

Rinse sprouting seeds two to three times a day with clean water, completely draining after each rinse. When sprouts are ready, rinse one final time in a clean bowl and remove any floaters that may remain.

“Sprouts, microgreens and ‘baby’ vegetables are denser sources of nutrition than their mature counterparts,” said C.F. Weber in his 2017 article: “Broccoli Microgreens: A mineral-rich crop that can diversify food systems. Sprouts and microgreens may not replace those vine-ripened tomatoes, but they are sure to perk up salads, sandwiches, cooked and uncooked dishes in the coming months. It’s a new adventure in growing our own food —and it’s indoors."

Lynette L. Walther is the 2019 GardenComm Gold Award winner for writing, and is a four-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Award of Achievement and the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. Her gardens are in Camden.