Sprout Growing Checklist:
Air: Don’t suffocate your beloved sprouts (ie. put them in a sealed container), as restricting air will cause them to mould and rot more easily.
Water: Prepare to attend to your sprouts every 12 hours, or more if it is hot. Regular watering is key, as deprivation in their first few days of life they will be a permanent setback. That said, you can give them too much love. Ensure adequate drainage to avoid drowning them. If they soak, they’ll choke!
Warmth: Sprouts need to be kept warm to germinate and grow. Optimum temperatures vary but 20 to 25 C is a good start. Don’t let them get too hot or they’ll wilt, lose vitality and die. Colder temperatures will slow growth and are good for storage. Freezing = death for sprouts!
Space: For best results, give your sprouts some room. Some sprouts can increase up to 30 times their size! Cramming them in a jar or overfilling a tray or bag will force them to compete for light and air, with inevitable casualties. Spread only a thin layer of seeds in trays, keep them mobile in bags and jars and remember they get bigger!
Light: Most sprouts can’t use light in the first few days of growth, and many never need it. However, any that produce leaves will eventually need light to ‘green up’. Avoid direct sunlight unless it’s cold, as it can overheat your crop. Most sprouts will be fine if they get indirect natural light, so there is no need to keep them dark.
Nutrients: Adding liquid plant nutrients to the soak water will give the sprouts an extra boost that you will later enjoy. It is not necessary, but will increase their health, longevity and nutritional value. You can also mist the sprouts with a dilute solution after rinsing. Use a few drops of liquid kelp in water, or another organic plant feed found at most greenhouses.
Containers to Grow Sprouts In
Jars: Traditionally used for sprouting, free and easy to find, however they are far from ideal. Use them for sprouts that don’t need light, as sprouts in the middle rarely get enough. Avoid overfilling them to counter bad drainage and poor air circulation and for the same reason don’t use a lid, cover the top in a piece of muslin instead and invert jar to drain. Removing seed hulls can be a problem.
Trays: The best way of growing light seeking sprouts. They have a large surface area to soak up more light, can be stacked easily to save space, and most importantly, allow the sprouts to grow naturally; upwards. This allows several croppings of the more and less vigorous plants so all can be harvested at their nutritional peak.
Cover the bottom of the tray with a thin layer of soaked seeds. Make sure it is at least 2 inches high and has drainage holes smaller than the seeds. Any sort of tray can be used, but if the roots have something to attach to the sprouts will do better and are easier to rinse, drain and clear hulls from. Use a bamboo basket or put mesh in the bottom of a tray, which can be sized for different seeds. Clean with a stiff brush, leave to dry, brush again and try not to be a perfectionist!
To give the sprouts the best conditions it is a good idea to put them in a mini green house which raises and regulates temperature and slows water loss. A clear plastic bag will do, although a custom built one allows for more efficient use of space. Remember to leave enough room inside for air.
Bags: Best for beans and grains which don’t need light. They allow air to the sprouts, are impossible to break, take up less space than jars and are easier to rinse and drain. Just dip and hang!
Make drawstring bags of any material that allows water and air to move freely but holds the sprouts, the best is hemp or linen as they still breathe when wet and don’t dry their contents too quickly. Put pre-soaked seeds into a moistened bag, dip in rinse water for a minute and hang to drain away from drafts. On each subsequent rinsing, move the sprouts around in the bag to stop them rooting into the fabric. Grains and beans expand by about 3 times from dry, so don’t overfill it.
What to Do
Soak organic seeds for 8 hours or overnight in lots of water, some larger seeds may need longer. Add a liquid feed to the water for extra nutrition.
Rinse sprouts well at least every 12 hours. Trays need careful spraying in the beginning as it washes away mould causing fungi, but try not to move sprouts around as they root. Once they’re fixed immerse them in water for at least half a minute. Swishing them about, (and especially inverting them,) helps to remove seed hulls.
Drain your sprouts well, standing water is a good way to encourage rot. Leave trays on an angle for a minute or so, or briefly put them on some tissue to wick the water away (don’t leave them on it or they may dry out.)
Harvest sprouts carefully by gently pulling ripe ones out from the rest. This allows less developed ones to continue growing so you get several harvests of perfect sprouts.
Store them in a plastic bag in a cool dark place, such as a fridge, and rinse them every 3 days or so. Most sprouts will keep at least a week like this and often longer.
Now you’re all set to get sprouting – be sure to let us know what you try and how it goes!
Written by Jessica Hess, RD