Beet microgreens are often labeled as moderately difficult to difficult to grow. But their earthy flavor is well worth the trouble of growing them.
However, we haven't found them hard to germinate or grow. Instead, we find preparing them to eat as the more difficult task due to the many seed hulls that remain on the leaves.
But that's another post.
In this article, we investigate the premise that soaking beet microgreen seeds before planting improves germination and decreases the time to harvest them.
Beet Microgreens - Bull's Blood Beets
If you do a Google search for soaking microgreen seed, growing beet microgreens, or a similar keyword search you find that all the top sites in search suggest soaking beet microgreen seeds between 6 and 24-hours before planting.
It seems to make sense, right, soak the seeds and give germination a head start.
But does it?
To set the stage for this article, it's fitting to use a quote from a man that wasn't afraid to go against the dogma of contemporary beliefs, Thomas Henry Huxley.
“If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?”
~Thomas Henry Huxley
The Soaking Test Set-up
Yep, if you've read a majority of our articles, you'll see that most of them involve a test.
Here are the steps and photo documentation of what we did to test the hypothesis that soaking seed for several hours will improve the germination rate, speed growth, and increase harvest yield.
Soaking Beet Microgreen Seed
We soaked 5.2-grams of Bull's Blood Microgreen Beet seeds in a small open glass vessel (if you know the name of the container used, can you let us know in the comment section please) in non-chlorinated, room temperature water as shown below.
The first image is immediately after the seeds are added to the water; the second is 23-hours later, right before being sown on the planting tray.
Sowing the Beet Seeds
The day after immersion, pour off the water, and rinse the soaked seeds with fresh water.
On one tray, sow the pre-soaked beet seeds, and on the other tray spread an equal mass of dry beet microgreen seeds. Use the spray bottle to wet the surface and settle the seeds into the soil mix.
Place covers on the trays that rest on seed and soil. Stack the trays and place a weight on top of the cover along with something that will keep the trays dark.
In our case, we used a tightly weaved tea towel.
Leave the trays covered for 3- or 4-days. We check the soil surface moisture on the second day. Depending on the room conditions the trays and seeds may need a spritz of water.
On the fourth day, remove the covers from the planting trays and place the germinated plants under a light.
The beet microgreens in the image below are 5-days old.
There's little to no difference to either germination rate or size. If anything, the beet microgreens sown dry have an advantage with germination, and the plants look a bit more sturdy and less leggy.
This may suggest that the soaked seeds may start to germinate a bit sooner than the dry sown seeds.
One week from planting, the beet microgreens have started to add some green color to their leaves. See the images below (click the image to expand it).
One could argue that overall the soaked seeds are bitter taller. They're definitely leggier. The legginess makes it appear that the dry sown seeds on the right have grown denser.
However, there doesn't appear to be much difference between the two sowing methods a week into the experiment.
Below are photos of the microgreens eight days later. Again, the pre-soaked beet microgreen seeds are on the left and the dry sown seeds on the right.
As before, there's very little difference in the size. Again, the plants grown from the dry sown seed seem to be sturdier and growing more upright than those grown from seed soaked for 23-hours.
On the eighteenth day, the Bull's Blood Beet microgreens were harvested. The beets were grown longer than usual as harvest could've started on day 15.
The beets were starting to form their first true leaves, and it's best to harvest them while still in the cotyledon stage.
The beet microgreens were harvested with scissors just above the soil line of both trays.
Ok, I goofed, the microgreen trays are switched in this photograph. The pre-soaked seeds are on the right.
Visually, there's no difference between the trays of microgreens. Both look great, neither had any issues with germination, growing, or diseases.
Let's see what the weigh-in has to show us, however.
Bull's Blood Beet Microgreen Weigh-in
Both trays were cut as close as possible to the soil line without disturbing the surface.
The weight of harvested microgreens was recorded and presented below.
Harvest Weight 18-days After Sowing
The weight of microgreens harvested from the non-soaked Bull's Blood Beet Microgreen seeds is 53.6 grams.
The weight of microgreens harvest from the pre-soaked Bull's Blood Beet Microgreen seed is 55.9 grams.
The pre-soaked seed out produced the dry sown seed by 2.3 grams or about a four-percent increase.
There are only two data points, we realize this, and even though the degrees of freedom is one, both values lie within one standard deviation of the mean.
There isn't a statistical difference between the harvest weight of pre-soaked beet seeds and seed spread on the soil surface dry then sprayed with water.
Does Soaking Beet Microgreen Seeds Make A Difference?
That's the short answer. You be the judge, the photos and harvest data are presented above.
The pre-soaked seed may have germinated slightly before the dry sown seed, but by comparing the microgreens in the photos, the pre-soaked beets didn't get a significant jump or boost.
The height of the microgreens, on days five, seven, and fifteen are the same.
Pre-soaking the beet seeds didn't decrease the time to harvest.
The harvest weight of the pre-soaked beet microgreens was not significantly more than seed sown dry.
In our opinion, the slight weight difference is really a measure of stem weight. The pre-soaked beet seeds appear to be leggier from the start. Beet stems will weigh more than the leaves.
The question is, though, where is the nutritional value in the beet microgreens? In the stems, or leaves? Maybe it's a wash.
Regardless, a 4% difference, even if the pre-soaked seeds weighted more on consecutive trials, isn't much to worry about for home microgreen growers.
Save yourself some trouble, don't pre-soak your beet seeds.
Our recommendation when growing beet microgreens is to not pre-soak the seeds. Click the following link to read our methods of growing beet microgreens.
Soaking seeds is one more step in the process, and sowing wet seeds are more difficult than using a shaker bottle with dry seed.
What do you think? Leave a Comment
Let us know your experience with beet microgreens.
Do you pre-soak your seeds prior to sowing?
Leave a comment below we love to know!
Have a Question?
If you have any questions about pre-soaking beet microgreen seeds or any other questions on microgreens, in general, please leave a comment below or reach out to me using the Ask a Question page.
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