Choosing Microgreen Trays
Episode 028 of the Microgreens Podcast
In this episode of the Microgreens Podcast, I discuss what attributes a good microgreen tray should possess.
The trays I use to grow microgreens are discussed in episode 006 of the Microgreens Podcast (linked below). This audio recording and the transcript explain why I use those particular trays in more detail.
Below the podcast are links to the trays I use and the transcript if you’d rather read instead of listen.
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Links to the Microgreen Trays Discussed in the Podcast
Home Microgreens Tray
Here is a link to Episode 006 of the Microgreens Podcast where I talk more about the trays I use to grow microgreens.
I use the Home Microgreens Tray setup mostly. The size is little over 7-1/2 inches by 5-inches with a height of 1-1/2 inches to the top. I usually fill the tray to the top ridge on the tray so it uses a little less soil.
The holes in the planting tray are well distributed to allow for very even watering.
1010 Shallow Microgreen Trays
1010 shallow trays are square, with each side being a little under 10-inches on the inside of the tray and the outside dimension being a little over 10-inches. The height of these trays is 1-1/4 inches.
These are very practical-size trays for most people, even those with two or more people eating microgreens in the house.
Stagger plant these trays, and you will have a lot of microgreens.
The trays are made in the U.S. and are very heavy-duty. You can see this in the video.
1020 Shallow Microgreen Trays
These are the standard size garden trays, except they are only 1-1/4 inches tall instead of the 2 or 2-1/2 inches for a normal 1020 garden tray.
These trays are heavy duty as you can see in the video above.
Transcript of Episode 028 of the Microgreens Podcast: Choosing Microgreen Trays
Welcome to the Microgreen’s Podcast, episode number 28. Today I’m going to talk about Microgreen Trays. A ways back, I did talk about Microgreen Trays in episode number six of the Microgreens podcast. I’ll put a link below, or you can just go to homemicrogreens.com/006 to pick up that episode. I talked about all the Microgreen Trays that we used, and I still use those exact same trays, but I want to talk a little bit more about them, why I use them, how I use them, how I decide which tray I’m going to use to grow what varieties, and go into all the details about Microgreen Trays. I didn’t plan on talking about Microgreen Trays in today’s episode, but I did get a couple comments on the Home Microgreens Tray, and I just want to discuss those a little bit. Let’s start this conversation by talking about what is an ideal Microgreens Tray.
First off, Microgreens Tray needs to fit in the location that you have, and for most cases, any tray is going to fit on any type of shelving unit. The only time this really comes into play is if you have a window sill. If you’re trying to grow Microgreens on a window sill, you really need a tray that’s going to fit onto that window sill. Besides that, almost any shelving unit, bookcase, table, countertop, is going to fit any size tray that you have, unless you’re growing on a window sill, the size of the tray doesn’t really matter for the location, but the size will matter for several other things, such as soil volume, the type of Microgreens or greens that you’re going to grow, and how many of those Microgreens you’re going to consume in the time that those Microgreens will be growing. In my opinion, there’s no sense of growing a whole lot of Microgreens, letting them grow, harvesting them, and then putting them in the refrigerator because you’re losing nutrients every day After a Microgreen is harvested, it’s losing nutrients.
Same with any vegetable. The fresher the better. So why grow a ton of Microgreens, harvest them, put them in a refrigerator, then use them? I get it, it can be easier, but is it really any more difficult than grabbing a tray off a shelf and taking a pair of scissors and cutting off what you need? I don’t think so. So the first thing is to consider is how many Microgreens with that variety you’re going to eat. If you have a larger family and use a lot of Microgreens then a large tray may be the tray for you, but you’re going to have to consider each different variety.
In other words, you may need a whole large 1020 tray of broccoli, but you’re not going to need a whole large 1020 tray of say, parsley. So when choosing a tray for any particular variety of Microgreens, try to estimate how much Microgreens you’ll use in the time period that those will be growing. Probably the best way to estimate this is just to start growing Microgreens in smaller quantities, smaller trays, and seeing how many you use and then go from there. If you’re using them up before the next tray’s available, then you need a larger tray the next time you plant. It’s just sort of an experience thing that’s not something that anyone can tell you because they just don’t know how many you’re going to consume at any given time.
All the more reason to start with a smaller tray and go from there. Another factor to consider is quality. Has been my experience that larger trays, the longer they’re growing, the more chance there are for problems. You’re going to forget to water it, you may give it too much water, and what happens is you get a little bit of dye back inside and then your quality of your Microgreens isn’t the same as it was when you first started harvesting them. Another factor with large trays is it’s harder for light and air to get to the middle of that tray, it has to travel through more Microgreens. It’s just harder to keep those Microgreens growing healthy and a larger 1020 tray that is in a smaller tray.
So the distance from the center of the tray to the outside perimeter is very important for quality of Microgreens. The wider a tray is the more trouble you can have with the Microgreens in the middle of that tray. The same can be said for germination. It’s much easier for the middle of a tray, a large tray, say like a 1020 tray, to overheat and not get enough air then a smaller tray would. So larger trays are definitely harder to take care of both germination and growing and watering. So when it comes down to how many Microgreens to grow at one time, I recommend growing in smaller trays more often. Maybe do two plantings a week instead of one. You also have a longer shelf life that way if you think about it, because you’re going to use up that one tray, and if you don’t use them for a couple days, the second tray is going to last longer than the first tray if you extended it, that is if you extend a growing period of that first tray.
So for volume of a tray, in other words, the dimensions of the tray, start with smaller trays, and if you need more Microgreens, double your plantings or get larger trays once you figure out how many you’re going to use per week. I have one more thing to say about sizes of trays. Try to choose trays of the same size. In other words, have a small tray and a medium tray or a small tray and a large tray or a small tray and medium trays in large size. Keep each of those the same. So if one tray is 50 square inches, make sure you get other trays of 50 square inches because it’s consistency. The more you repeat something, the easier it is and the less time you’ll spend planting that tray. So pick trays of the same size. Don’t have 10 different size trays. I see this all the time into Facebook groups.
People are growing Microgreens in all different kinds of containers. They think they’re saving themselves money by not buying a tray, but in my opinion, either you’re in or you’re out. Get good equipment and use that equipment, it’s going to be a lot easier in the long term. It’s going to be a lot easier to figure out problems if you have any. Before you know it, you wouldn’t even have to think about how much seed you use or how much soil you need. It’s just going to come second nature to you. Microgreens will also be so much easier to raise when you have them in the same size trays as far as how much water or when you need to water them. Microgreen Trays are not that expensive. Buy good ones and just use them. Be consistent with them. Okay, moving along. How deep should a Microgreen Tray be?
I see this all the time too. I even see this with professional growers. People that are growing Microgreens to sell, they are half filling tall trays and then trying to harvest those Microgreens. If they would just purchase shallow trays and see how much easier it is to harvest off the top of the trays instead of trying to going around the edges of a tall tray, they would save all kinds of time and hassle. There are very few Microgreen varieties that you need a full two or two and a half inch tall tray. You just don’t need that much soil. It’s just a waste of soil. Even if you half fill that tray, like I said before, they’re a pain to harvest and you’re also not letting any air get down into that soil. This is where you can run into more mold issues.
It’s hard for air to circulate amongst the stumps of the Microgreens when they’re sitting down in a bowl, in a half filled tray. Just buy shallow trays. It’s just much easier. A good Microgreen Tray will be between an inch and a quarter and an inch and a half tall. That’s plenty of soil for 99.9% of the Microgreens, and you’re going to get better results by growing in those shallow trays with a soil filled to the top than you will by growing in a larger tray with the soil half filled. Plus it’s going to be so much easier for you to harvest. Okay, end of rant on that. What should Microgreen Trays be made out of? And this, you’ll get a lot of feedback. People just don’t like plastic, but let me tell you what, there’s much less oil used in a plastic tray than in a ceramic bowl that has been glazed.
It takes a lot of heat to glaze and to harden any clay or pottery bowl. A heavy duty plastic tray will last you for years and if you drop it, it won’t break. Of course, this really depends on the type of plastic you use. Don’t be using any of those garden trays that you’re getting off Amazon for $10 for 20 trays that are just not worth it. They’re too flimsy. They’re going to crack, the light’s going to break them down, you’re going to drop Microgreens, the trays aren’t going to last as long, you’re going to get finger cuts. Just buy a good heavy duty plastic tray. If you’re using smaller trays, you’re can get away with less dense plastic. I know, again, it has to be food grade. It obviously has to be food grade plastic. I get this question all the time from the store and I don’t really, well, I guess I do mean to be snarky here.
They send in an email and they say, “Are your plastic trays food grade?” No, I’m selling you plastic that’s going to kill you. Of course they’re food grade plastic. I don’t know anyone that’s not selling BPE free trays. I guess the frustration comes in from the lack of trust. I mean, I don’t spend years writing hundreds of articles showing people how to grow healthy food and then sell them a plastic tray that’s going to kill them. It just doesn’t make any sense. If I had a one page website or something, then I can see where people might have problems, but I spent too much time doing this and trying to help people to sell bad products. Okay, enough of that. When we’re looking for Microgreen Trays, we want them to be heavy duty plastic. If they’re smaller trays, it doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy duty because they’re much easier to move around and manipulate than the large trays.You can grab a small tray of thinner plastic and it will hold up where if you grab a larger tray with one hand, it’s not going to hold up with the weight of the soil in the water. So those need to be more heavy duty. For sizes, we need a variety of sizes. We need some smaller trays where you can grow your Microgreens and see how much of one variety you’re going to use. And if you need more, you move up to the next size tray, and these plastic trays need to be somewhat shallow. An inch and a quarter, inch and a half is great. Anything less, they probably won’t hold enough water once they get root mass. Anything larger, you’re going to be wasting soil. What shape should the trays be? I think square, rectangles are the best because you’re going to waste less space. Round bowls will have a lot of spaces between them and it could be good for airflow.
There’s one advantage to the round trays, but I think square or rectangle trays are going to work better. You’re going to get more growing area in a smaller space. Another advantage of trays is when we’re talking about shape could be the sides of the tray. A lot of trays are angled, so the top is wider than the base and this is good because it’ll still allow you to get a planting area where you can get a lot of seeds onto that soil surface, but the bottom is going to contain less soil. It’s still going to have enough soil to hold water and for the roots to grow, but it’s going to take less soil to fill the tray, which means each tray is going to cost you less money to grow. What about the planting tray? What about drainage tools? Obviously, a good distribution of holes for water to come up through is very, very important.
This is one of the issues that I do have with the bootstrap farmer trays that I sell and use, is that the corners do not have slots like the rest of the trays. So when I’m growing Microgreens up to say like day 10 or 14, the corners have a tendency to get a little bit dryer than the rest of the tray when I’m bottom watering. I’ve brought this up to them, but they have not responded on that yet. And I guess the problem is that they probably have all their patterns sent into their manufacturers and that would be very expensive to change. So how do I deal with this? Well, in my trays, I actually just burn holes in the corner so that water can go up into that corner space. This issue is mainly with the 10 by 10 trays. The 1020 Trays are actually pretty good.
I still do put extra holes in them, but it’s really not as necessary as it is in the 10 by 10s. If we’re using the bootstrap farmer 10 by 10s, maybe you don’t have that problem, If you do, it’s just a simple process of heating up something and just sticking it through the corner so that makes a hole and then some water can go up into those corners and you’ll get a more evenly watered Microgreen Tray. Now I make all the home Microgreens Trays and they do have a pretty even distribution of holes in them and I really like the way that the water goes up into those. It’s just that the watering tray just works great, you drop that planting tray on the watering tray and the water is just forced up into the planting tray. Really even distribution of watering. It doesn’t take as much water.
It’s just a great system. The Home Microgreen Trays are really good. And then I think the next point is the one that really made me want to do this podcast and that comment is that the Home Microgreens Tray is a great beginner’s tray. I absolutely have no problem with the great, I like great because I think those trays are great, but they’re not a beginner’s tray. There’s no such thing as a beginner’s tray. A Microgreen Tray is a Microgreen Tray. There’s no beginner, intermediary, or expert trays. They’re just trays. And in fact, I’m still using some of the same trays that I used three years ago. They’re very sturdy. They don’t break. They don’t hold enough soil where they’re going to break. It’s just a great, great system and the reason I like them is their size. Everyone should have some Home Microgreens Trays and I’m going to tell you why right here, the main reason.
I don’t care if you have a family of 10 and you go through 15 10 by 20 trays of Microgreens a week. I don’t care. A Home Microgreens Tray is going to be important because there’s going to be a new Microgreen variety that you want to grow and there’s no sense of going out and buying an ounce or a quarter pound or a pound bag of a Microgreen seed that you’ve never had before. The Home Microgreen size tray along with the Home Microgreen seed packet comes with just the right amount of seed for that tray as a great way to test a new to you Microgreen to see if you like it. Again, there’s no sense of spending 5, 6, 10, $15 on any seed until you know you like those Microgreens. That is a great advantage to the Home Microgreens Tray.
I sort of get their comments as far as beginner’s trays, I think what they mean is that they’re great trays to see if you really want to grow your own Microgreens. They’re very inexpensive, they’re very easy to use and it’s a low cost entry to see if you want to grow Microgreens, but I don’t see them as beginners trays as then you move on to the next tray because I still use Home Microgreens tray for almost all my Microgreens. Yes, I do have broccoli and kale and Mighty Micro that I do sell and I do use what I don’t sell for myself for those varieties, but all the other Microgreens, I grow them right in the Home Microgreens Tray. Microgreens grow great in the smaller trays. They just get more air flow, more light, they just grow really good in the Home Microgreens Tray.
I really like to use them. I realize what they are, but I don’t think they look that bad and I really enjoy using the smaller trays. I’m actually looking into manufacturing my own, but man, you need to buy a lot of them and I really don’t have the money to spend to be buying a hundred thousand trays at the moment, but the more I think about it, why reinvent the wheel? These work, they’re safe, they’re a good size. I can get larger ones if I want to. So I really don’t see any reason for me to go through and manufacture something that I can make myself. For the larger trays though, I do recommend the bootstrap farmer trays. I do sell them in smaller quantities. If you want larger quantities, it’s going to be much cheaper if you go through bootstrap farm yourself, but for one or two or maybe up to five trays, I have them right in the Home Microgreens store.
So let’s recap. What is the ideal Microgreens Tray? Well, it’ll be made out of plastic. If it’s a larger tray, 1010, 1020, heavy duty plastic is a must. You need these things to hold up. You need to be able to grab them by one hand and not have them bend and break. Smaller trays you can get by with much thinner plastic. Obviously it all needs to be food grade plastic. The best shape is either square or rectangle because you can get more planting area in the same size space than you can if they’re circular. The sides of the tray should be sloped so that it holds less soil. Straight up and down is going to use more soil than a slightly slope tray. The planting tray needs to have evenly distributed holes in the bottom so that when you bottom water, water will come up into the tray evenly.
The tray should be between one and a quarter and one and a half inches tall. It’s much easier to grow Microgreens when the Microgreens are at the surface of the tray than down inside of a tray. And again, it’s much easier to harvest when the Microgreens are right there, level with the top of the tray. So the hard part of picking out a Microgreen Tray is how large should it be? And I’m just going to go through, I’m only going to give you recommendations. You’re going to have to find this out for yourself. Start with a small tray, if you’ve never grown a certain variety of Microgreens before, you’re better off growing in a very small tray to see if you like them before you buy a large quantity seed. If you do like the Microgreens and you’re using quite a few, buy seed in the largest size bag that you can afford, buy it in an ounce bag, buy it in a four ounce bag or in a pound bag.
You’re going to save a lot of money that way. So start with a small tray. If you need more Microgreens than what that small tray is, decide on whether you should plant two of those trays at the same time or one tray and then in three or four days, plant another tray, or move up to a larger 10 by 10 or 10 by 20 tray. There are advantages to the larger tray. You’re obviously going to get more Microgreens, so it’s a lot easier to plant one 10 by 20 tray than it is to plant six Home Microgreens Trays. However, there are problems with the larger trays. There’s less airflow to the middle of that tray. You generally get better germination in the home Microgreens Tray than you will in a 1020 tray because the middle of the tray will heat up and gets less air, and it’s much harder to raise a Microgreens up in a 1020 tray That it is in a smaller tray because in a 1020 tray you’re going to have so many different environmental conditions.
The Microgreens on the outside of the tray are going to become drier, they’re going to need more water than the Microgreens in the middle of the tray. They’re also going to get more light on the outside than they are in the middle. With the whole Microgreens Tray, the light is pretty evenly dispersed. There’s not that much space between the edges where light doesn’t get into the Microgreens and it’s also much easier to water in the Home Microgreens tray because it’s evenly distributed. One, the holes are much more evenly distributed than in any other manufactured tray, and it’s a smaller tray so that water’s going to go directly to where those plants need it instead of really wet in the middle of a 10 by 20 tray and drier on the outsides because environmental conditions. I hope that makes sense because it’s is much harder to water a larger tray just because the middle is going to need different requirements than the outside based on light, temperature, and air movement around the tray.
These are all factors that you’ll have to consider, but the best way to consider them is to actually grow them in the different size trays and see which ones you like better. Which Microgreens Trays should you have? I think you should have all of them. I think you need a small, a medium, and a large tray. There are going to be times when you need more Microgreens. There are going to be times when you want to try out a Microgreen. You don’t want to buy a whole lot of seed. There’s going to be times when you need more than a Home Microgreen Tray, but you’re not going to need a whole 1020 tray. So a 1010 would be perfect. Invest in growing Microgreens by purchasing a variety of high quality trays. Trays are not that expensive and they’re going to last you a lifetime if you take care of them.
You’ll never wear out a tray, it’ll never break down because of light. Those trays will last forever if you take care of them. I’ll put links to the Microgreen Trays that I use down in the show notes. Or you can go to homemicahgreens.com/028 to go to the show notes for this podcast and check out the trays. I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Kaden is here looking at me saying it’s time for me to go outside. So I think I’m going to take the dog for a walk and we’ll see you next week on episode number 29 of the Microgreens podcast.