Green Kids on the Block: Growing Micro-Greens in a DIY Hot House

diy_hot_houseMicro-greens are easy to grow and a great addition to that special dinner that many families will be having on Valentine’s Day.  It is also a grand way of adding more hyper-local greens to your family’s diet.

To start this project first get the family together and decide what types of greens everyone in the family would like to grow.   Spinach, Bibb lettuce, mustard, kale, arugula and mesclun are all greens that can be grown in the DIY hot house.  Next, get the supplies together for the DIY hot house.  These include the following:  12-inch by 12-inch by 16-inch cardboard box, ruler, marker, scissors, roll of aluminum foil, super glue, 11-gallon clear plastic garbage bag, 1.75 mil thick, thumbtacks, bag of all-purpose soil, and a package of clothespins.

Next place the box on the table and decide which side of the box will be the front.  Once this is determined, measure 4-inches from the bottom all the way across the box and draw a line.  Continue this line from each corner up the side and to the upper opposite corner.  This will create a box with sloped sides that lead to a front piece that is 4-inches tall.  Once this line is drawn, cut along the line with a sharp pair of scissors and recycle what is removed.

Then, have your kids unroll some aluminum foil and measure three pieces that are 12-inch by 16-inch in size.  Using super glue, attach one piece of foil with the shiny side up to the back, and the other two pieces along the sides.  Trim off any excess aluminum foil from the box.

Split the garbage bag down both sides and across the bottom.  Place one sheet of the plastic in the bottom of the box and push down.  Secure the plastic bag to the box using thumbtacks.  Pour three-inches of all-purpose potting soil into the box and plant your micro-greens.  Sprinkle with ¼-inch of potting soil on top and gently water in.  Spread the other plastic sheet on top of the box and pull tight.  Once the plastic is tightly secure, the plastic with the clothespins.  Place your completed DIY hot house in a sunny, south-facing window and wait.

Micro-greens will begin to appear in about two weeks and harvesting can start at about the third week.   To harvest the greens requires only the thumb and forefinger.  Simply pinch off the greens that are going to be used that day level with the soil, wash off, and serve.  Once all the greens are harvested, simply reseed to start the growing process again.

This project is great way of allowing kids to contribute to the Valentine’s Day meal with a healthy salad prepared from their very own hyper-local greens.  Also it is a subtle way of getting kids to eat their greens.  It has been proven that kids are more likely to eat something that they have grown and/or been involved in preparing.

One may wonder and the kids may ask how does the hot house work?  The technology involved is simple.  The plastic covering the box creates a closed system where water evaporates, rises up onto the plastic, and rains down.  The reflective nature of the aluminum foil helps heat the system up.  This occurs when the moist, black soil absorbs this heat.  This passive heat keeps the hot house warm without any external heat sources such as a heater.

But regardless of how it works or why, the delicious micro-greens that your children grace the dinner table with will be worth more than words can say.  The excitement and squeals that will be heard when little dots of green appear on the soil will be priceless.  And who knows, maybe your kids will ask for “more greens please” through this family and diet friendly project.


Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.