Usually, growing plants for consumption takes several weeks of patience and care, in addition to trial and error. In the case of some of my Aerogarden experiments, some of those plans never come to fruition.
That’s one of the more frustrating things about one of my favorite games, Stardew Valley; crops can grow into full fruits, vegetables and grains anywhere between 4-13 in-game days, which you can then use to cook or refine into other items. Reality doesn’t work quite that way, usually.
The concept of microgreens, thus, struck me as both interesting and too good to be true. My best friend used to grew them out of a jar, and he ended up with tiny little shoots about once a week with little effort that he added to salads and sandwiches.
Fast forward to several months later, when the creepy Facebook algorithm introduced me to Hamama — a kit you could buy to grow your own microgreens in different varieties, ready to eat in 6-10 days.
Hold on, was I sucked into a video game?
I did some digging to see what others thought of the product, and I even lurked on the Hamama Facebook group page for a while to carefully gauge both product performance and consumer satisfaction. As with any product, complaints existed, but overall it seemed that both customer service and the online community were eager to help newbies and troubleshoot issues related to climate and erratic growing issues.
My aforementioned best friend, I found out amidst this research, had a chance to try the Hamama kit for himself over Christmas and reported satisfactory results. In a week, he had grown healthy sprouts with less effort and mess than working with the jars had offered.
The Aerogardens in my apartment had received fresh restarts just after the new year, so I had some time before anything really needed to be done with them on a regular basis…
With a magical flourish of my credit card, a tidy little package of Hamama trundled its FedEx-merry way over to my tiny apartment in about a week’s time. Cue the villainous victory laughter — more Ursula than Jafar, I should think.
Plunge taken, package received, I unboxed my Hamama kit, eager to have fresh greens to crunch on before I could blink. The initial setup scarcely took five minutes, including the necessary soaking of the “seed quilt” and proudly displaying it on a windowsill to receive weak light from a north-facing window.
My wasabi mustard green quilt began on the fourth of February. Per the grow card that each quilt pack contains, I would be able to peel away the top cover over the seeds within a week.
One day turned into three, and then into five… the brightness in my eyes faded to glum coals of consternation. Where had it gone wrong? Had I simply run afoul of Lady Luck (all too common with me of late), or had I made a tactical error in my micro-strategy?
Cue a deep dive into Facebook lurking and gardening common sense, which revealed, my dear Watson, the following facts:
- It had been rather cold that week. Like, below freezing. Despite my heat being on all day, it was likely not enough to allow germination. Solution: Move the tray?
- Not enough light, perhaps? The north-facing window didn’t offer much, and others had mentioned setting their grow trays next to an Aerogarden for both warmth and light. Solution: Move the tray?
- The water level had tapered off significantly from the beginning, both due to the lengthened growing time and living in a dry climate. Solution: Add water?
The tray was thus moved with more water added. Once more, I sat back to wait.
And to wait. One day more… and destiny failed me.
To my utter disappointment, a lackluster amount of shoots had begun to emerge. Three cells in the quilt puffed out handsomely, while the rest remained as deflated as my hopes. Not yet admitting defeat (despite all), I used a pair of clean scissors to open the survivors up and let them unfurl. No satisfying “peel day” in the cards for me this time.
Shoots, my card noted, should be 1.5″-2″ before harvesting, and so the wait continued.
It’s worth mentioning that I did reach out to the good folks at Hamama for help during this time, with all the pictures I had taken and an explanation of my troubleshooting steps.
They suggested cutting open the remaining cells and letting them dry out a bit.
Did that. Twiddled my thumbs. Stared imploringly at the little quilt until it grew uncomfortable. For me, not the seeds.
Made it to day 10… and the three cells that had displayed green promise from the beginning continued to thrive. After a quick harvest and rinse in a collander, they made for a tasty work snack — a nice little spicy jolt not unlike wasabi, but not burn-your-mouth-and-clear-your-sinuses hot.
Final results, once Valentine’s Day rolled around, didn’t turn out too differently from the above image. I waited as long as I could for the rest to come up, but mold began to set in and I had to throw the remainder away into the compost bin (the quilts and coconut mats are both compost-friendly).
Thankfully, the folks at Hamama came back and gave some further tips for my next quilt, as well as a replacement for my failed quilt (I had documented in ongoing photos less than 20% germination).
While that ships over mountains and across state lines and through the various polar vortices (vortexes?) blanketing the country to reach me, here are my takeaways for Trial 2, Daikon Radish Greens:
- Keep the tray next to the Aerogarden, but cover it.
- Don’t add more water. It apparently can drown the seeds and cause mold.
- When the tray puffs up, peel and then allow it access to the Aerogarden’s grow light.
Hope springs eternal? Perhaps I’ll see better success in Trial 2. Stay tuned?