I’ve been growing Hamama microgreen quilts since just before Thanksgiving of 2019 and I’ve learned a thing or two while growing my 21 quilts (so far!) in that time.
First off, every growing environment is different! When giving advice, one of the first things I have to remind myself to consider is: every growing environment is slightly different than mine. For one thing, I keep my house at 72°F and a relative humidity of 50% or lower. Plants love my house.
With that in mind, there are several things that can vary in different ways:
- Temperature: baby plants love safe temperatures. The “happy range” seems to be 68-85°F. A little colder, and the greens will germinate and grow more slowly than average. Too cold, and the seeds will remain dormant and not grow. If you add water to dormant seeds, they’ll rot and die. Lots of plants love warmer environments, but most people don’t keep their homes above 85°F. If your home is above this temperature, and you’re having issues, consider finding a cooler spot in your home. Speaking of temperature, it never hurts to have an accurate, digital hygrometer (humidity) and temperature monitor. Something you can put near your growing area, so if there are issues, you’ll have hard numbers to help you diagnose the problems. I mentioned temperature just to get it out of the way, because it’s not the most common problem when growing microgreens. Generally, average plants are happy when you’re happy.
- Humidity: normally, humidity would be a fantastic thing for plants. Plants generally enjoy water, especially in the air. However, Hamama seed quilts have water in the bottom of the tray, water wicking upward from the tray, into the dark brown coconut coir, and giving the fabric and seeds exactly what they need beyond that first day soak. Hamama quilts are a part of a bottom-watering microgreen growing system. On the first day, you fill the tray up to the Fill Line, put the quilt into the tray, hold it under the water until the seed sections get wet enough to change from light tan to dark brown. Then you just let go. The coconut coir will puff up like a sponge, pushing the top out of the water. This is the way things should be until the end of the growing period about ten days later. If you have a very low humidity (below 30% or so), you may need to add water to keep the reservoir up to the middle of the coconut coir, but no higher. If, however, your humidity is above average (greater than 50%), you may have enough water in the air to slow the natural evaporation in the quilt and the tray. If the drainage from the bottom to the top is less than ideal, the seeds will be submersed in water, and drown. The only way to fix this is to lower the water levels to improve drainage, but also, to locate additional air flow to improve evaporation in the tray and quilt. Air flow can be improved by locating a fan and blowing it directly over the top of the quilt, or moving your growing area closer to a central furnace vent. Hamama recommends that you grow inside, as this helps regulate temperature and humidity, along with reducing pests and other outdoor related issues like wind and rain. Resist the urge to open a window to improve airflow.
- Other Houseplants: Hamama suggests that you select a growing area away from other houseplants, because they commonly have mold, mildew and fungus, and can easily transmit these to your microgreen quilt if they’re too close. Obviously, if you are growing perfect Hamama quilts, they are near houseplants, and you are not experiencing mold, mildew or fungus problems, this is fine. But if you are experiencing problems like these, or your water is getting a little stinky, you may need to look at your houseplant situation.
- Household pets and pests: House mice, rats, flies, and other pests are common. The Hamama quilt system has a sealed top, consisting of a fabric-like light layer, seeds sitting on top of that, with seed sections created by paper sealed with adhesive to the fabric. Because of this, during the germination period (“pre-peel”), your seeds are covered by a light attenuating semi-permeable paper that keeps out about 50% of the light (a good thing for germination), and regulates both the temperature and humidity in each section like a series of mini-greenhouses. These microclimates are great for germinating seeds. They also keep pets and pests away. However, after you peel the paper off the top of the seeds, you may have issues with critters getting into your greens. This is something to watch out for. If you have pets that can get to your growing area, you may need to move your growing area to a place where the pets cannot get to. Obviously, pests may need to be controlled. Both of these are variables that some people need to deal with. My dogs are small enough that they can’t get up on the table, so I grow my ‘greens on the table.
As you can see, there are a lot of household variables, but also, there are variables in the way that people handle the growing:
- How long you hold the quilt under during the initial soak: The official Hamama directions mention both “10 seconds” but also “turning a shade darker” in the same sentence. If you choose to just follow the “10 seconds” rule, you will likely underwater your quilt, and your seeds will either not germinate, or germinate very spottily or slowly. Some folks recommend that you soak your seed quilt upside-down, overnight, under a full moon. You don’t need to do any of these things. You simply need to add filtered water to the tray up to the Fill Line, place the quilt into the tray, hold the quilt down in the water until the seed sections get wet – which is indicated by changing in color from the original light tan to a darker brown, equally across the entire quilt. Be careful to “walk your fingers” along the quilt to ensure that the entire quilt is equally wet, or you will likely not have equal germination, will may lead to slow or uneven growth.
- How long you wait to peel the paper off the top of the fabric: Each Hamama quilt comes with a quilt information card. These cards tell you what type of seeds are present in the quilt, the minimum quantity of seeds, but most importantly to you, the total grow time (typically ten, sometimes seven, days), and the “peel cover in” time. If you water your quilt properly, and both drainage and evaporation are able to do their jobs, the roots will pierce the fabric and grow down into the dark brown coconut coir below. After the seeds send down roots, they will send up shoots. These shoots will push upward against the paper. This pushing starts out as what is called “ballooning” of the paper, and eventually may lead to “ripping” of the paper. What you’re looking for is a nice, even ballooning (or ripping) across the quilt. This is the time to peel. If you peel too early, in a bottom-watering system, any seeds that have not yet pierced the fabric will grow semi-randomly, wasting valuable seed energy, may eventually find the water below and pierce the fabric. These seeds may also dry out and die. Peeling too early is generally a bad idea, but you can recover from this if you watch the water level in the top very carefully, however, you will rarely have the same robust growth as if you left the paper on the right amount of time. If you peel too late, you are keeping light and top-dryness from your microgreens. Although peeling “too late” is much less of a problem than peeling “too early,” it can still be an issue, and may impact your final harvest yield. Just remember: peel when you see even ballooning across the quilt.
- How safe your water is for growing edible plants: Some water just isn’t safe for drinking or growing edible plants. If you have well water, you should get it tested regular for drinking – and growing – safety. Generally, well water should be filtered before use for safety. Tap water directly from the tap varies from location to location. It’s recommended that you also test this water before you use it, and filter this water with the appropriate method to create clean water without poisons or unwanted chemicals. Reverse osmosis water is completely pure water, and this purity can be a problem if you don’t add minerals back into the mix just before exiting the system. The pH of completely pure RO water starts out neutral (which is good), but rapidly increases in acidity when exposed to the air. This can be bad for your plants. If using RO water, always make sure your system has a final stage that adds minerals back into the water, stabilizing the pH (making it safer to grow with and drink), while also making the water taste better if you’re drinking it. Plants may also prefer to have mineral-laden water. As water is literally your only “input” into the system pre-germination, it’s important to make sure that your water is clean, with a stabilized pH level. It’s best to use filtered water, and this is a great way to eliminate unwanted variables from your growing experience.
So, it’s getting late. I’ve been writing for awhile. I will write more about my Hamama growing experience tomorrow.
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