Make Your Own Mini Greenhouse

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Spring is on its way but in some areas of the country (and world) it is still a little too cold to begin planting in your outside garden. But, what if I told you that you can make a small, portable greenhouse with just a few basic supplies?

It is easy (and inexpensive) to have your own homegrown, organic baby greens when you want them with a do-it-yourself mini greenhouse.

My daughter and I really enjoy doing this project together and your kids may like it too! And it can inspire all children (even picky eaters) to try new foods when they have a hand in growing them!

This also would make a fun science project for homeschoolers or a project for a science fair!

This project does not require any sort of advanced gardening skills, in fact it is perfect for the novice gardener just getting started! In a greenhouse setting, the plants stay moist unlike in an outdoor garden bed where the water evaporates quickly and requires more attention and care. And what is great is that it is not dependent on the weather, you can grow this way at any season and even in a city apartment on a patio or even a sunny window. You don’t need any ground to grow in. Baby greens grow quickly which means you can begin harvesting them in just about 3 – 4 weeks! So, for those of us that like to see the fruits of our labor rapidly, this project is very satisfying and keeps children’s attention.

Nutritional Content

Baby greens have a more delicate texture so for those who feel that mature greens are too tough or stringy, baby greens may be a great option! They also offer wonderful nutritional value. Greens are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, folate, beta-carotene and lutein.

In terms of which form (baby greens, microgreens, or mature plants) packs the best nutritional punch? It looks like baby greens are best, followed by microgreens, and then mature plants. This study by Waterland et. al. on kale showed the variations in mineral content.[1] Then this study by Lenzi et. al looked at the differences between microgreens and baby greens in antioxidants and minerals for three wild leafy species.[2]

Sprouts also have wonderful nutritional value and I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with any of these forms of greens. They are all wonderful and nutritious!

Sprouts, Microgreens, Baby Greens
– What’s the Difference?

Sometimes there is confusion about what is a sprout vs. a microgreen vs. a baby green.

Sprouts: Sprouts don’t require extra nutrients to grow, in fact they use the nutrients stored inside the endosperm to grow. Water is the only other requirement. That means you can use a mason jar to grow them. Typically, sprouts are grown for 3-5 days until harvest, but there are some sprouts that people tend to grow a little older until day 6-7. If you want to learn how to make your own broccoli sprouts, you can check out the blog, Make Your Own Broccoli Sprouts, dedicated to that superfood.

Microgreens: Microgreens have more flavors and taste more like their mature plants versus baby greens. Microgreens are grown in soil and are harvested around two weeks, shortly after the first two leaves develop. Microgreens are planted more densely and yield more produce faster than baby greens.

Baby greens: Baby greens are more mature than microgreens and are harvested after three to four weeks. With baby greens you harvest the actual leaves of the plants when they are small (rather than the sprout and initial two leaves as with sprouts and microgreens). Baby greens have a bit more nutrients than microgreens.

So Which Greens Are Best to Grow as Baby Greens?

I personally love to grow any kinds of green leafy vegetables but especially:

  • Lettuce (any variety)
  • Kale
  • Arugula

Some people grow spinach but it is not one of my favorites because of the high oxalates.

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of BioIndividualNutrition.com. Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.

References for this article:

  1. Manikam, Ramasamy, and Jay A. Perman. “Pediatric feeding disorders.” Journal of clinical gastroenterology 30, no. 1 (2000): 34-46.
  2. Mayes, Susan Dickerson, and Hana Zickgraf. “Atypical eating behaviors in children and adolescents with autism, ADHD, other disorders, and typical development.” Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 64 (2019): 76-83.
  3. Levine, A. S., J. E. Morley, B. A. Gosnell, C. J. Billington, and T. J. Bartness. “Opioids and consummatory behavior.” Brain research bulletin 14, no. 6 (1985): 663-672.
  4. Masic, Una, and Martin R. Yeomans. “Does monosodium glutamate interact with macronutrient composition to influence subsequent appetite?.” Physiology & behavior 116 (2013): 23-29.
  5. Goto, Tomoko, Michio Komai, Hitoshi Suzuki, and Yuji Furukawa. “Long-term zinc deficiency decreases taste sensitivity in rats.” The Journal of nutrition 131, no. 2 (2001): 305-310.
  6. DeJesus, J. M., Gelman, S. A., Herold, I., & Lumeng, J. C. (2019). Children eat more food when they prepare it themselves. Appetite, 133, 305-312.
  7. Heim, S., Stang, J., & Ireland, M. (2009). A garden pilot project enhances fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(7), 1220-1226.
  8. Ghanizadeh, A. “Parents reported oral sensory sensitivity processing and food preference in ADHD.” Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 20, no. 5 (2013): 426-432.

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