Is It Smart To Grow Microgreens Without Soil?

An Epic Gardening reader who grows microgreens recently emailed me and let me in on a little experiment he was conducting.  You see, he’s always been into growing microgreens hydroponically, but wanted to test and see if there were better ways to grow microgreens.  So he set up an experiment.

His name is Darko, and he lives in Slovenia.  He’s been growing microgreens for quite a while now and is very experienced.  I love his experimental nature though…and the results of this test are pretty incredible!

[highlight]If you want to contact him directly about this experiment, email him at [email protected][/highlight]

Enter Darko!

Experiment Details

Start Date: 10/26/13 6.45 PM

I was using plastic containers measuring 3.9×7 inches (10×18 cm). One was filled with special soil for herbs, second with cellulose pulp (sulfite hardwood cellulose pH below 6.5) and third vermiculite.  In each tray, I used cress seeds.

Sowing Seeds

Soil: 0.16oz of cress seeds.  Yield was 0.96 ounces of cress microgreens after 4 days.

Cellulose: 0.13oz of cress seeds.  Still waiting to harvest.

Vermiculite: 0.15oz of cress seeds.  Still waiting to harvest.


All containers were watered from the side.

Soil: pH 5.5 pure water (for pH down I used 24% nitric acid)

Cellulose: Cellulose does not need watering because there is a high water retention which is in my opinion the main reason for slow growing.

Vermiculite: pH 5,5 water with basic hydroponic fertilizer from GH

Thoughts on Growing Media

Soil: I noticed a bit of mold on the soil. Maybe I should remove cover after 1st day, or maybe I should use peroxide on soil also.

Cellulose is too moist and seeds having a problem getting roots in to it.

Vermiculite should be mixed with perlite.  Also should test a mixture of soil and vermiculite and of course also other seeds.

[highlight]The result?  Soil wins for now.[/highlight]

Side By Side Results

Day 2

Day 2

Day 3

Day 3

Day 4

Day 4

Day 5

Day 5

Soil Results By Day

Day One

Soil Day One

Day Two

Soil Day Two

Day Three

Soil Day Three

Day Four

Soil Day Four

Cellulose Results By Day


Cellulose Day One


Cellulose Day Two


Cellulose Day Three


Cellulose Day Four

Vermiculite Results By Day


Vermiculite Day One


Vermiculite Day Two


Vermiculite Day Three


Vermiculite Day Four


Liked this experiment?  Leave a comment!  There are more experiments coming soon as well, so stay tuned.

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  • Darko

    Just addendum: cress MG on vermiculite and cellulose were not riped because on cellulose mold appears, and on vermiculite MG never fully developed. Just to let you know :)

    • Kevin

      :( Sad results, but good to know. I found the same thing happened with my cellulose test runs. IT HOLDS TOO MUCH WATER!

      • Stewart

        Yah cellulose gives me the same issues with mold and water retention. CocoCoir is where it’s at.

        Absolutely boss article btw, this is such a great comparison between mediums.

  • Paul

    Great article. It’s cool to see a side-by-side comparison like that.

    • Kevin

      Thanks, appreciate it!