How To Grow Lemon Balm Microgreens Fast And Easy
Lemon balm microgreens add a lemony flavor to cocktails or various dishes. Our in-depth guide explains how to grow your own!
Lemon balm is a cheery herb that’s fun to use in the kitchen. Unfortunately, it’s also a very large plant that can quickly take over your garden. So, if you’re after that lovely lemon aroma without the hassle, you’ll love growing lemon balm microgreens!
Lemon balm microgreens are the same plant as lemon balm but are grown on a smaller scale. The tiny seeds are crowded together, producing a dense mat of sprouts and young leaves. It takes 24-30 days for this herb to be ready to harvest, which is a relatively long time for microgreens but a much shorter time for mature plants. Once harvested, lemon balm microgreens will add the same lemony zest to your cooking as the mature herb, but with more nutrients and less hassle to get there.
Lemon balm is well-known for making tasty and relaxing herbal tea. It’s often sipped to ease digestive issues and menstrual cramps. Because microgreens have a higher concentration of nutrients than their mature counterparts, you’ll find lemon balm microgreens teas to be just as soothing. This microgreen can also help regulate blood pressure and boost heart health.
So how do you grow lemon balm microgreens? Growing microgreens is easy and only requires a little patience, so let’s get into it! By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to start your own micro herb garden with a lemony twist.
Lemon Balm Microgreens Quick Info
|Flavor:||Strong lemon taste|
|Ideal Harvest:||24-30 days|
Growing Lemon Balm Microgreens
Growing microgreens takes an unconventional approach. Once you have it down though, it’s pretty easy to bust out a crop of nutritious lemon balm microgreens. We’ll start with the basics of the basics: gathering materials.
You’ll be able to reuse most of these materials for other types of microgreens, so they’re well worth the investment. Here’s what you need to get started:
- Seeds: your favorite variety of lemon balm seeds – we like True Leaf Market’s lemon balm microgreens seeds as they’re available in bulk, but you can also use regular lemon balm seeds for small batches!
- Growing medium: we prefer Epsoma’s seed starting soil mix or coconut coir
- Light: a T5 grow light is essential for quality lemon balm microgreens
- Containers: two shallow growing trays (one solid, one with drainage holes)
- Spray bottle
- A small weight (less than 5 pounds)
- A sharp knife or scissors
Lemon balm microgreens seeds are tiny, so we need fine-grained soil to match. We’ve found seed-starting soil to be ideal in terms of texture and water absorption. Coconut coir is another great option that’s also eco-friendly. While some microgreens can be grown hydroponically, we’ll stick with soil for our lemon balm microgreens.
We’re going to harvest long before the lemon balm microgreens can produce large roots. So we need a container only 1-3 inches deep. For a decent-sized microgreen crop, gardeners typically use 10×20” growing trays. For the growing method we’re using, each microgreen set needs one container with drainage holes and one without.
Lastly, we strongly recommend investing in a T5 grow light. Yes, you can cultivate lemon balm microgreens without it, but this light will make a huge difference in microgreen quality. When fixed at the correct height, the light will ensure even growth and prevent the seedlings from getting leggy. If you plan to keep up with microgreen gardening and try other types of micros, you’ll be glad to have this.
Lemon balm microgreens seeds don’t require soaking, so we can skip to planting microgreen seeds.
Start by grabbing your soil variety of choice and the tray with drainage holes. Fill the container to just under the brim and level out the soil surface. Then, mist with the spray bottle to get the soil moist but not soaking wet (the water will help the microgreen seeds stick).
Next, sprinkle your lemon balm seeds all across the soil surface. They should cover the entire tray but not overlap with each other. Spread the seed evenly so it’ll produce a dense mat of sprouts. Then, mist the soil surface with water again.
Lemon balm often has an uneven germination rate. This isn’t a big deal when planting it in the garden, but when the seeds are crowded together and will be harvested as one, we want them as uniform as possible. That’s why we use a weighted covering and a blackout period.
The weighted cover is just your second, holeless growing tray with a small weight placed on top. Set the cover so it’s sitting directly on the microgreen seeds and blocking out all their sunlight. The weight on top will keep the seed cover in place. More importantly though, it’ll hold down newly germinated sprouts until there are enough to lift up the lid (don’t worry, it won’t flatten them). Until that happens, the seeds will remain in their blackout germination period.
Lemon balm seeds take 10-14 days to complete germination, so the blackout period will be at least that long. Every few days, peek under the seed cover to check that the soil is still moist, adding a gentle mist of water as needed. While you wait for the heroic little sprouts to push up their weighted ceiling, you can set up the growlight.
Your growlight needs to be 1-2 feet directly above the lemon balm microgreens trays so it can light the seed evenly. Gardeners typically use wire shelving units for their setup, which allows for growing multiple microgreen crops at once. In my home, I attached the lights to the bottom of a kitchen cupboard and set the micros on the counter underneath.
Once your lemon balm microgreens have completed germination and made their first appearance, you can remove the top tray and turn on the light. Give your lemon balm microgreens at least 6-8 hours of light a day. The smushed, pale sprouts will quickly transform into a cheery, tidy clump of bright green microgreen leaves (you won’t be able to see the soil anymore!). If your plants are growing leggy, move them closer to the lightsource.
It will take several more days for this little herb to reach its microgreen stage. In the meantime, you’re tasked with making sure they have enough water. Because the lemon balm microgreens are growing so close together, we want to keep the soil surface dry while adding water in order to prevent mold and bacteria growth. So we’re going to grab the tray without holes and a little patience for some bottom-watering.
Fill the solid tray with an inch of water. Then, place your lemon balm microgreens tray directly inside it. The soil will absorb water through the drainage holes, keeping the roots quenched and the foliage dry. Leave the trays stacked for 10-15 minutes and then separate them (any longer and the soil may get soaking wet!). Repeat this process whenever the soil starts to dry out.
Plants have reached their microgreen stage when their cotyledons – the leaves encased in the seeds – have emerged and unfolded. When the majority of your lemon balm sprouts have reached this stage, you can start clipping them. However, because lemon balm is an herb with fully-flavored leaves, many gardeners will wait for the first few true leaves to come in before harvesting. That way, you get the cotyledons and some tiny leaves with your microgreen harvest.
It’s easy to tell when true leaves are growing in because of their shape. While lemon balm cotyledons are smooth and round, the true leaves have ridged edges and a textured surface. They also have that trademark lemony aroma that releases when you rub them.
To collect your hard-earned herb, you’ll need a sharp knife or scissors. You can take the entire microgreen gang at once or only what you need. Simply hold a clump of leaves in one hand and clip the stems just above the soil with the scissors.
If you wait too long to collect your lemon balm microgreens, they’ll soon outgrow the shallow containers and demand more nutrients than the seed-starting soil has to offer. So, if you’re taking only what you need, you’ll want to start snipping as soon as those cotyledons unfold.
When you’ve collected every last microgreen, dump the spent soil into your compost bin. Reusing it for the next microgreen round is tempting, but can increase the chances of bacteria growth in such a small amount of soil. You should always use fresh soil for each microgreen planting.
Now that they’re separated from their roots and soil, we need to keep the lemon balm microgreens as fresh as possible. When it comes to vegetables, fresh equals dry, so only wash these greens right before you use them.
As mentioned earlier, lemon balm microgreens are excellent in teas. They also add a delicate yet zesty taste to cocktails, desserts, and any dish that needs a flavor boost. You could even soak these greens in your water in lieu of a lemon wedge.
Unused lemon balm microgreens should be kept dry and stored in the fridge. Wrap the microgreens in a paper towel and seal them in a food storage container. They’ll last up to 7 days in the fridge, especially if you change out the paper towel as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long does lemon balm take to grow?
A: Lemon balm microgreens take a month to get established. This is a long time for growing microgreens (some are ready in a matter of days!), but still faster than growing a mature lemon balm herb.
Q: What seeds are not good for microgreens?
A: Don’t use any seed for plants whose leaves aren’t edible. This includes nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.
Q: Can you propagate lemon balm?
A: Lemon balm can be propagated by seeds, stem cuttings, or division. For more information on growing lemon balm to its full height, check out our article on lemon balm plant!
Q: What is micro lemon balm?
A: This is simply a lemon balm herb that’s only grown until its microgreen stage. Micro lemon balm greens are usually planted close together in one container with a blackout lid. The result micro herb is a delicious, lemony addition to various dishes.
Q: What does lemon balm do for your body?
A: Lemon balm has been used historically as a digestive aid and for relieving menstrual cramps. It’s also believed to have other medical properties such as supporting heart and mental health.
Q: What are the healthiest microgreens?
A: All of them! Microgreens are just smaller versions of the full-grown herb, so you can usually expect to find the same vitamins and minerals in both. For example, if you need more iron and beta-carotene, try some spinach microgreens!
Q: What are the disadvantages of microgreens?
A: Microgreens have a short picking window and don’t store for more than 10 days. It’s easy to accidentally grow more than you’ll use.