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August 18, 2017
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

School has started; I'm going back to school, Trafalgar Middle School. Not out in the garden, but in the classroom of Al Piotter, he is the teacher that teaches gardening to the students. He has taken the students through all kinds of gardening, pallets, straw, vertical, handicapped, hydro-ponic and now is asking me to take charge of teaching some of his students about micro-greens because their cafeteria has put in a request for a continual supply. He needs to take the rest of the class out into the garden (and heat) but needed help.

Then he asked if I knew anything about micro-greens. I stuttered and thought, "not really." Advising that I look it up, I was told the classes are every other day. One week it is Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the next week it will be Tuesday and Thursday. The clincher was the fact that it will all be indoors and air conditioning. Labor Day will throw a wrench into the well-oiled works, but that can be overcome.

So that is why I am researching micro-greens. I thought they were immature lettuces, I've done the mesclun mix and made salads from it, but I now know, they are sprouts. Sprouts I eat and love the many flavors. I usually hit up the Sprout Queen at the Farmer's Markets. So, I'm off to the Tuesday market to consult with the Sprout Queen.

Micro-greens are also known as "vegetable confetti." They do differ from sprouts, though, because you don't consume their roots and they are raised in different mediums.

Basically, you can grow any lettuce, herb or salad mix seeds as your micro-green mix. I liked the sharp radish greens, but I've also had the broccoli greens. You can use mustard, kale, endive, arugula, beets, watercress, spinach, chia, buckwheat or any salad ingredient seedlings; they add their own distinct flavor of their finished product. You can even use flowers, like sunflower sprouts. If you keep a good eye on your outdoor garden, you can grow them there, but I prefer a shallow pan indoors (like aluminum pie or cake tins or clear or styrofoam plastic to-go boxes or meat trays (poke a few holes for drainage) at least 2 inches deep, to be able to handle the tray better when clipping. I am more aware of them inside and tripping over them, than outside and out of mind.

Layer soil about two inches deep, with a good quality mix, then scatter the seed on top of the soil. Remember, they are not growing to be full-grown plants, but just enough for them to sprout because the sprouts are what we want. Don't pack the soil down hard. Place more soil on top, about 1/8 inch, and water softly but thoroughly. Use a mister, sometimes twice a day. Plastic wrap can be used to cover until you see the seeds sprouting. Don't let the soil sit in water or dry out, remove weeds that will compete for the granular organic fertilizer, especially if you want to use repetitive plantings. Since their growth period is short, there is no time for pests or diseases to attack. Brassicas (mustard, kale, etc.) are the exception because cabbage worms from flitting moths lurk about. Place them in a sunny window or spot where they get at least 4 hours of light.

The best time to harvest is right after they have developed their first set of true leaves, about two inches tall, generally 10 days to two weeks after planting. Simply snip the greens just above the soil line. Unlike mesclun greens, you won't be able to get any additional harvests because you've eliminated the regrowth possibilities. You can, however, replant seeds on top of bed and use the decaying roots for food. You can mix the greens after you have harvested them.

Wash them before serving them and dry them on paper towels or a salad spinner. For the best flavor, use them freshly cut, store the rest in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Now all this is what my research has shown me, but I have a feeling, Al will have other ideas, so I will do as he says (parried with my knowledge). I start next Monday when the moon will eclipse the sun.

Really, don't look directly into the sun. I did that when I was very young, to start a sneezing fit. But it does destroy your vision. Ergo, be sure you have the correct glasses with which to do this. Regular sunglasses do not work. A week ago, I had a friend say she was going to get some sunglasses, but they seemed to be sold out.

I found, years ago, when my grandsons were with us, we just poked a hole in a 3 x 5 card, let the sun shine through it to the cement below, it replicated the shadow in miniature, but we could see the difference. I've seen some homemade directions on line.

Eclipses are not only beautiful, but rare. This happens when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth. The moon takes around one month to complete a single orbit of the Earth. Because of the elliptical orbit of the sun, the shadow generally falls above or below the Earth, so things must be in just the right trajectory (spot). The sun is 400 times bigger than the moon and 400 times farther away, which gives it the illusion of being the same size. A total solar eclipse occurs only once every 375 years, so don't wait until the next one, if you want to see one.

Also, thank a tree, they are very beneficial to us.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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