Sunflower and Pea Shoots

Growing shoots indoors is one of the best ways to get fresh greens all year long. Shoots can be grown outside but where they really shine is indoors during the colder months, when you aren't able to enjoy fresh greens from your garden.  

Shoots are basically just baby plants that are snipped off at the base when they have only a few leaves. The basics of growing shoots are very similar to my previous blog post on starting vegetable transplants. The great thing about growing shoots is that you are growing them for a short time period so there is no need for supplemental lighting; even darker rooms with not much sunlight work fine. 

To start growing shoots you will need containers or trays to hold soil and a good potting mix or soilless medium. Follow the same steps for soil prep from my previous blog, mixing your potting mix with water, making sure to soak up all the moisture. You will only need about one to two inches of soil in your growing tray or container. Before sowing your seeds, soak the seeds in cool water for about 12 hours. This will speed up the germination time. 

Next, you will be sowing seeds on top of the soil mix. This process is different than growing transplants for out in the garden. You want to pack a nice amount of seed in a tight space. We are aiming for a small forest of little seedlings (think Chia Pet) that can be chopped down with scissors. One to two cups of seeds per 10-inch-by-20-inch growing tray is a generally a good amount to use. Adjust your amounts for smaller recycled trays or dishes. Make sure the growing tray/container has drainage holes and to use a watertight drip tray below your container to catch water runoff. 

Finally, cover your seeds with a clear dome lid or wet newspaper to hold in moisture. Remove the lid or the newspaper when the seeds begin to germinate. Move the plants to a sunny window once they have germinated. Use a spray bottle to mist your plants when needed. Harvest pea shoots when they are about two to four inches tall and have two sets of leaves on them. Harvest sunflower shoots at about two to four inches, when they have their first two leaves (seed leaves), before their first set of true leaves develop. Both types of shoots should be washed and then dried off with a paper towel or spun dry with a salad spinner. Store the shoots in your refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag or container.

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