What To Do With Microgreens SOIL / ROOTS / WASTE After Harvest
I wanted to make a post about what to do with your waste - your spent microgreens trays - after you harvest them, what's leftover of the root mass and your growing medium.
What do you do with that?
And I want to make this video now because I'm actually changing my process.
In the four years that I've been growing microgreens I've actually changed my process of waste removal about three or four times because of the nuances of each farm as well as there being some sort of problem that needs to be mitigated.
Keep reading, I'm about to share with you the different waste removal tactics I was using in each one of my farms as well as what's happening to me right now which is forcing me to change my waste removal system.
When I first started farming microgreens I was operating in my parents' basement, which was below ground. This was difficult because I had to take all my soil, those big, heavy bags of soil down a flight of stairs. And then after I harvested my trays, all of that leftover waste material would go into this big tote on wheels and I would have to lug it up the stairs again. I was just dumping it in my parents' backyard and we live in the suburbs. It's not a whole lot of property so over time that started to really build up as well. This actually worked out because this was at the very beginning of my business so it wasn't all that much waste.
It got so much easier at my next farm - an old rundown deli that I took over and made into my urban farm.Thank god it was on the ground floor! My landlord loved taking care of animals (he was big into animal husbandry) so he had a bunch of animals in the backyard and a lot of space. It was no problem for me to dump my waste back there. After harvesting the microgreens, I would dump the spent trays into a wheelbarrow. I would then wheel it out into the back and dump it. Over time it would make a big pile that the chickens and the animals could pick at. That worked out pretty well because there was plenty of space and a bunch of animals back there anyway, so if any type of rodents got in there, it didn't really matter.
After that location, I ended up in my third urban farm, and this one was a little bit different because I was on a property that's more well-managed, and this farm was above the ground.When I first moved in I had one wheelbarrow which stayed inside, which we dumped the trays into, and then another wheelbarrow outside which was on the ground level. I would dump the first wheelbarrow out the door into the second one and then dump that right on the property, similarly to how I did at my second farm location. We had the big pile of spent microgreens trays removed at the end of the first season.
When we removed this pile, we realized that there had been some rats that were living in it. They burrowed tunnels through these big mounds of spent microgreens trays and also use it as food. The leftover seeds that didn't actually sprout and grow into microgreens, are great food for them. We realized this at the end of the first season which is what prompted me to change my process again. Instead of dumping wheelbarrow into wheelbarrow and dumping here on site, I teamed up with a local business who does composting and vermicomposting.
This ended up being a very symbiotic relationship because I wanted to get rid of my waste at no additional cost, and this composting company just wanted additional plant matter to turn into more compost. I made an agreement with him where he would bring these big blue bins that I would dump into instead of the other wheelbarrow. Once they would get full, he would come with his dump truck, pick up the soil, and bring it back to his composting facility.
This was working out very well for months into the second season, but the rats did make their way into the bins eventually. They were eating it, living in it, and they ended up multiplying. It started becoming a problem, so the new solution is that instead of storing anything outside, the waste would be stored inside.
I bought these big 96 gallon garbage bins called Toters. I got them from Home Depot, and they store a lot of these spent trays. I can fit somewhere between 50 and 70 trays in there. Once all six bins are filled, I wheel them outside onto a 5’ x 10’ utility trailer thats hitched to my car, and then being them to a local farm that does composting.
So this is gonna be my new way of removing waste. The bins will stay inside and then get wheeled out and then dumped in a local place where it's more fit for that location. Now, the good thing about these bins is that they're super heavy duty and they could store a lot of trays, but when they do get full they do get pretty heavy. So that's something to keep in mind.
Nevertheless, that's my new waste removal process and it working very well. Watch the video above this blog post to see exactly what I’m doing visually.