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Micro green thumb: appliances for growing at home 

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Tiny, brightly colored and flavorful microgreens are larger and more mature than sprouts, but younger than fully grown plants. The superfood is harvested after one to two weeks of growth and contains significantly higher levels of nutrients than ripe counterparts, according to the USDA.  

  Attracted to the ease of growing microgreens and their nutritional benefits, many people are turning to home growing kits that range in complexity from plastic trays with drainage holes to temperature-controlled appliances with interchangeable shelves.

  One such device, the Urban Cultivator, is the Cadillac of indoor gardening. There's an under-the-counter machine that connects to a plumbing system for fully automated watering cycles, and a standalone, wheeled version topped with a wooden butcher block that adds counter space.

  "It's perfect for people that live in an urban area — apartments, condos, downtown — any area without greenspace," says Malinda Hill of Nordic Kitchens & Baths. "Growing is easy. You can use grow sheets or plant seeds, and within two days it's already sprouting."

  The Urban Cultivator holds four 10-by-20-inch flats of seeds. The programmable, airtight device grows up to eight types of microgreens and herbs. It uses less water and power monthly than a dishwasher, and the watering frequency can be adjusted.

  "Cleaning is simple," Hill says. "You just add new dirt and seeds; add nutrients to the [water] reservoir and place the plastic domes over the grow trays to generate humidity to help the seeds sprout. Maintenance is very minimal."

  Purchased and installed, the Urban Cultivator costs $2,500 and up. Companies including Aerogarden, Click & Grow and Home Greens manufacture simpler, more affordable versions. These range from from kits with soil and seeds to stainless-steel growing trays with LED lighting systems controlled by smartphone apps, and prices range accordingly.

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