Update on the aeroponic lettuce

Busy, busy, busy. Life is work, and work is life.  The trick is, make it pay off.

I like greens in my diet, and they seem to get more expensive at the store every time I turn around. Not that fresh either.  Again I’m attempting to grow my own.

Having dabbled in past with lettuce in little containers around the porch, and then in a big tub of dirt in our greenhouse, this year my husband set me up with a little “aeroponic” garden, made with a rain gutter and some drip irrigation tubing run from a little submersible pump.

This little red lettuce plant sits in a net pot full of little ceramic "rocks", gently nursed from below with a stream of nutrient enriched water from a tiny sprinkler head.

This little red lettuce plant sits in a net pot full of ceramic “rocks”, gently nursed from below with a stream of nutrient enriched water from a tiny sprinkler head. The sprinkler is fed a continuous supply of water from the reservoir at left (an old keeper) with a little submersible pump.

The whole thing plugs into an outlet in our side yard and sits in a little greenhouse we got from a friend.

We bought our rain gutter at Home Depot, the drip supplies were laying around the shop, and the pump was less than $50 at Harbor Freight Tools (you can go to their website for coupons). We went to Garden Connection for little “net” pots and some advice. The kid at  the counter recommended the nutrient blend, really essential, because there is no dirt involved and the plants need food.  My husband could give an exact figure on the cost so far – I’ll say, less than $100. That still sounds like alot, but we’ll see what happens.

The pump in the bottom of the keeper was less than $50 at Harbor Freight Tools.

The pump in the bottom of the keeper was less than $50 at Harbor Freight Tools.

So far they seem to be in some sort of stasis. They look happy and healthy, but they aren’t growing.  A couple of the plants look a little faint.

The green plants aren't growing as fast as the red plants. Not sure whether to worry or not.

The green plants aren’t growing as fast as the red plants. Not sure whether to worry or not.

This I believe is due to Winter’s lingering embrace. You might have noticed, it’s cold as heck out there these days.

A few clouds and things chill out around the old greenhouse.

A few clouds and things chill out around the old greenhouse.

This time of year in Northern California is a tug of war between Winter and Spring. Spring comes into my greenhouse some days and turns the heat up to over 90 degrees. I have to open the doors and pop a few of the little wall tiles to let out the heat. But yesterday it just got up to about 82, all day. Most of the day it was cold in there. So, my little plants might be confused.

I’ve been looking into “grow lights,” but I haven’t decided how the electrical use will affect my project. My husband thinks one light will amount to “pennies a day,” and the pessimist in me says, that  might actually add enough to the price of my lettuce that I might as well go back to the store!

Maybe, I’m sure hoping, the quality of our homegrown lettuce will trump any cost overrun. For example, if I figure the cost of my own time into making my bread, it gets almost as expensive as Tin Roof, but, I enjoy making it and I certainly enjoy watching my family eat it.

My husband started the plants in the tray – pretty good return on the seeds, I’ll say. I have enough to start a bed in the garden.

I've covered this bed with an old black garbage bag, hoping to kill the pests before I set out anything.

I’ve covered this bed with old black garbage bags, hoping to kill the pests before I set out anything.

I’ve been getting a raised bed ready in the garden for the leftovers – you should always have a “control group,” eh? I turned over one of my empty garden boxes and cleaned it good, then added a few inches of leaf compost. Knowing this dirt to be full of little creatures that would make fast work of my seedlings, I covered the bed with black plastic and there it sits. On a sunny afternoon that plastic gets pretty warm, so I think it will kill a lot of the earwigs and slugs and pill bugs that lay waiting for my seedlings, we’ll see.

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