First Attempt at Hydroponics

I decided I wanted to try to grow some hydroponic vegetables. My family loves leafy greens year round. Lettuce does not grow well in the summer here, or in the winter. Spring is the best time for lettuce, but the season is short.

Hydroponics seemed like a natural solution. I already have some lights in the basement for starting tomatoes in the spring, I can use the same lights for growing lettuce.

My requirements:

  • Harvest about a weeks worth of lettuce every week.

For me that works out to be about a head or two of lettuce. Buying it at the store costs between two and six dollars a week.

That is not a lot of money, but if you can grow your own it will not only be cheaper, but fresher, cleaner, and you will know exactly what has happened to it. It is also extremely convenient to always have fresh greens on hand.

With a hydroponics system, you need to clean it (the system) and change the nutrients every so often. Since you can grow lettuce in about 30 days, I opted for multiple small boxes using the Kratky hydroponics method. This is a method where you fill the container with water and nutrients. By the time the water and nutrients are depleted, the plant has reached maturity and is ready to harvest. Having multiple boxes allows me to have a cascading harvest without having to disturb younger plants when doing nutrient changes or cleaning.

For my first attempt, I acquired a $0.94 plastic shoebox from Walmart. I grew two plants in it. The net cups, growing media, and nutrients cost more, but those are re-usable and the nutrients should last for years.

I planted spinach and buttercrunch lettuce. The spinach package indicated a 45 day maturity and the lettuce a 30 day maturity. I started both seeds the first weekend of April.

The lettuce germinated in less than 24 hours. The spinach took a couple days.

And here is the finished lettuce 28 days later. I have included a Dr. Pepper can for scale.

And everyone likes to show you the roots. Here they are.

The lettuce was a resounding success. The spinach I will not plant again. The problem with the spinach is that you need an awful lot of spinach to have a meal. I just didn't get enough with my small setup. I may plant it in a bigger system in the future. But for now, I am going to stick with lettuce.

Next up: Romaine Lettuce and Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce.