Lettuce – Red Sails

Perhaps you don’t have a lot of room in your house, but you would like to try growing something, using the simplest method possible.  Then this post is directed at you.  Here is my plan:

  1. red-sailsI will be growing Red Sails lettuce, a fast-growing variety which has always done well for me in the past.
  2. Plant will grow in a 1/2-gallon glass canning jar, and I will cut a 2-inch hole in the plastic lid to hold the net-pot.  I will need to monitor the fluid level to make sure it doesn’t run dry, and add more fluid as needed.
  3. I will use the simplest fertilizer blend that I have: Dyna-Gro’s Liquid Grow, a 1-part liquid fertilizer concentrate.
  4. The plant will grow beneath a fluorescent light bulb under my kitchen cabinet.  My bulb is a 2-foot T8 Daylight (6500K) bulb.

Jan 7, 2016 = Day 0.  Plants started from seed (Botanical Interests).  Seeds sowed in 1.5-inch rockwool cube in 2-inch net-pot.  Moistened with dilute fertilizer solution: 1 mL (1/5 tsp) Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, 1 mL pH Down per gallon of tap water.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 18, P 24, K 13, Ca 5, Mg 1, S 0.13, Fe 0.26, Mn 0.13, B 0.05, Zn 0.13, Cu 0.13, Mo 0.002, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.004.  pH = 6.0.

Jan 11, 2016 = Day 4.  Plant germinated, placed directly under a fluorescent light (2 ft. T8 bulb, 17W, 6500k) for 16 hours per day.

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Jan 16 = Day 9

Jan 20, 2016 = Day 13.  Installed plant into 0.5-gallon glass jar (8 cups).  Hydroponic solution composed of 0.5 gal tap water, 3 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 111, P 143, K 79, Ca 32, Mg 8, S 0.8, Fe 1.6, Mn 0.8, B 0.3, Zn 0.8, Cu 0.8, Mo 0.01, Ni 0.002, Co 0.024.  pH = 6.0.  No pH adjustment required.  The glass jar was wrapped in foil to keep light out,  which prevents algae growth.

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Jan 25 = Day 18

Feb 1 = Day 24.  Thinned to just one plant in net-pot.

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Feb 6 = Day 30

Feb 14 = Day 38.  Plant has used almost half of the hydroponic fluid in the container.  Just over 4 cups of fluid remains.  Leaves can now be harvested at any time.

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Feb 14 = Day 38

Feb 24 = Day 48.  Plant has used 75% (6 cups) of the original hydroponic fluid, only has 2 cups remaining.

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Feb 24 = Day 48

Mar 1 = Day 54.  Harvested all leaves.  Final statistics:  6 cups (0.375 gallons) of fluid used.  Final pH of fluid < 4.0.

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Mar 1 = Day 54

The final pH of this Liquid Grow-based hydroponic solution was very low (pH < 4.0) which is consistent with what was observed when I grew Marvel of Four Seasons lettuce in this post.  The root system looked better when I used the Masterblend fertilizer, so I will probably switch back to using that for my hydroponic solutions, even in small-scale (< 1 gallon) applications.

In conclusion, I have shown how easy it is to grow a fine looking and tasty head of lettuce, using a very simple hydroponic set-up consisting of a small 0.5-gallon container, the Liquid Grow all-in-one fertilizer, and a standard fluorescent light bulb on my kitchen counter.  Give it a try!

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Lettuce – Marvel of Four Seasons

marvel_of_4_seasons_lettuce_1_largeMarvel of Four Seasons is a pre-1885 French heirloom variety.  It is a butter-head type of lettuce variety with long, slender leaves.  It supposedly resists getting bitter during warm summers.  Let’s be honest, lettuce doesn’t have tons of flavor to begin with, but to me the flavor of this one is actually quite pleasant.

Here I will be testing 2 different types of fertilizer blends:

  1. Masterblend 4-18-38 + calcium nitrate + magnesium sulfate.  This is my normal blend, and it works well.  Since it is supplied as a dry powder it is very inexpensive.
  2. Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow 7-9-5.  This is a liquid concentrate which I normally only use for starting my seedlings.  It is more expensive than the dry fertilizers, but is much more convenient to work with, especially when making up small batches of hydroponic solution (< 2 gallons).

Dec 24, 2015 = Day 0.  Started from seed (Botanical Interests). Moistened with dilute fertilizer solution: 1 mL (1/5 tsp) Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow per gallon of tap water.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 18, P 24, K 13, Ca 5, Mg 1, S 0.13, Fe 0.26, Mn 0.13, B 0.05, Zn 0.13, Cu 0.13, Mo 0.002, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.004.  pH = 7.0.

Dec 27, 2015 = Day 3.  Seeds germinated.  Transferred to grow room, receiving 3 hours sunlight + 5 hours LED grow-light per day.

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Jan 2, 2016 = Day 9

Jan 4, 2016 = Day 11.  To give plants more light, placed plants directly under a fluorescent light (2-ft. T8 bulb, 17W, 6500k) for 14-16 hours per day.

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Jan 7, 2016 = Day 14

Jan 8, 2016 = Day 15.  Installed plants in 1.2 gallon containers:

Solution #1 composed of: 1.2 gal tap water, 2.4 g MasterBlend 4-18-38, 2.4 g calcium nitrate, 1.2 g magnesium sulfate, 0.25 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt, 1.2 mL pH Down.  pH = 6.0.

Solution #2 composed of: 1.2 gal tap water, 7.2 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, 0.25 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt.  pH = 6.0.  No pH adjustment needed.

Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):ferts

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Jan 9, 2016 = Day 16.  Masterblend (left), Liquid Grow (right)

Jan 16, 2016 = Day 23.  Thinned down to 2 plants per container.  Transferred plants to indoor grow room with LED lights.  At this point, the plants in Liquid Grow seem to be doing slightly better than the plants in Masterblend.  Interestingly, there is almost no root development on the Liquid Grow plants, while the roots are about 4-inches long on the Masterblend plants.

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Jan 16, 2016 = Day 23.  Masterblend (left), Liquid Grow (right)
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Jan 20, 2016 = Day 27.  Masterblend (left), Liquid Grow (right)
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Feb 2, 2016 = Day 40.  Masterblend (left), Liquid Grow (right)

Feb 18 = Day 56.  Starting to harvest leaves from these plants.  At this point, the plant grown in Masterblend has used more of its fluid than the plant grown in Liquid Grow.

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Feb 20 = Day 58.  Masterblend (left), Liquid Grow (right)

Feb 24 = Day 62.  Harvested all leaves from both plants.  Final statistics:

Masterblend plant: Used 1.1 gallons of fluid.  Final pH of fluid = 8.0.
Liquid Grow plant: Used 0.8 gallons of fluid.  Final pH of fluid < 4.0.

Compared the root systems:

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Feb 24 = Day 62.  Masterblend (left), Liquid Grow (right)

Although the upper portions of both plants were not too different, it is clear that the root system of the plant grown in Masterblend looks much better than the plant grown in Liquid Grow.  In both cases, the pH started out at 6.0, but neither system maintained a stable pH throughout the growing period.  It seems that the Masterblend’s spike up to 8.0 was tolerated better than the Liquid Grow’s drop down to below 4.0.

Lettuce – Adriana, Red Sails

Red Sails, a reddish loose-leaf variety, has been a dependable lettuce for me in the past.  I will be comparing it to a new lettuce, Adriana, a green butterhead variety.  Since my 3.5-gallon bucket will hold 3 plants, I will grow 1 Adriana plant and 2 Red Sails.

Dec 2, 2015 = Day 0.  Plants started from seed: Adriana (Johnny’s Seeds), Red Sails (Botanical Interests).  Moistened with dilute fertilizer: Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, diluted 1 mL (1/5 tsp) per gallon of tap water.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 18, P 24, K 13, Ca 5, Mg 1, S 0.13, Fe 0.26, Mn 0.13, B 0.05, Zn 0.13, Cu 0.13, Mo 0.002, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.004.  pH = 7.0.

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Dec 10, 2015 = Day 8.  Adriana is at lower right.
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Dec 18, 2015 = Day 16.  Adriana is at top.

Roots are now visible growing out of the bottom of the rockwool cubes, so it is time to install these plants into a larger 3.5-gallon bucket.

Dec 19, 2015 = Day 17.  Plants installed in 3.5-gallon bucket.  Hydroponic solution composed of 3.5 gal (13.25 L) tap water, 7 g MasterBlend 4-18-38, 7 g calcium nitrate, 3.5 g magnesium sulfate, 0.7 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt, 2.8 mL pH Down.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 103, P 95, K 202, Ca 100, Mg 29, S 34, Fe 2.1, Mn 1.1, B 1.1, Zn 0.3, Cu 0.3, Mo 0.05, Si 4.  pH = 6.5.

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Dec 19, 2015 = Day 17.  Adriana is at top.
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Dec 28, 2015 = Day 26.  Adriana at top.  Red Sails at bottom.

I thinned out the plants so that there are now only 2 plants growing out of each net-pot.

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Jan 8, 2016 = Day 37.  Adriana (front), Red Sails (back)
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Jan 20, 2016 = Day 49.  Adriana (front), Red Sails (back)
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Feb 2, 2016 = Day 62.  Plants are ready for harvest.

Feb 28 = Day 88.  The entire Adriana plant has been harvested, only the 2 Red Sails plants remain.  The plant stems are getting quite long, but the leaves still taste fine.

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Feb 28 = Day 88

Mar 10 = Day 99.  Harvested all leaves.  Final statistics:  3.2 gallons (12.1 L) of fluid used.  Final pH of fluid = 8.0.

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Mar 10 = Day 99

Based on my experience, I conclude that Red Sails gives a better yield than the Adriana variety.  Both types of lettuce did well, but the Red Sails leaves were bigger and more plentiful than the Adriana.

Lettuce – Lolla Rossa

lollaLolla Rossa is a frilly, loose-leaf green/red lettuce variety.

Nov 4, 2015 = Day 0.  Plants started from seed (Botanical Interests).  Moistened with dilute fertilizer: Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, diluted 1 mL (1/5 tsp) per gallon of tap water.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 18, P 24, K 13, Ca 5, Mg 1, S 0.13, Fe 0.26, Mn 0.13, B 0.05, Zn 0.13, Cu 0.13, Mo 0.002, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.004.  pH = 7.0.

Nov 7, 2015 = Day 3.  Seeds germinated.  Transferred to grow room, receiving 3 hours sunlight + 5 hours LED grow-light per day.

Nov 18, 2015 = Day 14.  Plants installed in 3.5-gallon bucket.  Hydroponic solution composed of 3.5 gal tap water, 7 g MasterBlend 4-18-38, 7 g calcium nitrate, 3.5 g magnesium sulfate, 0.7 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt, 2.8 mL pH Down.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 103, P 95, K 202, Ca 100, Mg 29, S 34, Fe 2.1, Mn 1.1, B 1.1, Zn 0.3, Cu 0.3, Mo 0.05, Si 4.  pH = 6.5.

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Dec 10, 2015 = Day 36
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Dec 18, 2015 = Day 44
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Dec 28, 2015 = Day 54

Jan 5, 2016 = Day 62.  Began harvesting lower leaves for use in salads.

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Jan 8, 2016 = Day 65

I am continuing to harvest lower leaves for salads several times a week.  The plants are starting to get tall, they will probably bolt within the next few weeks, so I need to finish up my harvests soon or the leaves may get bitter.

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Jan 20, 2016 = Day 77

Jan 31, 2016 = Day 88.  Harvested the final leaves of these plants.  Final pH of solution = 7.0.  Total fluid usage = 1.9 gallons.

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Jan 31, 2016 = Day 88
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Jan 31, 2016 = Day 88