Choose the right plant variety for your system
We are currently growing a small heirloom variety of lettuce in our DFT or Shallow Flow Technique system (SFT). The variety of lettuce is called Tennis Ball Lettuce and the size makes it perfect for our PVC based hydroponic system. We often grow romaine lettuce in the SFT system but you have to skip net pot holes in the PVC tube or it gets too tightly packed together. The tennis ball lettuce is a miniature lettuce variety and seems to get around 9″ wide. Depending on what kind of system you are using to grow your plants size and spacing is an important consideration.
Timeline for tennis ball lettuce
We started the tennis ball lettuce as seed in covered clay hydroton pebbles under LED lighting in a light nutrient solution with a PH of around 6.0 and 22 days later the seedlings had adequate root growth for transplanting into the SFT system. After approximated 20 days in the SFT hydro system the lettuce was getting large enough to think about harvesting. The nutrient requirements for this lettuce during the grow were fairly light. We kept the later growth nutrient solution strength at about 2.2-2.5 electrical conductivity (EC) and continued with PH kept at about 6.0 during later growth as well. We did as usual by adding a small amount of SEA-90 for trace minerals and for the main nutrient we stayed with our usual General Hydroponics MaxiGro dry powder hydroponic nutrient. These nutrients seem to perform quite well for our needs and the plants usually look great.
Serving up your harvest
The great thing about this variety of small sized lettuce is that each head of lettuce is about the right size for a typical person’s salad. We pruned the roots off at the base of the head and then the lettuce fits almost perfectly into a salad bowl ready for consumption. Add additional toppings such as nuts, berries, and salad dressing and lunch is served.
Insights going forward
We are typically focused on home-based DIY hydroponics and our SFT/DFT hydro system is located right off from the kitchen. There is a very satisfying feeling of walking a few feet from the kitchen and picking a fresh head of lettuce any time of the year. We know exactly what went into the plants in terms of nutrients and we are well aware of what did not get put on the plants as we did not need to use any sort of pesticide. We have learned from experience with this system that leafy green crops such as lettuce and kale often perform the best and are fairly fast to mature and therefore are perfect for a home based indoor food system. The small size of the Tennis Ball lettuce was perfect for packing out the grow sites on the PVC tube and we will most likely continue to experiment with miniature sized lettuce varieties as we continue to discover what works best and what tastes best to us. We hope this information is helpful to anyone interested in doing the same. Have fun and stay healthy!
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