Friendspiration: Stacia and Joost's Lettuce!

My peops are always doing something inspiring, so I thought I better start blogging about all their awesome doings, hence the title of my new segment: "Friendspiration!"

Here's what Stacia and her husband Joost have been up to--growing their own hydroponic lettuce. My little homegrown container of lettuce can't compete!

Hyrdoponic Lettuce by Stacia Murphy

My husband, Joost ( pronounced yo-st), was talking to a Canadian friend while skiing about 2.5 years ago. He is a professional plant and flower grower with at least a dozen greenhouses. He was telling us how he was experimenting growing lettuce in his warehouse in using grow lights. Something about this struck my husband and an idea was born. Over the next 2 years, my husband did research and up about hydroponic food production. It pretty much consumed all of his free time. When he lost his job unexpectedly, he had even more free time on his hands so we decided to build a greenhouse in our back yard so he could experiment.

Building the greenhouse could be a blog entry unto itself. It was like building the most difficult piece of Ikea furniture with mediocre directions. When it was finally assembled, he built his own hydroponic system. What I'm super stoked about with this system is that it isn't made with PVC pipes like most of the hydroponic systems are. By choosing to do this, we really limited ourselves on the access to materials, but I think in the long run, more commercial systems will be built without PVC as people realize how toxic it is for them.

Joost chooses to grow lettuce in this setup. There are other great vegetables that can be grown, but we are sticking with plants that don't need pollination (which requires the purchase of bees). He's tried a number of organic fertilizes with some mixed results. The first ones that he tried weren't very stable and had to be frequently monitored because they would wildly change the pH of the system. This led to the first crops taking waaaaay to long to mature. Now he's found the right stuff to grow with- minerals that have been mined and some organics.

Here's how it works: we purchase organic seeds for varieties that we want to try online. They are placed in small organic soil-less cubes (made of compressed tree bark) and watered 2x a day for about 2 weeks until they develop a sufficient root system to be placed into our gully system of white pipes. While in there, they are fed a nutrient rich solution 24 hours a day for 4 weeks. And VoilĂ ... you have soft, delicious lettuce. Because it is kept in greenhouse it is not exposed to any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. It also don't need much washing because there are very few bugs and no soil on the plants.

Hopefully some time in the future we'll be able to get some larger greenhouse space and start commercial production. Until then, we'll keep enjoying out lettuce crop and sharing with our friends and neighbors.

--Stacia Murphy

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