Aquaponic Lettuce- The Kratky Way

Lettuce is an excellent source of fibre, vitamin C, folate (a member of the Vitamin B group) as well as being recognised to have anti-inflammatory properties, cholesterol-lowering agents and anti-diabetic compounds.

So if the lettuce is indeed dainty you probably don’t want to check out my recipe for my zesty falafel, halloumi and lettuce salad here either.

The thing is lettuce is almost necessary to our natural diets. The fibre alone keeps you digestively regulated that are disrupted by the strain of processing the manipulated foods we eat.

The second best part is that lettuce grows all year round and I have a cheap, no-energy consuming, viable method for growing lettuce for small spaces and produces a high yield.

It’s called the Kratky method.

Say we’re trying to grow 4 heads of lettuce.

Lettuce takes about 9 weeks to harvest from seed planting, so if you set up two seeds a week, you’ll have never ending lettuce.

Like forever lettuce.

So without further ado, here’s the step by step.

The Kratky method

What you need:

  • Jars – one jar per lettuce head
  • Lettuce Seeds
  • Yogurt cups- or similar
  • Drainage- I’m using gravel
  • Water
  • Plant food- soluble nutrients- it’s easier to buy than to source naturally unfortunately
  • That’s all, don’t make it complicated

This method entails empty jars. Mason jars are the size you’re after but any jars will do.

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So the first thing you want to do is grow your seeds.

If you plant your seed in its eggshell and get them grown until they have a little sprout out the top and some nice roots coming down, you’re set.

Secondly, you’ll be cutting up the yogurt cups.

I had leftover seeding trays that I upcycled when I bout some plants from the hardware store so I’ll be using those.

Look around your house or recycling bin for something you can use without having to go out and buy extra.

You’re going to be making slits all around the bottom half of the cup. The idea is to make space for the roots to come out of the bottom to sit in the water but not for the gravel or plant itself to fall in.

This is what the plastic store bought ones look like.

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Next step is to mix your nutrients with the water.

Follow directions on the bottle. The one I got was cheap and had listed ingredients that I researched to make sure my lettuce wasn’t going to get covered in unnecessary chemicals because that slightly defeats the purpose.

The one I got is Manutec’s Hydroponic nutrient. There are two bags inside; one is the fertiliser and the other is calcium nitrate.

So following the directions you dilute in some water and you mix well.

So with your yogurt cups sitting in the jar, you fill the water so just the first cm or so of the cup is sitting in water.

Make sure there’s a little bit of an air gap at the top of the jar.

Next, you transfer your lettuce seedlings into the cup without any soil, and you put gravel around it so they sit flush.

You want the roots to head into the water solution and the gravel acts as a drainage system for the plant.

My fellow blogger http://www.greenandvibrant.com have the perfect graphic to describe what’s going on:

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Finally, you want to cover the jar with something.

The water in the jar is nutrient rich and allowing sunlight to get to it will help Algae grow. These algae will steal all the lettuce’s nutrients.

I’ve wrapped the jars in the newspaper.

Voila. Hydroponic lettuce.

No electricity.

No soil.

Almost no effort.

Conclusion

Lettuce should be a part of everyone’s diet but the price of food is ridiculous. And I call it food, not healthy food, just food. The point of food is sustenance, flavour and bonding.

The going rate for lettuce at my supermarket right now is $3.50.

That’s the price of a full course local meal in Vietnam.

For the price alone, I’ve sent $15 on this setup, using trash items most would throw out, and now I have lettuce forever.

Literally forever.

This method is excellent for kids or anyone trying out hydroponic methods.

It’s economical, it’s super easy and accessible and can be used in small spaces like apartments and share houses as well as maybe having colder winters where frost would normally kill your leafy’s off.

One day I want to try and set up a system with siphons and fish but I travel too much and it’s not fair for the fish.

Let me know how you’re getting on with your garden or if you have any other no-fuss hydroponic systems worth sharing, leave me a comment.

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For further reading on the sources I’ve used:

https://www-tandfonline-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1300/J484v11n02_04

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157516300230

https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/vc-1.pdf

https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/hawaii/downloads/Growing_Lettuce_by_a_float-support_non-circulating_Hydroponic_Method_in_Hawaii_and_Pennsylvania.pdf

My Garden (round 2)

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I killed off most of the first plants. I had a whole tonne of different plants and was determined to be all natural with no pesticide.

I also forgot how important drainage was to potted plants.

So I lost most of them to aphids, White Flies and growth stunting.

ROUND 2!

This time around I made sure I gave each plant it’s space, drainage, enough water and a new pesticide help.

What I’m Growing Now

At the moment we have

  • blueberries (not currently in season)
  • Tahitian Limes
  • Strawberries
  • Parsley
  • Mini capsicums
  • French carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Spring onions
  • Endives
  • Bulb zucchinis
  • Potatoes

So it’s definitely a full house but it’s lots of fun learning about each plant and being overly excited when a new flower or fruit shows up.

What pesticide I Use

After a couple of weeks of research, I landed on eco neem.

Neem targets sucking and chewing insects specifically like aphids, whiteflies and caterpillars.

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Another name for the tree that produces neem is the Indian Lilac.

This tree is used in many medicinal properties and is part of the mahogany family.

Do not use eco neem for medicinal purposes. Leave that for doctors, chemists and specialists. They know what they’re doing.

The oil is extracted from the bark of the tree and when you buy the bottle from your hardware store, a small amount 5mL to a Litre of water and spray on the plant while avoiding any flowers or fruit.

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While it has rid us of most other pests that were eating our plants it seems to have freed up our garden with these guys who I still haven’t been properly introduced to.

Leave me a comment with the answer if you know it, please.

The main thing I like about eco neem is that it’s a natural property with a small number of chemicals unlike more damaging pesticides on the market.

It is also a safe chemical to have run off into the drainage and further down the track, into our rivers and oceans.

Australia has a very damaging problem when it comes to chemicals in our water supply.

Particularly our mining industry who uses the major water supply from the Great Artesian Basin that is our country’s only source of fresh water. But that’s another story. Our politicians are really corrupt.

Anyway, the last thing I want to note about neem as a pesticide is that it DOES NOT AFFECT BEES!

Bees are absolutely integral to your garden and the ecosystem.

Without them, nothing gets pollinated and the health of your garden diminishes.

This season has been particular barren.

We all know there is a major problem with how we manipulate and destroy the world’s bee populations but never has it been more apparent than now.

To increase bees to our garden we got some viola flowers that bloom most of the year, and I can use them in food if I’m being fancy, and sage.

The most common way to attract bees is to grow lavender but I have allergic family members so sage and viola were the next best things.

So far we’ve had one bee in the last month.

That’s depressing.

Disclaimer

One thing that must be brought up is the importance of land and sustainable living and eating. This point is that of oppression. The withholding or inaccessibility to land and food resources has for centuries been used to disenfranchise people. Having the ability to sustain yourself releases you from that control and your dependence.

Keep this in mind when you grow and think on the people all over the world who are food insecure due to war, man-made famine (Yemen) and greed.

Many areas in major western cities have been put there into ghetto-like situations where food insecurity becomes a major issue and getting fast food is the only option. This diminishes health and keeps people impoverished.

Maybe look into starting a community garden if you are in these areas, or just share your extra harvest with soup kitchens and food banks.

Donate extra plants so people with children can also learn how to feed themselves like we as a species once knew to do.

So what next?

 

At this point, the zucchini’s will have to be pollinated manually but everything else is growing really well.

By giving them the boost with lots of water nutrients, a helpful and constructive pesticide as well as the right amount of sun and drainage, your plants will grow in no time.

We have a big fat tomato that’s almost ready to turn red and every little fruit is like having a new puppy born.

The ultimate goal is to provide enough ongoing harvest so we have no reason to go to major supermarkets to get our food.

Being self sustainable is a feat that most don’t venture. This is sad and worrying for our species.

While technologies are amazing, we have gotten to the point where we have overdone technologies in agriculture.

While we have more food than we need, we dump 40% of it into landfills and people we don’t see across the world have absolutely no food.

Food security is a serious issue. If you are financially struggling, having food can be the be all and end all of your health, making it harder for you to get money.

The pride you get knowing you rely solely on your knowledge and your own resources frees you from being dependant on exorbitant prices (looking at you Coles with your $2.50 capsicum) and poor quality food.

Having a garden can be hard if you don’t have space. Luckily I live in subtropical weather so my plants have a real fighting chance as well as a large area to house them.

In the next article, I’ll be going through how we make our hydroponic lettuce using the Kratky method which will hopefully provide tips for the space challenged.

If you’re looking for new inspiration check out these Instagram accounts. I would love to have a garden area just to be able to do these.

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If you have any tips or advice for me to improve my garden or what to try next, leave a comment and I’d be happy to try some of them out.

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Here are my sources for further reading:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15777222

http://articles.x10.mx/neem_mother_earth_news.pdf

http://www.madr.ro/docs/ind-alimentara/risipa_alimentara/presentation_food_waste.pdf

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2010.0126

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652614003680

https://www.pnas.org/content/104/50/19703.short

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/327/5967/812

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/319/5863/607

My Journey

Why I do what I do.

Neuropsychology is the study of brain injuries and their rehabilitation.

The ultimate goal of my life is to become a credited Neuropsychologist and help people with location independence.

The dream to become fully location independent has always been something I’ve played with my whole life. I mean, why would we as a species confine ourselves to a chair and desk for 8+ hours a day.

Why would we focus the majority of our waking life to the labour of someone else’s wealth? All while receiving just enough currency to sustain our lives with expensive living arrangements and low-quality food.

Having grown up in a major western city, the rat race is very real. I cannot remember the time of my working life where I was satisfied with my job.

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I’ve worked in almost every sector, from support work to manual labour.

The hours, the pressure, the claustrophobia wore me down until burnout.

The expense of living is so high in my country that at this point I know far too many people who have multiple jobs just to stay off the street.

One missed paycheck could see them homeless.

That is not living.

I’ve lost friends who had dreams and hadn’t achieved even the first steps to achieve them. Spending their time trying to succeed in a system that was not built to succeed in.

This age we are in now is one of transition. We can either continue to live as we have, ignorant that the odds are in fact stacked against us, or we can escape.

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While I understand it’s impossible to do this in every circumstance there are minor steps that can be taken over time to free yourself.

At this point, I have travelled to 30 countries in my life not including repeat visits.

Without this part of my life, I feel incomplete.

There’s a need to expose my mind to other worlds, cultures and knowledge. In doing this I become more and more aware of my opportunities and the many ways I can create opportunities for others.

This is imperative for my future career.

The way I do this is by spending the majority of my time in my newly inhabited home by the sea on Queensland’s south coast and travelling in between uni holidays.

On my travels, my main objective is to learn about the indigenous people, and ways that they would like their system to work and how the world outside of my bubble really works.

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This part-time nomad life that allows me to earn money based on my own efforts rather than having others dictate my terms has built my confidence and my skills.

I’ve taken up work that has pushed me to learn new areas of technology, I juggle multiple avenues of work according to my schedule and I don’t make allowances for stressors that aren’t conducive.

Through my work with websites, virtual assistance, blogging and writing gigs, this life has been a manageable and creative path to travel.

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This is definitely one life decision I’ll never go back on.

So come along on my journey with me and let’s gain all the knowledge before it’s too late.

Leave us a comment with your journey

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