Minnesota to California NFT Lettuce

by Mark Molitor
(Los Angeles)

Hey all! Mark from Junko's Garden in MN here. My wife and I have picked up and moved for the winter to Los Angeles. We have been growing approximately 900 (about 250 per week turn) plants in our greenhouse in MN and have some yard space out in LA (but no greenhouse).

I am contemplating bringing out about 20 8 foot channels and my micro green nursery. BUT, I do not have the capabilities to bring out or construct a greenhouse here. Since the weather is fairly mild, can I get by without using a greenhouse and set up my NFT channels out in the back yard?

I would keep the nute tank covered to minimize rain diluting my solution and also have it half buried in the ground to moderate temp (and besides the last week of near flooding, LA hardly gets much rain). I don't think insects would be too much of a problem, not any more than a normal dirt garden would see. I am at the residence every day so I can check PH and EC morning and night for any fluctuations. I would be using GH Flora Series and have water barrels to fill with the garden hose (city water) to let the water neutralize from chlorine since I cannot use RO or filtered water where I am at - too expensive for a 100 gallon reservoir (with 20 channels I will probably only be mixing 50 gallons per tank change).

Where I am at is also surrounded by trees so I get decent sunlight but not direct so I don't think a shade cloth would be necessary.

I think I should have most basis covered...

Anyone have any opinions / experience / insight with growing in this type of climate and outdoors with no cover in a hydro (particularly NFT) situation?

Thanks in advance!!

Junko and I hope you all have a very happy holiday season!!

----------------------------------------------------------

Answer from Stella/Simon:
Hi Mark,

My only concern would be flooding of the NFT channels by rainfall. If they are not covered would'nt the water dilute the nutrient solution?

I can't really give advice on this as I have never grown hydroponics outside, uncovered. I will tell you that you'll have more bugs and insects than you ever thought possible, so be prepared for that.

Any California folks care to answer this query? Join in!

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Comments for Minnesota to California NFT Lettuce

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Jan 03, 2011
Reply
by: Anonymous

Yea the rain COULD be a problem. Where I am at wont get that much rain. So I am not too worried. AND if rain did affect the nutes, I would be right there every morning with my EC meter to adjust accordingly. Bugs... not so sure they would be a significant problem. If so, couldn't I just use my old trusty lady bug friend. Wouldn't they stay close to the food source (my pests)? I could just replenish the ladys when they deplete or when I see another pest problem.

Thanks!
:)

Jan 04, 2011
Outdoor NFT Lettuce
by: Rod

I live in Australia (similar to Calif. climate) and most of our commercial lettuces (except iceberg) are grown in NFT outdoors, which feeds our nation.

I have grown lettuce this way and the water usage is usually much higher than the amount you may get back into the system with rain, but irrespective, if you get a lot of rain you may need to add a bit more nutrient, when the tank overflows.... no big issue. (keeps the sodium levels down) I have found Oval pipes 90mm diameter PVC(squished full length...under the tyre of my car on a hot summer road)which makes them more like 110 x 50.... cheap channels for next to no money.

An Aussie guy now makes them here in Polyprop and I think he has a patent on the idea. He has sold millions of metres here in Oz mostly for lettuce and also for tomatoes, which is good for him as he has invested heavily in the gear, and the oval shape works better than square in our hotter climatic regions to the north. For tomatoes many are gong back to container growing which drains back into the oval pipes for recirc.

Mar 19, 2011
CA Lettuce
by: Mark

I just bit the bullet and purchased a greenhouse lol. But it is worth it! I will post pictures soon! I had my 120 plants up and running nice but had to go back to MN for 4 days. The guy that was supposed to watch my res didnt and ended up just unplugging it. I was let down but have since started a new batch. They were growing fine and the only thing I noticed a problem was the scum build up from the CA air. The white channels were covered in black dust as were the plants. So in CA it DID technically work but I feel that with the air pollution being so bad you would want a cover over the plants at all times. Thanks for the response from down under! AWESOME! Good luck all! Talk to you soon!

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