STOP! If you have just arrived at this website looking for a lettuce raft system, you might want to go back to page one of this mini-farm plan.
You can use just the light from a sunny window if all you are growing are herbs. Anything else requires some supplemental lighting. A T5 compact fluorescent “grow light” will do fine for houseplants, herbs, and leafy green veggies like lettuce.
This one is available for under $75, including the 125 watt compact T5 bulb:
You can order this lamp and bulb here: Cheap Hydroponic Lighting. You can get off much cheaper by getting a fluorescent “grow stick” at Walmart for about $25, but you will not get the lush growth a better light setup will produce. Also, for best results, upgrade to the 200 watt bulb listed on our supplies page.
Learn more about hydroponics lighting here: Hydroponic Lights.
We highly recommend the Flora Series nutrient solutions put out by GH (General Hydroponics). This stuff is superior, easy to use, and reasonably priced. It consists of 3 parts (Flora Grow; Flora Micro; and Flora Bloom). If you have hard water, get the Hardwater Flora Micro instead.
For this lettuce garden, order a quart of each of the three solutions: Cheap Nutrients. Stick with Flora Series, follow the label directions, and you can't go wrong!
The nutrient solution must be kept cool (55-70°). This is especially important for the cool-season crops like lettuce. Learn more about hydroponics nutrient solutions here: Hydroponics Solution. We also provide a nifty little mixing chart for the Flora nutrients you can print out and save.
the nutrient level drops in the reservoir bin, you need to periodically
add water only (not more nutrient). Keep track of how many gallons you
top up with. When you have replaced a total of 3 gallons of water, stop
topping up and let the level drop down quite a bit. Then drain the bin
and mix up a whole new batch of nutrient solution.
Each new 6 gallon batch should last 4-5 weeks, or a whole growing cycle for a crop of lettuce.
It is a very good idea for any serious hydroponics project to keep the
pH of the water in the proper range, which is 5.5 to 6.5 (6.0 is ideal).
If the pH is out of range, some of the nutrients get “locked out” and
the plants suffer.
GH puts out a simple test kit with pH up & down solutions cheap. It will last you through many gardens: Cheap Nutrients
growing medium for a lettuce raft is actually the grow sponge or cube
the seedlings started in. Then the Hydroton balls are jammed in around
the seedlings to help support them in the little net pots. Large pots
are not needed because the roots quickly outgrow the pots and extend
down into the solution.|
Here is a cheap source for your hydroponics media: Cheap Media. Hydroton
balls must be ordered from a hydroponics supplier. But for the tiny bit
needed for this small raft, try ebay for a small bag of it. Heck, for that matter, you could just jam little bits of Styrofoam between the grow sponge and the sides of the net pot. Just don't use anything that would alter the nutrient solution, like stones or wood
about hydroponic growing media here: Hydroponic Growing Media.
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