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Opinions needed - placement of indoor lettuce beds


Andrea

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I've given up trying to raise lettuce outdoors where I live. It's either too hot, the perfect temperature for slugs and snails to feast, or too cold to get any growth in the leaves. I even mounted plastic gutters to a trellis I have against the fence, several feet off the ground last Fall. The snails and slugs found it. AUGHHHH! The lettuce had finally started coming back, I went outside this morning to harvest it, and it was GONE. Something devoured it. So, after a bit of research, I've decided to try growing lettuce indoors with a full spectrum light. I researched hydroponics but it needs too many specialized products, so I'm going with shallow beds of soil.

 

Question: I have a perfect spot. It's a tile counter 4'x2', with a place to hang a light, and it's a flat surface that pretty much is unused in our house. BUT, it's in a bathroom that is used constantly and has 2 cat litter boxes in it. I'm concerned that there could possibly be contamination from cat box dust and other things that float around in bathrooms. Since I plan on growing cut and come again varieties of lettuce, I'm not sure this is a good idea? Thoughts?

 

The second spot is a place that is prime real estate in our house. It's the pantry/service porch counter top where everything gets thrown (sometimes it's stacked several feet high!) as we come into the house. But, it's tile as well and would hold up well to having growing beds placed there. There is also a place to hang a light and plenty of electrical outlets. But, it would require training my family, something that I'm not sure is possible . . .

 

Then there is the option of simply continuing to purchase lettuce from the store. But we eat salad daily (I've been known to eat two salads a day) and while I supplement the store bought greens with home grown sprouts and other veggies, I would really like to find a way to grow our own lettuce. Especially this year with California in a drought - I can see the price of lettuce shooting out of reach. I've already planned to reduce the amount of annual veggies I grow and I've gotten rid of almost all of my non edible ornamentals, but lettuce and salads? I'm not willing to give those up. 85% of our diet is nondairy, vegetarian based with salad being the main course for most dinners. Part of the reason we eat this way is for cost savings as well as health reasons. But if prices respond to the drought the way I think they are going to, I'm not sure I can justify spending more for a head of lettuce than for a whole chicken or a beef steak.

 

Any thoughts, insights, opinions greatly appreciated!

 

P.S. There is also a budget constraint here. I researched the aerogardens and have been looking on craigslist, ebay, and thrift stores but no luck. Besides, those require special (i.e. expensive) supplements and growing mediums. I'd like to stick with dirt if possible. Dirt is free - I can make as much of that as I need!

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Is it only the snails & slugs that are eating your greens? The first thought that comes to my mind is to sprinkle diametrius earth under your hanging planters and around the edges of your planters. As an extreme...sprinkle popcorn salt under your planters...NOTHING will grow there, not even grass...and snails & slugs will instantly become contaminated & the more they wiggle to get free the more they're headed for their demise.

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"Low Tunnel" gardening with DE around your beds and around the base of your plants will probably give you the option of covering your plants if you needed to, protecting them from direct sun, high winds, hail and even snow. Last year it snowed 6" EARLY and yet all our plants survived because we had them covered with our "hoops". The inside of the plastic even had little water beads and it was 30 degrees out! LOL By June they were all looking great. The DE (food grade) can be purchased at your local farm supply pretty cheap also, and it's VERY powdery so be sure to wear a mask when your sprinkling it!!! It's deadly for snails & slugs especially....and probably worms also if they come up into it.

PVC piping isn't really very expensive & the plastic can usually be bought fairly cheap also.

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Edited by Philbe
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Jeepers - yes, that's exactly what I was afraid of!

CGA - THANK YOU. I don't know why I didn't think of that, that could very possibly work!

Philbe - Late Fall, winter, and early spring are the only time I can grow lettuce outdoors here. And this year, with the crazy lows at night and the record breaking heat during the day, my lettuce was confused, as were the snails/slugs. My problem with DE is that it kills the good bugs as well as the bad bugs. I try to use almost no pesticides, including organic controls, like DE. The one exception to this is that when I put out my beans and squash, I will sprinkle some Sluggo around the young seedlings. This is the only control I use. I'd like to say it's because I'm such a strong steward for the Earth, but the reality is that I'm a lazy gardener. I don't have time to fuss daily with all the plants I grow. As a result, only plants that are bug resistant tend to have a place in my yard. This year, my one exception are the two types of potatoes I'm planting - as soon as they're done in June, those 8'x4' beds will become empty. In fact, I may turn one into a compost pile. But this is to accommodate water restrictions due to the drought here in California. I'm hoping the potatoes won't need to be watered more than once or twice a week. While the tomatoes and peppers I usually plant, are water hogs. But I digress . . .

My garden contains plants that are pretty impervious to bugs. I can't grow spinach either because of the bug problem. So, I grow chiogga beets, kale, and New Zealand spinach (the bugs avoid these plants) as my spinach substitutes. The chiogga beet greens are lovely, btw, and not beety tasting at all!

But lettuce is a tricky crop here in Central California, the climate is not really suited for it. And other than the little I manage to scavenge from the slugs, it's the one crop that we would really financially benefit from my being able to produce simply because we eat so much of it. (Produce is cheap here compared to other parts of the country. Or at least it was before the drought :( ) So, I'm going to try and produce it indoors. I've bought a "grow light" (a clamp on metal work light and a full spectrum bulb) Now I just need to clean off the downstairs porch area and get to work! I love CGA's plastic sheet idea, but because the bathroom is upstairs, I think in the long run if I can set up a place downstairs, my lettuce will stay cooler and be less likely to bolt.

Wish me luck - I think I'm going to go and make some headway now!

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A funny "not so funny" story that "growingyourgreens" told once, was some neighbors called the police on him because of his "glowing" bathroom window. It was grow lights. The police searched the whole house for "stuff" that's illegal :-(

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