IndoorSalad Lettuce Splashers Test

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This topic started mixed-in with a Kale grow comparing kale grown in Aerogarden, manual hydroponic "splasher", and soil. But, in the Indoor Salad book, one of my DIY projects is a splasher. So I started out just wanting to test the instructions for the DIY project, since it's been a while. Then I wanted to try out my new 1-part vegetative organic nutrients vs. one-part vegetative inorganic nutrients.



Then I decided I wanted to sell a kit for this DIY project, as a launch special to go with the book. Then I needed to select the product components and verify them and the instructions. And bonus seeds to go with the selected lettuce seeds...

Yeah, like that. It kind of snowballed.

Anyway, the first couple posts here are just copy-pasted from the kale growlog. Then further posts of tester salad's progress.
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Ginger
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First harvest. They grow
First harvest. They grow slower in the cool dry of winter.

4 week splashers and a coirstone, first harvest 

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Ginger
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At 20 weeks, retired that
At 20 weeks, retired that first coffee-can splasher. Perhaps the inorganic nutes gave it more staying power. Perhaps it was the added iron from the rust that made them last so long, who knows. One of the two plants still tasted good and was modestly productive. The other tasted terrible and was getting buggy.

So, the splashers test is over. I'm just growing lettuce to eat now, plus the passive-hydroponic test, which can go in another topic.

retired first 20-week coffee can lettuce splasher - one bitter, one still tastes good, but can buggy 3 week splashers and one passive-hydroponic coir/growstones (middle rear)

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So far, so good on the coir
So far, so good on the coir no-splashing test. The plants look about the same as in the splasher control tub, despite setbacks. (The coir plants took root damage on transplant, and the coir got very green with algae on top.) The top of the coir definitely stayed damp all week. Maybe too damp. At any rate, splasher and passive coir both look about as big as 2 week summercrisp ever looks.
19 week splasher, rest 2 week, coir self-watering in center tub. New burlap cozies - cleaned off serious algae greening in 2 tubs, inc. coir tub 2 week summer crisp lettuce - splasher left, pure passive coir/growstone right - pretty similar despite setbacks on coir side (root loss in transplant, extreme algae greening on top, cleaned off yesterday) 2 week summercrisp lettuce with burlap splasher cover (ribbon detail varies) 

The severe algae outbreak was probably from both the growstones staying wet and reused growstones. I cleaned off a lot of deep green rocks from one of the other splashers with reused growstones, too. I think bleach or peroxide is in order when washing these. But I don't like washing rocks. So I tossed the green surface and added new growstones. (For about a quarter cup of wasted recycled growstones.)  That's kind of a bonus on the passive coco coir + growstones scheme. Grow once and throw the substrate away. A bit wasteful.

Made burlap splasher cozies to dress up my tubs a bit and keep more light out of the nutes. Made extras, to offer as an Indoor Salad special. With my splashers bunched together under an overhead light, the insides don't get too green, just the surface while waiting for the leaves to grow. In a window, the side-algae would be a lot worse.

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 Interesting! It will be fun
 Interesting! It will be fun to see how the coir works. 

 

 

 

 

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Only one left of the original
Only one left of the original crop of splashers. The newbies are off to a good start.

  

I replanted one of the new "splashers" as an experiment in self-watering. Rather than pure growstones, it's about 50% coco coir. So still hydroponic, but no splashing or bubblers. The hope is that the coir wicks well enough to keep the plants well watered. On the downside, you'd just have to throw out the coir/stone medium after the grow. Too much hassle to wash and replant with it.

Reconstituting the coir brick was fun.

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And then there were two.
And then there were two. Retired a lettuce splasher that was straggly, and the mimulus because the black root zone was supporting too many fungus gnats. Started replacement lettuce for 5 splashers (3 splashers directly, 2 starting in an Aerogarden, because I can).

16-17 week summercrisp lettuce splashers - final two (replanting)  14 week mimulus grew back nicely, but I discarded the plants - supported too many fungus gnats 16-17 week summercrisp lettuce splashers - three new (summercrisp, red sails, little caesar), and cucumber pot 


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Down to 4 splashers now - one
Down to 4 splashers now - one of the lettuce splashers died. I should plant more lettuce, but kinda busy.

15-16 week lettuce, three remain. One of the coffee cans (inorganic nutes) got ill and died. The other coffee can is the huge double lettuce at bottom left - it was between the lamps last week. Scrawniest gets that spot this week.  

I'm not sure what happened with the coffee-can splasher that died. One of its two plants was straggly and broke, I think, and I pulled it out. Several days later, the second plant wilted and fell over. But 15 weeks is a long life for lettuce.
 

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Harvested the 2nd half of the
Harvested the 2nd half of the toy choi, aged 6 weeks. With my old Burpee puny toy choi, 4 choi would easily fit in one splasher, to maturity, and make a generous 1 serving, paltry 2 servings. Not so with tuffy toy choi! But that's OK, I can still plant 4 and just eat them in two waves. I just hadn't bargained on so much food from planting 11 toy choi at once. And still have the baby choi to harvest next week from the Aerogarden - lotta choi!

14-15 week summercrisp lettuce, 6 week toy choi (harvested), 12 week mimulus 6 week toy choi (harvested), 12 week mimulus 14-15 week summercrisp lettuce, less productive and getting a bit bitter 

The summercrisp lettuce are definitely on the wane now, producing less and getting a little bitter. Yanked one plant altogether. I'd start replanting, but - no rainwater. Which is probably contributing to the old plants' decline. It can wait.

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The lettuce hasn't died. Long
The lettuce hasn't died. Long floppy stems, but not bolting. The toy choi are all harvestable size, but I took two and left two to get bigger. The splasher is more than big enough for 4 of the smaller Burpee toy choi, but a bit cramped for tuffy toy choi.

13-14 week summercrisp, 5 week toy choi (2 harvested, plus lettuce harvest), 11 week mimulus - organic nutes on the lettuce 11 week mimulus - worst algae, root zone blackened, but plants look happy enough 5 week toy choi - not as big as in AG, still bigger than toy choi I've grown before - left 2 to grow bigger 13-14 week summercrisp lettuce, inorganic nutes, pre-harvest FolgeCLASS 13-14 week summercrisp lettuce, inorganic nutes, post-harvest, harvest includes the other group of splashers 20 20 

At this point, the inorganic-nute lettuces seem to be producing better. None seem ready to stop producing, though, and 13-14 weeks is advanced old age for lettuce. Dunno how long I'll keep them going.

Grew the same mimulus in a parallel AG mini grow - grows way better in the Aerogarden, for sure. (Not so for greens - lettuce pretty close AG/splasher, AG only slightly better for the toy choi - there's parallel toy choi in that link, too.) But here's the same mimulus at age 5 weeks in the AG:
 
5 week mimulus in bloom - actually bloomed at 4.5 weeks! using 1-part inorganic nutes 

For comparison, these mims are growing with one-part nutes too (inorganic or organic, whatever's  left over). The splasher mims have serious algae, far more so than the lettuces and toy choi, and big black areas in the growstones. Not sure whether that's dead root mass or dead algae, but the fungus gnats seem to love it.

So yes, mimulus grow in splashers, and they look pretty. But they grow better with more aeration and sincere efforts at algae-suppressing darkness. They might do better in the coffee can splashers.

Edit: Oh, and the kale splasher is still going, much ignored outside. Except by caterpillars, who had no trouble finding it on the 3rd floor balcony. I picked off 3 caterpillars from the dinosaur kale today, and up to 4 per leaf from the dwarf blue curly kale. Alas, that's not good enough to make it work as a trap crop. Anyway, they're still alive, and get nutrients and splashed, sometimes.
 
15 week kale, much neglected. Caterpillars prefer curly, it seems - but they like both, a lot

They still live so I can try out that "tastes better after frost" thing.

 

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This is long-lived lettuce.
This is long-lived lettuce. In the Aerogarden, with lesser lettuces, they're usually pretty useless by this age. But though the stems are long, it isn't really bolting - I've just harvested that much lettuce. I like this variety...


Upgraded the packaging a bit for my splashers, and took a picture.

Also impressed with this toy choi variety, from Botanical Interests instead of Burpee. It's smaller in the splasher than with full-time aeration in the Aerogarden. But still a much stockier choi, more vegetable, than the Burpee seeds. At least, I assume it's the variety. It's also perfect toy choi growing weather at the moment.

4 week toy choi - most substantial toy choi I've ever grown (Botanical Interests - much heftier than my old Burpee toy choi)

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