Treading Lightly – Grow Your Own

Remember all the spinach recalls a couple of decades ago, because the farms were watering with contaminated water and people were getting sick from eating the spinach?

Or more recently, the “throw away your romaine” warnings, for the same reason?

I’ve been fed up with commercial produce for quite a while. This is yet another area where we (humanity) have allowed profit to take precedence over the well-being of people, not to mention the planet. That’s why I started growing my own lettuce hydroponically a couple of years ago. “I’m going to grow my own damn romaine,” I said when I started.

Well, this past fall I added a greenhouse to my grow-my-own tools, and this spring I planted spinach and bok choi and all the lettuces (seriously, about six kinds of lettuce) and they are all growing fast. I’m still growing lettuce hydroponically, too, but I could never get spinach (which is apparently finicky) to grow in my hydro containers. But look! Spinach in the greenhouse! Clean spinach!

And some radishes below the spinach. And I just put in tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, celery, romanesco broccoli, and some herbs. If I tried to grow these things outdoors where I live, I’d have to wait a couple of months for the ground to get warmer, and then if I wanted a harvest I’d have to cover them anyway to keep the wildlife from eating them.

I just ate a salad of baby lettuces that I thinned out of the beds in the greenhouse. There is nothing so envigorating as eating fresh, fresh greens!

And not forgetting the “treading lightly” part – growing my own greens means my food has a much lower carbon footprint. It doesn’t have to be packaged, kept cold, and transported hundreds of miles. It is fresh, fresh, fresh and better for the planet as well as better for me.

I realize not everyone can have a greenhouse, but anyone can grow lettuce in their home hydroponically. It does not take a huge amount of room or expense. All it takes is a container, a bit of nutrients mixed in water, and a grow light. Just search on Kratky passive hydroponics for a wealth of information.

Dear Reader: I challenge you to grow some of your own food this year. Grow some lettuce! Put a pot of tomatoes on your patio! You can do it!

In fact – I bought a 1 ounce package of oakleaf lettuce seed (that’s a lot of seed) from an heirloom seed company and I can’t possibly use it all this year. Here’s a photo of it (left) growing in the greenhouse – still babies.

I will send you some oakleaf lettuce seed if you email me your address!*

I got oakleaf because I found it grows particularly well in hydroponics – it is compact where other varieties (like romaine) get tall and bump up against the light, and it tends to last a few weeks longer than other varieties.

*I must limit this to the continental U.S., I think, because of regulations about sending seeds through the mail. It’s commercial seed, but I will be putting some in a little envelope for you so it will not have the official packaging.

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