Grow Greens Indoors Under Lights

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
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A new title has been secured-- welcome to my reinvented thread Grow Greens Indoors Under Lights.

Today I bumped up a whole bunch of lettuce seedlings that were sitting in 3/4" blocks for far too long. They were crowded and stagnating. Going forward one of my gardening goals is to do a better job of bumping up seedlings when they need it-- as opposed to my current method which is whenever I feel like doing it. All too often other tasks often seem to look more appealing, so it doesn't get done when it should.

First up were 20 or so Head Hunters Mix, from Wild Garden Seed lettuce breeder Frank Morton. I started by making sure my blocking mix was nice and moist, pressing down firmly all over the pan and adding extra water here and there. Then I made my blocks, and used a popsicle stick to carefully cut between the little 3/4" blocks, to separate the root mass. Popping the cubes of soil into the depression created by the blocking tool was easy, and then I took a little bit of moist soil and gently pressed it around the long, wiggly stem of each lettuce seedling. To finish I used my squirt bottle to water each plant with a weak kelp emulsion solution, and then the tray went back under the lights. I have not had good success moving baby lettuce outdoors recently as it is very hot, dry, and windy-- a trifecta of evil for immature plants. They will stay indoors for a bit, and then go out to the shad for a week or so before getting planted out.
 

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Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
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All winter my grow light station has been full to bursting with seedlings at various stages of development and now that summer-like weather is here the shelves have turned in to a bit of a ghost town, sitting almost empty. This, coupled with the fact that it is difficult (impossible?) to find time to bump up seedlings during the busy months of May and June, has brought me to the realization that it makes no sense to start lettuce in tiny 3/4" blocks at this time. Lettuce grows fast--and considerably faster if sown in 1 1/2" soil blocks (see my February 10th post in this thread for photographic proof)-- so I will sow warm season lettuce with 3 seeds per 1 1/2" block going forward, and I will just snip off the extra seedlings if more than one seed per block germinates. In May and June I should have the space to accommodate the larger blocks indoors under lights, and if for some reason the grow light station gets crowded the trays of lettuce can easily be moved outdoors during the day, and brought in at night if it's cool. Best of all there should be no bumping required-- and therefore no pangs of guilt if I don't get around to bumping them up.

Not only that, I did the math and calculated the volume of compressed soil that goes in to creating each soil block.
And I was gobsmacked when I saw the results. :ep

1/2" block= .125 cubic inches
1 1/2" block= 3.38 cubic inches
2" block= 8 cubic inches

How is it possible that the 2" block can use more that twice the amount of soil as a 1 1/2" block?? The 1 1/2" and 2" blocks don't appear to be that different in size-- yet the difference in their volume is rather shocking. By starting seeds in a tiny block with a bump to the large 2" block, my input is 8.125 cubic inches per plant, versus starting them directly in the 1 1/2" block and then just planting them straight outdoors will only consume 3.38 cubic inches. This represents a huge time savings and a big cost savings too. When I began this thread I did not have the mid-sized blocking tool in my tool kit, but now that I do I will give this a shot and report back once I can confirm how it goes.
 

Branching Out

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All of the lettuce that I started indoors eventually made its way out to the garden, and now they are all bolting. It seems very early in the season for this to happen; our hot dry spring was certainly a factor in hastening their life cycle.

According to Frank Morton when the lettuce bolts it's important to remove their lower leaves--especially with Romaine varieties-- to limit disease. I spent a few minutes trimming leaves from my Kalura and Pandero Romaine yesterday in advance of the rain that is in the forecast. They were planted quite close together, and were already beginning to get brown and mushy on the bottom. So thank you Frank, for this useful tip. I am not too concerned about these leaf lettuce as they have a more open habit with really good air flow.
 

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heirloomgal

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We once made lettuce wraps to celebrate Chinese New Year, and I recall really liking them. We need to make those again. They are really tasty!
I find the peanut butter sauce dip so delicious. I love the tahini based one too. If you ever want either recipe pm me. I made some rice paper noodle spring rolls stuffed with shredded lettuce, carrot, cucumber, cabbage, pepper and basil for our Father's Day dinner appetizers. I knew DH really likes them, but it was a first for my dad and he loved them. I was so happy. My gosh those are so filling and scrumptious! I even sprinkled them with the black sesame seeds I grew last year for *presentation*. I finally found a use for those little seeds!
 

Branching Out

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I find the peanut butter sauce dip so delicious. I love the tahini based one too. If you ever want either recipe pm me. I made some rice paper noodle spring rolls stuffed with shredded lettuce, carrot, cucumber, cabbage, pepper and basil for our Father's Day dinner appetizers. I knew DH really likes them, but it was a first for my dad and he loved them. I was so happy. My gosh those are so filling and scrumptious! I even sprinkled them with the black sesame seeds I grew last year for *presentation*. I finally found a use for those little seeds!
That is fantastic that you were able to incorporate home grown sesame seeds into what sounds like an amazing appetizer. That would be a great dish to make at the peak of summer, with all of the garden vegetables. :)
 

Branching Out

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Today I have several kinds of lettuce to move from my lights to outdoors, so I started a big tray of new varieties to take their place. Jester lettuce was number one on the list as it seems to be the fan favourite for summer. It is also the first 'Crisphead' lettuce that I had ever tried; at the time I recall being shocked that the leaves were cool and crunchy, even in really warm weather. This time I started the lettuce in 1 1/2" blocks with the hope that there will be no need to bump them up before planting them out in about 3 weeks time (or that if I have to move them to started pots it will be easy). I tried to tuck in two seeds per block, just in case one doesn't germinate. If all goes well we will be enjoying these greens in mid-August, right at the peak of salad season. 🥬
 
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