So far on this Blog and on our Website, we’ve been sharing what Aquaponics USA Grow Beds look like in their prime; but the real truth is this: Sometimes Grow Beds aren’t pretty.
This is one of those days. All that hairy looking stuff is roots–lots and lots of lettuce roots that have just been pulled up out of the hydroton in the Grow Bed. This is the exact same Grow Bed we featured in our latest video that we created only about three weeks ago. If you haven’t seen it yet and want to see this Grow Bed when it was beautiful go to our “About” page.
As a young gardener (not in age but in gardening experience), I’m only just now getting used to how temporary and fleeting a beautiful, thriving and productive garden is. One day, it’s there and the next, it’s gone. Gardening is a very fluid endeavor and a great teacher of the motto: “Change is the only thing we can count on.” The good news about aquaponics is this–you can turn around and plant again immediately regardless of the season. I have 400 seed plugs of lettuce sprouting right now; and I’ll show you this same bed with the young lettuce planted in it soon.
In the back of this bed, are two bowels full of still edible lettuce even though much of the lettuce that remained in the bed had bolted. The reason we can eat bolted or nearly bolted lettuce is because aquaponically grown lettuce is so sweet and delicious, it still tastes fine even after bolting. However, the pile of lettuce on the left is going to the rabbits, which live in the empty lot right next door; and they are some of the fatest, happiest rabbits in town.
This hairy mess is a close-up of what’s left after a head of lettuce has been chopped off as close to the roots as possible and the roots are still clinging to a lot of hydroton from the Grow Bed. Now, you probably know the hydroton is the Grow Bed Media that is used in place of dirt to hold your plants in place. It also functions as your bio-filter. If you don’t know what a bio-filter is, scroll down and read our earlier series called Aquaponics 101 Parts 1-5.
What you have to do when you clear out a Grow Bed in preparation for the next planting is get all those pellets of hydroton out of the roots and back into the Grow Bed. Hydroton is not something you want to waste or throw to those eagerly waiting rabbits as it is not cheap. Both the roots and the hydroton are connected to a seed starting plug, which we use to sprout our seeds. These plugs come in a multi-cube pack that fits in a standard seed starting tray. We have a page on our website where you can order Seed Starter Kits that consist of the seedling tray, the multi-cube pack and a protective, humidifying dome.
Once in the house, the edible lettuce has to be washed immediately or it will wilt and no longer be edible. However, if you miss your washing window by a couple of hours and return to wilted lettuce like I did last night, soaking your lettuce in cold water will bring it back to life.
The two bowels full of lettuce above, plus the two bowels in the top picture, ended up producing seven 10 oz. bags of washed, edible lettuce, which are now in our refrigerator. This Grow Bed produced beautiful, prime lettuce that we ate from for about two months before we harvested the crop. We’re doing some time studies to see how long our lettuce will stay fresh in the refrigerator as we believe that vegetables grown from fertilizer produced by live fish have more life force energy than vegetables grown with pesticides. We’ll let you know how our time studies turn out. In the meantime, we’ll be eating lots of lettuce.