Tag Archives: Float System

Future Tomatoes

These babies are Big Beef, Celebrity and Classica. The seed was a couple of years old in some cases and yet it looks like every one sprouted. These are growing in the float tray.

It wasn’t till last week that I realized I planted my tomaotes about a month earlier than I had planned to. I don’t normally plant them in the garden till mid May, these should be monsters by then. I am not sure what I was thinking, early March is not April 1st. Oh well early to plant…

We Have Sproutage!

This year’s Big Beef tomatos are making an entrance albeit slowly but surely. I ended up placing a heating pad (on low) half way under the plastic bin to bump up the temps a bit. I don’t know if that did the trick or not but according to the thermometer it added about 5 degrees.


The picture on the right is of Nessie. She keeps the mosquito larvae out of the float bed water during the summer.

More Lettuce Under Lights

A new round of LUL was started to day. The last round went well with the lettuce producing till it got to the point of being overgrown, unmanageable and matured to the point of becoming slightly bitter. The remaining goldfish is still kicking and it appears that the ammonia it helped produce was enough to keep the lettuce fed. I didn’t weigh my harvests but the single 13″x26″ float tray gave us enough lettuce and then some once it got to the point of producing. Of course if we were liked salad everyday it would not have been near enough for the 2-3 of us that eat here regularly. As it is we like salad 1-2x a week at most.

A new seeding went in today, this time in coir. So far it appears that it will be lighter than the soilless mix I used last time. Whether or not it will wick enough water remains to be seen. I’ve never worked with this medium before.

The seed I have been using is the Burpee Gourmet Blend mix. It contains seed of Grand Rapids, Royal Oak Leaf, Salad Bowl, Red Salad Bowl and Ruby. A nice mix of greens and reds. The package says it takes about 45 days from sowing to harvest. I find that to be for mature plants though. I tend to seed thickly so there are several harvests of thinnings along the way to the 45 day mark.

I decided to go ahead and do another sowing inside even though I have a cold frame almost ready to plant. I may end up transplanting some of the thinnings to the cold frame as a test to see how they do.

Lettuce Under Lights – wk 6


Week 6
Not much new to report. It has pretty much regrown from the last harvest. I move the lights up as the leaves grow into them. The water has evaporated to a point where I should add some more soon.

You can see that the water is getting a little green. I haven’t fertilized since an initial fertilization but I do feed the fish so I suppose he is a never ending source of ammonia.


Lettuce Under Lights – wk 5

Week 5
Not much new going on. I ended up not harvesting last week and this was the result. I harvested just after taking this photo and got a large bowl full, probably about 1/2-3/4 lb in all. I took either leaves or entire plants where there there were more than one in a cell. This would be enough for about 2-3 meals of good sized salads for 2 people. The last of the three goldfish is still controlling the mosquito larvae. The lettuce still tastes good, no sign of bitterness.

Lettuce Under Lights – wk 4

This was our first harvest taken last Thursday. It was enough for two large salads with dinner and a round of blt sandwiches for lunch. It was crisp, not even a hint of bitterness. I was very pleased.


This is what the plants looked like after harvest.


Today, 6 days later and it is time to harvest again. In the past week I have added an aquarium air bubbler and 3 feeder goldfish to the system. Two of the fish died within the first couple of days (not uncommon with feeders) but the last one is still around. Since putting in the air and fish I haven’t seen any more mosquito larvae.

Lettuce Under Lights – wk 3

Week three of the lettuce experiment. I swapped out the string holding up the lights with linked chain and an s-hook on each. It makes moving the lights up or down as needed much easier. I am having to move the lights up about 2-3 times a week as the plants grow. Later this week or early next I will harvest the larger leaves and move the lights back down. I did taste one yesterday and they are very good. No bitterness, very sweet and crisp. The basement stays a fairly constant 68F.


There is a noticable difference between the plants under the cool/warm lights (left) and the natural sunshine bulbs (right). I will replace the cool/warm bulbs with two more NS bulbs soon.

My biggest problem is keeping the mosquito larvae out of the water. I found a basement window that has a leak. I’ll seal around that and hope that will keep any more from getting in. I don’t want to use any chemicals as we will be eating the lettuce so for now I monitor and change water as needed. I am going to look into an aquarium syphon to possibly syphon them off as I find them . They are very easy to see throught the clear plastic container.

Mosquito Larvae

I was just checking on the lettuce under lights in the basement and found some mosquito larvae in the water. It was no surprise, I had been expecting them. I dumped the existing water, filled the container with fresh and added abt 1tbs of 20-20-20 to the 6 gallons of water. I couldn’t find the fish tank air pump I had planned on using there so I guess I’ll have to procure one soon. Not sure that will work but since the females prefer to lay their eggs in standing water perhaps I can get enough circulation in there to make it unattractive.

Lettuce Under Lights – wk 2

Two and a half weeks ago I seeded some lettuce in a float tray under a 4′ florescent light in my basement. About a week ago I added a second light with two Phillips ‘Natural Sunshine’ bulbs. The first light had one cool white and one warm white bulb. The hardware store I went to had actual grow bulbs but they were about $10 each as compared to $5 each for the NS bulbs. I have a third light I can add but I need bulbs for it. I think I’ll go with two more NS bulbs as the plants are looking good and developing color well. The two rows uner the light with the warm/cool bulbs seem to be leaning toward the NS bulbs a bit.

I am not really happy with the soil I chose for the tray. I needed something lighter. It stays a bit too wet and I had a problem with some damping off early on. The remaining plants seem to be doing fine though.

Lettuce Under Lights

One of the best gardening books I’ve read in a long time is “Garden Secrets” by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent and Diane E. Bilderback. Most garden books tell you about how to grow plants which this book does. It goes beyond that though by including information on how day length and temperature affect germination, blooming etc. For instance, some varieties of lettuce grown near street lights can bolt before they normally would as the light from the lamps fool the plants into ‘thinking’ the days are longer than they actually are. I sought this information out after reading someone’s bitter lettuce tale on one of the garden boards I frequent. It reminded me of my own bitter lettuce that was started under lights last year. I had the lights on for 15 hours a day thinking the longer days would mean larger plants. While it probably did it also meant bitter plants.

The 90+F weather outside has me wanting some lettuce and I have a nice cool basement that should work fine. I used a 72 cell float tray and a plastic container from WallyWorld to hold the water. I will need to get another light which is one reason why I only seeded 4 rows (3-4 seeds in each cell, hoping for 2 to sprout) in the float tray and even that was pushing it. Once I include the second light I can seed the outer rows and will have staggered plantings. I set the one light I do have on a 12hrs on / 12hrs off schedule as per the book above. Keeping my fingers crossed

by: kerry