High Yield Lettuce Hydroponic Planting Trials

Do not waste the light.

My fellow gardeners know that I love leaf lettuces, arugula, and spinach and I’m a huge fan of the high yield planting methods promoted by John Jeavons like scatter planting in soil on raised beds.  If you want to grow leaf lettuce and arugula and other densely planted varieties in a hydroponic system here are two techniques for efficient planting without investing in really cool high volume planting machine.

Traditional Scatter Planting Works with Lettuce Seeds.

Scatter planting is the method of scattering seeds on the ground, or in this case onto a grow medium, by pinching them free above the soil allowing the seeds to fall to the soil and evenly spread out.   With this method one can fill an entire bed area with seeds allowing plants like leaf lettuce to grow up in contact with each other.  The plants should be as close as a half inch to each other but can be as close right next to each other.

Outside on raised garden beds scatter planting works wonderfully, check out how our lettuce beds look at OTR Homegrown.

leaf lettuce in OTR Cincinnati

Using Scatter Planting Techniques Indoors

When planting onto grow mediums like rockwool, lettuce seeds land where they land on the rockwool. They do not bounce or roll around.  Because of this you can use traditional scatter planting method to properly get a good scatter of lettuce seeds on a rockwood tray without having to place each seed individually. Rockwool seems to be a perfect medium for growing leaf lettuce trays.
High yield indoor lettuce TrialsIMG_20141204_231437690_HDRIMG_20141204_231501596

The plants should be as close as a half inch to each other but can be as close right next to each other.   With this method one can fill an entire bed area with seeds allowing plants like leaf lettuce to grow up in contact with each other.  The plants have each other to lean on supporting the outside leaves and standing them up while no space is wasted in the bed.

IMG_20141214_170427081 IMG_20141213_245254377

Below is a tray of leaf lettuce grown indoors just before the first harvest.  Notice how the neighboring lettuce plant helps keep it’s neighbor upright, the leaf lettuce on the outside of the plant do not fall and lay on the “ground”, or grow medium. The leaf lettuce are densely populated maximizing the amount of plants per square foot.  Ventilation and having a fan directly on your plants is an important part of this method, and with all indoor grow methods.

Seeds like arugula though, Bounce!

When you plant seeds like arugula, which are round, they bounce on the rockwool and jump all over the place.  It is hard to ensure a good scatter of seed on the rockwool. Without a good spread of see we would end up with empty patches on a garden bed or on an indoor growing tray.  Placing each seed on the grow medium one at a time would take way too long

Here is a relatively quick and affordable way to “scatter-plant” arugula seeds for hydroponic systems.

What you will need:

Styrofoam. (The size of your planting medium)

A whole puncher, or screw starter, or Robertson screw driver.

Rockwool or grow medium the size of your tray.

A large tray that your grow medium can fit into.


Step One:  On your flat piece of styrofoam use your whole puncher or Robertson screw driver to make a small indentation on your styrofoam.  Make rows of indentations so that you have an indentation every half inch. The indentation should be deep enough that one or two arugula, kale type seeds can fit into it.  If the indentations are too small it is hard to get all of the seeds in place.  If they are too big you’ll get too many seeds in each indentation.
Step Two: Place your styrofoam into your large tray.  This tray has to be able to catch seeds that roll over off of the styrofoam.

Now place a handfull of arugula seeds onto the styrofoam and use your hands to roll the seeds around.  You can also vibrate the styrofoam gently with your hands to move the seeds around.  The seeds will stay put in the indentations if your indentations are large enough. If they are too large two many seeds will collect in the indentations.

Once you have filled your indentations with seeds use your hand to remove the access seeds into the tray your styrofoam is sitting in.  This tray should collect all unused seed for later use.  Make sure this tray is not wet.

The Flip onto the Rockwool.

Place your rockwool face down onto the seed side of the styrofoam.

Holding the grow medium in place flip over the grow medium and styrofoam tray.  Tap on the top of the styrofoam tray gently to ensure the seeds come out of their indentations.

Check out this scatter of round arugula seeds.  Nice, no?

Lift the styrofoam and you should now have a nice scatter-plant of arugula seeds on your rockwool.



It worked wonderfully.


Hydroponic systems that utilize the high yield methods of people like John Jeavons, who decades ago realized that there should not be space in the garden that is not converting light into food mass, are more likely to make the most of the cost of materials and energy.


Saving The OTR Homegrown Lettuce

We are Seed Savers At OTR Homegrown and our specialty crop has been breeding an OTR Homegrown Leaf Lettuce.

Seed saving is an important part of the food process. Without seeds, there is no food. At OTR Homegrown we have been saving our leaf lettuce seed every season for 6 seasons now.

As stated in a previous article about this strain, The leaf lettuce varieties I started with was the Heirloom Leaf Lettuce Collection from Seeds Savers Exchange. Every season it is grown and the seeds are saved the more the strain acclimates to the downtown Cincinnati urban environment (which is different than that of the suburban environment).

Saving Two Year Old Lettuce Seed.

My wife loves me and it takes a special woman to love an urban gardener. Or any gardener for that type. FOr the many reasons I say that I give you one real good reason in this tray of two year old lettuce I had stashed somewhere in a bag in the garage.
bolted two year old leaf lettuce

Two summers ago a season ended with so much lettuce seed that some got stashed into a bag and stored to work at during the winter months. It will be interesting to find the germination rates of this two year old seed.
Lettuce seed

To get the lettuce seed from the lettuce stalk I now first cut the top of the plant that has seeds off from the stock when harvesting the lettuce seed in the garden. In this bag though the whole plant, including the roots were stacked together en masse. I leave all that in the field.

First, I cut the seeds away from the stems using scissors. I put the seed pods and small stems into a wire strainer (siv), the lettuce seed is smaller than the small holes between the small wire sieve.

Lettuce Seed
Pushing hard rubbing and crushing the organic material into the sieve breaks open all of the lettuce pods containing the lettuce seed. Running them through the strainer several times ensures I get all of the lettuce seed and gets rid of the stems. Leaving the rest helps you see where you plant if you plant in soil. If you need to access the seed without organic matter further strain then use fans to blow away the other organic material, or your seed, into separate piles. Be cautious doing this to not scatter a mess of your seeds in an errant wind.

My organic gardening guru, Geri Guidetti taught me using seed envelopes for seed packages. That is cool for the seed as the paper package allows the seeds to literally “Breath”, which she says seeds need to do. But we use jars now as Josh found out the hard way with an intern spilling juice on a bag o’ seed~ ;( womp.
So a jar like this will go to Josh over at Name of urban greens. Though a jar made from…
lettuce seed in a jar

Saving This Years OTR Homegrown Lettuce Seed.

2014 Lettuce Seed
A story in itself as everything is, I am lucky to have harvested my seed this year. Thanks to the fact that the lettuce seed pods will dry onto the seed and stay there, they did not all fall off.

Urban Gardens Fight Blight.

Left to their own empty urban lots become weed ladened garbage dumps. Gardens in their stead not only provide food but look tended and cared for. An overgrown abandoned lot not only makes a whole street look bad but also has a way of growing and spreading like a virus. People start throwing junk in their, the junk gets larger, a mattress gets thrown in (pic)…

OTR Homegrown is using basic mulching techniques to keep the streetside clear of overgrown weeds that become a breeding ground of garbage, empty bottles, glass and possibly needles.

Then another group as of yet unknown came in and cleared the garbage from the street 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Cardboard and pulled weeds.

Soon to come, straw.

This will keep the weeds from growing up all summer, yet preserve the grounds ability to soak up rain water and allow the soil to continue to get better until this spot finds a gardener.

Barred Owls Singing Sexy near Owl’s Nest Park

Owl’s Nest Park is appropriately named. Those of us who live near the #Cincinnati park know, there is a relatively large population of owls that live in the vicinity. Tonight, March 27, I captured the songs of the Barred Owls mating calls. They have been in mating for around 3 weeks. I think I even heard an owl orgasim. Unfortunately that is not captured here. I guess the male owl petered out. Listed to Barred Owl’s Mating in Scarborough Park #Cincinnati.
You should have headphones for this, recorded with voice recorder app.

The Pleasant Street Pickup!

Hey engaged people who care, who shine light, who give a darn if a child falls on glass and gets cut or if someone rolls over glass and pops their tire; this message is for you.

What: The Pleasant St. Pick Up

Where: Pleasant St. Between Liberty + Green

When: Saturday March 1st 10:00 AM

What to Bring:  Gloves, Hat, Long Pants, Long Sleeves, Clothes that can get dirty, Boots or strong shoes if your have them, Trash pick up tools if your have them, strong garbage bags, rakes. water, and smiles.

OTR Homegrown is one of the only tenants on Pleasant St between Liberty and Green in Over The Rhine.  Because very few people live on the street our block becomes trashed on a regular basis.  We spend a lot of time cleaning the street but over the Winter when we were not there the street accumulated OTRash!   This is just one block South of Findlay Market; many people bring their children down our street on their way to the Market.

This clean up is not for the faint of heart.  It is really bad.  There is a lot of broken glass and bottles angled in the dirt, and trash and clothes scattered throughout the block.

We care about our block, the kids that play on the street could get hurt or stuck with a needle.  We care about our community, if people are going to fix the houses then we do not want them seeing the street trashed like this.

We care about the people in our community, people coming into the neighborhood to spend money create jobs and support locally owned businesses.  People do not come into trashed neighborhoods.

Come Together.


Red-Shouldered Hawks in Cincinnati

The most common Hawk in the U.S.

The Red-Shouldered Hawk (corrected) lives in Cincinnati.  Often you can spot them on top of light posts along highways, or hear their screeches while walking in neighborhoods, although Mockingbirds make a pretty convincing hawk sound.
Redtail Hawk

In urban regions, small wooded areas serve as breeding habitats for our native bird populations to prosper.  Green spaces such as watersheds, waterways, parks, wooded lots, State parks, bird sanctuaries, and nature preserves act as breeding grounds and space for a number of animals to thrive including chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, deer, and especially birds.

Redtail Hawk Cincinnati Ohio

Here our Native Red-Shouldered Hawk takes off after being perched atop the neighbor’s high powered radio antenna where seconds earlier two Red-Shouldered Hawks perched moments before I got there, one flew off.  These two pictures are of the same Red-Shouldered Hawk taking off of the radio antenna.

Common birds in the Cincinnati, Ohio area.

Among the many species and types of birds that live in Cincinnati, Oh. are:

The blue and white Mockingbird

Three species of woodpecker.

Red-Shouldered hawk:

Barred Owl:


Blue Jays:

This Guy??

blue-pecker-finch-like-bird blue-woodpecker-home-dexter-windown

Can you #namethisbird

Urban Barred Owls in Cincinnati

For two years my baby’s mama and I would hear the call of a Barred Owl, one of several owls that inhabit Ohio.  But despite our attempts we never saw one.

The Barred Owl pictured lives near an urban bird sanctuary in Walnut Hills, very close to Owl’s Nest Park on Madison Ave.  There are Redtail Hawks, Deer, Chipmunks, Rabbits, Mice, Squirrels, Woodpeckers, in the woods along the Ohio River.

Today a predator stood just outside our window in the hallow of a tree cut down with disease; a perfectly covered hallow on three sides providing shelter from attack while looking in our window.   A squirrel teamed up with a highly vocal bird and they screamed a warning out to all.  Their bark continuous, their warning a siren that did not go off.

Enjoy The Pictures.   owl-sun-tree-med owl pan-owl-tree- profile-sun-owl-2 Profile-owl-2014-jan-tree sun-profile-owl owl-looking-around owl-sun-best-4 Owl-Dexter-home-2014 owl-awake-open-eyes-night sun-owl-best-beak- owl-sun-best-focus

Michelle Dillingham Featured on OTR-POD.

Michelle Dillingham is a founding member of OTR Homegrown. This week she is featured on OTR-POD. Check out the Podcast here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/otrpod/Michelle_Dillingham_for_Council.mp3.

“OTR-POD sits down with Michelle Dillingham. Michelle tells her story of growing up in a progressive house in Boston. Her father was a beatnik poet who’s artistic expression reflected Boston politics in the 50…’s and 60’s. Her mother loved the arts and education. Michelle had a calling for social service and now for public service. We talk about life, art, whole foods, ghosts, and her amazing son. I hope you enjoy.”

Thank you.