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I wanted to grow lettuce, but I didn’t have any light…

So I went to the indoor gardening store looking for lettuce lights. This was a while ago before the Poser Homestead became a thing.

I had an entire basement room to dedicate to winter crops. If I set out some tables and got some lights, I’d never have to go to the store again. I could even be a microgreens farmer–they’re $17/pound at the restaurant store.

But I needed lights.

Lucky for me, there was a garden store right around the corner. “Hydroponics and indoor gardening,”  the window said. It was nice to see so many people interested in growing their own food.

I didn’t know much about indoor lighting,  only that  I didn’t want those ugly, clip lights from high school science class.

Turns out, the hydroponic and indoor gardening store has the Holy Grail of all lighting collections…

Finding the right equipment.

It was overwhelming…the garden equivalent of the perfume lady in the mall. But everything was so expensive! I couldn’t picture a farmer paying two hundred dollars for a lightbulb.

Suddenly, ninety-nine cent lettuce was looking pretty cheap.

“What are you growing?” the hydroponic lady asked.

“Lettuce.” You got to start somewhere. Lettuce seemed like a good place for a vegetarian to begin.

“Lettuce?”

“Yes. Lettuce.”

“What kind?” she asked.

“Romaine. Mixed. Mustard greens.” Whatever seeds I could find. Microgreens are an overpriced waste, and sprouts don’t really need light.

“Oh, lettuce. Like, real lettuce.”  Is there any other kind? They make fake bacon for vegetarians, but lettuce is pretty straightforward.

You’re in the wrong place, girl.

And then, I realized where I was… the indoor garden store.  Nobody here grew lettuce. They grew lettuce. The Devil’s lettuce.

And Satan sure pays top dollar for his lighting equipment.

“I can’t sell you these,” she said. “They’re too expensive. Go to Home Depot.”

It doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of dollars to grow something that costs ninety-nine cents on a bad day. That’s just dumb. Even if I upped the game to winter tomatoes, I priced myself out.

We could sit here all day and argue about carbon footprint this, transportation cost that, but the fact remains–I’d rather eat dried lentils all winter than pay more than my mortgage for a leaf.

I went to Home Depot where I found the ugly lights and hoods. I didn’t buy them. They looked like some eighteen-year old should’ve been using them in a closet.

There were more options online.

Most were way overpriced “self-watering hydroponic systems.”

Call it a “system” and hipsters’ll pay $250 to grow three leaves of basil and some catnip. No thanks.

Next, I discovered the hydroponic wall. I saw a YouTube video with one in the background. That’s my type of operation–go big or go home. But to buy it would be a thousand including ceiling lights, so again, it made the little lettuce leaves seem like a lot.

There was an indoor hydroponic station could grow a complete grocery store, but that was a thousand dollars too. And Kickstarter was full of them. Everyone wants their little piece of farmland in the city. Too expensive.

Finally, I got a light rack on sale. I only bought it because it was on sale. I should’ve built it myself. I’ll build the next one, I promise.  It’s a little aluminum rack with two loops where you can hang an ugly tube lamp–from Home Depot.

If you drive by my house right now, you’ll see it. It’s hideous. It’s got a UFO-colored glow, and the plants aren’t neat like they should be in a dining room. It’s a mess. I’ve crowded every living thing I can fit underneath it.

I’ve got rescued succulents, my heirloom Christmas cactus my Mother’s Day moon cactus, and a spider plant I hate but feel too guilty to kill. It’s a living thing, after all.

The point was lettuce, though.

I walked through the garden to look for some food. I rescued my bay laurel tree (it’s more like two twigs and some rotten leaves) and a dying rosemary plant, and promised to go back for the chives, green onions, and parsley the next day.

Then, it snowed.  Better luck next year.  That’s life on the Poser Homestead.

But you can’t eat succulents and there’s still no lettuce. And I’ve filled up all my space.  Thankfully, I have one more antique side table just waiting for a UFO lamp. I’ll have to sneak it in when nobody’s home so they can’t protest the decor.

Long live the Poser Homestead. Let there be (regular) lettuce for us all.

Setups for Rich People…

  • The Herbert. This is like wall art for your lettuce, and I want it, however, I’d need two or three to keep me in greens, and the point is not to spend five times more for the food I eat. So, no Herbert for me. But if they send me one, I’ll talk about them every day.
  • ClickandGrow. For a hundred bucks or so, you can grow lettuce on your desk at work so when your boss makes you work through lunch, you’ll have thirty or forty emergency leaves to eat. For the price of a used car, you can get their Garden Wall. I love this and again, I’d use it. But it’s my food budget for the year just for the unit, then you have to buy their “salad capsules” to plug into the contraption. This strikes me as something a tech company would buy in case their barista quits.
  • Urban Cultivator. Hands down, I’d trade my dishwasher space for this, probably my beer fridge, too. But it’s so expensive it doesn’t have a price, putting it deep into the “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” category, and all the show rooms seem to be in Canada.

For the rest of the world

The QVC Aerogarden. Okay, so this is one you can afford, and if you watch the infomercial, it’s only $4 after your $40 credit. Two things… that means you’ve got to buy two things from infomercials, and you’d better have some of the Devil’s lettuce to sit through the advertisements it takes to do that, or you’ve got to google this and find it somewhere else. This one’s tiny, and the dude tells you “After a couple weeks the basil will come back.” Waiting two weeks for my pasta is good for a keto diet, but for the rest of the universe… not so much.

Aquasprouts. This one wins the award for “tried to mask as permaculture.” Fish and plants go together–the fish waste gives the plant nutrients. Don’t think of it like you’re eating fish poop either. Mother nature takes care of that. Here’s my problem, though. It still needs light, so I’d have to rig it up with any of the other ugly lights I have. And, direct light and fish are not friends. Green stuff grows in your fishtank. So, unless you also want to eat plankton, I can’t see this one making the cut for my house. It’s only $159. or 2 weeks of groceries–quite affordable, especially if you’re in college and you eat the goldfish, too.

Affordable winter garden options:

Do this:

Get a clear container, big enough to fit a small bag of garden soil.

Put the garden soil inside with drainage holes poked on the bottom.

Cut the top off the soil. Plant your lettuce seeds there.  Water. Cover with a clear top, cracking open for air, or just keep well lit in a warmish place in your house.

Put under the light. In a couple weeks, you’ll have a bunch of microgreens. Take a few from each plant to eat for your salad. Label the rest “organic” and find a chef to sell them to, but make sure you jack the price since you said “organic” and “microgreens” instead of “lettuce” on the label.

Before you sell them, don’t forget to Instagram them–you’ll get five Poser stars.

If you’re too lazy to do any of that or don’t really like salad…

Go with a sprouting kit. Sprout a few things, look like a star.

I may construct an indoor system for lettuce, tomatoes, and a complete set of culinary herbs. If so, I’ll be posting.

For right now, though, I’m going to put two of my bay leaves in some lentil soup and call it a day.