A lettuce table

Although developed as a simple method of growing food in developing countries, the lettuce table has a place in food production in urban areas of the UK. Many inner city districts share common problems with less developed countries. Low fixed incomes; the lack of easy access to fresh food and the lack of personal and public transport to reach out of town shopping areas. Add to that no space for a garden plus long waiting lists for allotments and it is clear that this way of growing could be very useful.

The growing system consists of a waterproofed wooded box with a hole in the centre. The box has a plywood base and softwood sides. The waterproofing is black plastic and the drainage hole uses a grommet with a 15mm plastic pipe with tap pushed through from the bottom. The tap is not really required but was added so that some measurements of water added and waste water flow to the can could be taken.

The bench sits on 4 legs in dishes of water to prevent slugs and snails from getting into the box.

Cut-and-come-again lettuce and rocket

The drain with watering can beneath to collect the surplus water

Some will argue that this way of growing could be called hydroponics because it does not use soil and all nutrients are added to the irrigation water. Any organic gardener growing using organic grow bags, or pots, would also fall into this category although many would not like that!

Research is being carried out in many parts of the world on the integration of organic growing and hydroponics. Hybrid hydroponics is being developed in Australia where food waste from a restaurant is being used for worm composting which is then used to make a nutrient solution to feed to beds of salad crops which go back to the restaurant. True closed loop recycling. In some cities the growing takes place on roof tops making use of waste heat and CO2 from the building beneath.

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