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Part 1 - Salad leaves/Mesclun in Soil | Part 2 | Part 3 - Onward Growing

Growing Food Indoors

...growing in your home, shed or greenhouse...

Part 2 - The Hydroponic Alternative

A good hydroponic option for mesclun is to use Perlite in place of the soil mix. The difference is that perlite is totally inert and offers no nutrients to the plants so they will need to be watered with a proper nutrient solution on a regular basis. This may seem a small difference but it is essentially the key difference between a soil based system where plants obtain at least part of their nutrients from the growing medium and true hydroponics.

Perlite or soil mix?

AdvantagesDisadvantages
PerliteLightweight.
Sterile when new.
Perfect air to moisture ratio.
Easier to manage water levels - not prone to waterlogging.
Reusable or add to compost for extra friability.
Dusty when dry.
New concept to some - learning curve.
Soil Blend
(All-Mix or similar)
Familiar to all gardeners.
No need for extra nutrients - for Mesclun at least.
Add to compost after use.
Heavy trays when wet.
Can easily be waterlogged if over-watered.

It is just as easy, maybe easier, to grow in Perlite:

TIP: Perlite is quite dusty when it is dry and needs to be well wetted before handling. Take it outdoors to open and pour it into a bucket so that water can be added before use.
  1. Fill trays with well wetted Perlite. Fill tray to about 50mm from the top and smooth the soil down.

  2. Take the mesclun seed and scatter across the surface - be very sparing, it is almost impossible not to overdo it. Mixing the seed with fine dry sand will help to distribute it evenly. Add a thin layer of wet perlite - just to cover the seed and then water the tray again.

    The big advantage of Perlite is that it is almost impossible to waterlog the plants, because it is okay to have an amount of water in the bottom of the trays at all times without causing any problems. This gives a wider latitude to the grower and less risk of plants drying out. DONíT leave water in the bottom of trays of soil.

  3. Proceed as with soil - keeping Perlite moist at all times.

TIP: If you drill a small hole in the side of the tray - say 15mm up from the bottom it will be very useful. You can then add water up to the point that it begins to run out of the hole. You then know that you have adequate moisture and you can water every day to the same point - eliminating the guesswork.

Part 1 - Salad leaves/Mesclun in Soil | Part 2 | Part 3 - Onward Growing