Here’s an unexpected twist to my hydroponic lettuce experiment, and it centers around expanded clay ball dust. What? Yeah, I know, me too.

If you’re like me, you don’t read the instructions that come with any product with “some assembly required” because you think that the knowledgeable advice included, free of charge, applies to all the other morons who don’t know how to turn a screwdriver, not you. You always know exactly what you’re doing…of course. Which is why my lettuce experiment is now defunct, all because I got a little cavalier with the clay balls (like those shown in picture in HydroTonics III). This one guy on his blog says I should wash those things 3-4 times, flushing the water until there’s no more color coming off the things. So, I took that to mean one good flushing, which is basically what I did, then called it good.

Last night, the dripping I have previously described in the other hydrotonic entries, the very dripping which plays the oh so crucial part in the whole hydroponic experiment world…abruptly stopped and would not continue on no matter what I did. There was gentle shaking of the tube, followed by more violent shaking, which was then followed by swapping out of pumps. The ultimate desperate act was a complete extraction of baby lettuce children, along with a dismantling of the entire setup, including all separation of components to discover the source of the problem.

The answer had been provided in the instructions…of course. Stated in bold-faced honesty (almost as if this very same thing had probably happened to others, and this was their attempt to spare me the same fate). It was those darned clay balls. If not flushed thoroughly of their dust, it would seem that they will likely cause the small drip holes to clog, which must then be cleared with a specialty tool known as a toothpick.

I will not provide any additional details beyond this other than to say that the lettuce is now outside in a pot full of good soil, and I am now switching to hydroponic…turnip greens!

The saga continues…