"It takes a total of about four weeks for the lettuce to be ready to harvest"

It's not too late to buy fresh lettuce, microgreens and other vegetables at Seeds of Hope farm stand. Director Sister Shirley Shafranek is extending the season to year-round at the farm, which is part of the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center on the Sisters of St. Francis campus.

She's using a hydroponic system, which uses nutrient-laden water instead of soil to grow leaf and head lettuce and similar leafy vegetables such as basil, arugula and spinach.

"There's no soil involved," Shafranek said. "It's all water with nutrients." Seeds are started in wet paper towels, which keep them moist and allow them to germinate.

"When they start growing roots and leaves we put them in sponges and let them continue to grow until they're big enough to put in the units," she said. The tiny plants are placed in a hydroponic unit, which continues the growth process by feeding them with nutrient-laden water that circulates through the system. Each unit has a pump on a timer that runs 10-15 minutes each hour.

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