Bryan Kaufman, left, and his mother Jane Kaufman, talk to members of the
Dooryard Garden Club about how they grow big lettuce in waer. The Garden Club toured the hydroponic greenhouse last Thursday. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)
Bryan Kaufman, left, and his mother Jane Kaufman, talk to members of the Dooryard Garden Club about how they grow big lettuce in waer. The Garden Club toured the hydroponic greenhouse last Thursday. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)
COLUMBUS GROVE — Rows and rows of bib lettuce fill the 130 foot long greenhouse at the Henry and Jane Kaufman homestead between Ottawa and Columbus Grove Sections of the plants are in different stages of growth. Some are very tiny as they reach upward to the grow lights just four inches overhead. Others are fully grown, ready to be processed and taken to different locations to be eaten as an addition to a hamburger or as a salad.

As you walk the rows of lettuce, you discover something unusual. The lettuce is not growing in dirt. Instead it is growing in water.

The greenhouse at the Kaufman home is a hydroponic greenhouse. The plants are grown without soil using mineral nutrient solutions in water with only their roots exposed to the solution.

Last Thursday members of the Dooryard Garden Club were given a tour of this unique greenhouse in Putnam County. Bryan Kaufman, Henry and Jane’s son, gave the tour with assistance from his parents.

Bryan said his father got the idea for the special way to grow plants from a magazine.

“He was recovering from surgery and saw this article about hydroponics growing,” Bryan said. “He thought since his kids, including me, were getting out of high school, it might be something interesting for us to do.”

The Kaufmans started their business with a one bay green house built in 1999. Gradually, through the years, they have added on to the greenhouse. It is now 130 feet long and 42 feet wide. There are 13,000 lettuce plants growing at different stages in the greenhouse.

Through the years the Kaufmans have used their ingenuity to assist in the different steps to grow the lettuce.

The seeds are started in oasis cubes that break up into 276 plants. To assist in placing the seeds in the cubes, the Kaufmans constructed a piece of plexi-glass with indents to hold the seeds. The seeds can be easily slid into place matching the holes for seeds in the oasis cubes.

“It saves us a lot of time,” Bryan said.

The Kaufmans used spouting drilled with holes to serve as the holders for the plants once they have developed roots. Water tubing goes down each row. Grow lights are four foot above the plants with the roots.

Bryan said his parents, his wife and two nephews work in the greenhouse. They also hire a lady who places the plants and assembles the boxes for shipping.

It takes seven to eight weeks from start to finish to grow a full size cluster of bib lettuce.. The humidity and temperature in the greenhouse have to be carefully controlled to grow the lettuce. There are two furnaces in the greenhouse. Both use washed coal as the fuel. Fans help with the humidity.

Once the plants are fully grown they are placed carefully in boxes and chilled. Bryan said it is important to keep the lettuce cool to keep it crisp.

He sells his lettuce to Kewpee in Lima, a Columbus merchant and locally to Touches.

“Sometimes if we have too much we give it to the local food bank,” Bryan said.

He said they started by growing tomatoes and have also tried to grow peppers, but finally settled on sticking with just