Not everyone has the outdoor space to grow everything they want to in their garden. Perhaps you only have enough space for a small vegetable patch, or you have a patio which is only suitable for potted plants and flowers.
Maybe you live in an apartment and have no outside space at all? How can you grow an exciting variety of plants in a small space or with no garden?
One way to get around this issue is to grow hydroponic plants. Hydroponic lettuce is a good plant to try for inexperienced gardeners, as it is so simple to grow that it is suitable for beginners.
You might be wondering what hydroponic plants are, and how to grow them successfully. We have put together this guide to help you.
It tells you everything you need to know about growing hydroponic lettuce. Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Hydroponic Lettuce?
Hydroponic plants are very interesting as they grow in a water solution with added nutrients rather than the traditional method of growing plants in soil.
This allows you to grow them indoors, so you can still grow plants even if you don’t have a garden or any outdoor space.
It also means that you can grow these plants all year around rather than only be able to harvest them at certain times of the year.
Hydroponic lettuce is becoming very popular because it is easy to grow. If you are trying hydroponic gardening for the first time it is a great plant to start with, as you are likely to be successful.
Lettuce does not flower, which means it has more basic nutritional needs than some other plants. This makes it easier to grow in a water solution.
You can choose to grow your hydroponic lettuce from a seedling or a sapling depending on your preference. Once it has grown roots a few leaves it can be introduced to the hydroponic system.
It takes around 6 to 8 weeks for the lettuce to grow. Keep reading to find out how to grow hydroponic lettuce in your own home.
What Type Of Lettuce Should You Grow In A Hydroponic System?
In theory, you can grow any variety of lettuce in a hydroponic system. In reality, there are certain types of lettuce that will grow much better than others.
If you want to guarantee success, you should go for a loose leaf variety of lettuce.
Loose leaf lettuce don’t form a head because their leaves are joined at the stem only. The leaves can be harvested one by one and then re-grow, giving you a much better yield.
Here are some ideal varieties of lettuce to grow in a hydroponic system:
- Romaine Lettuce – This is one of the most common types of lettuce (along with iceberg and little gem). It is crispy and has a strong flavor that works well in salads.
- Boston ButterHead Lettuce – This mild lettuce has a similar shape to a rose in bloom.
- Bibb ButterHead Lettuce – This variety has a similar mild and sweet taste to Boston lettuce, but the head is a different shape. It is smaller and more cup-shaped.
Basic Requirements For Growing Hydroponic Lettuce
Before we move onto the tips for a successful crop of hydroponic lettuce, it is important that you understand the basic growing requirements and set up that you need.
If you choose to grow your lettuce from seedlings rather than saplings, you need to make sure you use the right medium for their germination.
Phenolic foam and stone wool are the best materials to use as they continue to support the roots as the plant grows.
Lettuce is a cool weather plant, so it requires lower temperatures than other plants you may have grown before.
If the temperature is too high then the lettuce might produce flowers, which will affect the flavor of the lettuce by making it more bitter. You need to avoid this.
Keep the temperature of the lettuce between 60 and 75 degrees fahrenheit.
Remember that the temperature of whatever room you are using is likely to drop in the night and rise in the day, but you must make sure it remains within this range.
You can use a generic hydroponic nutrient mix, but if possible you should try and get one that is specific to lettuce. This will give you a better chance of growing your crop successfully.
The specific amounts of the nutrients will be tailored to provide the lettuce with everything it needs to grow well without being encouraged to flower.
Lettuce needs high levels of calcium, nitrogen and phosphorus with low levels of potassium. The water solution also needs to be aerated.
Too much sunlight could impact the flavor of the lettuce by making it bitter. The lettuce should be exposed to dim or medium light for 10 to 14 hours each day.
If you are growing a red leaf variety of lettuce then it may need more light exposure than this to ensure that the leaves turn the correct color.
Which Hydroponic System Should You Use?
When it comes to setting up the hydroponic system, there are several options you can choose from for growing lettuce at home. The most popular methods are the ‘Dutch Bucket System’ and the ‘Kratky Method’.
Both are suitable for a domestic setup, but the Kratky method is more simple and requires less equipment.
For commercially grown hydroponic lettuce, the best methods to use are the ‘Deep Water Culture’ method and the ‘Nutrient Film Technique’.
Deep water cultures are large containers filled with water and nutrients, with floating rafts for the lettuce to grow on. The Nutrient film technique uses shallow channels fed by a large reservoir of water and nutrients.
5 Tips For Successfully Growing Hydroponic Lettuce
Now that you understand the basics of how to grow hydroponic lettuce at home, it is time to reveal our top tips. These will help to ensure that you are successful and you get as much yield as possible from your plants.
The first tip to successfully growing lettuce is to choose the right variety. Make sure you pick a loose leaf variety as these grow better in hydroponic systems.
Choose a variety that you like the flavor of- if possible, find some fully grown lettuce of that variety in a grocery store and taste it before you commit to growing it.
It is very important that you stick to the ideal temperature range for your lettuce. If the room gets too cold then the growth of the lettuce will be stunted.
If the room gets too warm then the lettuce will be encouraged to flower and the flavor will be ruined by bitterness. It is a delicate balance.
Remember to check both the daytime and nighttime temperatures of the room that you will be growing your lettuce in.
Using the right blend of nutrients in the water solution could be the difference between a successful crop and an unsuccessful crop.
Try to use a nutrient mix that is specific to lettuce so that it has the right blend of calcium, phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.
The wrong nutrients could cause issues with growth and flavor, and cause problems like tip burn.
Too little light will prevent the lettuce from growing properly. Too much lettuce will encourage the lettuce to flower which will make it taste bitter.
You need to make sure that you adhere to the lighting requirements if you want your lettuce to grow successfully.
We recommend that you use the Kratky system for growing hydroponic lettuce at home. It is the simplest set up so you are most likely to get it right even if you are a beginner. It is also easier to maintain.
Why Should You Grow Hydroponic Lettuce?
If you still aren’t sure whether you want to grow hydroponic lettuce, you should consider the following benefits:
- Space – Growing hydroponic lettuce takes up very little space and you can do it even if you don’t have a garden or an allotment. This makes it ideal for people who live in apartments.
- Yield – Growing loose leaf lettuce means that you can harvest the leaves individually and then grow back. This gives you a high yield of lettuce.
- Seasons – Growing hydroponic lettuce is not seasonal. This means that you can grow it all year round. You will have a constant supply of fresh, homegrown lettuce to use in your salads or sandwiches.
- Simplicity – Growing hydroponic lettuce is incredibly simple and easy. This means that you are almost guaranteed to succeed- especially if you follow our advice and use our growing tips.
- Health – Lettuce is very good for you. Introducing more lettuce into your diet will help you to eat healthily.
- Versatile – lettuce can be served on the side of almost any meal, so you will definitely be able to find a way to use up all of the delicious lettuce that you grow
Hydroponic growing might seem strange to you if you are used to traditional gardening, but it is a great way to grow lettuce all year round without needing outside space.
It is simple to do and produces excellent results. Make sure you follow our tips to ensure that your crop of homegrown hydroponic lettuce is successful.
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