Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a curious beginner, choosing the right hydroponic system for lettuce is the only way to ensure optimal yield. Here in this blog, I will guide to choose the right hydroponic system. I will also provide you with the necessary information about the different systems that you can deploy and the factors to consider while choosing.
Types of Hydroponics Systems For Growing Lettuce
Let’s begin by learning what are the types of hydroponic systems that you can use to grow lettuce. There are three types that are best suited for growing a crop like lettuce.
The nutrient film technique is a widely used hydroponic system for growing green leafy vegetables like lettuce.
In this system, the nutrient solution is pumped directly to the plant roots through narrow channels.
Most commercial growers use NFT to grow lettuce because it allows you to conserve water, better yield, and low maintenance.
If you are a beginner and want to grow lettuce on a bigger scale, go with the NFT system. For your home, you can buy NFT hydroponic kits like Vivosun hydroponic grow system.
Deep water culture is another system that is widely used by hydroponic growers. This system uses a lot of water compared to NFT. And uses air pumps to keep the water oxygenated.
This system is used explicitly for non-fruit crops like leafy vegetables and microgreens. Many commercial growers like to use this system because you can control water temperature more easily.
Also, the water can be used as a natural conveyer belt to manage large setups.
For home, you can go with a bucket DWC set up which is compact and uses less space compared to any other hydroponic setup for lettuce.
To give you an example Hydrofarm Root Spa is one of the DWC kits that you can buy.
When you are solely looking to grow lettuce at home I advise you to try the wick system. It is one of the most low-maintenance hydroponic systems for lettuce.
In this method instead of suspending lettuce roots in the nutrient solution, a wick is used to provide a nutrient solution.
With the help of capillary action, the wick supplies the nutrient solution to the plant.
However, this method is not as scalable as the other hydroponic methods.
That is why I recommend the method only for home growers and not commercial growers.
Factors To Consider While Choosing Hydroponic System For Lettuce
When you are looking to buy a hydroponic system for lettuce, you have to look at some factors. These factors will help you determine which type of system you should use. Also, you will learn more about the things you would need to set up the complete system to grow lettuce.
The spacing stands for the gap you leave between two plants. It is essential you leave the right amount of space for the optimum growth of the crop as well as the optimum use of resources like light, water, etc.
In the case of a crop like lettuce, it is advised to leave 30 cm between the two crops. The reason being the average head size of most of the lettuce varieties is around 30 cm.
There is a whole process to determine the spacing when growing lettuce in a hydroponic system. You can read more about it here.
When looking to buy a hydroponic system, you will have to look at the spacing between plant pods. And if you are using a layers system like given below you must consider the height of the system as well.
If you are planning to grow a few plants, then you can use small hydroponic kits like iDOO Hydroponics Growing System. You can easily maintain these types of small kits on your kitchen counter.
Moreover, you have to look at the amount of space you have to set up the whole hydroponic system. You have to see if you are looking for a system that you can use in your kitchen or backyard or a dedicated room.
Depending on the amount of space you have you can decide on the size of the hydroponic setup.
Another thing that will be crucial for setting up a hydroponic system for lettuce is light. You can provide light in two ways:
- Artificial lights
If you are growing lettuce outdoors, sunlight is enough but it has its disadvantages. Most hydroponic growers like growing lettuce indoors because you can control the conditions.
Irrespective of the conditions outside, lettuce can be grown indoors year-round with an indoor hydroponic system.
For indoor hydroponic set up you need artificial lights.
For lettuce, you need full-spectrum light so that you can use one single light for the seedling, as well as the vegetation stage.
Different variants of lights are available. Either they are fluorescent or LED. But most of the growers prefer LEDs as they consume less power and you can easily control them.
The only thing to look at while selecting light for setting up a hydroponic system for lettuce is power capability. Lights are available from 100 W to 2000 W.
Bigger the set up higher the capacity required. And if you are going with a hydroponic kit, light is already included in the package.
To learn more about lights and choose one for your setup, click here.
Another key thing to look at when setting up the hydroponic system is the PPM of the water used in the system.
Measuring ppm of the water, helps you determine the quality and pH value of the water. These two factors are important for the high yield of lettuce.
So when you are looking to buy a hydroponic system, you have to look at how you are going to measure the ppm.
For most hydroponic sets up you will have to buy a separate ppm meter. They are available for around $15. In addition to that you would require charts to keep track of the ppm.
Not many growers maintain charts. I recommend you buy charts because they will help change the water and nutrient solutions on time.
If you want something that is permanent and shows you ppm 24×7, you can install water testers like Rcyago. These types of testers have separate sensors and monitor units.
The sensor is constantly submerged in water and as the monitor is separate you can keep track of ppm constantly.
This option is expensive but suitable for large-scale growers.
If you are buying smart hydroponic kits like Aerogarden, LetPot, or Idoo you can constantly monitor the ppm on your phone.
Such systems are best for beginners and kitchen gardens. The system comes with a dedicated app so that you can keep track of the conditions on your phone.
However, I feel the sensors are not as accurate as the ppm meters but for the home hydroponic system, it is fine.
Nutrient Delivery System
This part of the system is responsible for supplying essential nutrients to the plant. Each hydroponic system delivers nutrients in different ways.
To make it simple to understand you can say that you can deliver nutrients to plants in two ways:
- Lettuce roots are directly suspended in a reservoir full nutrient solution.
- Lettuce is grown in a growing medium like coco coir, mineral wool, vermiculite, etc. and nutrient solution is circulated using a pump.
If you want to save water and have better control over the nutrient solution, the second method is best.
And most home growers prefer the second method. But commercial growers go for the first method because maintenance is easier.
Setup And Operations
When you are looking to buy a hydroponic system for growing lettuce, you have to look at how you are going to operate the system.
You have to look at the following points to understand operations:
Let’s look at what they are.
Time: As a grower, you invest your time in running and maintaining the hydroponic system. If you are a part-time grower and can afford to attend the system only a few hours a day, you need a system that is automated.
Also, you will have to use monitoring devices that can provide you with data on your phone. Lighting and water pump should be scheduled and use digital environment controllers.
For home growers, a small setup or kit is more than enough.
Maintenance: Another aspect of the hydroponic system is the ease of maintenance. The yield of your crop also depends on how clean your hydroponic system is.
Also, you do not want your system to shut down in the middle of the crop cycle. For that, you need to have a system that is easy to maintain.
If you are looking to grow lettuce is a large scale, I advise you to go with deep water culture because it is easy to maintain.
And if you are growing for your kitchen, still you can go for the DWC system if you have space. And if not go for NFT as you can grow more lettuce vertically. Small NFT is easier to maintain compared to large-scale setups.
Purpose: Before making a purchase, you need to understand what want to do with what you grow. If you want to grow it for your consumption, a small-scale setup is perfect.
And if you want to grow crops so that you can earn some money out of it, you need a commercial setup.
For home, you can go with your preferred choice. But when you are growing for commercial purposes you need to consider scalability.
Use a system like NFT or DWC for commercial purposes. You can always add more channels or more buckets to the system.
Cost: There are two types of costs that you pay for hydroponic systems. One is set-up cost which includes the purchase of equipment, seeds, nutrient, etc.
The other cost is running cost which includes maintenance of the hydroponic system, and utility bills.
You have to consider both when you are looking to set up a hydroponic system for lettuce.
Top Hydroponic System To Buy
1. VIVOSUN Hydroponics Growing System- Commercial Setup
If you have space and want to grow lettuce on a slightly large scale, you can go with Vivosun hydroponic growing system. It is a complete kit that is available in a capacity of 90 plant sites and 108 plant sites.
It is NFT hydroponic system that runs on less water and consumes less energy. These features make it perfect for the commercial setup at home.
In my experience, it is perfect to grow any leafy vegetables. And since it has 3 layers you can always grow more in less space. The complete setup takes about 40 x 40 inches of space.
Since it is NFT the whole system doesn’t take much water. You get a pump with a controller to pump water into the system. Using the controller, you can set the schedule for the pump on/off schedule for 15-minute, 15-minute, or 30-minute intervals.
One thing missing from the system is the light. If you want to buy a light with the system, go to our blog post about the best LED lights for hydroponic lettuce.
Maintenance is easy as there are not many intricate parts. However, you must take care of the pipes to ensure they don’t choke up with time.
If you are using clean and filtered water, you won’t have to worry too much about that too. Still, I suggest you clean the pipes every new crop cycle.
As for the price is concerned, it is budget-friendly and you can set up a couple of these systems if want to grow different green vegetables.
iDOO Hydroponics Growing System – Best for Kitchen
If you are more interested in buying a smart hydroponic system for a kitchen counter, iDOO is presently the most preferred choice. It is a complete hydroponic system in one package, including grow pods, an aerator, led light, a pump, and smart app connectivity.
Anyone who is a beginner, interested in growing lettuce on their kitchen counter but doesn’t have time, it is perfect for them.
The system uses the Gennec app to control the whole system.
The app helps you maintain your water schedule and light schedule, and also you can change different growing modes. All you need is wifi connectivity for the system, which you can manage from anywhere.
You get 22-watt full spectrum led lights with this system. It has a combination of red light, blue light white light, and far red light. Using the app, you can control the light and set different modes per the plant’s growth cycle.
Another important part of the system is the pump. The pump is responsible for circulating water and oxygenating the water. It is quiet and doesn’t vibrate much.
As far as growing lettuce is concerned, you can grow most varieties of lettuce. But since the gap between the pods is small, I suggest not growing lettuce with a head size of not more than 20 cm. Also, you can grow any green leafy plants in this system.
As far as the maintenance of this system is concerned, you have to take care of the pumps, led lights, and grow pods. Everything is a single unit, so it is not that hard.
Just like any other system, clean it after every new cycle.
If can spend a little extra the alternative for iDoo is AeroGarden Harvest XL- Check it out on Amazon.
Lettuce Grow Farmstand Starter Kit
If you want to grow more in a small space, then Lettuce Grow Farmstand Starter Kit is the best option. It is specifically designed for growing a variety of lettuce.
It is a type of vertical hydroponic garden and takes only 35 x 35 inches of space.
The hydroponic system is available in different sizes. But the good thing about it is if you buy the smallest size, you can still upgrade. You don’t have to buy a new kit every time.
The kit includes everything you need to grow lettuce. It includes, ring led lights, a pump, grow pods, a timer, a pH control kit, and sample seeds.
As for the lettuce, this is a great option because you can grow different varieties of lettuce in the system. Since the system provides a lot of growing space, you can grow lettuce with up to 30 cm head size.
It uses 96-watt ring led lights which can be controlled using a timer for optimum growth of the lettuce. You get two such grow lights.
If have less space and want to grow more, I would recommend you go with the Lettuce Grow hydroponic kit.
Tips for Successful Lettuce Cultivation in Hydroponics
Buying the right hydroponic system is not enough to grow lettuce. You should do a few things right to ensure you get to eat healthy lettuce at the end of the growth cycle.
Here are a few tips to follow while growing lettuce in a hydroponic system:
The first and foremost thing to do is to choose the right variety of lettuce. There are a variety of lettuce, but for the hydroponic system, I advise you to go for something similar to romaine lettuce.
Because you can easily pluck individual leaves and allow them to regrow. If you want to learn more about different varieties of lettuce that you can grow in a hydroponic system, click here.
Another important tip to follow is to use the right nutrient solution for growing lettuce.
There are plenty of options out there when it comes to nutrient solutions. But you should know how to use it properly.
Do not blindly trust whatever the manufacturer says or promises. Always test the nutrient solution on some sample plants before growing a bigger batch of plants.
If you want to know more about nutrient solutions for hydroponic systems, click here to read more.
The lettuce crop is sensitive to heat. Exposure to higher temperatures may lead to a bitter taste.
Depending on the variety of the lettuce you should maintain the right temperature. Using a grow tent is a great idea if you want to grow lettuce even during the off-season.
It is not just the temperature of the room but you have to keep an eye on the temperature of the water you use.
We have already touched upon how important the space between the two pods is for the proper growth of the lettuce.
You must know the head size of the types of lettuce you are growing. This help you determine the space you have to leave between the two pods.
To learn more about spacing between the two pods of lettuce visit our other post.
If you this guide, I assure you that you will be able to purchase the best hydroponic system for lettuce which is as per your requirement. For home or kitchen set up do not look beyond iDOO Hydroponics Growing System and for larger set up go with VIVOSUN Hydroponics Growing System.