Hydroponic lettuce is an awesome way to keep your family in salads and greens, all year round. It can be grown in midwinter, when there’s 4 feet of snow on the outside garden. It thrives in summer, when outdoor lettuces bolt. And, best of all, it’s relatively inexpensive too, especially compared to store bought lettuce heads.
There are, honestly, many different and easy ways to grow lettuce throughout the year. There are various indoor options, with hydroponics like deep water culture and the kratky method, being the easiest. There’s active systems, like aerogardens, and traditional hydroponics in towers, totes, and the like. And, there’s even regrowing lettuce from the bases of store bought lettuce heads.
Lettuce seeds are inexpensive, a small seed pack normally has around 200-500 seeds. Some lettuce packs have more. That’s a lot of lettuce potential. There’s also more to lettuce than red and green oakleaf, iceburg. Lettuces are also an awesome way to begin explore the plant adventures that are heirloom seeds. There are dozens of beautiful, sweet, and unique lettuce varieties in the heirloom category. Best of all, growing hydroponic lettuce means you can test, experiment, and enjoy these unique lettuce leaves all year round.
Growing Hydroponic Lettuce:
For growing hydroponic lettuce, you’ll need a few basic things to get started.
You’ll want to have a grow light, or a super sunny windowsill. The grow light helps the plants grow evenly, and stay compact. Without a grow light, you could have leggy plants that fall over easily.
You’ll need containers, wide mouthed mason jars will do. I prefer pint sized for lettuce. They need to be water-safe, and leak-proof.
Aluminum foil, or jar sleeves to keep light out of your containers. This helps prevent and reduce algae growth in your hydroponic medium.
hydroponic baskets, get the size that will fit into a wide mouthed mason jar.
Hydroponic nutrients, this is what lets your lettuces grow like crazy. You’ll want a fairly simple to use nutrient solution. Always follow package directions when working with the solution within your hydroponic systems. Some nutrient solutions have specific steps to follow to prevent the nutrients binding to each other. The main components in nutrient solutions are nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Follow your nutrient system’s directions to keep the pH right for your plants to thrive.
You’ll need a growing medium for the hydroponic basket, or net pot, something like coconut coir, vermiculite, perlite, a rockwool cube, clay pellets, or similar non-soil medium. Coconut coir is a coconut fiber base that works well in kratky hydroponic systems. It’s fully biodegradable, and can be composted after your lettuces are done growing. Plain gravel, that’s been washed, can also be used if you want to go cheap on your net basket filler. It’s just to give the roots something to hold onto, honestly.
Lastly, you’ll need your lettuce seeds. Romaine lettuce, bibb lettuce, butterhead lettuce, oakleaf lettuce, or any other type of lettuce is a great option to grow from seed.
Set Up Your Hydroponic Lettuce:
The kratky system is a still water, or deep water, hydroponic culture. It’s great for growing many different vegetable plants, seedlings, and lettuces. I like using it for herbs, peppers, as well as lettuce and greens.
Start by setting up your widemouthed jars on trays. This makes them easy to move around, re-fill, and keep under your growlights. It also helps prevent water marks on the surface that the jars are resting on, and prevents the jars from tipping if you’re using racks or those indoor greenhouses.
The jars are your reservoir for the plants nutrients. Fill the jars with water, and follow your hydroponic nutrient instructions, by volume, for the jars.
Add your net baskets, and base medium. I like working with coco fiber, coconut coir, when planting seeds. It keeps them from slipping down into the jar.
Add your seeds, usually one or two seeds if you want lettuce heads and a full pinch if you want cut and grow again greens.
Then, wrap the jars in aluminum foil, black paper, or another light-blocking material. Don’t wrap over the top of the jar, just the sides.
Place a light lid, or dome, over the top of the jar to keep the seeds from drying out. Place in your grow space and set up your growlight. If growing in a windowsill, remember to rotate the jars, daily, once the seeds germinate.
Lettuce seed germination should occur after 2-5 days. After 14-20 days there should be some large lettuce leaves available to harvest.
If you harvest from the outside of the lettuce plant, leaving the inner leaves to grow, the lettuce will grow and produce for several weeks before the leaves taste bitter. The outer leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season. Or, you can wait till a full head of lettuce forms and simply harvest the entire head at once.
For continuous hydroponic lettuce production, start new jars or containers once a week. If you’re harvesting lettuce heads, simply thoroughly clean the jar and growing medium to remove molds, or any chance of powdery mildew, and then start some fresh seeds.
Benefits of Hydroponic Lettuce:
With hydroponic growing you can avoid the hassle of transplanting plants from seed trays to full pots, or to the garden, and simply grow them out in their jars. Some people do like using hydroponic growing to grow seedlings specifically for transplanting. However, the transplant shock is often higher going from hydroponics to soil, vs. soil to hydroponics.
Hydroponic growing happens mostly indoors. It helps avoid pests like aphids, thrips, and other insects. Thrips can sometimes get into your hydroponic set up. In that case, give space to the plants and rinse off affected leaves to get rid of pests.
New to growing food and vegetables indoors?
Check out the Fill Your Salad Bowl workshop and learn how to use 3 different growing methods, at home, so you can fill your salad bowl with super food, nutrient dense, greens every single day. These are greens you can use in your salad bowl, greens you can add to soups, stews, and pasta dishes, and even greens you can use in a stir fry.
In this mini workshop you will learn how to fill a salad bowl every day with food you grow yourself.
- Even if you don’t have any land.
- Even if there is 3 feet of snow covering your garden
- Even if you’ve killed house plants in the past.
- Even if you think you have a black thumb.
Have a look at what’s covered in this workshop and see if its a good fit for you, by clicking/tapping the blue button below.
Carol Clevenger says
What kind of hydroponic nutrients do you use?
Joybilee Farm says
I use Masterblend. I chose Masterblend because it was a dry powder and easy to store long term. This is the hydroponic nutrients used by Dr. Kratky in his experiments. But there are other hydro nutrients and I don’t necessarily recommend Masterblend over other nutrients. Its just the one that worked best for me for availablity and storage.