Lettuces and leafy greens are the most popular plants to grow hydroponically. This is because they require little maintenance, grow fast, and yield plentiful harvests in hydroponic systems.
Growing lettuces and leafy greens hydroponically have proven successful for both hobbyist gardeners and large-scale growers alike. Hydroponic lettuces and leafy greens grow extremely fast, require little maintenance and resources, and produce large yields. But, there are some key things to know to grow your hydroponic lettuce successfully. Read on to find out more!
Lettuce is an ideal candidate for hydroponic gardens because they require little maintenance and low levels of resources to thrive. Fruiting plants like tomatoes and strawberries can be grown in hydroponic systems but it takes more time, maintenance, and resources to be done successfully.
In hydroponic techniques, the soil is replaced with a liquid fertilizer that is added to the water in which the plants are grown. By growing plants directly in an abundance of nutrients, we eliminate the need for plants to use energy searching for nutrients in the soil.
In hydroponic systems, plants can absorb nutrients effortlessly through the water and use more energy to grow fast and produce larger yields. The smaller root systems of lettuces and leafy greens are ideal for hydroponic gardens.
Plants with large root systems such as potatoes and garlic are difficult to grow hydroponically because they require much more space to thrive. Lettuces can be grown in compact places making them ideal for indoor gardeners who are tight on space.
Additionally, lettuces do not need additional support or structure to grow. Fruiting plants are often of the vine variety which means that additional structures are needed to support their growth.
Fruiting plants are also much thirstier plants than lettuces and leafy greens meaning that their water must be monitored more closely.
If you are new to hydroponics, growing lettuce is a great way to start. Lettuces and leafy greens are perfect for hydroponic gardeners who want something that requires little maintenance and yields plentiful harvests.
Does Lettuce Grow Well In Hydroponics?
Lettuce is the poster-child plant for hydroponics because lettuce varieties grow extremely well in hydroponic systems. Lettuce can go from seedling to ready-for-harvest in as little as three weeks!
But, why do lettuces grow so well without soil? Well, it is not the lack of soil that results in thriving lettuces, it is the ideal conditions from hydroponic systems that allow the plants to reach their fullest potential.
Hydroponic systems are known to produce large crop yields with fast growth rates while requiring little maintenance and resources. Hydroponic systems can provide plants with the exact conditions needed to thrive.
Therefore, all plants are going to grow faster in hydroponic gardens compared to traditional gardens.
Does Hydroponic Lettuce Need Sun?
Just like any other plant, hydroponic lettuce requires the appropriate amounts of light. You can place your hydroponic lettuce garden near a sunny window and it will do just fine.
But, if that is not possible, artificial grow lights work just as well. Many hydroponic growers utilize their basement or closet space to grow crops indoors and artificial grow lights are what make this possible.
Cool white lights or full spectrum fluorescent lights are great options for hydroponic plants.
How Many Hours Of Light Does Hydroponic Lettuce Need?
Hydroponic lettuce requires a light cycle that imitates the natural cycle of the sun. If you choose to utilize artificial grow lights in your hydroponic setup, it is important to ensure that your lights imitate the cycle of natural sunlight.
Your lettuce plants will thrive with about 14 to 16 hours of artificial light paired with 10 to 12 hours of darkness. Many grow lights can be set with a timer to light up and turn off accordingly so that you do not have to remember yourself.
How Long Does Lettuce Take To Grow Hydroponically?
Lettuce plants can be ready for harvest in hydroponic systems in as little as three weeks. Lettuces and other varieties of leafy greens are the most popular plants to grow hydroponically. This is because they can thrive in the most basic of setups and require little maintenance.
Many people favor growing hydroponic lettuce for kitchen use because it can be enjoyed throughout its growth cycle. You can pick off the outer leaves for use throughout the growing cycle meaning that you will have a long-lasting harvest of fresh, crisp lettuce!
With the right conditions, any variety of lettuce will do great in a hydroponic system.
Does Hydroponic Lettuce Need To Be Washed?
If your hydroponic system is set up indoors, you should not need to wash your lettuce. Typically, produce and lettuce is washed to prevent the consumption of harmful chemicals and insects.
But, if your hydroponic garden is indoors, insects and pests are no longer a problem therefore chemical pesticides are not a component of concern. If your hydroponic garden is outdoors, it is always a good idea to wash your yields before consuming.
How Long Is Hydroponic Lettuce Good For?
Hydroponic lettuce is known for lasting much longer than store-bought lettuce. This is because, through hydroponics, we can minimize the time it takes for plants to go from harvest to your plate.
By cutting the time it takes to go from harvest to consumer, lettuce will last longer in your fridge, taste fresher, and contain more nutrients. It is important to remember that the longer it takes for plants to go from harvest to consumption, the less quality they are.
Those who are new to hydroponic lettuces often find themselves thrown off by their lettuce still being crisp and fresh in their fridge three weeks after it was harvested. But, unless your lettuce is showing visible signs of decay and rot, it is safe to eat and full of beneficial nutrients!
Why Is My Hydroponic Lettuce Bitter?
Sometimes people who are new to hydroponics find that their home-grown lettuce tastes a bit different than the store-bought lettuce that they are used to. For example, hydroponic arugula may have a stronger spicy bite to it compared to store-bought arugula. What causes this change in flavor?
The answer is similar to comparing farm-bought produce to store-bought produce. The produce purchased from your local farmer will always taste much fresher and more flavorful than store-bought produce.
That is because the produce from your local farmer was consumed shortly after harvest. Produce from large grocery stores was likely harvested long before it reaches your plate.
The time it takes to go from harvest to plate impacts the flavor and overall freshness. The less time between harvest to consumption, the better!
When you harvest lettuce or leafy greens directly from your hydroponic garden and it goes immediately to your plate, it is as fresh and flavorful as can be. It is normal for some extra bitterness and flavor to throw you off if you are used to watery, bland lettuce.
Best Lettuce Varieties & Greens For Hydroponics
Here are some of our favorite lettuces and leafy greens to grow hydroponically:
1. Rainbow Chard
Rainbow Chard also known as Swiss Chard is an ample variety of leafy green recognized for its colorful stalks. It is most common to see Rainbow Chard exhibiting bright red with green leaves.
But, it is not uncommon to see the stalks in hues of pink, purple, orange, yellow, and white. Rainbow Chard goes from germination to harvest-ready in about 4-5 weeks.
2. Classic Romaine
Compared to many options, romaine lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow hydroponically. Romaine is one of the most common lettuce varieties used in the United States.
Because of this, it is grown by the masses which makes it more susceptible to recall and contamination. By growing romaine at home, you won’t have to worry about that!
3. Red Romaine
Red Romaine lettuce is almost the exact same thing as Classic Romaine but the leaves are tinted red!
Red Romaine lettuce provides more vitamin K and slightly more iron than Classic Romaine. Yet, both varieties are extremely nutritious!
4. Butterhead Lettuce
Butterhead Lettuce is a fan favorite for its mild, buttery taste. The large, soft leaves are perfect for salads and sandwiches.
Both Bibb Lettuce and Boston Lettuce are varieties of Butterhead Lettuce. Butterhead Lettuce does better with lower light levels– too much light causes harvests to taste bitter.
Arugula is one of the most flavorful greens, adding a peppery punch to sandwiches and salads. Arugula is best served raw in a variety of different ways: on top of pizza, stirred into pasta, and in a salad mix.
Raw Arugula is extremely high in antioxidants as well as glucosinolates which are known for their anti-cancer properties.
6. Tuscan Kale
Kale is one of the more trendy varieties of kale, known for its plethora of nutritional benefits.
Tuscan Kale grows extremely fast in hydroponic systems; it goes from germination to ready for harvest in just a few weeks. It is also very common to harvest kale early as microgreens which are also highly nutritious.
If you are looking for a foolproof microgreens growing kit, try out The Good Box (you can learn more here!)
7. Curly Kale
Curly Kale is another variety of kale but it has much more texture than Tuscan Kale. Curly Kale is a very hearty lettuce that is easiest to chew and digest after being massaged to break down the tough fibers.
Massaging the kale with lemon juice or olive oil is very popular for a delicious and nutritious salad.
8. Mustard Greens
Mustard Greens are an extremely versatile lettuce; you can’t go wrong with them! Mustard Greens typically take 4-6 weeks to go from germination to harvest.
Micro-mustards are very popular as well because of how fast they grow. Mustard Greens are extremely nutritious no matter what stage they are harvested.
Watercress has a peppery, tangy flavor that brings an extra kick of flavor to your favorite salads, sandwiches, and toasts.
Watercress prefers cooler conditions than other varieties of leafy greens and is ready for harvest in 4 to 6 weeks. Watercress has tons of nutritional benefits, it is especially high in vitamin A and vitamin C.
Lettuces and leafy greens are perfect for hydroponic gardeners who want something that yields plentiful harvests for low effort. Lettuce requires low levels of maintenance and can thrive in the most basic of setups. Growing lettuce is a great first step for new hydroponic gardeners!
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About the author:
Sofi is a passionate writer who studied communications and environmental studies at Eckerd College. You can get in touch with Sofi at https://slenzi4.wixsite.com/website.