Growing hydroponic lettuce is one of the best and easiest ways to get started in hydroponic gardening. If you do it right, within a very short space of time you will see that it’s simple, fun and VERY productive.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, Hydroponic gardening is the process of cultivating a crop, often indoors or under shelter, through the use of artificial growing conditions.
At first glance it can seem like a difficult and troubling process, however, this is not necessarily the case. Hydroponic setups can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want, and a basic system is generally well within the grasp of anyone with some basic do-it-yourself skills.
Lettuce is a good all-round easy-to-grow plant that can provide good results when grown in soil, that is provided you keep the slugs and other garden pests off it! This is where growing hydroponic lettuce makes perfect sense and will be a great first project for any hydroponic setup.
The lettuce will generally take care of themselves and don’t require as many nutrients as other heavy feeding plants such as tomatoes.
It is of course, still always a good practice to check your growing hydroponic lettuce plants daily for any pests or other issues, although these issues are significantly reduced with hydroponics, especially indoor hydroponics. In fact, the only problem you are likely to encounter when growing hydroponic lettuce is size. Fully grown lettuces can become quite big and if your container pots are not big enough, there may be issues regarding roots getting strangled or even top-heavy pots toppling over, depending on your system setup.
The lettuce seeds will usually need up to two weeks in regular contact with water to germinate. Some people use rock wool root cubes, others will germinate them in a folded paper towel in a small tray. There are many different ways of staring off your seeds for growing hydroponically, and these methods will usually be dictated by the style of system you have set up.
Once the seeds have sprouted and have turned into seedlings, they can be transplanted into the planting cones/pots or growing medium that you use in your hydroponic system.
Drop the lettuce seeds directly into the growing medium. We have a home-made ebb-and-flow system and the seeds get coated in water 4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time. We scatter a small number of seeds into the growing medium and thin them out once they are seedling height, planting any of the thinned out seedlings that are too close to the one we have chosen to grow hydroponically, outside in the garden to give them a chance of life.
As there is no soil for the hydroponic lettuce to take the minerals and nutrients that they need, you do need to be reasonably accurate with your nutrient solution, as this is what has the most influence over how well your lettuce will grow. If you’re new to it all, then it would be better to purchase pre-made solutions and they are extremely easy to use – just the correct amount of water to a measure of the solution and you’re done. However, you can make your own nutrient solutions if you prefer.
To give your lettuce the best chance, many hydroponic growers will add a small amount of Epsom salt and calcium nitrate to the pre-made solution from time-to-time, at a concentration of roughly one teaspoon to a gallon (dissolved into a cup of water then mixed into the main tank.) This helps ensure an adequate supply of magnesium, which can be used up more quickly than the other minerals. A good early indication of a lack of magnesium is the yellowing of the leaves.
Plenty of Light
Lettuce is a plant that requires a long days’ worth of sunlight, If you are able to give it 18 hours of light a day from a good hydroponic lighting system, you will get good results.
If you do it right, within a very short space of time you will have some excellent fully grown lettuce that will reinforce to you the idea that growing hydroponic lettuce is easy, fun, productive and healthy.
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