Is gardening a thing that you really want to do? Well, growing lettuce hydroponically is a great option for you. That’s because it’s easy to grow and all you need is a nutrient-rich solution. This means that you won’t need soil or any extra space to grow. Also, if you’re new to gardening, hydroponic system is great to start with. And, lettuce is something that you can grow within weeks. Isn’t that good? Once you ace the art of growing, you can grow your crop throughout the year. Well, there are a lot of things that you need to take care of.
Select the right variety of lettuce
You’ve probably heard about the iceberg. It’s not just limited to that. There are a lot of varieties of lettuce that you can grow hydroponically. The other varieties you can grow include Tom Thumb, Bibb, Boston, and Romaine. Tom Thumb is a good thing to start with. It takes less space and is manageable. If you’re looking for an easy grow, Bib is a great option for you. Romaine is easy to grow too but just takes a bit more time.
Choose the right water culture system
While growing your lettuce, you obviously need a medium to grow. The plant absorbs the nutrients and enters the full growing mode. There are different water culture systems available. These include drip systems, aeroponic systems, ebb-flow systems, NFT systems and many more. All have different mechanisms but the main aim is the same.
Select a grow medium
Coco fiber, rockwool, pine shavings, vermiculite, sand, and river rock are the common options that are used as the growing medium. You can choose any one that suits you the best. They have their own qualities and offer ease of growth. Having a growing medium just makes it easier to grow your crop of lettuce. Rockwool is a popular choice among the growing community. It’s porous and sterile. Just ensure that it doesn’t get saturated. It can cause root suffocation that can result in root rot. That’s obviously not what you want. Grow rock is a great option too. And it’s easily doable if you want to do this in a home. It can keep the pH in balance and retains moisture. The best thing about this medium is that you can reuse it. You’ll just have to clean it.
Get a nutrient reservoir
You will have to get a large container that can act as the nutrient reservoir. A good measure is to keep it at least 8 inches deep to allow enough surface area for large surface area. Keep in mind that you don’t need a metal container. It has the ability to corrode and alter the concentration of the growing medium. This also has an impact on the nutrient profile of the medium. You obviously wouldn’t want that as it can mess up your growing experience.
Floating platforms and net pots
With everything else set, you need a platform for the plants. Ideally, you get the lid of the reservoir container or styrofoam. The platform keeps the plants on the surface while the roots are submerged in water. For the net pots, you can take a plank and drill holes in it. Create the number of holes as per your requirement and you’ll have the net pots to keep your seedlings.
Mix the right nutrients in the reservoir
There are different nutrient combinations that are available in garden stores. These are specially crafted for the hydroponic mediums and you can use these with ease. The lettuce plants usually require calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Pay attention to the instructions mentioned and mix the nutrients accordingly. Some varieties of lettuce are highly sensitive to nitrogen. So make sure you select the right mixture for your crop. Without the nutrients the growing medium is useless. The plant gets the fuel for growth through the nutrients. For instance, when you grow in soil, the plant absorbs the nutrients directly from the soil. Similarly, in a hydroponic system, we have the growing medium with nutrients. So, that’s how it works.
Caring for your plants
Before you transfer your seeds in the reservoir, you need to germinate them. Once you sprout them, they are ready to be transferred to the growing medium. Align them in the net pots and set them on the platform. Keep in mind that the lettuce plants need 10-14 hours of light per day. Well, the intensity should be medium. Lettuce is not one of those plants that need high-intensity light. Ideally, you can use fluorescent light. It is affordable and uses less power. Remember that you need to keep the temperature on the cooler side. It should be 75 degrees F during the day and 45 degrees F at night. If you keep the grow medium hot, lettuce will probably flower. It’s not good because it spoils the entire taste of the crop.
Also, the pH of the medium should be between 5.5 and 6.5. You should ensure that it is neither too acidic or basic. Ideally, you should ensure the range falls between mildly acidic and neutral for best production. Keep some pH adjusters in stock. It can allow you to keep the pH levels in check. The plants are all set to grow. After 6 weeks, the lettuce leaves will be fully grown. Just pluck out the leaves and leave the shaft attached to the medium. It shall grow back in another 6 weeks’ time. This way you can have a continuous supply of the crop throughout the year.
So, growing lettuce is a great way to give a kickstart to your gardening. It’s easy and can give you a good learning experience.