Can you enjoy Salad leaves all year round with hydroponics – find out whether it is possible to grow lettuce in your aerogarden.
Can you grow lettuce in your aerogarden? Yes you can. In all types of aerogarden there is enough space and light to grow salad greens including lettuce. It can be grown within 3 weeks depending on variety.
Some lettuce grown indoors can not have the properties of those grown outdoors, find out later how you can improve your crop….
Growing salad greens in your aerogarden
The Aerogarden is an ideal indoor gardening environment for growing salad greens – especially lettuce.
The plants have grow lights from above, heat from below, food within the bowl, air around it and support from the sponges.
So the lettuces have all that a plant needs to thrive.
Using the salad seed kits gives you the best chance of all your plants germinating.
Set your Aerogarden to the salad greens, veggies or vegetables setting to give them the optimum light and nutrients.
If you decide to use your own seeds then the gro anything kit or creating your own seed pods like i do will be the best way to go.
Varieties like buttercrunch or deers tongue or spinach will grow nicely within any of the aerogarden models.
Plant it up as shown in the instruction manual or if you are growing your own seeds then 2-3 seeds per pod.
Add the water and nutrients, cover the pods with the greenhouses and wait.
After a few days you will see the first leaves appearing.
Leave them a few more days and when the leaves are almost touching the greenhouses then remove the greenhouses.
Once the roots are dipped into the nutrient mix you will see a spurt of growth.
Top up the bowl with water as necessary( although this may not be necessary within the first two weeks at all)
Replace the nutrient mix after three weeks as lettuce growing fast will deplete the nutrients fast.
What varieties can i grow
You can grow all varieties of lettuce within your aerogarden and growing two or more will give you mature leaves at different times.
So growing a loose leaf lettuce will take a lot less time than say a romaine.
Thee are four main types of lettuce.
- Loose leaf
Iceberg is the main one grown commercially and will take the longest to grow in the aerogarden.
The cos or romaine type of lettuce will also take awhile for the long leaves to mature.
Leaving the looseleaf or butterhead types as the most ideal type to grow in the aerogarden.
As i say you can grow all types within the aerogarden, it will all depend on how long you want to wait for the lettuce to mature.
Looseleaf and butterhead will be able to be harvested from 30 days onwards, romaine (cos) typcally 75- 85 days with the crisphead (iceberg) 75-100 days.
With the cos you will definitely need a fan to allow the leaves to gain the strength to stand up into their tall shape.
But as i say you can mix and match to get different types in a continuous cycle throughout the year.
Harvesting the Lettuce
All being well your lettuce will have grown fast and after three weeks will be ready for the first few leaves to be removed.
You can continue taking outer leaves from the crop for a few weeks.
So growing more every two weeks will give you a continuous supply.
As they continue to grow the leaves will extend to their full size.
But my lettuces lack the crunch
One thing about growing plants in the Aerogarden is that they are given everything they need easily.
Growing the lettuces outside they are subjected to the environmental conditions.
One of these is the wind….
With the wind threatening the stability of the lettuce leaves they tend to grow stronger, almost arteries, up the stem.
This is what gives you that crunch as you take a bite.
To replicate this add a fan to gently blow the leaves around a bit, and preferably a timer so that it is not on all day and night.
I am not using the Aerogarden nutrient
If you decide not to use the aerogarden nutrient then you will need to get a nutrient suitable for vegetative growth.
You will need to check the pH of the mix, ideally on a daily basis to start with and the ec every few days.
So you will need a pH pen and an EC pen.
Being electronic these will last you many months before the batteries need replacing and give consistent results.
The pH you are looking for in your nutrient mix is 5.8- 6.0 ( you can go out to 5.5 to 6.5).
for your seedlings you can protect them a little more by taking the pH up to 6.4 ( more acid, reducing the chance of diseases) and then drop it back to 6.0 when the plant mature.
Test this about 30 minutes after mixing up your nutrients, allowing them to settle.
If you are adding more seeds as others are maturing then stick to a pH of between 5.8 and 6.0.
Very small amounts of pH up and pH down can be added to the nutrient mix to alter the overall pH.
But remember not to mix pH up and pH down in the same mix as this will affect the nutrients available for the plants.
Make sure if the water is high in chlorine that it stands for 24 hours before using it as high levels of chlorine are detrimental to lettuce.
Also any top up water ideally is left to stand before use.
The EC you want to be between 1.8 and 2.2 , it is fairly strong for this type of crop, but with it being fast growing it needs its food or may start to show signs of calcium deficiency ( tip burn on the inner leaves).
Check this regularly and change the nutrient when it reaches the lower limit to keep the growth rate high.
What about diseases
Generally lettuces are not too bad – especially grown in the Aerogarden
But you may see a white or grey mold occasionally while waiting for the seeds to germinate.
Remove these once you see it and the hole down with a very mild bleach solution or vinegar solution ( 2% bleach or 15% vinegar) – try not to get any of the cleaner into the nutrient solution as it will affect the plant growth.
Don’t grow any more in the same hole until you have cleaned it out.
As the plants grow, if there is no movement of air they may suffer from powdery mildew ( a white coating on the leaves).
This is usually a symptom of high humidity and airflow will reduce this.
Other than these most of your lettuce will not be affected by disease.
You may see the tips of the leaves going brown, but this is normally tip burn, a nutrient deficiency, rather than a disease.
Can my lettuce get bugs
If you were growing your lettuce outside you would be in a constant battle against bugs, as i am sure you know if you have grown soil based lettuce.
Going out in the morning and seeing the holes in the leaves from the caterpillars feasting overnight.
This won’t be a problem with the aerogarden.
Unless you are siting it in an open window.
But you may have another common garden bug appear – the aphid.
The fact that your store bought lettuce may have been sprayed with pesticide makes me want to grow my own within the aerogarden.
How do you know whether you have them…
They will damage the leaves by sucking the juice right out of them – so they will leave their mark
And they will leave a sticky residue.
If you see this then out comes the magnifier as it could be aphids or it could be thrips.
Horticultural soap or neem oil preparations are the best to get rid of them.
There is another way but this also may damage the plant leaves and that is to use soapy water.
And wash the leaves before you eat them.
The same preparations can be used on the thrips as well.
As you start to harvest your lettuce you may see an increase in the numbers of aphids to thrips – these are attracted to the freshly cut lettuce – so be on your guard once you start to harvest your crop.
Is it worth growing your own lettuce in an aerogarden
Seeing what pesticides and herbicides that can be used on the ground, after planting and while the crop is growing you never know what is on or in your lettuce.
So is it worth growing your own – i would say definitely yes.
And maybe even keeping an aerogarden dedicated to growing leafy veg.
Don’t forget that fan to agitate the growing crop to give it that ‘outside’ crunch.
Keep on top of the nutrient strength – even if you are using the standard aerogarden type it maybe worth getting an EC pen to measure the strength.
Watch the crop for signs of nutrient stress, tip burn or slow growth.
Look for signs of bugs daily after the seeds have germinated.
Keep you eye out for signs of mold growth before the seeds have germinated.
And enjoy the crop when it grows.
Remember to take a few leaves off at a time, the plant will need to recover for a couple of days after.
And keep the temperatures down below 70F (21C) or the lettuce may bolt – the fan will help here.
Good luck growing your lettuce crop in your aerogarden.
Come back and tell us what you grow and how long it took.
Thanks for reading
I have been growing plants hydroponically since 2009. For years before that i was reading books and looking at systems and saying ...no way...
But once i had taken the plunge with the tomatoes outside, then there was no stopping me.
I tried out most of the systems and started to refine them, getting the plants to grow more efficiently.
Now I am more interested in indoor hydroponics and the challenges it presents. Being able to control the environment, feeding the correct nutrients and giving the correct length and type of lighting....