Lettuce Grow Farmstand Review: Easy to Use Hydroponics
Our editors independently research, test and recommend the best products; you can read more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be a great way to reduce your environmental footprint, and hydroponics offers even more space and water efficiency. Over the past few years, a number of new, high-tech gardening systems have entered the mass market, promising home gardeners the benefits of hydroponics, without the technical skills to set up a DIY system.
Lettuce Grow is a particularly successful entrant in the field, founded by actor and activist Zooey Deschanel and her husband Jacob Pechenik. The company’s main product is the Farmstand, which features a round base and stackable modules, which can also accommodate grow lights for indoor growing all year round. The smaller option can accommodate 12 plants and is 3 feet, 8 inches tall. From there you can stack layers, the tallest accommodating 36 plants and measuring 6 feet, 1 inch in height.
For every 10 Farmstands sold, Lettuce Grow donates one to schools and nonprofits, to help solve food access issues.
Lettuce Grow provided me with a Farmstand (see on LettuceGrow.com) to try, and I tested it for five months. Below you will find my review.
Here in the northeast, our growing season is limited by seasonal weather conditions, so I went for the indoor version with lights. For a lower price, you can get the Farmstand without a light, which is recommended for outdoor use in direct sunlight (you still need access to an electrical outlet). If you already have a lot of grow lights, this can work indoors as well. Lettuce Grow sent me the medium size, which has four levels of plants and lights, for a total of 24 plants.
I found the initial setup to be the hardest part of using the Farmstand. The stand and lights each came with separate instruction booklets, so I found myself having to go back and forth between the two sets of instructions during assembly, which was a bit confusing at times. I also watched some of the instructional videos that Lettuce Grow offers on their website and found them somewhat helpful. It would be great if Lettuce Grow offered just one simplified version of the building instructions for anyone getting an indoor system with lights.
There are just a lot of steps for the four tier unit, so to put everything together it took me about two hours to set it up. For anyone who decides to invest in a Farmstand, I highly recommend reading all of the instructions and studying the diagrams before you start. It also took a bit of time to fill the base with water using a watering can, as I couldn’t use a hose in the room where I wanted to place my Farmstand.
How it works
The unit is designed to work with Lettuce Grow seedling pods, which can be purchased separately, and fit into small pods on each level of the Farmstand. The seedlings arrive in their own growing medium, so you don’t need to add additional soil. If you are ambitious and more experienced in gardening, I’m sure you could find a way to start your own seeds in the cups provided by Lettuce Grow, but I haven’t tried this.
The Farmstand has a pump that sits at the base of the tank, which runs on a timer to move water to the top of the unit, where water flows smoothly inside the unit and s ‘drains onto the growing medium and the roots of the plants. According to Lettuce Grow, this allows you to grow vegetables with over 95% less water per plant, so it’s ideal in areas where water is scarce. The pump and lights need electricity to run and each has its own power cord, so you will need to place the Farmstand near an electrical outlet with at least two places to plug it in (I installed mine on a power strip). Lettuce Grow also provides liquid fertilizer, which helps keep plants properly nourished.
The pump is making noise. I installed it in my home office and found the sound to sound like a fountain. For indoor setup, the pump runs for 15 minutes at a time and then stops. I wouldn’t recommend putting it in a bedroom, and that’s something to keep in mind if you’re particularly sensitive to noise.
The lights are incredibly bright and run on a separate timer. The timer is set using an analog system with small teeth that are switched to the “on” or “off” position, and can be a bit difficult to move.
How to use
Although it took some time and effort to get up and running, once I assembled the Farmstand the weekly maintenance was quick and easy. Once a week, I topped up with water, added a dose of fertilizer, and tested the pH of the water (it comes with a water test kit). If the pH of the water is too high, you can add a powder to lower the pH (also provided).
That’s it. It takes me about five minutes a week to take care of the plants, harvesting aside. The time until you can start harvesting depends on the specific plants you choose, but some of the cut and revived herbs and lettuces take as little as two weeks to be ready to start harvesting. Some plants (like cherry tomatoes) may also require occasional pruning and take longer to fruit.
There’s also an extremely useful app that provides details about each plant you order, including when to harvest and how to prune. If you forget which plant is which, it can even help you identify them.
Lettuce Grow recommends taking the Farmstand apart and cleaning everything once a season. This means that you will either harvest all of your greens or move some of the plants to regular pots or an outdoor garden and start your growing cycle over again. After about five months of use I could really see the need to clean the Farmstand as a buildup of minerals had formed inside. I found the disassembly and cleaning to be simple and straightforward, and the assembly the second time around was much easier.
I am an intermediate level gardener in general and a beginner in growing vegetables. I was extremely impressed with the amount of green vegetables I was able to grow on the farm stand. I have never grown herbs or green vegetables so successfully before. I also tucked some extra seeds around the base to get a little extra light, which seemed to give them a little boost before I transplanted them outside.
There are many benefits to an indoor hydroponic system, including shelter from harsh weather conditions and protection from all kinds of creatures and pests. However, this is not a guarantee that you will not have insect problems. I had an issue with the spider mites attacking the cilantro in the Farmstand (concluded they did this indoors when I had the windows open), but I was able to keep it under control using neem oil.
Although the base of the Farmstand is quite compact, you will still need room to maneuver around it, and I have to admit that the plants in the back of mine are a bit long because I harvested there less often. . I didn’t have any drip or leak issues, although Lettuce Grow suggests placing a drip tray or mat under your device.
I have used my greens to make a main course or a side salad for lunch almost every day for over two months, as well as tons of herbs to dress up breakfast and dinner dishes, including a really awesome chimichurri sauce and a vegetable broth made from stems of herbs.
Freshly harvested vegetables and herbs really taste better, and if you only harvest what you need at a time, there’s no risk of lettuce wilting in the fridge.
Materials and energy use
Eating locally is one approach to reducing your carbon footprint, and growing your own food can help our food system be more resilient. However, the Farmstand itself is a pretty big device, so it certainly has its own built-in carbon (the energy and materials used to make it) to consider.
The big advantage of the material is that the Farmstand body is made from recycled plastics, collected from ocean communities to help reduce ocean waste, so it’s great that the majority of the product is not made from virgin plastics. . Then when you harvest a whole plant, the roots and growing medium can be composted, which is not a source of waste.
LED lights are very efficient. We have solar power in our home, so I’m not worried that the energy used to run the Farmstand contributes a lot to emissions.
Seedlings and Farmstand are shipped in a combination of primarily recyclable plastic and cardboard packaging. Growing your own greens also means that you avoid the single-use plastic bags or clamshell containers that come with buying most types of greens at the grocery store.
I would love to have a life cycle analysis to compare how much carbon and water you save by growing your own vegetables with the resources to make and use the Farmstand, but I just don’t have the data, and those numbers would probably vary a lot depending on what grows where you live. My best guess from a materials perspective is that if you don’t plan on using a hydroponics system for many years, the environmental scales could tip in the wrong direction.
Depending on the size you select and whether you go for lights, the Farmstand can cost anywhere from $ 350 to $ 1,150, so it’s a pretty substantial investment. This price range is comparable to other indoor garden systems. Refills for seedlings are sold in sets of six for around $ 15 (see on Lettuce Grow).
But in the very long run, the Farmstand could pay for itself by saving you money on fresh herbs and greens. It can also improve your nutrition because it makes it exciting and easy to add fresh vegetables to your meals. But perhaps the most valuable aspects of this system are the long-term environmental benefits and enhanced flavor of meals that only super fresh greens can provide.
Once installed, the Farmstand is very easy to use and very rewarding. If you are keen on growing your own food, potentially year round, it offers virtually guaranteed success and plenty of healthy and delicious meals.