Lettuce Grow Farmstand Review: An Easy-to-Use Hydroponic Garden

I didn’t buy greens for months thanks to this high-tech growing system.

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Lettuce Grow Farmstand
Lettuce Grow Farmstand.

Margaret Badore

Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be a wonderful way to reduce your environmental footprint, and hydroponics offer even more space and water efficiency. In the past few years, a number of new high-tech garden systems have entered the mass market, promising home gardeners the benefits of hydroponics, without the engineering skills needed to set a DIY system. 

Lettuce Grow is one particularly splashy entrant to 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 year-round indoor growing. The smallest option accommodates 12 plants, and stands 3 feet and 8 inches tall. From there, you can stack layers, the tallest accommodates 36 plants and stands 6 feet and 1 inch tall. 

For every 10 Farmstands sold, Lettuce Grow donates one to schools and nonprofits to help address food access issues. 

Lettuce Grow provided me with a Farmstand (view on LettuceGrow.com) to try out, and I tested it out over the course of five months. Below, you’ll find my review. 

Set Up

Here in the Northeast, our growing season is limited by seasonal weather conditions, so I opted for the indoor version with lights. For a lower price, you can get the Farmstand without lights, an option recommended for outdoor use in full sun (you still need access to an electrical outlet). If you already have a lot of grow lights, might also work in an indoor setting. Lettuce Grow sent me the middle size, which has four levels of plants and lights, for a total of 24 plants. 

Lettuce Grow Farmstand
Adding a seedling to the Lettuce Grow Farmstand.

Margaret Badore

I found the initial set up to be the most challenging part of using the Farmstand. The stand and lights each came with separate instruction booklets, so I found myself needing to flip back and forth between the two sets of instructions during assembly, which was occasionally a bit confusing. I did also watch some of the instructional videos that Lettuce Grow offers on its website, and found them somewhat helpful. It would be great if Lettuce Grow offered a single streamlined version of the assembly instructions for anyone getting an indoor system with lights. 

There are simply a lot of steps for the four-level unit, so to get it all together it took me about two hours to set up. For anyone who decides to invest in a Farmstand, I’d strongly recommend reading through all the instructions and studying the diagrams before starting. It was also somewhat time-consuming to fill the base with water using a watering can, because 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’s seedling pods, which can be purchased separately, and fit into little pods in each level of the Farmstand. The seedlings arrive in their own grow medium, so you don’t need to add any additional soil. If you’re ambitious and more experienced at gardening, I’m sure you could figure out a way to start your own seeds in the cups Lettuce Grow provides, but I haven’t tried this. 

Lettuce Grow Farmstand
Left: The Farmstand with Glow Rings assembled, before adding the plants. Center: The Farmstand with seedlings added. Right: Plant growth after three weeks.

Margaret Badore

The Farmstand has a pump that sits at the base of the reservoir. The pump runs on a timer to move water to top of the unit, where the water flows gently down the inside of the unit and runs over the grow medium and roots of the plants. According to Lettuce Grow, this allows you to grow vegetables with over 95% less water per plant, so it’s great in water-scarce areas. The pump and lights need power to run and each has its own power cord, so you’ll need to place the Farmstand near an electrical outlet with at least two places to plug in (I set mine up on a power strip). Lettuce Grow also provides liquid fertilizer, which helps keep the plants properly nourished.  

The pump does make noise. I set it up in my home office, and found the sound to be something akin to a fountain sound. For the indoor set up, the pump runs for 15 minutes at a time and then shuts off. I wouldn’t recommend putting it in a bedroom, and it’s something to keep in mind if you’re particularly sensitive to noise. 

The lights are impressively bright, and run on a separate timer. The timer are set using an analog system with little teeth that are switched to an “on” or “off” position, and can be a bit fiddly to move. 

How to Use

Although it took some time and effort to get up and running, once I got the Farmstand assembled, the weekly maintenance was quick and simple. Once a week, I topped up the water, added a dose of fertilizer, and tested the pH of the water (it comes with a water test kit). If the water’s pH is too high, you can add a powder to lower pH (also provided). 

That’s it. It takes me about five minutes a week to take care of the plants, harvesting aside. The amount of time until you can start to harvest depends on the specific plants you choose, but some of the herbs and cut-and-come again 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 helpful app that offers 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 disassembling the Farmstand and cleaning everything out once per season. This means you’ll harvest all your greens or move some of the plants to regular pots or an outdoor garden and starting your growing cycle again. After about five months of use, I could definitely see the need to clean the Farmstand, as some mineral buildup had formed inside it. I found disassembly and cleaning to be simple and straightforward, and assembly the second time around was much easier. 

The Results 

I’m a mid-level gardener generally, and a newbie when it comes to growing vegetables. I was extremely impressed with the amount of greens I was able to grow on the Farmstand. I’ve never grown herbs or greens so successfully before. I also nestled some extra seed starts around the base to get some extra light, which seemed to give them a little boost before I eventually transplanted them outside. 

An indoor hydroponic system has many advantages, including shelter from harsh weather conditions and protection from all sorts of critters and pests. However, it’s not a guarantee that you won’t have any insect problems. I had an issue with spider mites attacking the cilantro in the Farmstand (I concluded they made it inside when I had the windows open), but I was able to get it under control using neem oil. 

Although the base of the Farmstand is pretty compact, you’ll still want space to maneuver around it, and I have to confess the plants on the back of mine got a bit leggy because I harvested there less often. I didn’t have any issues with dripping or leaking, although Lettuce Grow does suggest putting a drip tray or mat under your unit. 

I used my greens to make a main dish or side salad for lunch for most days for over two months, plus tons of herbs to dress up breakfast and dinner dishes, including making a really awesome chimichurri sauce and a vegetable stock made from herb stems. 

Greens from the Lettuce Grow Farmstand.
Salad made from greens grown on my Farmstand.

Margaret Badore

Just-harvested vegetables and herbs really do taste better, and if you harvest only 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 shrinking your carbon footprint, and growing your own food can help our food system be more resilient. However, the Farmstand itself is a pretty big appliance, so it definitely has its own embodied carbon (the energy and materials used to make it) to consider. 

The big material upside is that the body of the Farmstand is made from recycled plastics, collected from ocean communities to help reduce ocean waste, so it’s great that the majority of the product isn’t made from virgin plastics. Then, when you harvest an entire plant, the roots and grow medium can be composted, so that’s not a source of waste.

The LED lights are very efficient. We have solar at our home, so I’m not concerned that the energy used to run the Farmstand is contributing much to emissions. 

The seedlings and Farmstand ship in a combination of mostly recyclable plastic and cardboard packaging. Growing your own greens also means you’re avoiding single-use plastic bags or clamshell containers that come with buying most types of greens at the grocery store. 

I wish I had a lifecycle analysis to compare how much carbon and water you’re saving by growing your own vegetables with the resources needed to make and use the Farmstand, but I just don’t have the data, and likely those numbers would vary a lot depending on what grows where you live. My best guess from a materials standpoint is that if you don’t plan on using a hydroponics system for many years, the environmental scales might tip in the wrong direction. 

Value

Depending on what size you select, and if you opt for lights, the Farmstand can cost anywhere from about $350 to $1,150, so that’s a pretty substantial investment. That price range is comparable to other indoor garden systems. Refills for the seedlings are sold in bundles of six for about $15 (view on Lettuce Grow).

But in the very long run, the Farmstand could actually pay for itself by saving you money on fresh herbs and greens. It may 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 to meals that only super-fresh greens can provide. 

Final Verdict

Once set up, the Farmstand is very easy to use and very rewarding. If you are enthusiastic about growing your own food, potentially all year round, it offers practically guaranteed success and many healthy, delicious meals.

Lettuce Grow Farmstand

Lettuce Grow Farmstand