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Growing lettuce in a vertical garden is not only possible – it is actually easy. You can grow lettuce in an outdoor vertical garden as well as an indoor one.
These are the main things to pay attention to –
- Light – either direct sunlight for an outdoor vertical garden or artificial grow lights for an indoor one.
- Air circulation – which can help cool down lettuce in outdoor vertical gardens
- Cool temperatures – ideally between 65 and 70F.
- Fluffy well-aired soil.
- High nitrogen fertilizer
- A watering system
Keep reading to understand more about each of these aspects and how to employ them correctly. By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be able to plan your own vertical lettuce garden!
Why lettuce is a great fit for any vertical garden
Lettuce is a versatile plant which can easily adapt to growing vertically. As a plant which thrives in cooler weather, its optimal growing conditions can include a wide range of possible seasons and circumstances.
Both indoors and outdoors it is possible to have a delicious and harvestable product over a shorter period than you might think. Vertical gardens are excellent because they allow relatively dense plantings occupying small basic footprints. Needless to say, the benefits of your own vegetables are off the chart. So this is a perfect match!
What you need for growing lettuce in a vertical garden framework
Let’s jump right into what you need for growing lettuce vertically.
1. Make sure your vertical garden gets enough light – but not too much
First and foremost, lettuce, like all plants, requires light – either sunlight or help from “grow lights”, if indoors. Permanently placed in a spot that catches 6 hours of Sun would be completely sufficient.
Leafy vegetables like lettuce are plants which require relatively less sun. Bear in mind as well the changing arc of sunlight as the warmer months near. June in the sun is hotter than April, but with a less amount of direct sunlight, the heat factor is at least lessened considerably.
You can use artificial light sources too!
If you’re limited to growing your lettuce indoors, you can still get the plants enough light. Certain windows or window sills have sufficient light even in Winter to offer a plant 6-8 hours of sun. While not common, they can definitely be utilized for food gardening. But if you don’t even have those, there’s always grow lights.
Artificial grow lights now have become as practical as drip irrigation. Both are serious gardening advances.
A “grow light” is simply an artificial form of sunlight. Plug them in, arrange to direct them onto the plants and watch them grow. There are increasingly abundant choices in styles and strength, but what is more important is in how possible this is. Nor do they need to cost an arm and a leg and nor do they have to eat up electricity like a hog. LED lights run on less than 18% of wattage used by standard house lamps and are every bit as effective and adjustable.
2. Use vertical air circulation to cool off your lettuce plants
Vertical gardens can offer a unique level of air circulation. For one thing, they offer an unimpeded air circulation owing to the lack of competition that they would have in the ground. You see, when you plant lettuce in the ground, it’s likely to get in contact with rivaling plants underground. Raised above ground level, it’s much harder for other plants to get in the way.
Air circulation also helps with lowering temperature. Because they are a plant which thrives in cooler weather, the obvious effect of sunshine building heat on the ground would make lettuce less harvestable in warmer months, and earlier so than when raised. That’s where growing lettuce vertically can come in handy!
3. Assess the temperature for optimal growing conditions
Inasmuch as lettuce is typically referred to as a “cool weather plant”, the term is somewhat relative. Factors such as shade and the possibility of growing indoors are obvious outliers. Nevertheless, lettuce grows best with temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees. At 70-80 degrees the lettuce plants tend to grow flowers and produce seeds.
These plants can tolerate temperatures from 80-85 degrees, but only temporarily for optimal growing conditions. If you’re growing lettuce in an indoor vertical garden, consider leaving the a/c during heatwaves.
4. Choose well-aired soil
Soil considerations are relatively simple. Indoors or out, lettuce requires a very fluffy, not binding soil. Keep in mind that lettuce is one of the stars of hydroponics in that the roots require no soil at all when babied in the hydroponic network of constant moisture and nutrients. When using soil for your lettuce, you’re really looking for a substance that will “carry” water and nutrients while allowing the roots to easily grow and get around.
So, which soil to choose?
In a vertical garden, the easiest recommendations are to use a potting soil or any soil which will allow the tenderest of roots to expand. Clay, in other words, is decidedly not recommended.
If you have to use local soil, prepare it by airing thoroughly before placing it into the planting containers of your vertical garden. Inasmuch as lettuce sprouts fairly quickly – maybe a week – it is possible to get nearly immediate feedback on the efficacy of the soil. If the plant does not develop quickly, then the soil is an impediment and will need material to make it looser and less resistant to root growth. In professional horticultural terms that would be known as making the soil for friable.
5. Throw in some fertilizer
Help your lettuce grow faster and better by adding some high-nitrogen fertilizer into the planting medium during seeding. This will get the plants off to a more rapid start once they can tap in through their roots.
Lettuce, in this sense, is easier to fertilize than plants which require stem or foliage growth. High nitrogen organic sources include fish meal, blood meal, and cottonseed meal. Premixed chemical or natural fertilizers high in nitrogen include 10-5-5 mixes. The first number refers to the proportion of nitrogen to the other two major elements: phosphorus and potassium.
Vertical gardens offer a far easier methodology for fertilizing in that many of the plants could be far above the ground to get closer to and tend without spillage or mess.
6. Finally, put a good watering system in place
Whether indoors or outside, you’ll need a watering system for your vertically-growing lettuce. For those who can afford to spend a little, drip systems offer an amazing freedom in that they run a preset amount of water at preset intervals and times of day.
It takes a bit of tweaking to find out the ideal water amount and when to apply it, but once you hit that sweet spot, an automatic drip system will allow you to travel without worrying about your developing lettuce.
Can’t afford an automated watering system? That’s ok. You can still grow lettuce vertically with manual watering. Apply water using a squeezable watering container with the long tube formed to bend over the edges of the plant container. These terrific inventions can allow you to apply exact amounts of watering without making a mess.
Don’t forget about harvesting!
There are few pleasures to match harvesting and preparing meals with our own vegetables, herbs or whatever we have grown ourselves. We can monitor their taste and textures and even improve the product by discovering the seeds or varieties most suited to our environment. We can also discover new tastes and sensations with experimental seedings and harvestings. The range of pleasures offered by growing our own food is limitless.
Nor does this pleasure absolutely require outdoor facilities or large garden room in the landscape. The virtue of vertical gardening lies in its smaller land footprint as we grow our products upwards and not outwards.
Imagine adding 100 or more square feet to your home, completely dedicated to gardening. This can be done somewhere as wildly impractical as an urban balcony. Or – better – in a neglected basement.
In the end, Vertical Gardens offer far more than some merely intellectual exercise appreciated only by connoisseurs or by designers looking for something new or radical.
In fact, vertical farming is an actual thing – even with lettuce! Did you know that hydroponic vegetable-growing produces a large percentage of Canada’s leafy vegetables? And it’s done vertically to save on space.
A combination of technologies can allow us to grow the most scrumptious and diverse lettuces pretty much wherever and whenever we want. And it’s not just commercial vertical lettuce “fields” either. Hopefully, this post has convinced you that you can grow the leafy vegetable in your own home too.
Lettuce is an incredibly easy plant to grow. If you set up your vertical garden properly, you could grow lettuce 12 months a year, of course, given the knowledge illustrated in here. The vertical nature of the process allows us to better control both the process and increase the quantity without giving up precious space on the land or floor. Vertical gardening gives us a magnificent option that way.