The Lettuce Grow Farmstand Grew Perfect Produce in My Small, Dark Apartment
This hydroponic indoor plant stand requires no green thumb!
I’ll be the first to admit that the statement, “No Green Thumb Required”, is like music to my ears when it comes to plants. I’m someone who loves fresh produce but has historically been less-than-superb at keeping greenery alive. Plus, I live in a small one-bedroom apartment in New York City with no outdoor space and dismal light. So, when I heard about the Lettuce Grow Farmstand, a nearly 4-foot-tall vertical garden with indoor growing capabilities, I was instantly intrigued. According to the site, this small garden is, “like having a 40-square-foot farm in your backyard. But, without the big yard, hours of labor, or PhD in horticulture.” It’s also self-watering and self-fertilizing and requires only five minutes of maintenance per week. Sounds great, right? Well, great it is.
How the Lettuce Grow Farmstand Works
I tested the 12-plant, indoor plant stand, which requires glow rings for light throughout the day. There is also an outdoor plant stand, and both options come in 12-, 18-, 24-, 30- and 36-plant sizes. The Farmstand kit includes everything you need to get started: A water pump, power cord, grow cups and timer, two Glow Rings with timers, plant nutrients, a pH Testing Kit, seedling grow cups, stir sticks, scoops and the seedlings. The manual was easy to follow, and the website’s assembly videos offered extra explanation. The whole assembly took about 30 minutes, and everything snapped together easily and correctly.
One main function of the Farmstand is the water pump that runs throughout the core of the vertical garden and draws water from a large tank in the base. In an apartment with no access to a hose, the process of filling up the tank was admittedly tedious and time-consuming. It’s important to note that once the tank is full, the Farmstand becomes extremely heavy and nearly impossible to move. Make sure it’s placed where you want it before filling it up.
After filling the water tank and planting the seedlings accordingly with the provided bags of nutrients, I checked the pH level with the test provided. The ideal range is between 5.5 and 6 on the pH chart, which mine was at the time of assembly and continued to be throughout maintenance. There is a guide on the company’s website with directions for adjusting the pH if it is too high or too low.
Once planted, the next step in assembly is setting up timers. If you opt for the Farmstand with Glow Rings, there are two timers to set: One is for the self-watering function and the other is for the lights, which are set based on your climate and whether the Farmstand is indoors or out. Since I was using the indoor settings, they recommended watering in 15-minutes cycles with 45 minutes between cycles during the day and 120 minutes between cycles at night. They suggest that during the day, the Glow Rings should be on for 14 hours, then off for ten hours. The rings give off an abundance of light, which was even more noticeable in my one-bedroom apartment, so I scheduled the lights from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The weekly maintenance is genuinely five minutes or less (once I got a bigger pitcher to top off the tank with water!). Each week, I get a push notification from the Lettuce Grow app reminding me to water my Farmstand and add nutrients. I add one scoop of each nutrient, stir and test the pH — it’s that easy! The company suggests cleaning your Farmstand every few months to get rid of build-up residue, which I have yet to do. Otherwise, the Farmstand is astonishingly tidy and self-contained.
What Can You Grow?
I picked 12 plants from an impressive assortment of more than 200 ready-to-plant seedings, including herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and more. The seedlings, which are $2.50 each, vary by season, but the Farmstand allows you to grow produce year-round.
When the seedlings arrived, they were neatly packaged and sprouted, ready to be put into the grow cups. I ordered bok choy, baby lettuce mix, classic butter lettuce, astro arugula, Toscano kale, green bunching onions, romaine, Italian parsley, cilantro, scarlet cherry tomatoes, mint and Genovese basil.
Traditional Gardening vs Lettuce Grow Farmstand
It might seem like Lettuce Grow’s claims comparing space, reliability, ease and maintenance to traditional gardening, seem lofty — but as far as I can tell, they hold up. The same amount of produce that requires a 40-square-foot traditional garden only takes up four square feet, and the claim of only five minutes of maintenance each week holds true as well. But the potentially most-substantial claim is the comparison in water. According to Lettuce Grow, the Farmstand requires less than one gallon of water for every 20 gallons required with traditional gardening. Judging by how little water I add to the tank each week, this seems accurate to me. Something else to note is that I have seen no increases on my electricity bill since having the Farmstand, which was important to me.
While it’s hard to substantiate the claims for how much this produce would have cost in a traditional garden, Lettuce Grow claims that the amount of produce you can make in the Farmstand would cost around $1,500 for one year of traditional gardening. When comparing that to the $548 cost of a 12-plant Farmstand with Glow Rings, the price (albeit still steep) feels worth it. The company claims you can grow 20% of your own food with it.
Herbs Grew Exceptionally Well
Everything started to really thrive about three weeks after being placed in the Farmstand. The Genovese basil, parsley and cilantro were ready to harvest at around just three weeks, which was a bit before the posted harvest date for cilantro. When harvesting, I cut off the herbs I wanted to use, and the plants continued to grow. I was impressed how quickly these herbs grew, seeing progress quite literally every day. They also were some of the tastiest (and freshest!) herbs I have ever cooked with, and I haven’t purchased a single herb since.
Vegetables Were Successful
I picked a wide variety of vegetables to grow and had success with every single one of them. The bok choy was ready to eat in about four-to-five weeks and was the best (and probably biggest) bok choy I have ever had. I made delicious salads in just four weeks with the baby lettuce mix, butter lettuce, arugula and romaine I grew. The green onions were ready at that same time and were perfect for garnishing. While still successful, I had the biggest struggle with my cherry tomatoes and Toscano kale. The tomatoes took close to nine weeks to be ready for harvesting, but they were some of the best tomatoes I have ever had (and I am not a tomato lover!). The Toscano kale was the only plant I had that did not thrive. Not only did it take longer to grow in comparison, but the few leaves I got were bitter.
What We Loved About the Farmstand
There’s a lot to love about the Farmstand. It was extremely rewarding seeing my plants grow, and constantly having fresh produce and herbs inspired me to cook at home a lot more.
The app is also very helpful. It reminds you to water your Farmstand and gives you tips about the plants you have. The chat was helpful, too. At one point, I noticed some spores on a few of my plants and chatted with a representative to make sure it was nothing concerning.
The selection of seedlings is also very impressive. The number of options for the price really astounded me and having the ability to successfully grow produce year-round in my dark, small apartment is a game-changer for the way I grocery shop, cook and eat.
Who Should Buy This?
Anyone who wants a low-stakes and high-assurance way to grow the freshest produce should certainly consider a Farmstand. It’s a steep initial price tag, but the benefit of cooking with the freshest herbs and produce makes it worth it. Aside from the price, I would also recommend taking the amount of light and sound this machine gives off into consideration. The Glow Rings are bright, and the 15-minute watering cycles can be heard throughout my apartment, even while in another room with the door closed. Those grievances aside, I have every intention to continue ordering more plants. The Farmstand also gave me the confidence to buy houseplants that take more than five minutes of maintenance per week — and I have not killed them (yet!).