I’ve always been intimidated by gardening.
Beyond a few houseplants and small containers of herbs, I’ve never had success with growing my own food — and I know I’m not alone.
That’s why when I heard about the Farmstand from Lettuce Grow, I was instantly intrigued.
The Farmstand is a unique hydroponic gardening system that allows even absolute beginners like myself to easily grow their own veggies and herbs in both indoor and outdoor settings.
Here’s a review of my experience with the Farmstand, along with some things to know before purchasing it.
Lettuce Grow is a company founded by actress Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik of The Farm Project.
The company’s primary product is the Farmstand — a vertical garden that can be used anywhere inside or outside of your home.
The Farmstand utilizes a hydroponic gardening system, meaning there’s no soil involved. Instead, seedlings are planted in pods made of natural fibers, and their roots are fed with a mixture of water and nutrients that’s pumped through the unit.
While there are several hydroponic gardening systems on the market, the Farmstand is known for being one the easiest to use, as it includes everything you need to get started, including the stand, nutrients, lights, seedlings, and straightforward instructions.
The base unit features 2 rows that fit 6 plants each, for a total of 12 plants.
You can purchase up to 4 additional rows for your stand, allowing you to accommodate up to 36 plants.
If you plan to grow indoors, you’ll also want to buy Glow Rings, which are lights that replicate natural sunlight and are made specifically to fit above each row on the Farmstand.
My Farmstand holds 24 plants and has 4 Glow Rings, which I find provides just the right amount of fresh veggies and herbs for our family of 4.
The Farmstand is a hydroponic gardening system that can be used indoors or outdoors.
By keeping the pH of the water between 5.5–6.5 and maintaining adequate amounts of nutrients in the water, the Farmstand provides plants with the nutrients they need to grow and flourish without soil.
At the start of each growing season, you’ll need to fill up the base with 20 gallons (75.7 liters) of water.
I used tap water with great success. However, if your tap water has an abnormally high or low pH level, you may want to use bottled water instead.
Based on a set schedule, water is pumped up through the center of the stand, distributed to each plant’s root system, and then filtered back down to the base.
While the water is filtered and reused, you’ll want to keep an eye on the water level, adding additional water every few weeks.
The pump — and the lights, if you purchase them — are plugged directly into timers that plug into a wall outlet.
Set manually, the timers control the water pump and lights based on Lettuce Grow’s recommendations for your location.
However, because the timers are separate from the Farmstand equipment itself (but still included with your purchase), you can replace them with smart plugs or different timers if you’d like.
In addition to occasionally topping off the water, you’ll need to add nutrients to the water each week.
Keep in mind that if you use the Farmstand inside, you’ll want to purchase Glow Rings to ensure that your plants receive enough light to grow.
Lettuce Grow recommends growing seasons of 3–4 months, followed by a full reset, which involves breaking down the machine and washing all of the components thoroughly.
What can you grow using the Farmstand?
The Lettuce Grow website sells more than 200 varieties of plants that are well suited for hydroponic growing.
Here are the categories the company offers, along with examples of the kinds of seedlings available from each:
- Herbs: sage, cilantro, oregano, dill
- Flowers: viola, dianthus, calendula
- Fruits and vegetables: strawberry, cherry tomato, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, celery
- Leafy greens: lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, cabbage
However, there are some growing limitations.
For example, large or heavy foods, like pumpkins or melons, aren’t a good fit for the size of the Farmstand.
Additionally, root vegetables and tubers — like sweet potatoes, turnips, onions, and carrots — aren’t a good option for hydroponic gardening, as they require plenty of soil for their roots to grow.
Hydroponic vegetable gardens offer several benefits, including:
- Makes home-grown food easier and more convenient. Hydroponic gardens like the Farmstand allow you to grow your own food — indoors or outdoors — no matter where you live, making it easier than ever to enjoy locally grown vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
- Uses less water than traditional gardening. Because water continuously cycles through hydroponic gardens, they use significantly less water than traditional gardens. After the initial fill, I only had to add 2–3 gallons (7.6–11.4 liters) every few weeks.
- Faster growing season. Plants in hydroponic systems grow faster than their traditionally grown counterparts, allowing for more harvests in shorter periods. Plus, if you purchase seedling plants, you can shave off 2–3 weeks compared with starting from seed (
- Can be used year-round. Even for those who enjoy traditional gardening, hydroponics can be used to extend the growing season. Indoor hydroponic gardens with grow lights can be used year-round, allowing you to grow produce indoors in the middle of winter.
The basic Farmstand for outdoor use with enough room for 12 plants costs $348.
Here’s what’s included in your initial purchase:
- the Farmstand base
- a water pump
- a power cord
- plant food for 130 plants
- a pH testing kit
- pH Down
- seedling grow cups
- a stir stick
Adding 2 Glow Rings for indoor use costs an extra $250.
Shipping on all Farmstands and Glow Rings is free.
Here’s how much it costs for additional rows and grow lights:
|Total for outdoor use||Number and cost of Glow Rings||Total for indoor use|
|12 plants||$348||2 for $200||$548|
|18 plants||$424||3 for $275||$699|
|24 plants||$499||4 for $350||$849|
|30 plants||$574||5 for $425||$999|
|36 plants||$649||6 for $500||$1149|
After your initial purchase, you can buy individual rows and Glow Rings for $75 each.
You’ll also need to purchase chemicals and seedlings for your Farmstand on an ongoing basis.
Seedlings cost approximately $2.50 per plant, and shipping is free if you order 12 or more.
Chemicals cost $28 per set, and pH Down costs $10.
In my experience, the nutrients included in my original Farmstand purchase lasted about 4 months before I needed to order more.
You can also purchase a number of other supplies and replacement parts on the Lettuce Grow website.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to purchase seedlings or hydroponic chemicals directly from Lettuce Grow. You can also buy them from gardening or hydroponic supply stores, or order them online from other retailers.
You can also purchase seeds and a growing medium to start your own plants from seed.
Being totally new to gardening (with the exception of a few small container herb gardens), I was initially intimidated by the Farmstand.
However, after assembling it and planting the seedlings, I found that it was actually very easy to use.
The initial setup was the only difficult part, as it took my husband about an hour to put the stand together, and then it took me another hour to set the timers, fill the tank with water, add the initial chemicals, and place the seedlings in the stand.
From there, maintaining the Farmstand was a breeze — and a lot of fun, as I’d look forward to checking on the plants each morning to see how they were growing.
Each week I’d add maintenance chemicals, check the pH of the water, and top off the tank with a gallon or two of water if needed.
We also started trimming the roots every 2 or 3 weeks to keep the root systems from becoming entangled.
Our first harvest of lettuce and herbs was ready in just 3 weeks, and we were able to harvest more about every 3 weeks.
Over the course of just 3 months, we harvested countless heads of lettuce, arugula, kale, and bok choy, several batches of fresh herbs, and a meal’s worth of cherry tomatoes.
We’ll definitely continue to use the Farmstand. Our first growing season just finished up, so we’ll be breaking down the machine, cleaning it, and adding some new seedlings in the next couple of weeks.
We’re also planning on starting an outdoor garden next spring, as the Farmstand has taught me a lot about gardening and piqued my interest in growing more of my own food.
Taste and variety
One of my favorite parts of the Farmstand was getting my 5-year-old son involved, as he loved tasting the fresh veggies and helping me harvest them.
For our first venture into hydroponic gardening, we grew several types of herbs, greens, and lettuces, including:
- butter lettuce
- Genovese basil
- green bunching onions
- summer lettuce
- romaine lettuce
- cherry tomatoes
- Thai basil
- Toscano kale
- baby lettuce
- bok choy
Lettuce Grow sells many more varieties of seedlings on its website, with the offerings changing depending on the season.
Except for the strawberry seedling, which was in bad shape when it arrived and died (we unknowingly cared for a weed that grew in its place for several weeks until I finally realized it wasn’t a strawberry), our first harvest was a success.
I was very impressed with the taste of the fresh herbs and veggies.
We made lots of salads and soups using the greens, and I used the fresh herbs to cook and make pickles, salsas, and sauces, such as pesto and chimichurri.
We were also able to dry many of our herbs for longer storage, and I’ll be repotting many of the herb plants when we reset the stand, as they’re still going strong.
One of our favorite meals was a batch of baked feta and tomato pasta using our freshly grown cherry tomatoes and basil.
One thing to note is our cherry tomato plants took a full 3 months to produce and ripen.
Next time we plan to use the Farmstand for herbs, lettuces, and greens, and then grow fruiting plants like tomatoes in containers or raised beds outside since they grow more slowly than the herbs and greens.
I was very impressed by the Farmstand.
I think it’s a great way to add fresh, locally grown produce to your diet, as well as a really fun and easy way to get into gardening if you’re a total beginner like me.
The Farmstand is also ideal for people who rent homes or live in apartments, as it can be used inside or outside with no land required and only takes up a small amount of space.
Plus, it allows you to grow food year-round and can be less water-intensive than traditional gardening.
The major downside of the Farmstand is the price.
In addition to the unit itself, plus Glow Rings if you plan on using it indoors, you’ll need to factor in the recurring cost of chemicals and seedlings.
Though, keep in mind that you can grow your Farmstand over time, starting with the basic stand and purchasing additional rows and Glow Rings as your budget allows.
The Farmstand is an easy way for beginner and advanced gardeners alike to grow their own food.
Using a hydroponic gardening system, it can be used indoors or outdoors and offers several benefits, including year-round growing seasons, shorter time to harvest, and less water use.
If you’re interested in hydroponics, growing your own food, or taking a crash course in gardening, I highly recommend the Lettuce Grow Farmstand.
Just one thing
Try this today: Growing your own food is about as “local” as you can get. To learn more about the benefits of eating locally grown food, check out our article on the 7 Fantastic Benefits of Eating Local.