Do you love leafy greens?
This article compares two popular gardening systems: the Lettuce Grow vs Tower Garden systems. Both of these systems are great choices for growing leafy greens indoors and outdoors, but which one is better?
I’ll go over everything from how to choose between the two systems, how they work, to pros and cons of each system, and more of each system.
Hydroponics vs Aeroponics Overview
Considered by many to be the future of large-scale vertical farming, aeroponics and hydroponics offer an alternative to traditional soil-based farming.
Both hydroponics and aeroponics require less space, less land, and less water, and can be used to cultivate fresh produce year-round in a variety of places. They also offer a means of addressing food security, and climate change, with their effect appearing to be minimal until now.
Hydroponic gardening uses nutrient-enhanced water as opposed to soil for growing fresh greens and herbs indoors, especially if you don’t have a garden plot to cultivate.
Aeroponics is an advanced form of hydroponics that similarly uses water, liquid nutrients, and soilless growing medium to cultivate fresh produce.
Here we look at two vertical gardening tower gardens that are self-watering and fully automatic from industry leaders – Lettuce Grow and Tower Garden.
Lettuce Grow vs. Tower Garden – Watering Systems
How Lettuce Grow Works
The Lettuce Grow Farmstand is a hydroponic garden that uses water, rather than soil, to cultivate food both indoors and outside.
It requires only two square feet of floor space. It does, however, need to be plugged in without interruption. It is slim enough that it can even be placed in a studio apartment for those short on space. A balcony, porch, or deck easily permits use outdoors.
The Lettuce Grow system is similar to a very large vase that stores 20.5 gallons of water in its water tank base and cycles it through the growing unit with a pump. It can hold from 12 to 36 plants in small pockets or “cubbies” that are stacked in modular growing rings on top of one another.
The plants cultivated will use water enhanced by fertilizer (plant food) to promote both root systems and foliage growth. Roots grow long rather than outward like they would in soil when looking for nourishment. By having hanging roots, the plants save energy, allowing them to grow faster.
The Farmstand unit cycles the same water over and over through the modular grow rings thanks to a pump. Traditional soil farming, more often than not, uses seeds, whereas the Lettuce Grow system uses seedlings available for purchase through the manufacturer.
Indoor grow lights provide necessary light year-round for indoor cultivation, so that the winter months do not influence your vegetable production.
The watering system uses a timer that you adjust based on location and temperature. An example different water needs depending on the lighting conditions. You may run water for fifteen minutes every hour in the daytime and every two hours during the night.
- Related article: Full Lettuce Grow Review
How Tower Garden Works
Tower Garden is a product of the Juice+ Company and works in a slightly different manner from Lettuce Grow with a method called aeroponics. The two models they have are the Juice Plus Tower Garden Home and Juice Plus Tower Garden Flex models.
The kit comes with a seed starting kit including a germination tray, Rockwool cubes, net pots, and a variety of seeds. Plants are grown in a mist environment, as opposed to in soil or in water.
Seedlings are planted in tower garden pockets using a growing medium that is known as “Rockwool.” Placed in the tower compartments, it provides oxygen and consistent moisture to seedlings for healthy growth.
The Tower Garden uses aeroponics, which is the same technology NASA uses to grow in space. Plants no longer require soil, using only water and liquid nutrients to grow.
The Tower Garden Reservoir at the base of the tower stores 20 gallons of water with the nutrient solution tha’ts the plant food for your selected plants. Garden Tower provides a proprietary liquid nutrient solution that contains all elements essential to plant growth.
Whereas soil cultivated plants must often wait on decomposing organic elements for nutrients to absorb, Tower Garden supplies nutrients immediately and continuously in the water mist.
A low-wattage, submersible pump in the reservoir will push the nutrient solution upward through a small central pipe to feed the plant roots. The solution will then drip down from the pipe inside the Tower Garden. As it falls, it will drip over the exposed roots of your plants.
The Tower Garden also uses a timer to guarantee that the process repeats continually without interruption. It is normally programmed at 15-minute intervals. With the Basic Home Growing package, you can grow up to 32 plants in your Garden Tower.
Lettuce Grow Design and Size
The Lettuce Grow Farmstand requires very little actual floor space and its appearance has often been compared to an Ikea design, modular, round, and white.
The Farmstands come in varying sizes depending on the number of plants you want to cultivate – 12, 18, 24, 30, or 36 of your favorite plants.
The tower itself, fashioned out of ocean-bound plastic, needs only two square feet of space for your mini-indoor garden.
The plastic used is completely recycled to form the tower and is BPA-free and food-grade, so you’ll feel comfortable eating vegetable plants you grow. Another important characteristic is that the Lettuce Grow tower is a California prop compliant design regarding exposure to chemicals from the use of plastic in manufacturing.
Lettuce Grow can be assembled in less than ten minutes and will require 5 minutes of maintenance weekly.
Tower Garden Design and Size
Tower Garden is manufactured in FDA-approved food-grade white plastic in the form of a vertical tube-like tower. The plastic is BPA-free and UV-stabilized for food consumption, so there are also no concerns about eating the fresh food and vegetables from the Tower Garden.
The tower can hold from a minimum of 20 plants up to an impressive 336 plants. This will depend on the tower size that you have. The tower itself needs only three-square feet of floor space, so you can locate it anywhere.
Specifically, high ceilings are not required, and the tower setup comes in four sizes depending on the size of your growing project.
Where to Place Them – Indoors or Outdoors
The Lettuce Grow Farmstand can be placed outdoors if you have easy access to an electric outlet. Plants will grow faster with this unit than in traditional soil gardening, and thanks to the cycling of water, the unit saves you a lot of water as a result.
Indoors, you will require more accessories like the plant dolly and glow rings. You may also have to deal with the noise of running water and possibly gnats that take up residence.
Another consideration indoors is if you want to cultivate plants that require pollination, like cucumbers. You will need to hand pollinate or forgo raising these vegetables.
The Tower Garden, like Lettuce Grow, requires indoor lights and can also be noisy. LED lights are bright, so if you are in a studio apartment, this system may disturb you to some extent between noise and brightness. It can be used outdoors as long as you have access to a power source outlet.
Features and Benefits Comparison
Nutrients / Plant Food Comparison
Lettuce Grow provides two nutrient packs with macro and micronutrients to encourage healthy produce:
- Part A for root growth and flowering contains potassium nitrate, magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), and micronutrients like iron and boron.
- Part B with nitrogen and calcium
The dosages of nutrients will depend on the number of plants you host in your module. The system also requires pH testing and the adjusting of water weekly.
Tower Garden uses what they call a “Mineral Blend”. The mineral blend solutions come in two different gallon bottles that contain different formulas:
- Mineral Blend A contains 2.0% Nitrogen, 1.0% calcium, and 0.05% Chelated Iron (Fe).
- Mineral Blend B contains 1.0% phosphate, 3.0% potash, 0.5% magnesium, 3.0% sulfur, 0.01% Boron, 0.001% copper, 0.01% manganese, 0.0005% molybdenum and 0.005% zinc.
Generally, the company indicates to use 20ml of both blends, A and B, with every gallon of water you add to your reservoir. Tower Garden also requires regular water pH testing and adjustments and, in this case, it is particularly important because Rockwool has a high pH level which will influence the system.
Learn more about pH Levels in Hydroponics.
Grow Medium Comparison
Lettuce Grow uses water enhanced with nutrients as its growing medium, much like many other hydroponic gardening systems.
Tower Garden uses Rockwool. This medium is a very absorbent substrate commonly used in horticulture. It maintains moisture and nutrients and keeps plants stable as they grow bigger.
The use of Rockwool has a long history in the cultivation of hydroponic plants. It is produced using natural materials such as rocks and chalk that are then heated to 3000°F. Afterward, it is air blown so that it becomes the thin fibers visible in the Tower Garden kit.
One of its drawbacks is that it is not biodegradable, so it will end up in landfills. The other is that it needs to be soaked before use, because it has a naturally high pH level that can be harmful to your plants and you when eating.
The Lettuce Grow system uses “glow rings” that are easily be installed on the modular system when cultivating plants indoors.
These remain on for a minimum of 14 hours daily and the company maintains that extra electricity expenses will not cost more than 15 cents per day. Glow rings are on a timer that you can adjust based on temperatures and location.
Tower Garden, in its basic HOME kit, that grows up to 32 plants, comes complete with LED lights. The FLEX kits come without lights and the appropriate LED lights for indoor use must be acquired separately. The grow lights fit right on the Tower Garden cage.
Mobile Apps Comparison
Lettuce Grow has a shopping app to buy seedlings, along with a tool to identify plants. But there have been some complaints that it can occasionally misidentify some plants.
The Tower Garden does not have a mobile app, but it does have a YouTube channel with informative videos.
For both systems, most accessories are just replacement pieces or system components for increasing your gardening activities.
Lettuce Grow offers some accessories that will facilitate your gardening efforts and your use of the unit. A plant dolly will permit you to move your Lettuce Grow Farmstand around for trimming or changing position. This is handy to have as it is a heavy unit.
The are additional accessories that are available:
- Grow rings for additional plants
- Glow rings for lighting
- Grow cups
- Extension kits
- pH testing
- pH adjustment supplies
- Additional pumps
- Additional timers
Tower Garden offers accessories that include
- LED lights for indoor growth
- FLEX supports cages for plants like tomatoes or squash that need extra support. These cages fit around the outside of the growing tower and are visually attractive.
- Extension kits
- FLEX system dolly for moving your tower around with greater ease.
- High-capacity pump
- Growing clips as an alternative to net pots, to hold plants in place on the tower while roots hang freely inside the tower.
- Water monitor
- Mineral blends
- pH testing kits
- Lower or Raise pH kits
- Rockwell cubes
- Net pots
- Seedling starter kits
Seeds, Seedlings, and Pre-Sprouted Plants Comparison
For Lettuce Grow, it will be necessary to buy seedlings every few months. It is possible to start your own seedlings, but you’ll need other equipment such as a seed tray, seeds, plant starter plugs, and whatnot that Lettuce Garden does not provide or make available for purchase.
Like Lettuce Grow, Tower Garden uses seedlings. You can grow seedlings on your own with a kit that Tower Garden provides, or you can purchase seedlings directly from a Tower Garden seedling supplier.
With Tower Garden can grow more than 150 kinds of plants except for root plants like carrots or potatoes, bushes, trees, or grapevines.
With both garden systems, you can start your seedlings and plant them as you would other seedlings.
Learn about Saving Seeds for future planting.
Care and Maintenance Comparison
Lettuce Grow Care
One potentially concern of the Lettuce Grow system is the appearance of gnats. The company suggests spraying plants with organic Neem oil and shaking Mosquito Bits into the unit’s base will help.
Another consideration is the possibility that a pond scum smell will eventually develop. In this case, the company recommends adding several tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide into the base reservoir’s water to eliminate the problem.
Generally speaking, you will need to add water approximately every three weeks to a month unless you have exceptionally thirsty greens.
The company indicates that the unit should be taken apart and cleaned every four months and the water base fully refilled after this “reset.” All plants should be removed, modular rings disassembled, and all parts scrubbed thoroughly to remove matter, muck, and algae.
Plant roots can be trimmed during this rest as well. The Farmstand needs to be cleaned outdoors with the use of a hose, so you can pump out all the base water.
Tower Garden Care
The Tower Garden would benefit from a cleaning between fresh plantings, but it should at least be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned at the end of each growing season. It can be cleaned in a three-step process by:
- Draining the reservoir
- Disassembling the Tower Garden
- Soaking and scrubbing
Towergarden.com gives a step-by-step guide and video to aid you in cleaning your unit.
Lettuce Grow vs. Tower Garden – Which is Better?
The one drawback of the Lettuce Grow system, particularly when set up indoors, is the noise. It has been described as sounding like a running toilet.
If you live in a studio apartment or a home with thin walls, you’ll hear the water when it runs. If you have a space or room that will protect you from sound, or a balcony or deck, it can be a great option.
It can also initially be rather costly. To acquire a farmstand, and glow rings, you’ll easily spend from several hundred dollars to over a thousand, so factor that in. But you’ll be saving money on vegetables and groceries, as well as improving your health by growing your own organic greens.
All things considered, the Farmstand from Lettuce Grow has very low maintenance once it is up and running, and will produce lots of fresh vegetables even if you are a newbie to gardening. It does require quarterly cleaning, and you may deal with some gnats and odors that can be easily managed.
You will need to use it for a while to amortize the initial investment, but consider how much it would cost you to buy fresh lettuce or vegetables daily. You will also save lots on water, spend very little on electricity, and basically pay for nutrients in exchange for fresh organic, pest, and pesticide-free produce.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Lettuce Grow:
Lettuce Grow Pros
- Rapid growth
- No soil
- Requires only two square feet of floor space
- Does not require experience
Lettuce Grow Cons
- Noisy water pump
- Bright Glow Rings
The Tower Garden is an equally successful and costly self-contained gardening module that allows anyone to grow their own fresh produce, regardless of where they live and what climate they live in.
It appears like a very easy way to cultivate a garden either indoors or outside. But because of the use of Rockwool, you will have extra work with the need to soak it first and check pH levels regularly.
It is also important to ensure that your tower gets sufficient light or use the system’s grow lights indoors.
Like the Lettuce Grow System, it does not come cheaply. Some gardeners have expressed concern as to whether the mineral blends are synthetic chemicals or not and what effect they may have on those eating the produce.
Here are some of the pros and cons of the Tower Garden systems:
Tower Garden Pros
- Easy to operate
- Does not require soil
- Low risk of pests and disease
- Produce grows rapidly
- Requires limited space
- Only 2% of traditional water usage needed
- Does not require gardening knowledge or experience
Tower Garden Cons
- Rockwool concerns
- Mineral Blend concerns
- Indoor lights are bright
- Water is noisy
Both systems claim to use much less water in cultivation, and you achieve a greater yield up to three times faster. There is no more dirt, pests, contamination, weeds, pesticides, or any of the inconveniences that come with traditional soil bed cultivation, and because it’s a vertical garden system, they take up little space.
The systems have more in common than what separates them, so it may come down to the design you prefer or the number of plants you wish to cultivate.
Lettuce Grow vs Tower Garden Final Thoughts
If you want to start cultivating fresh vegetables, then you should definitely invest in one of these two gardening systems.
The Lettuce Grow and Tower Garden both offer great benefits and drawbacks to grow fresh vegetables and unprocessed food. Whichever is best for you comes down to personal preference.
I personally prefer the Lettuce Grow Farmstand system over the Tower Garden. I think the Lettuce Grow has a lot more flexibility and options available to me, and it is easier to maintain. The Tower Garden requires a bit more maintenance and upkeep with the Rockwool, but it is still possible to get it running smoothly.
So if you’re looking for a simple way to grow fresh vegetables, then the Lettuce Grow is the perfect choice for you.
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Last update on 2023-01-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API