Is There An AeroGarden In Your Future?

– Posted in: Seeds and Seed Starting, Tools and Equipment
13 comments

I had heard a lot about the AeroGarden, so when I was offered an opportunity to review one, I gladly accepted. The AeroGarden, for those of you not already familiar with it, is an automated hydroponic growing system meant for people who have never gardened before. I thought it would be a great way to have fresh herbs in the winter time and dispel cabin fever a little bit.

Where do I put this thing?

Since it is designed to make gardening as easy as possible, I was a bit surprised at the challenges I had setting it up. But that’s mostly because I live in an old, retrofitted rural home. They expect you to put it in an evenly heated environment (65F/18C to 75F/24C), near an electrical outlet, on a sturdy, water-tolerant surface away from the reach of children or pets. Yes, the kitchen counter would have worked well–except I didn’t want to give up any of my precious counter space. Because we heat with a wood stove, some of the rooms are too warm and some probably drop below 65F, at least some of the time. Most electrical outlets seem to be spoken for, either for lighting or powering electronic devices of one sort or another. You don’t really want it in a bedroom, because it needs to stay lit for 17 hours a day. I finally settled on the living room, which is on the cool side, and I dug up a sturdy but ugly little table to put it on. I guess I will have to exercise eternal vigilance when the occasional toddler comes to visit, or shut the door to that room.

Set-up was a breeze

It was very easy to put together. No tools needed, and not even that much hand strength. If you’re good at interpreting diagrams, you don’t really even need to know how to read to assemble it.

What do you have against my water?

Once you’ve put it together, add water. The super-duper deluxe model I was sent, the AeroGarden Ultra LED, needs a little over a gallon of water. My rural and frugal sensibilities were offended by the injunction to avoid using well water, which may “interfere with our nutrients.” Use distilled water instead, the directions say. No, I don’t think so. I may condescend to using the water from the dehumidifier, but I’m not buying fancy water to grow plants, for pity’s sake. How my well water could be more harmful to plants than municipal tap water with its fluoride and chlorine added is hard to imagine. Some people do have sulfur water or high levels of iron and perhaps that’s what they are thinking of. They also advise against using softened water which has high levels of sodium, and that is pretty standard advice for houseplants.

Add nutrients, insert seed pods

The next step is to add a measured amount of their nutrient solution to the water. The nutrient solution is included in the seed pod kit, not the AeroGarden itself. Perhaps there are different formulations for different kinds of plants. The nutrients must be replenished every two weeks, but not to worry, the AeroGarden will remind you. Finally, you insert the seed pods. This is as close as you get to planting anything. The seed pods are cone-shaped plastic containers with grow sponges and preplanted seeds. They are helpfully labeled with height descriptions on the labels, so you know which to put in the front and which in the back. And then you put little grow domes over each of the pods, which are removed when the seeds germinate.

AeroGarden Ultra LED

The AeroGarden is taking care of all the details of growing plants.

All that remains left to do is press a couple of buttons. Press the Quick Plant button, tell it what kind of seed pod kit you inserted, and set the time. The AeroGarden computer takes care of all the rest, which I find rather disturbing.

You call this gardening?

There is nothing left for me to do but read the little screen, topping up the water and adding more nutrients when it tells me to. It’s not really gardening so much as babysitting. If the herbs taste garden-fresh, that will be some consolation.

I can see the AeroGarden being perfect for classrooms and senior living communities, where there is an interest in plants–but not a consistent interest. School children will rush in to see if “their” plants have grown over the weekend, and then go off to the next distraction. Assisted living residents will check the tomatoes or strawberries for ripeness (yes you can grow either with the AeroGarden) as they shuffle into the dining room, and feel thankful they don’t have to water.

There are a wide variety of seed pod kits and even accessories to let you completely design your own pods with your own seeds. But I’m thinking, if you’ve gotten to that point, you’re really ready for a bona fide garden in the ground, a full-size seed starting stand, and maybe a greenhouse or a full-scale hydroponic set-up. Unless, perhaps, if you live in a fifth-floor apartment with no balcony.

I received an AeroGarden Ultra LED to review. The opinions expressed are my own.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Donna@GardensEyeView January 4, 2015, 9:30 am

Interesting and I can see it has its uses…would have loved it when I lived in an apt.

Steve Flynn January 2, 2015, 9:03 am

Interesting, but I think I’ll stick with an old fashioned garden.

Sam, Shoebox Gardener January 1, 2015, 8:55 pm

I was considering getting the AeroGarden when I was planning for my indoor herb garden a week ago but I eventually decided against it since it doesn’t really give a proper “gardening” feel.

It does make sense to use this though if you want to avoid all the problems that come with old-fashioned gardening.

Sam

Mahee Ferlini December 31, 2014, 4:02 pm

Never heard of this. Very cool!

Louise December 28, 2014, 2:22 pm

We got an aerogrow unit years ago. We used NYC tap water with no bad effect. That said, my best use is for seed starting weeks before the last frost. Pulling the sponge part off the roots is a mild challenge, but I love planting healthy tomatoes, herbs, and heirloom flowers at the right time.

Robin Ripley December 28, 2014, 10:09 am

It takes up quite a bit of room. And it’s not very pretty, IMO. Call me old fashioned, but I have pretty good luck keeping small pots of herbs on a sunny window sill. I may have to replace them from time to time, but that’s okay too.

Kathy Purdy December 28, 2014, 3:58 pm

I have a lot of trouble keeping herbs indoors in the winter. Not much sunshine here at that time of year, and when it is sunny, it is pretty weak. I get mealy bugs or scale in the blink of an eye, too. So the old-fashioned way doesn’t work for me.

Neil Moran December 28, 2014, 9:30 am

I guess they’re always trying to come up with ways to make gardening easier and/or possible in urban areas and small spaces. Anything that gets people more involved in gardening is a good thing. I agree on the water issue, Kathy.

Dee Nash December 28, 2014, 9:25 am

I suspect the well water admonition is because the plant food won’t dissolve as well in hard water. Much of the well water around here is hard, but I’m sure your plants will still get more than they need. Good review Kathy. I wouldn’t own anything from Miracle Gro, but as you said, classrooms might be a place where it could be used.

Laura @ Raise Your Garden December 28, 2014, 7:26 am

Was hoping to get one of these for Christmas…totally didn’t happen. Got an alligator head (real one shrunken version) instead. Disappointed. Also saw mushroom gardens on sale this year.

Alana December 27, 2014, 4:12 pm

My city water (Johnson City) is well water – from a well in walking distance of my house. Does that mean I am doubly at a disadvantage? I like the concept of an automatic garden especially as I don’t have much windowsill room – but this system costs more than I am willing to spend and I would not want to buy distilled water on top of that.

Donalyn@TheCreeksideCook December 27, 2014, 1:48 pm

Well, you know that I have been testing one of these as well, but I love mine.

I love having fresh herbs all winter, and not having to pay the spendy prices for cilantro and dill at the store. I also bought a seed starting kit for our veggie plants in a few months – that will come in very handy.

I pretty much ignored the idea of buying water as well, and it has worked just fine on our well water. And now that it is full of growing green things, I love the fresh look of it in the living room.

Kathy Purdy December 27, 2014, 8:11 pm

I am looking forward to fresh herbs as well. I just got mine this past week, so I am only recording my initial impressions, and plan to write a follow-up review after my living room is “full of growing green things.” But would the herbs seem a little more spendy if you had had to buy the AeroGarden yourself in order to grow them? And I know the garden you have on your acreage. The AeroGarden is not your main growing experience, but a happy diversion in the winter. If you had spent what your AeroGarden cost on materials at a big box store, you could have built yourself a much more substantial and capacious seed starting operation. I know, because I have one down in my basement that is several years old and still very serviceable. I wasn’t saying the AeroGarden is bad, I was just trying to point out that it isn’t the most cost-effective or soul-satisfying solution for everyone.