The AeroGarden on Day 30. Not everything has germinated yet. The green light indicates it’s time to add fertilizer. (Photo by Pam Baxter)
Would you love to grow veggies or herbs, but live in an apartment or condo? Or do you have a yard, but not enough sunlight? Perhaps you just don’t like digging in the dirt? Or maybe you do have a garden but would love to continue to grow fresh food year-round? If any of those things are true, the AeroGarden® might be just the right approach for you.
AeroGarden® is a complete system that lets you grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers indoors, no garden required. The compact units consist of several different elements: a water reservoir with a filter and pump, an attached, adjustable grow light, an assortment of pods containing seeds, a reservoir cover that holds the pods, and an internal programmable timer. Once you set the seed pods in place, all you need is electricity and water — the unit does the rest. Well, almost. You do have to adjust the height of the light as the plants grow taller, add liquid fertilizer when instructed by the blinking light, and remember to keep the water reservoir full. You also have to keep an eye on harvesting; the plants really grow, and faster than you might expect.
With an in-ground garden, I hadn’t feel a pressing need for an AeroGarden®, but I was intrigued by the potential for harvesting food year-round. Happily, several months ago the folks at AeroGarden® offered me a sample unit (their Harvest model) to trial. The six herb seed pods included dill, mint, basil, Thai basil, parsley, and thyme.
Here’s what I experienced. The AeroGarden is super easy to set up. Fill the reservoir with water, add liquid fertilizer, pop the pods into place, and program the device/set the timer for the type of plants you’ll be growing, i.e., either vegetables, herbs, or flowers. But I ran into a bit of trouble right off. Either the programming button was faulty before I got my hands on it or I damaged it during the set-up process. (When I looked for troubleshooting help on the internet, I read that the buttons are sensitive and that you should touch them lightly. Too late!) The timer is stuck on 14 hours of light per day, not the recommended 17, though everything has grown just fine.
A light comes on to indicate that it’s time to add fertilizer, but you’re on your own for remembering to keep the reservoir filled. There is no light to indicate when the water is getting low; you have to peek into the reservoir to check. Eventually you’ll need to clean the unit and start over. You’ll be amazed at the root growth!
The grow light is incredibly bright, so take that into consideration when deciding where to set it up. It’s still a little disconcerting to me that the light will sometimes be off during the day and on during the night. A laundry room would make a perfect spot.
Some plants grow faster than others. The dill grew like crazy. The mint, too. Basil grows more slowly, so I ended up cutting back the dill and mint to be able to keep the light close enough to the basil. Overall, my husband and I couldn’t keep up with the quantity of herbs and we didn’t like wasting them, so I’m about to switch to growing leaf lettuce to supply the salads we eat every day.
Since the AeroGarden® runs on electricity, there will be a bit of an increase in your monthly bill, but that will be more than made up by the value of the herbs or vegetables you grow.
The few “cons” I’ve mentioned are all fairly minor. Overall, it’s remarkable to be able to grow food so easily, indoors. Plus, your plants are safe from deer and other hungry wildlife, and there’s no weeding involved. Those are huge wins in my book!
Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Pam’s nature-related books for children and families are available on Amazon, at Amazon.com/author/pamelabaxter.
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