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Aerogarden – Hydroponics For Dummies

Something I haven’t shared here is the fact that I purchased an Aerogarden back in February and have been quietly growing a jungle of herbs in my basement ever since. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Aerogarden is a (now) hugely popular indoor hydroponic herb garden – one that completely takes the guess work out of growing stuff in general, I might add.

Unlike Anthony (from TheCompostBin.com) who was unsuccessful in his attempt to make an Aergarden jump into his shopping cart (haha), my typing fingers had no trouble magically bringing me an Aerogarden in the mail, along with a not-so-magical addition to my credit card bill the next month!
😆

All joking aside, I just couldn’t resist seeing what all the fuss was about. It sounded way too good to be true, but I also couldn’t ignore all the positive reviews I was able to find online. I think part of the appeal resulted from my past dabbling in hydroponics. I’ve set up several hydro systems and have really enjoyed the ease with which I was able to grow lettuce, basil and various other herbs. One of the things I learned during my active hydroponic experimentation days however, was that fluorescent lights just didn’t cut it as a sole light source for doing any serious growing inside (assuming no other light source). This served to fuel my skepticism when I first heard about the Aerogarden. Sure, I could see how you might be able to grow some herbs with it, but tomatoes and peppers?! No way!

I still have not tested flowering plants out myself, but I’ve gotta tell you I’ve been very impressed with its ability to grow herbs – that’s for sure! My Aerogarden is located down in my dark, cold basement (a.k.a my ‘office’) and all the plants in the system have been growing like weeds. It is hands-down the easiest way to grow herbs I’ve ever used. I’ve almost been disappointed that there hasn’t been more for me to do!
😆

Unlike traditional hydroponics, where you generally need to monitor pH, conductivity etc, the Aerogarden handles everything for you. You literally just insert the ‘grow pods’, fill the reservoir with water, add a couple tablets, plug it in, then press a button! You then simply add two nutrient tablets every couple weeks and fill up the reservoir with water whenever it gets low.

As I mentioned a while ago, we were actually away from home for two and a half weeks in March. My dad came and looked after the house while we were away. All he had to do with the aerogarden was add a little water and one set of nutrient tablets. He was also responsible for watering my houseplants. What’s hilarious is that when we got home the houseplants looked terrible (clearly they had been neglected), while the plants in the Aerogarden had grown by leaps and bounds!

This is actually the perfect indoor garden for a person like me! Like my father (haha), I can get pretty absent minded at times, forgetting to water my plants etc. With a system like this I probably couldn’t mess it up if I tried.

One of the things I saw people complain about a fair bit on websites and message boards was the fact that certain plants (in the herb kit that comes with the garden) performed very poorly – they either didn’t germinate at all, or if they did germinate they ended up having dismal growth afterwards. It seemed that the chives and cilantro were especially bad. What’s funny is that both of those ended up being among the first to germinate, and have ended up doing very well, especially the cilantro. Perhaps it is the cooler conditions that is more to their liking – not really sure though.

Aside from just wanting to test out the Aerogarden in general, I also really wanted to be able to easily grow some herbs for cooking. We love fresh herbs, especially basil, so the fact that we wouldn’t have to buy it ‘fresh’ at the grocery store anymore certainly appealed to me as well. Unfortunately there really isn’t an spot in the house where we can grow a nice window herb garden. Whether it be potential attacks from feline marauders (aka our cats), the lack of light, or the lack of space – our current home is not great for ‘growing stuff’ indoors.

As much as I love the Aerogarden, there are some potential negatives. The grow pods, while convenient and very easy to use, are designed to be used only once – thus if you want to play by the rules you’ll need to continue ordering more seed kits. Same goes for the nutrients (which is a little more understandable). I can appreciate the fact that the company needs to tend to its bottomline yada yada, but I just think this is wasteful.

I may buy another seed kit or two just to try them out for fun, but I’m certainly not going to be throwing out the pods. While the foam inside certainly won’t be usable again I can easily pull that out and replace it with some rockwool (a plant growth medium, used extensively in hydroponic systems) and simply use my own seeds. That will certainly save me some cashola, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to achieve similar results.

Obviously the Aerogarden isn’t the ‘greenest’ way to garden either (not that they claim to be). Yes, it uses a lot less power than most good hydroponic lighting systems (I think the entire unit, including pump, uses up the equivalent of 1 incandescent bulb). Yes, the nutrients are supposedly ‘certified organic’. Yes, I think an easy-to-use system like this might do a lot of good as far as getting more people interested in gardening in general.
But when it comes down to it, any system like this that is mass-produced, packaged and shipped all over the world is obviously going to have more of a negative environmental impact than simply doing things ‘the old fashioned way’, with a planter and some soil. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for technology, and am just as guilty as most people when it comes to supporting products and practices that aren’t necessarily the most earth-friendly, but it is still important to keep these things in mind.

Anyway, I’m definitely not trying to rain on the Aerogarden parade here! To their credit, it is a well-made system (unlike other ‘as seen on TV’ hyped up garbage), it seems to work very well, and like I said, I think a system like this could help to get a lot more non-gardening types interested in growing plants. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Aside from re-using the plastic pods, I’m hoping to ‘hack’ the system even more by using my own nutrients – perhaps even some more natural growth promoters, such as worm tea. Yes, I am indeed that much of a rebel!

Rest assured, I will continue writing about my Aerogarden experiences here on the blog as well (I have added a new ‘indoor gardening’ category).

[tags]aerogarden, aero garden, aerogrow, hydroponics, aeroponics, indoor gardening, herb garden, window garden, basil, cilantro, chives, parsley, dill[/tags]


Written by Compost Guy on April 10th, 2008 with 25 comments.
Read more articles on Indoor Gardening.

25 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Anthony
#1. April 10th, 2008, at 4:53 PM.

That was the best Aerogarden review I’ve seen so far. Nicely done.

I may not be able to get one to jump into my shopping cart but I may be able to get my mouse to click on your link. Click damnit, click! 🙂

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Compost Guy
#2. April 10th, 2008, at 5:05 PM.

Wow – thanks, Anthony! I had a lot of fun writing it, and was also happy to finally be able to write about your hilarious Aerogarden post!
🙂

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Garden Girl
#3. April 11th, 2008, at 1:41 PM.

Wow. Great Pics! Good stuff Bently.

Patti

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lisa
#4. April 11th, 2008, at 4:12 PM.

I live in a cold mountanous state with a very long winter and this product has been a miracle. Our store produce is wildly expensive, so this has offered me, when all costs are included, a cheaper way to get fresh herbs and lettuces. I am trying tomatoes now. I think you are right about better growing results in a cooler place, as I have had terrific results in a room that averages 55-60 degrees. I will look forward to your additional comments on this system.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Compost Guy
#5. April 14th, 2008, at 1:01 PM.

Thanks Patti! Nice to see you over this way.
🙂

Lisa – It definitely sounds like the Aerogarden is perfect for you. Please keep me posted on your success with tomatoes! I’ll be very interested to hear how they turn out.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Will
#6. April 25th, 2008, at 9:15 PM.

Awesome stuff – makes me want to get one myself but I know better than to even try to ask the wife. (She’s sure my work-in-progress DWC is go fail miserably… we’ll see how she feels after I get it working and have my first harvest.)

I really want to see how you do on weening the Aerogarden off it’s mass-produced seed pods and nutrient tablets!

How “smart” is it, anyway? Is the brain just a glorified timer or does it have fancier stuff?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Compost Guy
#7. April 26th, 2008, at 1:36 AM.

Hey Will,
I’m not sure I would say it is particularly ‘smart’ – it’s just helpful. Kinda like an alarm clock in the morning (although, with a 7 month old baby I certainly don’t need one of those anymore – haha). I don’t think the notifications have anything to do with nutrient concentrations etc (like a serious hydro monitoring system would), but rather it’s just timed for two week intervals – for the herb garden anyway. Obviously, they’ve figured all this stuff out beforehand and simply programmed the timer accordingly.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kathy
#8. May 5th, 2008, at 12:12 AM.

I’ve been using paper towels in old grow pods to gorw my own herbs. Would love to see what other nutrients you use. 🙂

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Compost Guy
#9. May 7th, 2008, at 7:30 PM.

Very interesting, Kathy!
Thanks for sharing.

Still using the stuff that came with my Aerogarden, but will definitely keep everyone in the loop once I start experimenting with other ideas.
🙂

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Drew
#10. June 16th, 2008, at 2:52 AM.

Just bought one used on Craigs List for $20. Has everything except the seed kit. I’m trying to located used pods so I can experiment with using my own Basil seeds passed down from my grandfather from seeds he brought from Italy in 1910. I liked Kathy’s comment on using paper towels in old grow pods to grow her own herbs and Compost Guys pending experiment with worm tea.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com jonhydroponic
#11. June 16th, 2008, at 4:22 AM.

Thank you Anthony… for giving beautiful blog it has Good stuff Bently. I am happy read this blog.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Racheal
#12. June 16th, 2008, at 11:24 AM.

Nitrogen is the primary nutrient provided by these solutions, along with limited amounts of trace minerals.All plants need a plentiful supply of nutrients to sustain a healthy growing cycle and hydroponic gardening does this by adding nutrients directly to the water.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com K
#13. July 8th, 2008, at 2:12 PM.

Hey! I really enjoyed reading this, it was well writen and very informative! I stumbled aupon it while “googling” the aerogarden after seeing it in a local store. I’ve always had an interest in growing various plants, but was way to nervous and lazy to get into hydroponics. The system in the store is about 200 bucks, so I’m taking my time with the purchase. Anways, the reason I’m commenting is about using your own seeds in place of the pods… the pods seem great and easy and all that but a kit is going for 20 dollars… really? Excuse me being blunt, but screw that. So I was wondering if you (or anyone) has tried replacing the foam stuff with rockwool and putting your own seeds in place? If this method works I’ll have to give into the craze.

Regards,

K

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Karen
#14. August 5th, 2008, at 2:20 AM.

I sprouted cherry tomato seeds quite nicely in the AG using cotton wool ’cause I didn’t have any rock wool. (If paper towels work that sounds like a good idea.) I still had other plants in it at the time, some basil and oregano left, and just used the same nutrients. Once the nutrients were gone I couldn’t bring myself to fork over $15 for more, and the seedlings were ready to transplant anyway.

I found your blog looking to see what other people might be using for a nutrient mixture in the AG, esp. for tomatoes? I want to grow cherry tomatoes this winter and don’t have much space for a real hydroponics set-up. I’m already gagging on the idea of spending an extra $100 for the light extension. (sigh)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Steph
#15. October 14th, 2008, at 4:00 PM.

I am dying to know how it worked for you to use rockwool.. or hydroton.. your own nutrients and seeds!! This is for the main reason that I just bought an aerogarden with the intentions of doing just that. I cannot see paying $20 every month or so for herbs. So.. if you can, please email me and let me know how your experimenting worked. I already have the hydroton, coco pods to start the seeds, a gallon of Karma nutrients.. for my own hydroponic tub and air bubbler experiment that I am worried is already going wrong.. but we’ll see 😉

Thanks!
Steph

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bill T
#16. November 28th, 2008, at 7:35 PM.

Great info – thanks. I bought a unit a couple of weeks ago, and have seedlings reaching for the sky already.

Question: have you or anyone else come up with a sure-fire nutrient formula yet?

Thanks.

/b

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Maya P
#17. December 6th, 2008, at 6:09 PM.

Thanks so much for the info! I am excited to hear about how well it went reusing the pods since I’m a poor student and love saving money 😀

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com janet
#18. January 18th, 2009, at 4:46 AM.

Love my Aerogarden(AG),but reluctant tospend the $$$ on new pods, seeds, nutrients. When someone finds good substitues, let the rest of us know.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Erin O.
#19. March 7th, 2009, at 5:57 AM.

Hello all! I’ve had my AeroGarden Space Saver 6 for awhile now. Thanks to the AeroGarden Growers forum (not affilated with AeroGrow), I’ve learned all kinds of stuff about the AGs. There are options out there for cheaper nutrients and grow pods, but sadly, not the lights. There’s also the Master Gardener’s kit which gives you grow pods and cages so you can grow your own stuff.

Good luck everyone! I love my AeroGarden. 🙂

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cynthia
#20. August 5th, 2009, at 9:34 PM.

Save all your seed kit plastic pods! Absolutely they ARE re-usable, just sanitize them first in a bleach solution. Rinse off well, dry and then you can put your own growing medium in. I grew ruby swiss chard in my basement from January to July.

Oh, good places to find out about alternate growing pods, liquid nutrients, what seeds other people are planting, etc… is the http://www.aerogardengrowers.com forums.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lucie
#21. November 13th, 2009, at 6:11 AM.

Hello! Just bought my aerogarden , cant wait to hear more of the making your own nutrients for plants , i am an avid gardner , and did grow my own flower’s and other vegetable plant’s inside , worked well but it is a lot of work , i’m thinking of buying the kit for growing 60 different plant’s all at once in the aerogarden , once they are up u can plant them outside weather permitting,

Question: did u try that kit yet , want to know if it was well worth it.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com CDB
#22. February 4th, 2010, at 6:54 AM.

After two weeks of use, we have tomato plants, but there is mould floating in the water & all through the root systems. How is that caused & how do we prevent it??? Room temp is average 65 c .

Thanks,
Cor : )

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Chris
#23. June 6th, 2010, at 5:54 AM.

I purchased an AG from craigslist about a month ago. I still haven’t been able to use it due to not being able to buy a seed kit. Everywhere I look it’s “Out of stock.” Everyone sells them….but NO ONE has them.

I’m all for re-using the pods…..if i could just find some.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kathy
#24. November 14th, 2010, at 5:33 PM.

Thanks for the overview. I just strated mine and I got a lot of ideas from you. Like using the pods again.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Darla Duran
#25. November 25th, 2012, at 7:14 PM.

Loved your ideas about using rockwool and your own nutrients. PLEASE let me know where we can get cheap nutrients and seeds!
We are in SURVIVAL mode now that Obama is back in and live on an Island in Alaska, so are isolated and Need to “grow our own”! I am going to buy the new Ultra and Extra Elite.
Has anyone grown Cucumbers!??? How about eggplants? Thanks, Darla

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