Hydroponic growing is becoming a quick favourite with Urban Gardeners. This more efficient way of gardening allows growers to quickly produce food in small footprints. And companies are taking notice.
I was gifted a cute 6-pod Harvest Elite over the December Holidays, and after a month of operations, here is my initial AeroGarden review.
There are four main parts to your AeroGarden system.
- The Light – a pannel of 20 watt bulbs are on a 12″ extendable arm. This means you can adjust as your plants grow to avoid leggy seedlings. This is all the light you need to grow, meaning you can place this system even in rooms with no windows.
- The Seed Pods – a plastic case with a ‘Grow Sponge’ made of Canadian Sapgham Peat encase seeds. This medium allows roots to grow healthy and strong. Peat moss in Canada for horticultural use is pretty regulated, with only 0.03% of the natural peat areas in Canada being harvested.
- The Water Chamber – Simply fill with water to the marker, add your nutrients and clean once a month. The pump ensures your water circulates, creating healthy roots.
- The Control Pannel – set your light timers – both duration and what time they actually start. You’ll see how many days it’s been since your planting and it will tell you how many days until you feed again.
AeroGarden Model Types
Recently the AeroGarden expanded its offering and updated the look. There are models ranging from 3 pods (3.5″w x 12″d x 10.5″h) to a mini-farm featuring 24 pods (36″w x 14″d x 46″h).
Because all models are just as simple to care for, the only determining factors are pricepoint and available space. The kits range from $80 to $840, and seed kits range from $8 to $36.
So is the AeroGarden a cost-effective way to grow food? The harvest unit uses 23 watts per day. My energy costs per day of operating the system amount to about 57.5 cents. The seeds amount to 30 cents/meal and cut the cost up to 2$ per meal in theory. As I’m still waiting for a harvest other than dill, it would take a few months to break even on the cost of the Harvest Elite Unit.
What Can You Grow in The AeroGarden?
While AeroGarden does sell a variety of seed pods that are pre-planted with a 100% guarantee (you can return any pods that don’t sprout for new ones), there are also pods with just the growing medium, and you can plant any seed you want!
So far I have just done herbs and lettuce, but their Instagram is full of other plant ideas. Personally, I’m most excited to use this for germinating succession plantings for my garden. Germinating beautiful root development and sturdy seedlings in the hydroponics system means my garden will be more productive than ever.
What Groes Best in the AeroGarden?
Herbs – Aerogarden sells; over 5 types of basil, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, savory, shungiku, tarragon, & thyme.
Lettuce – From AeroGarden you can purchase; beet greens, red sails, mixed kale, tatsoi, butterhead, romaine, mizuna, marvel of 4 seasons, deer tongue, black seeded Simpson, & arugula. Any quick-growing cut-and-come-again variety would work well.
Veggies – Aerogarden Seedkits can include; tomato varieties, pepper varieties, and fairytale eggplant. I also think bush beans would do great here. any climbing veggies (cucumbers, peas, etc) will probably grow taller than the extending arm.
Flowers – Their selection includes; calendula, coleus, chamomile (listed under herbs), dianthus, gazania, marigold, petunias, phlox, stock flowers, snapdragons, & zinnias. Any short variety that you love to keep around the house will thrive. A great way to keep beautiful bouquets all year round.
Tips for a Successful Harvest
One of the best things about this system is the fact that you can basically set it and forget it. It has pre-determined light timers depending on what you are growing and gives you reminders when you need to feed your plants or refill the water chamber.
When growing anything, you do have to consider that it’s living, and bugs are likely to happen. So far I have not had any troubles with them, but common ones to look out for include:
Aphids – Maybe the most common plant pest, these little guys live under leaves and suck sap, essential to your plant’s growth. This will cause yellowing in the leaves and stems. Use neem oil or plant oregano, chive, sage, garlic, leeks, and onions to deter aphids.
Fungus Gnats – The constant struggle of plant parents everywhere. These little flies show up when there is any organic matter decaying. Keep plants well pruned and keep a few sticky traps on hand.
Spider Mites – Look for small yellow or white spots along leaves and stems. There will also be small spider webs at the base of leaves around the stems. Spider Mites can become resistant to treatments, so vary your tactics every few weeks until you’re sure they’re gone.
Thrips – Leave small silver and bronze cuts along your leaves. they look like mini scorpions without back legs. Most commonly found among young flower buds. They can be treated with thrip-specific sprays. Consider putting small net bags over your buds to protect them from infestations.
White Flies – small white flecks will plague the underside of your plant leaves. They diminish a plant’s ability to produce chlorophyll and spread diseases. Prunt back any leaves with lots of damage and spray with neem oil or insecticide.
Root Rot – while not a pest, this issue is common if the water temperatures are off or if your water pump breaks down. Ideally, roots are white. If they are brown and squishy, clean them well and change the water in your tank with increased frequency.
The Benifits of Hydroponic Growing
Because you are growing in a closed-loop system, there are no wasted nutrients or water.
The website states that the system makes plants grow up to 5x faster. So far I would say that it has far surpassed any spoil growing I’ve been doing. Apparently, this is because plants spend less energy growing their root systems in hydroponics because you bring everything you need to them, meaning they can focus more on growing the things we like to eat.
Obviously, this makes hydroponics a no-go for carrots, kohlrabi, ginger, or anything else we grow for the roots or tubers.
What’s your favourite thing to grow in the AeroGarden?Let me know in the comments below or ask me any other questions you might have about the system! Happy gardening.