About 3 months ago I saw an AeroGarden advertised in Sharper Image and did further investigation as it seemed interesting. An appliance you just plug in a seed pod, 2 nutrient tablets and water (no soil! Yay!). And on your counter you’ll quickly have enough fresh herbs to last a lifetime. Being the gadget geek that I am there are very few home devices that have a microprocessor that I don’t own. So this was new and somewhat exciting. Combine nature, healthy eating, and a touchpanel….Joy!
The other part that was attractive is I have 4 boys, ages 8, 5, 3 & 3 months. This was a great way for them to learn about plants and growth. They love coming down each day and seeing how much bigger each plant is getting. I tried one of those see through carrot growing things with dirt a few months ago. They sprouted and then died. I just have a “black thumb” as quickly growing plants to a high quality state is more art than science without a device like this.
Here’s info from AeroGarden’s web site on the model I chose:
I did a bunch of research, most feedback was positive. The only comment people made were either people who live out on a farm or in the dessert who don’t see the need for this, or those who go on vacation in the Caribbean packing frozen meat and bottled water in their luggage to save money.
You can purchase special “nutrient” tablets right from the AeroGarden web site. These are helpful for people wanting a little extra insurance that their plants will grow tall and healthy…they’re probably a VERY good idea for black thumb gardeners like me. The cost is $14.95 for a dozen nutrient tablets.
Clearly, $150 to $200 is a premium for something that spits out herbs after 4 to 8 weeks that you can just buy in the supermarket for a few dollars. So I didn’t look at this as a way to save money. Plus you have the cost of running it (It uses about 60 watts, 16 hours per day). Do keep in mind, you pay a lot more for organic herbs so the cost/savings ratio isn’t so bad when you look at it since this is entirely organic (the nutrient tablets are certified, the rest is tap water and light). They also recommend you replace the grow bulbs every 6 months but most say they work fine for a year.
Other complaint is a lot of people had DOA pumps, but that was from last year. All of mine worked perfectly out of the box so I guess they re-engineered the layout or improved quality control.
I ended up buying the big combo, They call it The ULTIMATE 3-Shelf Wall Garden. It includes 3 AeroGardens, the 3 shelves, 3 seed kits, Herb Appeal DVD and 3 Grow Bulb Lights – all for about $450.
This is what it looks like in the catalog:
And here it is installed in my basement (the lights are too bright and the watering pump too loud to keep it in an bedroom):
I bought it as an Xmas gift for the wife. I’m pretty sure she gave me the evil eye as there is an unspoken rule of no gifts for her that use batteries or plug in… (sucks to be me ) But now, she likes it.
I bought 2 Aerogarden Pro 100′s and 1 Aerogarden Pro 200. The main difference is the 200 extends higher up so tall plants like tomatoes will have enough room to grow.
Remember if you buy the 3 unit wall mount, you can only have 1 of the Pro-200s as there wouldn’t be enough clearance in any shelf except the top. I would say you need at a minimum an 7.5ft ceiling (we have a 9 foot in the basement fortunately) .
The wife likes the way the power cords hide behind the mounts so you see very little wires. Its actually pretty attractive and a conversation piece.
With this combo, I’m growing Chile Peppers, Cherry tomatoes, Romaine lettuce, and 7 different herbs. This is basically 3 seed kits.
Replacement kits are about $20 which include the seed, embedded into their patented pod, and nutrients for the expected life span of the plant. (Romaines doesn’t “die” but it starts growing to a size where the useful leaf doesn’t start within a respectable height from the base. The life spans vary by type of plant, but usually 6 months is the norm before you remove your pods, clean things out and start a new “crop.”
You can start harvesting between 4 & 8 weeks after setting it up, and then can usually harvest weekly. You shouldn’t ever harvest more than 1/3 of a plant in order to leave enough remaining leaves to promote good growth. Regular harvesting is important is it encourages new offshoot growth and thus more yield.
The “fruits” of which tomatoes are, obviously only harvest when the fruit is the size and color you expect.
Economically the romaine makes the least sense since its so cheap for so much, but its the most fun as it grows fast and its nice when you are making a sandwich and want lettuce that’s way fresher than anything you can buy.
Now that I’m 4 weeks in, just harvested my first romaine this weekend and it was great. I’m sampled the still growing basil (not ready for harvest yet) and the “strength” of the aroma is stronger than anything I’ve ever bought or even grown in the garden. Sweet!
The lights are quite bright, so I luckily put this in our finished basement. It substantially adds to the limited lighting we have and the energy is put to good use. You don’t want this thing in your bedroom or some other room where a bright light would annoy you. It makes some noise as the pump is almost constantly running water over the roots. About the sound of one of those small Japanes rock gardens you would buy at a stand in the mall.
The 3 shelf unit is very nice and extremely sturdy. It takes a little handiness to know how to find the stud, and to make sure it is plumb, but there instructions and template is perfect. Took about 45 minutes to install. DEFINITELY have a good power screwdriver. Manually screwing thick screws into a stud is not fun, even if you predrill (which I did)
So as long as you have the disposable income for something fun with a nice edible payoff, it seems to work as advertised. Price wise, the best deal is the 3 shelf combo they sell direct on their website. They now have an “AeroGarden Deluxe” that is $30 more than the AeroGarden Pro 200. The pro 200 has stainless steel accents, so I honestly can’t figure out what advantage the deluxe has and costs more.
They seem to currently have a $20 rebate on most models running right now that they didn’t when I bought it…(thats what happens when you buy stuff for xmas)
What I liked:
Fresh vegetables that were easy to grow
My kids enjoy watching and learning about plant growth
No messy soil
Good solution for those with a “black thumb”
What Could Be Improved:
Noise and lights would be annoying in a main living area
Review courtesy of Mark Chinsky, whose regular day job is that of a SAP Business One guru and Managing Director of Clients First Business Solutions in Holmdel New Jersey. In his off house Mark is a full blown gadget junky, Palm Treo enthusiast and technology wizard.