March 4, 2017
I am a certified black thumb. I have never been able to make anything grow. But with my Aerogardens, I now have fresh lettuce, herbs, tomatoes an chili peppers. (Obviously talking about more than one unit here.)
- Set it up and stop by every once in a while to add water or nutrients and/or prune/harvest. Everything else is taken care of
- It works, even for a black thumb like me, and for the types of plants that work, it's almost foolproof
- Offers you great tasting produce without ever leaving the house
- If you like basil, this is your toy!
- If you don't like the sound of trickling water, stay away. If you find it comforting, as I do, then don't worry
- Can't accommodate any sort of root vegetable
- Can't accommodate anything that wants to grow higher than 2'
- Fairly expensive for a fairly simple set of hardware. Basically, the bulk of the price feels like it's the LED hood, and everything else is as cheap as possible
- The pod holes are way too close together. You can, in theory, plant 7 things in this garden, but if they're tomatoes, chili peppers, or anything that's not herbs or salad greens, the garden will be way too crowded to support more than 2 or 3 plants
- Aerogarden pre-seeded pods tend to be, for a lack of a better word, lame
- I've never been able to make Cilantro work in one of these
- Wildly addictive. I need a 12-step group
About six months ago, I bought my first Aerogarden (A 9-pod, 45 watt Bounty), Now, I have 11 of them, including this 7-pod, 30 watt Ultra, three 7 pod, 30 watt Extras (same as the Ultra, but with a dumbed down UI), 4 6 pod, 20 watt Harvests, one 3-pod Sprout and one more Bounty (Elite).
To me, there are three aspects of these Aerogardens to take into consideration:
1) How much light the hood puts out (the Ultra puts out a lot, but isn't the most)
2) How fancy the user interface is (the Ultra lands in a very uninspired middle)
3) How high the light hood can be raised
I think the rest of the differences between the models is mostly noise. And it comes down to this: Herbs and greens can easily fit into a much smaller model, like the Harvest. Vegetables will probably need a much higher hood over the long haul, meaning an Extra, Ultra or Bounty. But, the Bounty comes at quite a premium and its only significant added value is 50% more light output than the extra or ultra.
"But, wait," you say, "the Bounty can accommodate 9 pods, while the extra and ultra only 7!" Yes, but the grow deck really isn't that much larger, and it feels like trying to cram more plants into less space. Even for growing herbs, if any of those herbs include Basil plants, they will quickly and literally overshadow anything trying to grow in the neighboring pods. Not that I consider having to harvest and eat a bunch of basil every day to be a hardship, but it does take significant attention if you want the neighboring herbs to live.
Second: the aerogarden pods are often a letdown. Their "Mint" plant doesn't taste that minty to me. Their "Thai chili" peppers aren't really the sort of chilis you'd find being used in thai cooking, but rather an ornamental type of pepper that is reputed to have less flavor (but as much heat). I ordered from them something called "Lemon Basil" and the pod that showed up said "Lemon Mint."
Among the community of aerogarden fanatics I have found at the Aerogarden Project Sharing forums, I quickly discovered that what most people do is buy their own seeds and build their own pods out of the supplies that Aerogarden will sell you. And since aerogarden doesn't offer pods for mini-cucumbers or real thai chilis, buying your own seeds and experimenting quickly becomes one of the most rewarding parts of ownership.
That and being able to eat what you grow. Don't forget the fresh produce part.
For me, this taught me the magic of photosynthesis, and it is magic: take the seeds, put them in water with a thimble full of nutrients, and plant happens. It's like magic. Like where does all the carbon in those plants come from, if there isn't any in the water or nutrients? It comes from CO2 that it gets from air. And using the energy of the lights, combines it with the hydrogen and oxygen in the water and the other trace elements from the nutrients, and suddenly, you have this big green thing.
Which gets me to another recommendation: A full Bounty herb garden, when in full swing, will "eat" a gallon of water a week. A lettuce garden will do the same. A gallon is nearly the capacity of the reservoir on an extra, ultra or Bounty, which means that unless you want to make daily visits with the watering jug, the garden will go dry inside of a week. Which leaves me with a strong recommendation to buy an "Aerovoir" to go with your garden. It's a one gallon water "bubbler" that replenishes the garden's reservoir via normal siphoning. The net result is rather than getting frequent "low water" alarms, you can stop by once a week and just refill the attached jug.
And to come back around to harp on the plant capacity of these things: Aerogarden tends to be a bit optimistic. They'll sell you a "Salsa garden" that contains 2 tomato pods, 2 jalapeno pods and 5 "spacers" for your Bounty. That'll end up too crowded. The specific kind of tomato plant they use won't necessarily need the full 2' height of the bounty's hood, because they mostly grow horizontally. The jalapeno plants will likewise want to take up a lot of space.
Which brings me to why I own so many of these things: Aside from wanting to grow more than just one kind of thing, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that if you're growing tomatoes or peppers, 2 plants is all a big aerogarden (extra, ultra, bounty) can accommodate. Maybe three, but mostly, two. And in sheer terms of square inches of growing deck size, about the only advantage that the bounty offers is 50% more light.
If Aerogarden offered an Ultra with the Bounty's 45 watt light, or offered an upgrade to an existing Ultra or Extra, I'd go with that and probably never think of the Bounty again. The Extra and Ultra basically fit the right size for growing these sorts of plants. Why buy one over the other? Prices here on Amazon and on Miracle-Gro's own site vary wildly. I buy what I can get the best deal on.
After six months, my original Bounty's herb garden is down to three Basil plants that are still producing beyond my wildest dreams. After fix months, my first Extra's "salsa garden" is coming around it its second harvest of cherry tomatoes (the first harvest was underwhelming due to competition between the plants, but I now have that better under control), which looks like it'll be fairly substantial. The Jalapeno plant is finally producing some lovely looking peppers, but again due to competition and fighting for space with the other plants, it isn't going to produce much.
I have a garden of their alleged thai peppers and after five months its producing wildly, but I'm not sure if I'm happy with what I was sold.
My two or three salad gardens have each produced for 2-3 months, but seed for salad greens is so cheap, there's really no problem with replanting every few months.
All in all, given my previous inability to make anything stay green, these gardens have far exceeded my expectations.