Indoor hydroponic gardens: AeroGarden journal 2


It has been over 6 months since I started my 2 indoor hydroponic gardens: The AeroGarden Farm Plus (left) and AeroGarden Harvest (right).

So far I still enjoy them. In my Indoor hydroponic gardens: AeroGarden journal 1 (take a look if you haven’t read it yet), I recorded the initial growth of all the veggies/herbs/flowers I planted in the 2 AeroGardens. This time I would like to focus on the ups and downs I experienced in the last 6 months.


Ups

  • Seeding and growing:
    • The seed pods that came with the AeroGardens have germinated and grown very well.
      • Only a few seed pods (cilantro and chive) took a long time to germinate and grew very slowly.
    • AeroGarden sells a “grow anything kit” that you can use to plant seeds you bought elsewhere. This is very cool because you’re not limited to the seeds that AeroGarden sells (which by the way is a bit limited and way more expensive).
  • Once I planted 3 AeroGarden seed pods (2 pods of Geneovese basil and 1 pod of dill), and 9 pods with seeds I bought online (6 pods of sweet pepper, 2 pods of purple basil, and 1 pod of spicy basil). See how fast they grew within a month!
  • Another time I planted 12 pods with seeds I bought online: collards greens, Chinese napa cabbage, Chinese purple bok choy, and Chinese winter choy. They grew into a forest in only 20 days!
  • Lettuces (So far I’ve only used AeroGarden seed pods) also grow very well and fast in my AeroGarden Harvest. The leaves are ready to harvest in less than 3 weeks! The beautiful and super fresh leaves will inspire you, or even your kids!, to eat more vegetables!
  • Plants grown in AeroGardens can regrow as long as you don’t cut off their roots. The more you trim the leaves, the more they regrow. Even when I harvest the entire pod at one time, the plants find their way to come back to life! Impressive regrowing power.
  • Other than vegetables and herbs, you can also grow flowers in the AeroGarden. The most successful edible flowers I grew were Marigolds. I was amazed to watch the flower bud unfolding one pedal at a time until reaching its full bloom!

  • Maintenance:
    • For both the AeroGarden Farm Plus and AeroGarden Harvest, the grow lights will automatically turn on/off at the time you pick during the initial setup. No maintenance for the lighting at all!
    • The AeroGarden Harvest only has 3 simple indicators/buttons: (1) plant food, (2) water, and (3) light.
      1. The plant food button will blink red when plant food is needed (once 14 days).
      2. The water button will blink red whenever the water level is low.
        • I have noticed the water indicator doesn’t blink red until the water level seems dangerously low — almost an empty tank!
        • You can also open the little lid to check the water level, and top it off before the indicator blinks red.
      3. You can use the light button to override the automatic light settings.
  • The AeroGarden Farm Plus has a touch screen panel for you to manage everything–water level, plant food, light adjustment, and more. You can also download AeroGarden’s app on your phone to see all this information.

  • Watering:
    • You don’t have to water a lot during the initial germination period. Once the plants start growing, you will have to water pretty often. You can also top the tank off anytime if you like to keep the roots completely soaked in water at all times.
    • For the Farm Plus, there is still room to add more water after the water indicator first changes to “full”. If you lightly lift the lid to the tank, you can peek in to see the actual water level inside the tank.

  • Plant food:
    • You only have to add the liquid plant food every 14 days, and the gardens have a red light to remind you when it’s time for food. Just measure the appropriate amount of plant food (based on the size of your garden) and pour it in the tank. Easy enough.

  • Final product:
    • The freshest vegetables and herbs at your fingertips! Plant-to-plate is not a dream anymore.
    • They are the cleanest vegetables and herbs that you can ever have! No herbicides, no pesticides, and no preservatives are used. They also have never been in any containers, trucks, nor even another person’s hands! No more worries about contamination.
    • If you grow a lot of aromatic herbs, you can smell them every time you walk pass the gardens! The aroma will be intensified when you lightly move them or while you are harvesting them.
      • To me, basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, and mint are the most aromatic herbs!

  • The most impressive aspect of the AeroGarden is that all the growing is done INDOORS!!!
    • Being a mosquito magnet, I would never be able to grow all these vegetables/herbs/flowers if I had to take care of them outside of the house.
    • I also don’t have to worry about weather conditions at all. Gardening everyday all year round is no longer just a fantasy .
      • No need to wait for the most ideal time of the year to plant!
  • It is a great conversation piece and can be a fun family experience!
    • My 8-year-old daughter has shown a lot of interest in learning about how plants grow, and all their names, shapes, and smells. She has even tried to eat all the new vegetables and herbs we grow ourselves. I am so excited that she has a new appreciation for food!
    • Observing the plant growth really helps kids realize that food doesn’t just magically appear on your plate. It takes time, patience, and effort.

Downs

  • The grow lights on the AeroGarden are very bright! I understand this is necessary for the plants to grow very fast indoors. But if you set the garden on your kitchen counter top or a shelf, the lights can be a nuisance.
    • Even worse if you have little kids at home and the lights are above their eye level, they may stare at the lights so much that it hurts their eyes.
    • My husband dislikes those bright lights so much that he bought a pair of “horticulture grow light glasses” (which are specifically designed for working under a variety of grow lights).
  • I sewed a blackout curtain with magnets on top to cover 3 sides of the AeroGarden Farm Plus (the back doesn’t need to be covered because it is put against a wall). Since I cover the garden when the lights are on, I have put a small fan (with a timer set to be on for 15 minutes every hour) inside the cover to increase circulation. I take the cover off when the lights are not on.

  • It’s nice to be able to grow 24 different pods of plants at one time in a small area (12 inches by 36 inches). But when all the plants grow well, the garden can be packed like a forest!
    • When all the plants press against each other, it becomes difficult to have enough (if any) room to get to individual plants to trim a few leaves. Sometimes you may accidentally bruise or break the leaves of the plants next to the one you are trimming.
    • If some plants start growing much faster than their neighboring plants, the slow-growing plants may be overshadowed and not get enough light or space to grow properly.
    • In the picture below, 3 pods (2 cilantro pods and 1 oregano pod) in the farm on the right hand side actually didn’t germinate. You can’t even see the empty pods because they are well buried in between the parsley, thyme, sage, and marjoram (hidden behind the parsley).
  • I know I shouldn’t complain about the plants growing too fast. But in reality, I don’t trim the plants if I don’t have plans to use them for the day, which results in overgrown, unruly, sometimes withering, plants.
    • For vegetables, I have learned to plan my meals ahead around their estimated prime harvest time.
    • For herbs, I have noticed they don’t last long at all in the refrigerator compared to those herbs sold at the grocery store. Whenever I can’t use them fresh, I either freeze or dehydrate them before they go to waste.

  • The roots are massive inside the tank! It’s a good sign that the plants are growing well. But the problem is that the plants are so close together that the roots intertwine together and it’s impossible to separate them if you need to remove just one pod.
  • Once we had to remove a few pods, so we had to cut some roots before those pods could come out. Then the neighboring plants started to wither because their roots were damaged.
  • One time we tried to clean out all the pods and the tank to restart the whole system, so we had to cut off all the roots for the pods to come out. The roots were so massive and intertwined that we accidentally cut the power cord to the water pump because it was completely hidden by all the roots! Luckily the pump is easily replaceable and inexpensive – $10.36 at the time of this article and less than 5 minutes work.
  • The roots also grow all the way into the filter sponge. If you can’t clean the roots out of the sponge well, you will need replace it regularly otherwise the water pump can get clogged and malfunction.
  • The tank and lid can be hard to clean completely. A brown line inside the tank is almost impossible to get rid of. There is also a brown residue around the rings for the pods. I think the stain probably comes from the combination of the brown liquid plant food and mineral deposits from the water. I don’t think it causes any problems, so I haven’t attempted to use a strong cleaner to get it off.

  • The AeroGarden Harvest only allows you to grow plants up to 12 inches (11 inches to be exact). The height limit greatly affects your choices of plants. Everything I grow in the Harvest right now, including Marigold, mint, chive, and dill, touches the light or grows outside of the garden.
  • If you get an AeroGarden Harvest, you will have to stick to plants that grow short, such as lettuces or bok choy. Otherwise you will have to get another model like the Bounty or Farm Plus, which allows plants to grow up to 24 inches. So far most of the plants I grow in the Farm Plus stay under the height limit. Some super fast-growing tall herbs, such as dill, basil, and sage, are pushing the height limit though.
  • Too many gnats 😒
    • Just like having any house plant, growing vegetables/herbs/flowers indoors still attracts those annoying little flies. But it’s still way better than dealing with all other bugs when growing outdoor in soil.

What are your ups and downs with your AeroGarden?

Which plants grow the best or the worst in your indoor hydroponic garden?


Don’t forget to check out the new addition to our AeroGarden family: Indoor hydroponic gardens: AeroGarden journal 3



17 thoughts on “Indoor hydroponic gardens: AeroGarden journal 2

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