The Aerogarden is an indoor growing unit, an all-in-one hydroponic system that’s flexible, easy to use, and comes in a range of sizes based on your needs. Here, we’ll go over how the technology works, what’s included, and the different types of AeroGardens that you can find to grow fresh produce in your home.
How does an aerogarden work?
AeroGarden units come with everything you need for hydroponic growing. They are small units and don’t require much setup beyond plugging it in, adjusting the built-in grow light, inserting the seed pods, and programming the digital management system. Aside from monitoring the plants as they grow, the programmed schedule will alert you when water or fertilizer needs to be added to the tank.
This compact technology is a great way to simplify indoor food growing, but it still does require gardening: trimming, pruning, and controlling for pests, disease, temperature, humidity, and ventilation are important steps that help ensure the success of your gardening endeavor.
Programed care schedule
Each unit has an integrated digital reader that users program for the different kinds of growing schedules, such as fresh herbs or lettuce. The internal scheduling system keeps track of growing days and alerts you when water levels are running low.
After setting the time, date, and growing program, you’ll also receive prompts to add nutrients every two weeks. Some models have wifi capability and can send notifications to an app. The light automatically turns on and off based on the schedule, while vacation mode lowers the water usage so the unit will automate for longer periods at a time.
The programmed care schedule may or may not be appealing to you based on the level of gardening experience you have. Whether you need the guidance for a simple setup, or you have large units and are growing a variety of plants, the programming may either be a useful guide and reminder, or unnecessary for your varied goals for fresh vegetables.
One of the main appeals of the AeroGarden is the soilless nature of the technology. As a hydroponic growing system, these units have a water tank below a cover that holds the seed pods in place. A pump in the tank keeps the water from becoming stagnant, while the opaque seed pod tray prevents light from penetrating into the tank, both of which discourage the growth of algae.
The programmed unit tells you when you need to refill the tank, and when you need to add liquid plant food to the water. Adding fertilizer to the water is key to hydroponic systems, since pure water doesn’t have any nutrients for the plants to absorb. AeroGarden provides a bottle of liquid nutrients, and other liquid hydroponic formulas can be used as well. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully for the amount of water in your tank.
Seeds grow quickly in a hydroponic environment, and an AeroGarden can be used as a seedling starter instead of a kitchen supplement. Due to the various sizes of AeroGarden units, a variety of growing purposes can be met with these hydroponic systems.
Seed pods and tray
Another key feature of the Aerogarden unit is the seed pods that hold the seeds and growing medium in place. The company sells a variety of seed pod kits, including herbs, salad mixes, and flowers, while they also provide seedless growing pods for you to grow plants from your own seeds.
With or without seeds, these pods come with sphagnum peat moss as a growing medium. Each seeded pod is covered with a label (with a hole in it for the sprout) that shows how many days you should expect before germination and mature plant growth for each type of plant.
AeroGardens also come with germination caps for these seed pods. It helps keep in humidity at a time when seeds and sprouts will be absorbing moisture round the clock.
Tray hole covers are sold as accessories and are helpful if you don’t want to fill every hole in the tray (which may lead to overcrowding with certain plants). Open spaces in the tray will allow light into the tank, which may lead to algae growth. The solid, opaque black covers prevent light from entering the tank when a space is unused.
The built-in LED light panel is another main draw of this system. Controlled by the digital panel and programming, these lights may be on for up to 16 hours a day, so be sure to place it in a space where this extra light won’t be a problem.
The lighting’s height is adjustable, and it will need to be raised as the plants grow. They should always be about one inch from the tallest plant to be sure they’re close enough to be effective, but removed enough so their light is spread across the whole unit. Some plants may grow faster than others, with taller plants shading small plants, in competition for light if it’s crowded.
Pods with seeds that germinate faster may need to be started later than slower growing plants to be sure the slow growers aren’t shaded before they can sprout and develop leaves and roots. The maximum light height will differ between AeroGarden models, and a taller height might be useful for flexibility. The same model that grows herbs may be too small for one that comfortably fits tomato plants or pepper plants.
Low to moderate maintenance
In addition to being a simple, scaled-down growing operation, AeroGardens are relatively low maintenance. They do, however, require some attention over time:
- Changing the water – the water in the unit should be changed periodically, every 7 to 10 days. This keeps the water clean and the nutrient levels balanced. The tank separates from the light and tray so it can be emptied, rinsed, and refilled.
- Watering and fertilizing – between water changes, you will be prompted by the unit to refill the water once or twice a week as it depletes, depending on the growth stage of the plants. There is a small opening on the deck with a lid to refill with water, or add more fertilizer, as necessary. For experienced gardeners, a periodic pH test will help you be sure nutrient levels are balanced.
- Pruning and harvesting – like any growing operation, plants may need to be pruned as they grow, while some plants should be harvested over time so they can produce more fruits or leaves. Plants also should be trimmed to avoid overcrowding or excessive height.
- Dusting the unit – the flat tray and edges of the unit may accumulate dust over time, which attracts pests like spiders and spider mites. Keeping the unit clear keeps the plant’s growing environment clean and healthy.
- Cleaning the unit – between uses, or when the unit is being emptied of water, clean the AeroGarden to avoid mineral buildup from the fertilizer, as well as any early-stage algae growth that may be starting to develop.
Are aerogardens safe?
AeroGardens are safe to use as long as they’re cleaned regularly. The LED lights don’t heat up enough to be a reason for concern, although, as an electrical appliance, the unit should be used and placed with caution (particularly because the technology is filled with water).
Be sure to unplug the unit before emptying the water tank; the programming should retain its settings for that short period of time (and up to a couple of days beyond).
When the unit is properly cleaned and the water is changed regularly, algae shouldn’t grow and mineral buildup can be avoided. A clean pump accessory helps filter some of that potential buildup and growth to keep the growing environment as healthy as possible.
What are the different types of aerogardens?
There are several types of AeroGarden models, as well as variations on those models as well. The models include:
- AeroGarden Sprout – 3 pods, the most compact
- AeroGarden Harvest – 6 pods, the most popular
- AeroGarden Bounty – 9 pods, the mid-sized unit
- AeroGarden Farm – 12 to 24, the largest units available
These models may come in one of the following variations:
- Elite – stainless steel models
- 360 – models with a round tank
- Slim – models with a slim tank
- XL – models that are taller than regular ones
The AeroGarden is a clean, efficient way to integrate a small scale growing operation in your kitchen or another place in your home. Like with any technology, there’s a slight learning curve, but the units are designed for ease of use. Some AeroGardeners learn how to make the most of their units, while others with less of a green thumb are happy with a simple growing setup. In any case, it’s a great option to consider when looking for a compact indoor gardening system.
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- Aerogarden review: AeroGarden Harvest Elite [TESTED]
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- The best hydroponic fertilizer for indoor gardening