If you’re like me, you’ve probably bought a bushel of cilantro with a dozen recipes in mind, only to watch it slowly wilt before throwing it in the trash. While visiting my cousin’s house in suburban Boston (a house much larger than my 300 square foot Manhattan studio), I couldn’t help but marvel at her extensive hydroponic setup. She owned several AeroGardens, the brand leader in hydroponic gardens that sprouted bushels of herbs, earthy lush greens and other veggies basking in their LED lights in the middle of December. I was delighted to watch her casually flicking just the dill for salmon bagels in the morning or Genovese basil for the pizzas she made in her Ooni Koda pizza oven at night. When it came time for her to visit me in town for my birthday, she knew a standard 6 pod AeroGarden Harvest would make the perfect gift.
For city dwellers without outdoor space or those who live alone, fresh, high-quality herbs are a fleeting summer treat or a reminder to clear out the fridge. With an indoor garden like the AeroGarden I got as a gift, or similar models from brands like iDOO and Gardyn, you’ll have several healthy herbs at your fingertips for cooking and reduce food waste: a win-win for die-hard plant killers and aspiring chefs equally.
The AeroGarden Harvest is a compact indoor hydroponic garden that uses 20 watt LED lights to grow herbs, vegetables or flowers without sun or soil. Each garden comes with seedling kits (in my case, I received an herb mix of Genovese basil, Thai basil, curly parsley, dill, thyme, mint, and a 3-ounce bottle of the company’s patented plant nutrients). Assembling the AeroGarden is easy, just place the seed pods in the garden, fill the machine’s body, add the recommended plant food and let the LED lights do the rest of the work. A simple touch sensor control panel will indicate when you should add more water or plant fertilizer and the 20 watt LED grow lights will do the rest.
AeroGarden sells over a hundred seed pods or starter kits for everything from the aforementioned herbs to cascading petunias to bok choi. Although your seedlings will thrive in any setting, I placed my AeroGarden on my windowsill next to my potted plants as part of the fun was watching the 6 seedlings grow at the same time. As your veggie favorites grow taller in a matter of days, you can adjust the height of the automatic LED lights up to 12 inches to give your plants room to thrive. No pruning (unless you cook of course), no watering, no fear. The sound of the circulating water is more reminiscent of a koi pond. However, if you are sensitive to light or noise, you may not want to keep your AeroGarden by your work station or bedside.
The one thing to note about the Harvest is that its compact size can be both a blessing and a bane. I was so excited to grow all six herbs at once, little did I know it could get a little tight. Investing in a larger AeroGarden system, which we cover below, is one solution. The other could be to take it slow in the beginning and plant (or more accurately place) your herbs at different times so that they reach their maximum height at different times.
Other hydroponic gardens to consider
When you’re ready to start indoor gardening, you can start small with the AeroGarden Harvest or its stainless steel counterpart, the AeroGarden Harvest Elite.
AeroGarden Harvest Elite
The Elite has a higher price but works the same as the standard Harvest. Your herbs will be just as rich, but the slimmer design is better suited to a more modern space or kitchen with stainless steel appliances. In contrast to the touch sensor control panel of the standard model, the Elite offers a digital LCD display and is WiFi-enabled. Additional features like the Holiday Mode setting, Plant Food Countdown Timer, and Days Since Planting Timer are helpful perks, but don’t fundamentally change how fast your plants grow.
Gardyn home kit 2.0
If you’re a serious gardener with a penchant for design, the Gardyn Home Kit 2.0 might be worth the investment. The AI-powered hydroponic garden allows you to grow 30 plants along two tall columns without any mess or mess. Indeed, when your veggies are in bloom thanks to the energy-efficient water pump and LED lights, the Home Kit looks more like a decorative statement or an eye-catching houseplant.
iDOO hydroponic growing system
If you want to grow more seedlings than you can with the AeroGarden Harvest but want to spend less upfront, the iDOO Hydroponics Growing System may be a good option. The machine is similar in design to the Harvest but has twice the capacity, with room for 12 seedlings for $30 less. The water circulates on an automated schedule, but the iDOO lacks sensors to indicate when the garden needs extra water or plant food. To check, you would have to look at the transparent water level.
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