Today was my first harvest from the Aerogarden. For those unaware, an aerogarden is a type of basic, easy-to-use, small hydroponics system. It has a built-in light, water basin, room for some foam cores, and conveniently flashes a little light to remind you when you add nutrients or water. The lamp works with a built-in timer, so theoretically any plants that grow will get the optimum amount of light, steady supply of water, and proper nutrients to grow.
To be honest, I wasn’t confident it would work. It seemed like a gimmick and the “guarantee” that the capsules would grow seemed too good to be true.
How does your Aerogarden grow?
Well, it turns out the company wasn’t exaggerating too much. I used the salad greens pack, which had 6 different leafy greens. Popped them in and waited. By the end of week 2, I removed the “greenhouse domes” from 5 of my 6 cores. The 6th never germinated.
From what I’ve read, Aerogarden is good with honouring their guarantee and replacing non-growing cores, but 5 sets of leafy greens still makes a great salad. Instead I used a spare core & planted some hot peppers. They were germinating within a few days and I had the dome off within 2-weeks.
The lights, water & nutrient notifications all worked exactly as expected. What wasn’t expected was just how well the greens would grow. The 4 I had on the outer-holes took over, leaving little exposure to sunlight for the two in the middle (including my hot peppers).
I made a large bowl of leafy greens, harvesting maybe 1/3 of what had grown. It was enough for a side salad for 4. As I tried to harvest from the middle area, I was able to reveal both of the smaller plants and they should get enough light now.
Overall, this Aerogarden is definitely a success. Neither my spouse nor I truly expected to have “basement salad.” Having it less than 45 days after planting was an extra special bonus.
As I plan to do a 2nd harvest and then see if the greens will regrow, I won’t be able to start from scratch anytime soon. Despite this, there are a couple of key things I would change if I were to restart.
First, I’d leave spacers for the two middle spots on my unit. They were overgrown by the surrounding plants and starved of light. As a result, I wasn’t able to get anything from one of the greens and my hot peppers are a lot smaller than I would have expected by this point.
Second, I would have watched the germination more closely, ensuring the sprouts aimed out of the protective paper. I had one leafy green get partially stuck under and it stunted its growth. Although I was able to correct it, by that point the surrounding greens were already taking over. I’m hopeful it’ll grow now that I’ve cleared things up, but this seems like something I could have avoided altogether.
Finally, I probably would have only done 2-3 leafy greens. If I used the other side for cherry tomatoes & hot peppers right from the start, I could have some more variety to the vegetables growing at the same time. I doubt I would have had any tomatoes ready for this salad, but maybe the 3rd or 4th one.
As I noted earlier, I’ve another harvest to clear away some of the bigger leaves. I’ll be leaving about 1/3 of the greens to continue to grow and see if they replenish themselves. If they do, I could be looking at 2 salads every 45 days, which would make for a tasty supplement to my diet.
I’m also going to need to look into hydroponics further. The Aerogarden was a good & easy start, but if I want to really cut down on winter vegetable bill and improve food security, I’m going to need more than just 6 growing spaces. I’m thinking 25-50 spots, but that’s going to take a fair bit of research.
Moving from research to action won’t happen until next winter however. So I’m just going to monitor growth and see what I get out of this Aerogarden during the winter. Will I need to empty the current plants and start fresh, or will my leafy greens replenish? That’s the question I’m hoping to answer.
At this point, I’m just about ready to setup some jiffy pots to begin some more traditional indoor gardening. Once I’ve things setup there, I’ll share some pics and talk about what I’ve done. Stay tuned!