Aerogarden Questions

Aerogarden FAQ

Aerogarden Ultra Led – check it out here


There have been a few Aerogarden questions , so I decided to create a FAQ.

The questions are not in any order or category but are a selection of the common ones asked.

 

What are the Aerogarden sponges made of ?

The Aerogarden sponges are made of Canadian Spagnum peat.

They are soil free no- mess plugs ideal for seedlings and growing on.

It has wonderful properties to drain well and hold together.

And is also the ideal growing medium for the roots of the plants.

Two alternatives are the 60 cell bio dome refill which comes in about half price

Or what I tend to use – rock wool starter cubes
Watch how Gapeys prepares the 1″rockwool cube to fit into the aerogarden pod.

I tend to soak them first before planting and use the 25mm (1″) which will fit either the older round pods or the newer long pods.

A couple of seeds can be place in a hole created in the top.

What can I do with an Aerogarden ?

Well you can grow things…

Or use it as a SAD light helping you over the darker winter months.

But mainly you can grow really tasty herbs and some veg.

The main type of crop is a leafy one as any type of root plant will struggle with the restriction of the basket.

So anything like lettuce, basil, parsley, thyme, tomatoes ( cherry), chilli, cilantro, strawberries….

They can all be grown from seed to full grown plant within the Aerogarden and you will get increased growth rates over soil grown plants

What kind of water to use in an Aerogarden ?

If you want good tasting crops then ideally you want to use good quality water.

Or… what you put in is what you get out.

And you don’t upset the PH or nutrient mix with good quality water .

Upsetting the PH too far may cause the plants to stop taking up the nutrient.

If you find that growth slows after changing the water and nutrient, then it is worth checking the nutrient mix’s PH.

Electronic PH tester – check them out here

This is easy to do with either litmus paper of an electronic PH tester.

You want the PH to be between 5.5 and 6.5 too far outside these values and your plants will not want to feed.

So I would recommend trying your tap water and if you have difficulties growing then test it and move onto bottled or rain water.

You could go to a reverse osmosis system, but for most this is not necessary.

How to make seed pods ?

Oh no – as you removed the seed pod it fell to pieces .

‘Now I’ve got to buy a full kit to replace one.’

Well you can just create one.

There are two types of seed pods for the Aerogarden.

One is the long white ones – the other is shorter black one.

2″ mesh pot – ready to be modified to fit your Aerogarden – check them out here

They can both be replaced with a similar techniques.

What I use is a small 2″ (50mm) mesh pot.

Now this is too big to fit into the Aerogarden so I cut a wedge out of it.

With this wedge cutout you can reduce the diameter and the ‘spring’ will keep it in place.

Combining this with the rockwool inserts has opened up a lot of possibilities for growing things in the Aerogarden cost effectively.

There is a post for making your own Aerogarden seed pods

How to prune Aerogarden tomatoes

To grow tomatoes in an Aerogarden you need to understand how a standard tomato grows.

The tomato is a climber plant in the wild – there are some varieties that have been changed into a bush type through breeding.

There is usually one main stem, but sometimes two or three become dominant. It is your choice whether to trim these off or leave them to grow.

To keep your plants within the Aerogarden you will need to choose a small variety, like a cherry tomato.

When your tomato has three main sets of leaves then you can pinch out the main stem.

This will encourage the side shoots to develop.

Once they develop two sets of leaves do the same again, pinch the tips out.

What you may find as the plants are growing is where each leaf grows from there is a tiny shoot which sometimes starts to grow and needs to be nipped out at the main stem.

You will find that you will get the plant to bush out yourself and as the flowers develop you can enjoy the fruits as they develop.

Don’t forget to prune your tomato as they will grow quickly in this environment and will get out of hand

Adding supports maybe necessary as the plant grows – they tend to climb up other plants in the wild, but not as much as cucumbers.

Do they need support- well the support is mainly to keep the fruit off the ground, but in the case of the Aerogarden the ground is clean and bug free so, again, it is your choice.

Maybe what you do is to grow two – one you support, the other you don’t and see what happens.

Don’t forget to shake the flowers as they develop as they are both the male and female in one.

Shaking, using an electric toothbrush or bee pollinator will transfer the pollen to the female part of the flower and ensure a good crop of tomatoes.

How do I reset my Aerogarden ?

Well on an Aerogarden there is reset…and reset….and reset.

Confused – well read on to find out what functions the reset button can do.

Every two weeks the lights flash to tell you to add more nutrient – or ideally change the water and add more nutrient.

To cancel these lights you press the reset button for a short time -so a quick press.

That’s one way to use the reset button

When a crop has finished and you want to start a new set of seeds you can reset your Aerogarden ready for this new growth.

Pressing and holding the reset button for 6 seconds the lights will flash – release the button and your Aerogarden is starting a new cycle for the newly planted seeds.

That’s a second use of the reset button

The final use is to completely reset your Aerogarden back to factory default.

This is accomplished by pressing and holding the select button until the lights cycle and then a quick press of the reset button.

So there you go

Quick press – cancels the add more nutrient

Long press – resets the Aerogarden between growing cycles

Press select till the light cycle and quick press of reset – resets back to factory default.

How do you clean an Aerogarden ?

When you have finished growing your crop you need to clean your Aerogarden to prevent any cross contamination of pathogen and remove any plant matter left.

What I have found is that the plants love to put their roots where the nutrient mix is.

So all of the channels where the nutrient is pumped through are prone to blocking with roots.

I have heard of people turning their plants weekly to reduce this, but to me when the plants get established then the root mass in the reservoir will intermingle and turning the plant may cause the roots to break.

So after you have removed the plant pods and pulled out and disposed of as many roots as possible you are left with the top and bowl.

The top is constructed of two parts.

In the old days they used screws to secure the two halves together.

Removing all of the screws( I think there was nine or so, I can’t look as I am growing at the moment in the old ones) the two halves separated and you can clean out the channels and give it a wash down and rinse off.

The newer design has clips holding the two halves together.

These can be a pain to undo and are best pushed two at a time on each side to release them.

They are quite stiff and can take some force to ‘pop’ the side.

You could put a cloth over the clips to reduce the pressure on your hands.

And once you have successfully popped the clips you clean out the roots as in the above case.

Putting it back together is a matter of aligning it and pressing firmly down till the clips go pop.

Once you have cleaned the roots out and looked at the pump and the pump filter for any roots.

The old version the pump is in the top housing and needs the bottom plate taking off – I use a flat screwdriver to lever it apart at the sides and then pull it out.

The pump is then  only held in by the fact it is inserted into the feed pipe and can be pulled gently down.

The rotor end can be taken off and the inner cover removed – the rotor is a bit of a pain to refit so it is up to you whether you remove this – the next cleaning process will remove any build up inside the pump.

When refitting the rotor make sure the little silicon cap is in place to be a snug ft into the rear housing.

Fit the inner cover making sure the spindle lines up and locates.

Refit the outer housing.

Push the pump back into the feed pipe and refit the lower plate.

The newer version the pump is fitted into the bowl and requires two screws to be remove to remove the pump.

Once the pump is removed the cleaning process is the same as above.

Once the main debris has been removed you now have a choice

To use chlorine bleach or vinegar.

Adding 1/4 cup of chlorine bleach to the bowl topped to the max mark of warm water and running the pump for 5 mins will remove all of the  small bits left and leave you with a clean Aerogarden.

Make sure to empty it out and then refill with clean water to the max mark and run for 5 mins.

After emptying this water out you can leave it to dry and it is ready for your next grow cycle.

If you don’t like using chlorine bleach you can use a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water.

This time run it for 15 mins before emptying and refilling with clean water and running that for 5 mins.

You now have a clean Aerogarden ready for storage or the next growing cycle.

How long do Aerogarden led lights last ?

Leds last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs, that’s a fact.

But how long do they last in the Aerogarden.

The official figure is between 2 to 5 years.

Why is there so much variation.

Well led lifetime is really dependant on two main factors – current and temperature.

The higher the current ( the brighter the led is) the shorter it’s life.

The higher the temperature the shorter the life of the led.

You can’t do anything about the current through the leds – them manufacturer designs this in.

But you can keep them out of direct sunlight – they don’t need to be kept in a dark place but just not in direct sunlight.

Kept in a cupboard without adequate ventilation the temperature within the cupboard will rise and shorten the life of the lights.

So I would say – out in the open but not in direct sunlight will give you the best life for your leds.

And the lifetime maybe to the 70% point – which means they will last a bit longer than that till complete failure but when the growth slows down you may need to investigate the lights if they look dim.

So that is the reason for the wide variance of led lifetime – if you live in a cold climate you can expect them to last longer than if you live in a hot climate ( unless you keep them cool (about 20C (68F))).

How many tomatoes can you grow in an Aerogarden ?

Due to the size of the plants when they grow and the lighting required to keep them growing efficiently I would restrict myself to two plants – one at each end on the growing bowl.

You can start off with more but remove the less vigorous ones and move the more vigorous ones to the ends.

Even with two in there it will get a bit crowded and you may need to manually move leaves around to allow lighting to penetrate to the lower level.

How much electricity does an Aerogarden use ?

The Aerogardens have been designed to grow plants efficiently.

With that – they still do consume electricity to power the lighting – power the pump and background tasks.

So what do they consume and how costly is it to run an Aerogarden.

There are three main things that are consuming electricity

  • The lights
  • The pump
  • and background tasks.

The lights are the heaviest drain and come in two flavors

Cfl ( compact fluorescent) and led – the led ones are a lot lower power and last longer

The older cfl are rated at 26w and there were two of them making a total of 52w – I called it 50w to make it easy for me to calculate it.

The led panel is lower power at just 20w

The pumps at just 3w are run 24 hours a day

While with the newer units, the pumps are run for 10 minutes every hour.

The background tasks consume about 5w.

If the units are run for the 16 hour a day cycle and a growing cycle is 3 months then:

Everyday the older unit consumes 972w

And the newer units consume 442w

Over 3 months the older unit uses 90,517 kw

And the newer one 41,106 kw

Assuming 11c per kw/hr

For the growing cycle the old unit uses $9.90 and the newer unit $4.51

So for the crop you get from the Aerogarden in 3 months and you know the freshness and what is not sprayed onto it  it costs you less than ten bucks.

Or the newer unit less than five bucks.

I am impressed.

How to grow strawberries in your Aerogarden ?

With lettuce and herbs they can take water on the top of the plant – but strawberries really don’t like the crown to get wet and quickly rot off.

Or the roots to stay completely in water

So that causes us a bit of a problem.

We need to disconnect the water pump, but to have the water just sat there for a couple of months with no motion will remove all of the oxygen pretty quickly and the plants will die and be pretty smelly.

So what we need to do is to bubble air through the water to add oxygen to the roots.

To grow cilantro I tried a pop bottle with the top cut off and inverted with stones in and watered by hand twice a day – this worked.

So I decided to try it with the strawberries.

The other way is to use the aquarium stones in the basket and fit the strawberry runner in with the crown above the top level and the roots dangling half in water in the bowl.

When we were out walking we came across masses of wild strawberry plants growing into a road – the road was a gravel one – so ideal drainage.

There were some an animal had uprooted so these were taken home.

Wash off the roots in water – don’t get the crown wet and pat dry with a paper towel.

If you want to really kill all the nasty bugs then crush a basil leaf into a cup of water and use that to wash the roots.

Remove any dead growth and place with the crown out of the substrate.

The wild strawberries started to shoot runners – these were tucked into the substrate and watered and are growing

So I now wait for the flowers to grow and then the fruit to set and enjoy the really sweet small delicacies of the wild.

I use canna vega at half the manufacturers strength and mainly water – as strawberries don’t like a lot of nutrient until they start setting the fruit – then increase it to standard strength.

Alpine strawberries – a delicacy in the wild  – can be yours here

It will take 2-3 months for the strawberries to wake up, grow ,produce flowers and have fruit suitable to eat.

So be patient.

I would not recommend growing strawberries from seed unless you are very patient as they do not produce fruit till the second year.

 

Well that’s all the questions for now – I will put up another FAQ as the questions come in.

If you have a question about your Aerogarden which has not been answered here then let me know in the chat and you never know it may be in the next FAQ.

Thanks of reading this Aerogarden FAQ.

Phil

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