why do I want to do it
We do a lot of asian cooking and enjoy the taste of cilantro (or corainder in the uk)
After having bought dried cilantro for a while and thinking it tasted a bit flat, i thought about growing it in my aerogarden harvest.
With a few problems I had earlier, an infestation of thrips, and my inability to get rid of them, causing me to get rid of all of the plants in the Aerogarden Harvest, I was a little nervous.
Wiping the whole thing down with ipa ( isopropyl alcohol) to get rid of any left over eggs, i looked at what i could do with it.
Chopping some rootit plugs down to fit the baskets I tried a technique I found on the internet to check for viability of cilantro seeds.
Place them in a container with water in so they are floating, leave for two days and those that sink are viable and those that continue to float are not.
So I put 15-20 seeds in water and waited….for two days.
And some did sink, a lot floated.
I know the seeds are old but…..
So I discarded the floating ones and pushed the sinking ones into the rootit plugs.
I also tried a rockwool cube for better drainage.
Now we know that the aerogarden harvest switches on the pump for 5 mins every hour.
And that cilantro seeds should germinate after 5 days or so, depending on the temperature.
Well watching the plugs staying wet, and being watered more every hour, i wasn’t surprised when nothing happened for two weeks…or three weeks.
Hmm…so what to do now.
The site I saw the seed test on also went on to show cilantro being grown in a cut up pop bottle.
You cut off the top 1/3, poke holes in the lid and around the curved bit of the bottle and turn this upside down and
Fit it into the left over body.
Partially filling the top with gravel, then putting the seeds on and covering with sand, gives the seeds a well draining base to grow into.
I looked at the harvest and thought, if I could remove the top and design a tray to fit, it could be turned into a flood and drain system.
But not at the moment.
So following the idea I got a pop bottle and cut the top 1/3 off, poked holes and inverted it.
Filling it with gravel from an old fishtank, after washing it, then added more tested seeds and covered it with sand.
Well watering this caused all of the sand to disappear into the ‘tank’ the lower part of the bottle.
Hmm…not the most successful test.
So what could I use instead.
I grow tomatoes in a deep water culture outside yearly, and to support the plants I use mesh pots filled with
expanded clay balls.
These clay balls hold the moisture and can be used very successfully to prevent pot plants drying out when used as a topping.
So the next experiment used the same bottle and placing it in between the two raised heated parts of the base of the harvest, i tried again.
A week passed by and nothing, so another failure.
Another week went by with me watering a little daily, and managing to fill the lower bottle, so i had to remove the upper and pour away a load of the water.
But….after another week, a small green seedling appeared.
Wow my first cilantro in this system.
Making up a nutrient mix in an old 2 litre milk carton, i added just a bit twice daily.
And day by day this one started growing, followed by two more.
But that was it.
So I tested some more seeds and removed the clay balls in the ungrowing area, and placed more seeds.
In the garden you are told to grow small batches every two to three weeks to get a continuous supply of cilantro leaves.
Using the bottle under the led lights of the harvest has helped the cilantro grow bushy, rather than bolt to seed.
So I am glad I tried this, trying the leaves on their own, their taste is very strong, stronger than any of the shop bought cilantro I have tasted in a while.
And into the future
I am now looking to design a drop in tray to fit the base to give me a flood and drain system i can use with gravel and clay balls.
Once I have designed and 3d printed this i will upload the file for you to make.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a 3d printer, there are loads of places you can send your file to to have them print it for you.
Do I think this experiment is a success…yes…but
The method of watering is very clumsy and I have spilt nutrient into the cavity a few times.
I also took to squeezing the lower part of the bottle, thinking that there was enough water in there to act like a flood and drain system, but it overflowed the sides of the lower bottle.
It did look and act like a flood and drain, but the leakage was too much.
One other thing that is strongly advised by the site and by me is to cover the outside of the bottle so the light cannot get in.
I used aluminum foil, the disadvantage is you cannot see the level of the water in the lower part. so be careful of overwatering.
I kept a syringe close by to remove water if i saw that it didn’t soak down into the gravel.
Do I have problems with algae…not any more than I expected.
The clay balls dry quickly on the top preventing algae growth, but they keep the moisture underneath where the plants need it.
But I can see a little where I can see the gravel, so in the future I might just try the clay balls and see if that works.
The aerogarden harvest is being used as a light source, heater and overspill retainer, so very worthwhile.
Luckily with the adjustable overhead light position you can set it up so that it misses the bottle, and as the plants grow there is enough room to keep going up.
Using the change nutrient timer tells you when you need to plant some more cilantro, pop some seeds in water for a couple of days and then just press reset.
What’s my verdict on it
Do I think it is worth a try….yes if you enjoy using cilantro in cooking.
You need a deep grow pot for the cilantro tap root and it doesn’t take to being transplanted.
But I might try starting the seeds off in mini grow cubes and after germination, transferring those into a flood and drain tray filled with expanded clay balls.
Or even fitting the grow cubes directly into the clay ball filled tray and starting them from there.
I will keep you updated on the results of any experiments i try which i think you would be interested in as aerogarden growers.
Have you had success in growing enough cilantro to keep you happy, if so how have you achieved this, let us know in the comments section so we can all have a go at trying out your method.
Oh just a tip for storing your excess cilantro, if you ever have any, cut off the leaves and stems and pop it into ice cube trays with a little water, these can be popped into your cooking.
Or place the cut leaves in a grip seal bag and into the freezer. remove and chop to garnish your creation.
Many thanks for reading this and I hope you have success growing cilantro in your aerogarden harvest.
Update 15th August 2019
A few weeks after starting this experiment the cilantro started looking a bit sick.
so I lifted the top pot and the smell….awful.
As there had been no oxygen being bubbled through the nutrient mix it had started to grow really bad bacteria.
And the roots had started rotting.
So my fix for this is to use a small aquarium pump and a small airstone with silicone tubing running beside the top pot.
This has now fixed it and I have even added a strawberry plant and all are growing well.
My next adition will be a nutrient level indicator as I nearly ran out of nutrient, the plants told me by drooping.
So a few quick fills of the top pot and allowing it to drain through cured that.
The first Cilantro plant has now gone to seed and I can collect that and use it to grow more plants.
I must get on with the 3d printed pot to allow the use of the rest of the Aerogarden system.
But I really would recommend an air pump and stone to make this system turbocharged.
Don’t forget to get one with a non return valve (check valve) or you may have water going back into the pump…not good.
Good luck with growing your plants if you try this method, leave a comment below as to how you get on and any other tips you have Growing Cilantro in an Aerogarden Harvest.