The Aerogarden range allow you to easily grow plants on the countertop hydroponically. This involves mixing water, electric, plants and lighting. Find out in this post whether it is safe or not…
The Aerogarden range is safe as long as it is used within the operating environment specified in the operating manual. As the units contain water and electricity some care is needed to make sure these don’t mix.
What’s in the Aerogarden unit
The Aerogarden countertop units comprise of a base unit with the controller housed within.
A grow bowl to fill with nutrient.
A grow table where you insert the seed pods, allowing the roots to dangle into the nutrient mix within the grow bowl.
A pump to circulate and oxygenate the nutrient.
And a grow light to illuminate the plants for the right length of time daily.
All of these various parts are located within the easy to use and maintain unit which will fit neatly on top of the countertop.
The unit will need to be located within 3ft ( 1m) of a power outlet as it is mains powered.
How an Aerogarden Works
The Aerogarden is a hydroponics unit which operates by recirculating a nutrient mix around the plants roots and gives the plants access to the number of hours of light they need for optimum growth.
A plant in the garden will need to look for food with the roots.
The plant will need to anchor itself against the elements of wind and rain to stay upright.
And hope there is enough sun to grow well.
All of these variables are accounted for within the Aerogarden , adding in a bit of heat for the plant to take up the nutrient easily.
The control panel allows easy access to different light times and pump cycles to get your plants growing at an optimum level.
The grow bowl reservoir of nutrient and the nutrient mix contains every mineral salt your plant needs throughout its growing cycle.
The nutrient is pumped over the root system to fall back into the reservoir to keep the oxygen level high over the roots for optimum growth.
The unit is a very compact, easy to operate and maintain.
And safe if used within the guidelines.
Siting The Aerogarden Unit
The Aerogarden is a neat little unit designed to grow your plants efficiently.
It needs to be sited on a stable base unit as it will weigh 8lbs for the smaller units up to 15lbs for the larger models
And the top of where it is sited needs to be flat and level.
This is due to the fact the water will be topped up close to the top of the grow bowl and if tipped will overflow.
As stated above the unit will need to be sited close to a power socket as there is approx 1m (3ft) of cable to the plug.
The lights will be on for up to 16 hours – there is an option to have the lights on for 24 hours on some models, but even plants need some rest.
Even with the lights extended to their fullest the base of the unit is wide enough for the unit to be stable.
Adding the water
As the plants grow they will consume the water and nutrients within the grow bowl.
So these will need replacing.
Using a jug with a spout will prevent most spillage, and any liquid spilled can be easily wiped up.
The controller is fairly waterproof and can withstand water being poured over it.
There is a small gap under the unit so water may seep under there if spilled.
So any surface that it is stood on should be waterproof.
Once all the plants are in there and fully grown it may be difficult to open some of the access covers to top up the water, so this maybe something to watch out for when adding the seed pods.
When the plants start to grow the area between the grow table and the lighting gets filled.
The lighting should be kept off touching the plants, but about 2-3 inches (50-75mm) above the top of the plants.
Touching the older tube lights will be hot, but the newer led lights remain cool thoughout the time they are on.
Watch as the plants grow to determine whether they need any support, as a plant flopping over may dislodge the grow bowl with disastrous consequences for the plant and what it lands on- spilling the contents of the grow bowl.
You need to keep on top of the plants as they grow older with leaves that are dying off, removing them after they have finished their job.
This will reduce the chances of pest and diseases and keep the Aerogarden looking its best.
Plan what plants you are placing where, as there is limited space between the grow table and the maximum light height.
On the older models the lighting module was completely removable, the newer ones with leds this is not the case.
So tall plants grown on the outer edges and fed outside the light module have a better chance of survival.
This is one area i always feel let down with the Aerogarden units.
You will need to replace the nutrient mix every few weeks.
The nutrients are made up of mineral salts, relatively harmless, washed off with water -the only only thing you really don’t want to do is to drink them neat – if you do then seek medical help.
According to the manual you are to pickup the grow bowl, plants and all and take them to the sink where you pour the old away and then take the grow bowl back and refill it.
I wonder how many of the aerogarden staff have grown an Aerogarden 7 full of herbs, and then tried to move it.
It can be cumbersome…..
The other way is to use a hand pump and a bucket to catch the used nutrient to dispose of it.
A little more elegant, but still a lot of work and hassle.
Carrying the grow bowl you have a chance of tipping and spilling the nutrient onto the carpet or floor – i know as i have done this…
Then if you fill the unit where you empty it, again you have the chance of spillage on the way back, yep again first hand knowledge….
The pump, i have a version of it and pumping the nutrient out and then back can be tiring on the hands.
I wish they would come up with an electric version ( similar to the electric aquarium cleaners).
This would save a lot of hassle and make it so almost anyone could do this.
I use the old nutrient on the other houseplants that are not so lucky as those in the aerogarden.
You need to make sure the houseplants don’t get too much nutrient salt buildup and flush them out with water between feedings.
Grow lights for your plants
The older aerogardens have two or three compact fluorescent lamps fitted as grow lights.
These ideally need replacing every grow season – or every year.
Removal of these lamps is never easy and on more than one occasion i have broken the glass.
Not something you really want to do, as these type of lamps contain a small amount of mercury and phosphors to allow them to glow.
The push fit connector releases all of a sudden and you push the light right into the other side of the hood, ending up with glass and bits over your plants or if you have taken the hood off then glass and bits in the hood….
They did go onto change the lights for leds in the later models, which now don’t need changing as they last at least 20,000 hours – and this is to the 70% brightness point.
By my reckoning using the unit every day for the next 3 years will use up those 20,000 hours. we will see what it looks like then….
The led lights are a lot better for maintenance- a quick wipe over the plastic surface and they are good to go.
But make sure that they don’t blind your pets or children as they can be quite intense looking from below.
So is the Aerogarden safe
Overall – yes.
Or as safe as it can be, operated sensibly.
Don’t immerse it in water or it will blow up.
Keeping it on the kitchen countertop will give you fresh herbs to hand as you are cooking.
With the easy to use seed kits the unit is up and running in no time – then it is a matter of waiting until the plants have grown large enough to harvest.
It is a lot cleaner than soil gardening, even inside in pots.
You can teach your children a lot about how plants grow and allow them to do most of the work, supervised.
Harvesting the plants will fill the kitchen with the fresh aroma of the herbs essential oils.
The freshness of them and the fullness of flavor will leave you in no doubt whether it is worth the little time it takes on a daily basis just to check the nutrient level, add water to top it up and occasionally replace the nutrients.
The speed at which the plant grow will make you want to do more cooking to use them up- but there is always the freezer to store them for later.
It is a safe and healthy way to enjoy growing herbs and salad crops – seeing them mature from tiny seeds into masses of flowers.
I really hope you do decide to take the plunge and add value to your home by installing at least one aerogarden.
Or like me start to dot them around the home until you think, no more…..
Well maybe just one more………