I am deeply drawn to the homesteader lifestyle. I want to run my own little farm, create food from scratch, and live close to the earth. With certain things I’m well on my way. For example, I grew up baking fresh bread, so I’m not intimidated by making bread from scratch. I do a lot of cooking from scratch (but no, as my brother points out, I don’t milk the cow. Yet.).
The piece that had been missing for me was the gardening. I’ve never been very outdoorsy, and when I tried to grow things as a kid they always died quickly. Then I left home and lived in apartments with no outdoor space. Growing things on window ledges never worked out.
That’s when I decided to try the Aerogarden.
It was around 2006 and I can’t remember how I even heard about it! It must have been an infomercial or an ad on a website. Despite me being a graduate student and the Aerogarden being somewhat expensive from my student point of view, I saved up and bought one.
I’d say it’s been one of the best material purchases of my life.
It really does take the hard parts out of gardening. Now that I have a yard and I’m trying to garden outside, I have to worry about when the last frost date is, what kind of soil I have, what’s the pH balance, what grows well together, where is there the right amount of sunlight, what bugs are there, what blights are there. With the Aerogarden I never worry about any of that!
I just put the seeds in the pods, fill it with water, and turn it on. It’s a hydroponic system, which means that there is no dirt involved. The plants grow entirely in water. There is a light hood above it that turns on and off automatically depending on what you set it to (peppers, herbs, flowers, etc.). The light hood raises as the plants grow. The only thing you have to do is keep the water full, put in some nutrients when the system tells you to, and raise the hood when the plants are getting close to the light.
Even for those of us with the opposite of a green thumb, plants grow.
What have I grown?
Over the years I’ve done lots of basil, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, bell peppers, and once hot peppers. Sometimes I buy the seed kits, and sometimes I buy just the pods to put my own seeds in.
My friends and family all thought the light being on most of the day would run up my electric bill, but I never noticed a difference. It really does not take very much extra. These days I have solar panels so I don’t worry about that at all!
I don’t still have the Aerogarden from 2006. My current one I bought in 2009, but not because the first one gave out. I had to leave it behind during a very scary change in living arrangements. I lost a lot of my possessions that day. So I don’t know how that one would be doing today, but it is 2015 and the Aerogarden from 2009 is still going strong.
One word of caution, though.
I loved my Aerogarden so much I wanted to get a second one, but I’m cheap and so I decided to get a used one on Ebay. This was a big mistake. I bought one and when it arrived it didn’t have a motor in it. There was an empty space where the motor goes. The motor keeps the water in the bowl moving so the plants don’t get mold on them from sitting in still water. I emailed the guy who sold it to me and got no response for a week. By then I was sure he had scammed me, and I was furious. But he did get back to me after that week and said that it had never had a motor and why did I think it should?
I sent him a copy of the schematics from the Aerogarden website that show that it should. He continued to insist that his never had one. He refunded me a tiny bit of money towards buying a motor from the Aerogarden website. But there were too many components missing, and I was never able to get it to work.
So I still have that Aerogarden too and it works okay. I’ve also used it as a seed starter. There’s a separate component you can get that allows you to start a bunch of seeds in dirt pods and then transplant them outside. For this year, my first with outdoor space for a garden, that is how I got my plants started.
Fall is now approaching and I’m excited to start new crops in my Aerogardens that will help see me through the winter and lower my grocery bill.
Ambaa is a lifestyle blogger exploring family, faith, and the meaning of life at The White Hindu (www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu)
All Photos Copyright Ambaa Choate