Whether you’re an avid gardener or have a budding interest, you’ve probably seen buzz over the AeroGarden and other small-scale hydroponics set-ups. What’s the hype all about? Are these little systems even worth it? I did the calculations for you!
With grocery store prices rising, I’m searching for ways to lower my bill (and yours!). The AeroGarden has taken the indoor gardening world by storm, promising loads of food with little work.
But how much of that is true?
For word’s sake, I’m talking about AeroGardens. But pretty well everything I talk about here also applies to other indoor smart gardening systems like Click and Grow, Hoctor, and The Jardin Pro from Vegehome. The difference is not how they work but just their brand name.
I’ve looked at plenty of AeroGarden reviews and talked to my friends about their own mini hydroponics system. Since I’m a skeptic, I knew I had to do a deep dive for myself to get a true feel for what it is like having an AeroGarden.
This post will cover…
- How Do AeroGardens Work?
- Cost vs Yield of AeroGardens
- Are Aero Gardens Worth It?
- Clever Ways to Use Your AeroGarden
- Start Seeds
- New Cuttings
- Frequently Asked Questions about AeroGardens
How Do AeroGardens Work?
AeroGardens are a combination of a hydroponics system and grow lights. It goes off the idea that plants actually don’t need soil to survive. All they need is light, water, oxygen, and nutrients. In fact, AeroGarden claims that items grow 5x faster than if they were in soil.
First, you “plant” the AeroGarden pods by inserting them into the water base. Inside the pods are a planted seed and a basket with compacted peat moss to hold it all together. The roots can go through the peat into the water basin.
A water pump helps to regulate the movement of water, as well as temperature. Every couple of weeks, you add liquid fertilizer to the water, and that’s it.
Above the water basin, grow lights which you can raise as the plants get taller. For more on the science behind how grow lights work, read this.
Overall, AeroGardens are pretty compact and easy-to-use countertop garden.
Cost vs Yield of AeroGardens
Is it worth it to actually grow food in AeroGardens? Or is it a gimmick to allow you to easily grow some food inside at a premium price. To answer that, we’re going to have to do some math. Bare with me!
Let’s look at cherry tomatoes as an example. At the grocery store, as of right now, 464 grams of cherry tomatoes cost $6.99 (CAD).
The Aerogarden Harvest is the most popular model, costing $164.95 (CAD). The Red Heirloom Cherry Tomato Seed Pod Kit costs 16.95 (CAD) for six seed pods, bringing the total investment to $181.90.
AeroGarden claims that their fruiting vegetables grow for about 9 months. Considering it takes about 2-3 months until the plants are ready for harvest, let’s say you will get 6.5 months of harvesting time.
Let’s say over those 6.5 months, your AeroGarden produces those same 464 grams like the grocery store once a week. That means you’re spending about $6.50 rather than $6.99.
Now, I will say these are very generous calculations. That’s saying that your tomatoes produce constantly and fruitfully for 6.5 months. That may be the case for some but not for many, I imagine.
As we know, garden tomatoes get quite large which is how they can provide so much fruit. The variety you grow must be a mini tomato plant that stays around 12″ tall like “Tiny Tim”. Those can produce quite a few tomatoes on tiny plants in the garden, but it remains to be seen if that can be replicated indoors. I’ll keep you posted as these ones get older!
Okay, let’s do another example! This time, we’re growing lettuce. At the grocery store, a container of mixed spring greens costs $6.99 for 283 grams of lettuce.
AeroGarden claims that their lettuce and greens last for about 2 months. The Salad Greens Seed Pod Kit also costs $16.96, which means the total investment remains $181.90.
AeroGarden says you can begin to harvest after 3 weeks. Assuming you get the same 464 grams to harvest once a week for the 5 weeks your lettuce is alive, you’re spending a whopping $36.38 per week.
Of course, the idea is that you would grow more lettuce using the same AeroGarden after. But it would take a while to recuperate your costs.
Are Aero Gardens Worth It?
Returning to the above lettuce example, it’s just not worth it. Lettuce is very easy to grow, even indoors with just an inexpensive grow light, and you can get way more growing it this way than with the AeroGarden. The AeroGarden just doesn’t allow you to grow much at once unless you invest in the larger units. If you want to grow lots of lettuce, I recommend this setup.
It may be worth it for things like tomatoes, but only if you want access to fresh produce during the off-season. Otherwise, you’ll get a bigger harvest for growing six plants outside rather than six compact ones inside.
AeroGardens are an inefficient way to grow lots of food.
On the other hand, they’re super simple to use and very hands-off. Set it and forget about it pretty well. It could be fun if you don’t have much of a green thumb but want to experiment with growing your own food.
I know many people who have AeroGardens or similar setups and love it. I consider them more of a hobby. Some people will love it, while others would prefer to stick to growing food outdoors.
Clever Ways to Use Your AeroGarden
I likely won’t use my AeroGarden in the way it’s designed, but I can see myself using it for other reasons!
The first way is to start seeds in it. And no, I’m not talking about the pods! You can use the grow anything AeroGarden pods or buy them in bulk online to start whatever seeds you want.
Yes, you heard me right; you can plant anything you want in your AeroGarden and aren’t limited to what they offer online.
Once the plants are big enough, you can transplant them outside. You still need to harden them off, carefully extract them from the baskets, and generously water them. They’re bound to go through shock experiencing such different conditions, and you may lose a plant or two, but it’s certainly possible.
Hydroponics is simply one of the best environments for new cuttings. You could place them in one of the grow anything AeroGarden pods or directly in the water, assuming that the leaves are large enough to support them.
The water circulation, grow lights, and temperature control will ensure that they grow quickly, and you can put them in the soil in no time.
I don’t know if I would use an AeroGarden for this one, but definitely grow lights. Tender items like succulents have a hard time getting enough light indoors during the winter. When you bring them inside to overwinter them, the grow lights ensure they get enough light until they can go out outside again.
Frequently Asked Questions about AeroGardens
AeroGardens require a significant upfront investment compared to just buying indoor growing lights or growing things yourself outside.
The standard AeroGarden Harvest model only holds room for 6 AeroGarden pods which doesn’t allow you to grow much either. You must also only grow compact varieties to fit in the plant.
Because of the size, you also won’t get a huge yield of plants. You would likely get more by growing with more traditional methods.
Yes, using AeroGarden’s grow anything pods. You can also find these in bulk on places like Amazon for a more affordable price. With these AeroGarden pods, you place your own seeds in the peat moss baskets and pop them in.
Keep in mind the size of the plants. They must be compact varieties to live in the AeroGarden due to size limitations.
If you have an AeroGarden or something similar, I would love to read your comments on them. As I wrote earlier, I’m a skeptic, but I see them selling so often and hear about friends that love them. Tell me your story and lets keep the conversation going. I’ll be sure to post updates as well.