Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Aerogarden DIY

My husband got an Aerogarden several years ago. It is recommended that you put in new light bulbs every 6 months, to keep the lights bright, as they tend to fade in intensity. This was fine for a couple of times, but then the replacement bulbs were difficult to find, and then impossible to find any in Alaska. Neither did I especially want to buy or use the seed kits that were available. They were pricey and did not really include what we wanted to grow. Those also became hard to find. I've heard lately that Aerogarden customer service is next to worthless, so I thought I'd share my own solution that allows me to grow some herbs of my choice with a small initial investment and very little ongoing cost.

1.  I bought a couple of gooseneck table lamps at Home Depot for about $15.00 each. I bought some 100W CFL daylight bulbs to put in the lamps.


2.  The light fixture that comes with the Aerogarden can be easily removed by sliding it up the neck, as you would when raising the light level, until it comes completely out. I unplugged the cord that goes from the Aerogarden unit to the lamp. I don't know what I did with the lamp - probably in the crawlspace somewhere - but I didn't have it handy for a photo.

3. I wrapped the cord around the neck to keep it out of the way.


4.  The two gooseneck lamps are plugged into a timer that will regulate when the lights come on and go off. The power cord that runs the pump will be plugged into the wall outlet, so that it is always on to run the proper pumping of water and nutrients.

5. To provide the medium for planting the seeds I use sponges. The first couple of times I did this project, I used rockwool, but I found that rockwool tends to break down or dissolve over time and possibly can get into the pump itself. The sponges I use are dense, but light weight and flexible. They are inside the Dobie scrubber product, covered by a nylon mesh. I cut the mesh open at one end and take out the sponge. The mesh works well at the kitchen sink without the sponge, so don't throw it away. I cut the sponges into strips about 1 and 1/4 inch wide. You can get three out of one sponge. AND, you can reuse them the next time you plant your Aerogarden by washing them thoroughly and pulling any little roots and stems out of them.

6.  I roll each cut piece of sponge and push it into the little plastic frames for the growing medium that come with the Aerogarden. I think those frames also come with the purchase of seed kits.

7.  I have grown basil, flat leaf parsley and thyme. I've found that a packet of seeds will last a long time (2 or 3 years) so it's not especially necessary to buy a new packet of seeds each time you want to replant. Once the plants have a good start, you can also take them out of the Aerogarden and plant them into potting soil, as long as you have some good light for growing them in pots.  I have tried, but not had any luck with cilantro or rosemary in the Aerogarden.

8.  Put the pods with the sponges into the Aerogarden slots. Poke the seeds into a fold of the sponge with a toothpick and then run a little water over the pods to make sure the sponges are completely moistened. I plant at least a couple of seeds (more for the thyme, since they are really tiny), and as the plants begin to grow, I remove the weakest ones.

9.  Of course, you need water and nutrients. Aerogarden nutrient tablets are hard to get, too. I use filtered spring water, because my home well water has a lot of lime in it. I add 1 ounce of Grow Juice to 1 gallon of water. You can get the liquid nutrient at any store that has hydroponic gardening supplies. Do not use distilled water. Although you can mix up an extra gallon to top off the water when it gets low in the Aerogarden tank, it is probably good to totally replace the water/nutrient mixture in the tank from time to time. I do so after I've used 2 gallons.


10. Here is my modified Aerogarden planted for a bit of winter-grown fresh herbs on September 23, 2012. Water tank is filled, domes are in place until the plants start growing, and lights are plugged into a timer. I plugged in the Aerogarden base unit into a wall outlet and chose the setting for Herbs/Basil. The photo at the beginning of this page is from last January when the new plants were starting to grow.

Update, September 29, 2012. In less than a week the thyme and basil have sprouted.



10 comments:

  1. you can buy a adapter from me to use regular cfl bulbs in your aerogarden lamp hood
    look at my ebay items for sale
    my seller id is ctc33
    aerogarden bulb adapter

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, I checked out your page. I'll be shopping soon.

      Delete
  2. love the idea of using a sponge, why didn't I think of that? lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried using sponges like in this hack and the sponges became moldy and it was a waste of money and time.

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    2. they will grow algae and turn green/black, this is why the original seed pods have the cardboard/paper collar which prevents light. if you block the light from the sponge or other grow media, it will prevent algae growth

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  3. As an alternative

    http://aerogardener.boards.net/thread/8/aerogarden-sponge-alternative-frost-king

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  4. I would be cautious using a sponge for 2 reasons - 1) Sponges hold a lot of water, and may suffocate your roots, which also need plenty of oxygen. 2) The sponge material will break down from exposure to air, light, water, etc... as it breaks down over time, the micro fibers may be drawn up by the roots of your plant and assimilated in the plant material you intend to ingest. This is not really ideal, since most sponges are not made of natural materials.

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  5. I've been looking for an alternative to the pricey reordering. thank you so much.

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  6. Wonder if you even really need to use the plastic frames and simply put the sponge in the hole(?)

    ReplyDelete