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AeroGarden Smart Garden Review: hydroponics for dummies

The AeroGarden Harvest on a countertop beside the sink.
AeroGarden Smart Garden
MSRP $165.00
“The AeroGarden Smart Garden provides all the benefits of owning a garden, but none of the on-your-knees-in-the-dirt work.”
  • Makes it easy to grow nearly anything
  • Handles all the watering for you
  • Grow lights accelerate growth rates
  • Multiple varieties of plants to choose from
  • The Harvest model isn't compatible with an app
  • Can be somewhat difficult to clean

Do you fancy yourself a home cook and want fresh herbs at your fingertips? Are you looking for easy access to basil for pesto or to spruce up jarred marinara sauce? Then a smart garden might be just the thing you need — specifically, the AeroGarden Smart Garden.

This unit is designed to take all the guesswork out of growing plants. I’m pretty handy in the garden (in fact, I’ve got a potato crop that will be ready to harvest in about a week), but I’ve never been able to keep herbs alive. Chives, basil, rosemary, doesn’t matter — I will find a way to kill them.

I’m the guy that herbs check under the bed for.

The AeroGarden Harvest with a fresh set of seed pods.

But the AeroGarden made it possible for me to grow a truly impressive crop of herbs that I had on-hand for six months. I gathered multiple yields from it before the plants grew too large and needed to be transferred to the ground.

What’s in the box?

The AeroGarden Smart Garden comes in three different models: the Harvest, the Harvest 360, and the Harvest Slim. The primary difference between these models is the number of plants they support.

The AeroGarden is mostly assembled out of the box — you just fill it with water and plant feed, insert the seed pods, and let it work.

I have the Harvest model, which supports up to six different plants. The box includes everything you need to get started, including the pre-planted seed pods, the plant feed, and instructions.

Setup took only a few minutes. It’s mostly assembled out of the box — you just fill it with water and plant feed, insert the seed pods, and let it work.

How smart is the AeroGarden?

While there is an AeroGarden app, my version wasn’t compatible. Instead, I managed all basic functions through the onboard lights. There are three: a green light for plant food, a blue light for water, and a white light for turning the LEDs on or off.

The AeroGarden works on an internal timer. A series of LED grow lights on a telescoping, adjustable stand will shine down on the plants for 15 hours per day. Once you plug in the device, that sets the time for the lights to come on, but this can be adjusted as needed.

The AeroGarden Harvest with a full crop of plants.

I set mine up to shine mostly overnight, but be warned: these lights are bright. After all, they’re supposed to emulate sunlight. If you live in a studio apartment, this might not be the best option for you unless you can somehow safely block it.

An internal pump circulates water throughout the seed pods. When the water level gets low, the light will flash until you refill it to the appropriate level. At the start of the grow cycle, I only needed to refill the water about once per week. Near the end, when my plants were fully mature, it was nearly once per day.

You need to put in two capfuls of plant food about every two weeks. The fertilizer comes in a small bottle that is easy to tuck away behind the smart garden so you can keep easy track of it.

What can you grow?

You don’t plant your own seeds, although I guess you could with enough effort. AeroGarden sells pre-planted seed pods of different varieties. When I started out, I had Genovese basil, Thai basil, lavender, parsley, thyme, and dill.

There are more than 120 plant varieties to choose from between flowers, herbs, and actual vegetables. Prior to writing this, I removed all the herbs from my garden and planted a set of summer salad greens, but you can also plant cherry tomatoes, microgreens, bok choy, and so much more.

The basil grew almost too well and choked out the thyme.

After planting, you place a small plastic lid on top of the pod. This helps to protect the seed inside until it sprouts. You remove the lid once the sprout is tall enough to touch it.

Different plants grow at different rates. The dill I planted shot up faster than anything else, but the two varieties of basil quickly overtook it. In fact, they grew too well — I actually lost my thyme because the basil roots choked it out.

The seed pods have a germination guarantee. In fact, if it doesn’t germinate, you can contact AeroGarden for a replacement. I only had that happen with one of my plants, and that was because (I’m guessing) the seed fell out of the pod. Everything else grew, although the thyme didn’t survive.

Day-to-day operation

I like things that you can set up and forget about. For the most part, the AeroGarden is exactly that. It handled the watering and the fertilization of the plants. All I had to do was a bit of maintenance every few days. The smart garden lived on my countertop in my kitchen, making it perfect for reaching over to pinch off a few basil leaves for a spaghetti sauce or grabbing some lavender to make a tea with.

The AeroGarden Harvest on a countertop beside the sink.

It’s not smart in the traditional sense. Like I said, there was no app sending push notifications or growth reports to my phone — but it was certainly useful enough that it has held pride of place in the kitchen since I first set it up just after Christmas.

Our take

The AeroGarden Smart Garden is a great, affordably priced starting point for a smart garden. At only $165, it makes it easy to have fresh vegetables, herbs, or even flowers in a small space. It takes the guesswork out of growing, even for those with the blackest of thumbs.

Is there a better alternative?

Right now, we’re seeing an explosion of smart gardens. A half-dozen different options can be found between the Click and Grow Smart Garden, the Rise Garden, and the Edn Garden, among others. There are even options like the Gardyn that are as large as a bookshelf and can hold up to 30 plants. There are a lot of alternatives, but whether they are “better” or not is subjective.

How long will it last?

I’ve used the AeroGarden Harvest since just after Christmas and it’s still going strong. Individual plants can survive for a very long time if you take care of them through regular pruning, and the hardware includes a one-year limited warranty that addresses manufacturing defects.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely, especially if you don’t have your own garden. Living in an apartment, the AeroGarden gave me easy access to fresh herbs and really brought a bit of spice to my cooking (pun absolutely intended).

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Patrick Hearn
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