If you’re like me, you’ve probably purchased a bushel of cilantro with a dozen recipes in mind only to watch it slowly wilt before tossing it in the garbage. During a visit to my cousin's house in suburban Boston (a home much larger than my 300 square foot Manhattan studio), I couldn’t help but marvel at her extensive hydroponic set-up. She owned multiple AeroGardens, the brand leader in the hydroponic gardens space, that sprouted bushels of herbs, earthy, luscious greens and other veggies that basked in their LED lights in the dead of December. I was delighted to watch her casually snip off just the dill needed for bagels with lox in the morning, or Genovese basil in the evenings for the pizzas she cooked in her Ooni Koda pizza oven. When it was time for her to visit me in the city for my birthday, she knew a 6-pod standard AeroGarden Harvest would be the perfect gift.
For city dwellers with no outdoor space or people who live alone, fresh, quality herbs are a fleeting summer delight or a reminder to clean out your fridge. With an indoor garden like the AeroGarden I was gifted, or similar models from brands like iDOO and Gardyn, you can have several healthy herbs right at your fingertips for cooking, and cut down on food waste: a win-win for eternal plant killers and burgeoning chefs alike.
The AeroGarden Harvest is a compact, indoor hydroponic garden that uses 20-watt LED lights to help herbs, veggies, or flowers grow without any sun or soil. Each garden arrives with seedling kits (in my case, I received an herb blend of Genovese basil, Thai basil, curly Parsley, Dill, Thyme, Mint and a 3-ounce bottle of the company’s patented plant nutrients). Assembly of the AeroGarden is easy, just place the seed pods in the garden, fill the body of the machine, add the recommended plant food and let the LED lights do the rest of the work. A simple, touch-sensor control panel will indicate when you should add more water or plant food, and the 20 watt LED grow lights do the rest.
AeroGarden sells over a hundred seed pods or starting kits, from the aforementioned herbs to cascading petunias, to bok choi. Though your seedlings will thrive in any environment, I placed my AeroGarden in my windowsill next to my potted plants, as watching the 6 seedlings grow at once was part of the fun. As your veggie darlings grow taller within mere days, you can adjust the height of the automatic LED lights to as far as 12 inches to give your plants room to flourish. No pruning (unless you’re cooking, of course), no watering, no anxiety. If anything, the sound of the circulating water is reminiscent of a koi pond. If you’re sensitive to light or sound, though, you may want to store your AeroGarden away from your workspace or bed.
The one thing to consider with the Harvest is that its compact size can be both a blessing and a curse. I was so excited to grow all six herbs at once, I didn’t realize it might get a little crowded. Investing in a larger AeroGarden system, which we cover below, is one solution. The other may be to take it slow as you’re starting out, planting (or more accurately, placing) your herbs at different times so they reach their maximum height at different times.
Other hydroponic gardens to consider
If you’re ready to start indoor gardening, you could start small with the AeroGarden Harvest, or its stainless steel counterpart, the AeroGarden Harvest Elite.
The Elite comes at a higher price tag, but functions the same as the standard Harvest. Your herbs will be just as bountiful, but its sleeker design is better suited to a more modern space, or kitchen with stainless steel appliances. Unlike the touch-sensor control panel on the standard model, the Elite offers a LCD digital display and is Wifi-enabled. Additional features like the “vacation mode” setting, “plant food countdown timer,” and “days since planted” timer are helpful perks, but won’t fundamentally change how quickly your plants grow.
If you’re a serious gardener with a penchant for design, the Gardyn Home Kit 2.0 may be worth the investment. The AI-powered hydroponic garden allows you to grow 30 plants along two tall columns with no dirt or mess. In fact, as your veggies reach full bloom thanks to the energy-efficient water pump and LED lights, the Home Kit looks more like a decor statement piece, or eye-catching houseplant.
If you want to grow more seedlings than the AeroGarden Harvest, but spend less upfront, the iDOO Hydroponics Growing System may be a good option. The machine has a similar set-up to the Harvest, but has double the capacity, with room for 12 seedlings for $30 less. The water circulates on an automated schedule, but the iDOO lacks sensors indicating when the garden needs additional water or plant food. To check, one would have to look at the see-through water level.