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Urban gardening is on the rise and I’m perched on the front seat of that bandwagon! I’ve always dreamed of having fresh herbs at my fingertips year-round and I’m tired of high grocery store prices. I remember my mother’s extensive herb garden, but living in the city, I just don’t have the space. Hydroponics is the answer. Luckily there are a number of different all-in-one, often smart tech-based micro-garden products on the market. These items sport a high powered UV spectrum grow light for year-round gardening, a built-in hydroponic system for ease and convenience, and a small footprint designed to fit in just about any space in your home.
We needed something that was going to fit right on our countertop, so we tried out the Aerogarden Bounty. I now have fresh basil, dill, and mint growing out my ears! I’m so excited to share how it went, what we loved, what we don’t love so much, and whether this system is a must-buy!
What is an Aerogarden?
Aerogarden is one of the most popular brands of compact hydroponic gardening systems, and in our opinion, it’s also one of the best hydroponic systems out there. Each model sports a full spectrum LED lighting system that enables plants to grow indoors year-round, regardless of the climate and seed growing kit which includes seedpods, nutrients (miracle-gro Aerogarden plant food), and instructions. You are able to choose from several seedpod sets including salad greens, cascading petunias, and heirloom cherry tomatoes and gourmet herbs.
If you’re not familiar with hydroponic gardening, it’s a great no-dirt, no-mess method. To put it very simply, a hydroponic system continually runs water through the plant’s roots and a high nutrient plant food is fed into the water to replace the nutrients found in soil. Aerogarden boasts that their systems grow clean produce (free of pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs) in a super-fast, hassle-free, and compact manner. No green thumb required.
To put this to the test, we chose to start with the Aerogarden Bounty and gourmet herb seed kit.
There are a few different options when shopping for your Aerogarden. You will see names like Aerogarden Harvest Elite, Basic, or Tuscan. These mostly refer to the color or style so don’t let this confuse you. What it comes down to, the true differences between the models are esthetic and size. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
Keep in mind that each of these comes with an adjustable arm that allows you to change up the height as needed. So the height listed represents the arm extended to its highest point. The “grow height” is approximately the height you can expect your plants to reach at their peak.
This is the smallest of the systems, made for growing only 3 plants. This isn’t a bad choice if you are looking to grow herbs or salad greens for a single person.
- 10W full spectrum LED light
- 11″ wide and 15.5″ tall (when grow light arm is fully extended)
- 10″ grow height
The next step up in size is the Aerogarden Harvest. This unit grows up to 6 plants.
- 20W full spectrum LED light
- 10.5″ wide and 17.5″ tall
- 12″ grow height
Aerogarden Harvest 360
The only difference between the Harvest and Harvest 360 is, you guessed it, the 360 model is round. So it may fit into your space more compactly. It also grows up to 6 plants.
- 20W full spectrumLED light
- 9″ wide (round base) and 17.5″ tall
- 12″ grow height
The Bounty, which we purchased, holds up to 9 plants and is a great midsize option.
- 30W full spectrum LED light
- 17.25″ wide and 34″ tall
- 34″ grow height
If you’re really going to go for it and want to keep your family in salads daily, the Aerogarden Farm could be your best bet. This is the largest system and while it can fit on a large countertop, floor placement is also an option. Each unit holds 24 plants and utilizes two separate motorized 60W grow lights, so you are able to easily adjust the height of your light for the need of your plants. The Farm Aerogarden comes in three different heights, each with a base width of 36″.
- Farm – 24″ tall with a grow height of 12″.
- Farm Plus – 34″ tall with a grow height of 24″.
- Farm XL – 46″ tall with a grow height of 36″.
When you purchase the Farm model, you are able to choose two seed pod kits to fill the 24 plant holes. You can also purchase a frame that allows for stacking multiple units. Again, with the Farm Aerogarden, you can create an indoor farming operation as massive as you like. Fill an entire wall with hydroponic systems… why not?
Our Thoughts: Aerogarden Review
So we chose the Aerogarden Bounty. I’m going to go ahead and say that I’m giving it 5 stars for quality and convenience. Thankfully it didn’t require much effort from me to produce a bumper crop of herbs. Let’s break it down:
Aerogarden Bounty Quality
For the most part, I would say that we truly got the quality that we paid for. This is on the higher end of countertop hydroponic systems.
The only quality issue I ran into was mostly my fault. During set up I dropped the LED light arm and the USB connecting cable popped inside the arm. It was a major process to try to get it out and I ended up using super glue to keep it from falling back in continually because the piece meant to hold it in place was broken. That said, while it broke pretty easily, I don’t think it would have happened if I had dropped it on carpet instead of hardwood. So, I’m calling it equal parts user error and build quality issue.
I’m not sure that I could have asked for a more user-friendly setup. The system arrived in three major pieces, the bowl and base (which arrived already attached), the arm, the light, and the plug. Putting these together was pretty self-explanatory and I did it without the instructions.
Planting was comparably simple. The seed pod kit instructions walk you through seed pod placement and then the touchscreen control panel makes the system set up pretty foolproof. Essentially, just press “quick plant” and the LED screen will walk you through the setup with prompts. This includes, connecting to your wifi, and setting your light and nutrient schedule based on the type of plants you are growing. You can also connect and set up through your smartphone with the Aerogarden App.
Gardening Results With Aerogarden Bounty
I had amazing results, especially with my dill, Genovese basil and Thai basil. I have to harvest almost every other day to keep it from taking over the entire grow space and I’m making all the pesto that I can.
These plants grew about 2X faster in the hydroponic system than they usually do in dirt. I’m excited to try salad greens and tomatoes next time to see if the Aerogarden Bounty can truly grow anything.
Aerogarden Bounty Fertilizer & Seed Pods
Aerogarden offers a germination guarantee and will replace your seedpods if they do not produce. Each seedpod is labeled with its germination time. This time frame can range from 6 – 21 days and is different for each plant. It was so helpful to know what to expect from each plant.
I’m happy to say that all of our seeds began sprouting within their given time frame.
The Not So Good:
While they did all germinate, some of our herbs have more or less plant growth than others. For example, the basil just won’t quit but the chives, have had a very small yield. I have only been able to harvest them twice in the two months that they have been growing.
There is also the cost of replacing your seed pods and plant food. Because they are a specialized shape, you really do have to purchase these again from Aerogarden for best results. However, you have several buying options. Plant pods can be found at many stores as well as on Amazon. Some include seeds and others allow you to buy seeds separately, making your garden a bit more customizable, like these Grow Anything Seed Pods. Because of the convenience, it’s not altogether a bad thing.
Aerogarden Bounty Grow Light
The Bounty model comes with a 60 Watt, full-spectrum LED grow light which, as advertised, did deliver super-fast growth.
I will say, this light is quite bright. It can fill my entire kitchen with indirect light. While this may be a downside for some, I actually love it. For one thing, the light is a very natural color, like that coming in the windows. Plus, all of my house plants that love indirect light are thriving because of it.
Maintenance Of Aerogarden Bounty
Probably the best part about growing with the Aerogarden Bounty is the simplicity. I never have to guess what my plants need because the system prompts me. When the water is low, the LED screen will show a red alert saying, “add water” and the fill line inside the bowl is clearly marked. The same occurs when it’s time to add plant food. These alerts will also appear on your smartphone if you connect via the app. I especially loved the “vacation mode” setting. This will cause the system to use less water for a time, so you can be gone and not refill it.
After set up, the LED light runs on an automatic timer and the water pump continually moves the nutrients through your root system, so there is zero-day to day hassle and maintenance for me.
Looking for more information on nutrients? Check out our guide on organic hydroponic nutrients today!
The Not So Good:
You may need to clean your water pump. Watch that your roots do not overtake the bowl to the point of clogging your water pump or that nutrient residue builds up inside the pump. Aerogarden recommends that you clean your pump between growing cycles or if you start to hear it making a not so good sound.
This seems like a vague standard to me, and I wish the system would alert me of an issue instead of making me rely on my own, admittedly flawed, judgment. I have had my system for about two months and this has not been an issue yet. Here are some guidelines for cleaning your pump, in case this happens to you.
Also, Aerogarden recommends that you change out the water in your bowl once a month. This can be quite a hassle, especially if you are trying to protect your existing plants at the same time. The bowl is very heavy and hard to move when filled with water. Of course, Aerogarden recommends using a specialized Rinse and Refill Syphon, which you can purchase separately.
Our Rating: Aerogarden Bounty Overview
The Aerogarden Bounty is getting 5 stars from me. This is based on the convenience and simplicity of the system. Cleaning and maintenance of the system are only occasional inconveniences, while the plant yield is a daily benefit. It’s 100% worth the minimal amount of work.
I love the foolproof system with its maintenance alerts and gardening tips. I truly feel that anyone can use this unit with great results, no matter their level of expertise.
The price was right. At $299, it’s a great mid-range option for the casual grower. I’ve consumed enough fresh basil for me to say, personally, it was worth the cost. However, a more expensive system might have better yield all around. I do wish that all our herbs were performing as well as the basil.
I’m also super picky as far as esthetic goes and this system fits into my modern and minimalist kitchen very well. At 17.27″x34″ it does not overwhelm my small space. If I were to order again, I might go for a stainless steel option, and I love that Aerogarden offers that variety.
Is Aerogarden Worth It?
So, good on you, Aerogarden. With a variety of price points to match your budget, Aerogarden is a great choice for low maintenance, small space gardening. Whether you are just getting started in hydroponics or very familiar, I would recommend the Aerogarden Bounty, as well as its other models:
- AeroGarden Bounty – $299
- AeroGarden Harvest 360 – $99.99
- Aerogarden Harvest Elite 360 – Platinium – $139.99
- Aerogarden Harvest Elite – White – $151.99