Thursday, May 28, 2009

How to replace an Aerogarden Pump

As I mentioned, my goal is to plant my three new seed packs, but I was slowed down because the pump went bad on my original Aerogarden unit.

I went to the official Aerogarden site and ordered an AeroGarden Replacement Pump (go to the Accessories section of the AeroGarden site and then click through the pages until you see "Replacement Pump".

[2014 Update: note that there are two models of replacement pump, depending on the model of Aerogarden you get. This is the old replacement pump (model 100623) that fits on the original Aerogarden with 7 pods (now known as "Aerogarden Classic 7"):

And this is the replacement pump for the Aerogarden ULTRA (model 200623). Note that they've replaced the metal contacts which tended to get corroded with a traditional plug.

If you have other models of Aerogarden (specifically the 3-pod and 6-pod Aerogardens), those use an "air pump" method that pumps oxygen through airstones; from my experience not as good a method as the pumps.]

Because I'm a sucker for anything Aerogarden, I also bought an Herb 'n Serve (it's a cool dressing and marinade maker where you throw in fresh herbs and oil/vinegar, and it does all the chopping and mixing for you, as well as a bottle), herb ice cube trays (where you can freeze chopped herbs in convenience 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon servings), and their "Master Chef Herb Guide", a beautiful cookbook chock full of some great-looking recipes--perfect for people like me, I mean, how much pesto can one man eat? The package came in the mail today.

So, the first step was pry open the cover underneath the pump. The plastic is wedged in there pretty good, so you need to use a flat-head screwdriver to pry the three tabs open. Don't worry about using too much force; the plastic is very thick,
The next step is to remove the old pump. Just pull up on the unit, and it'll pop out, then unthread the wire from the plastic. You'll see that the end of the cord is attached to the Aerogarden with a screw. Also, you'll see that it connects via a thick plastic tube, which was a little bit gunky. You can remove the tube using needle-nose pliers and clean it with warm, soapy water.

The next step was to take the new pump, make sure it was set to the "2 o'clock position", and then screw it in the same place the old was used to be. Warning: the plastic under this screw is very, very, very fragile. I made the mistake of putting just a tiny bit more pressure than I should have, and it shattered the top of the screw hole. Luckily, there seemed to still be enough to keep it in place, so it loos like it's still okay to use. But it's a shame that something I paid $150 for could easily be compromised by such a simple thing.

There's a filter which is a thin spongy square that separates the pump unit from getting too much of the gunk. For some reason, when you buy the replacement pump, Aerogarden doesn't include a new plastic tube nor filters, so you're stuck cleaning them (as much as I spend money there, I'm not going to spend $7.95 on a cheap piece of sponge). A little warm soapy water seemed to do the trick for this too.

After snapping the plastic cover back in place, it looked like this:

I tried plugging it in, and heard the nice rumbling sound of the motor, which told me the unit was as good as new, ready to go.

To my dismay, when I checked my other Aerogarden unit, the motor was not working either! Had I known that I would have bought two pumps. But in desperation, I tried cleaning the gunk that had formed over the metal contacts using a Brillo pad:

Happily, when I tested it, it seemed to start pumping okay again. But I can already tell this will be the next to go. Let's hope that I can get at least one garden out of it.

That said, stay tuned, as I will be planting the new gardens tomorrow!

Basil rising out of the ashes

So one thing I didn't do last week when I lamented the demise of my basil plants was take a picture of the two remaining basil plants. Here they are.

So, you can probably guess why I didn't show them before. I just didn't want to embarrass them.
But there is some good news. First, I can't see any signs of whiteflies anymore. Most books say that if you wipe out two successive generations of whiteflies, you're eradicated them. I can only keep my fingers crossed. Second, that pitiful stick you see to the left--I'm not sure if you can see it if you zoom in, but there are actually tiny little basil leafs growing from them already.

So, perhaps the basil will live another day after all.

As for the Aerogarden, I'm still waiting for my package from Aerogrow which contains the replacement pump. My goal is to plant them by the first week of June.

Gardener's Supply CompanyIn other news, one of my favorite gardening stores, Gardener.Com, is offering 15% off your order if you order $50 or more (just click on the banner to the right to go to their site). This might be a good opportunity for those of you who have Aerogardens to stock up on some Aerogarden essentials. Here are some examples of what they offer:

AeroGarden® Shelves
AeroGarden® 7 Pod Pro-100 Seed Kits
AeroGarden™ Pro 100 Replacement Bulbs, Set of 2
AeroGarden® 3-Pod Elite Grow Bulb
AeroGarden® 6-Pod Elite Grow Bulbs

Friday, May 22, 2009

Saying Goodbye to the Basil

It was kind of a sad day today in the Indoor Gardener World. Remember the basil that started off this blog, which we'd raised from nothing and then transplanted into pots? Even until today the plants were still going strong, but at the end of the day, the whitefly infestation was just so large that I had to say goodbye to them.

I did get the Whitefly Traps from Gardener's Supply Company, and they worked really well. They come as yellow cards wrapped in plastic. You unpeel the plastic, which reveals a super-sticky surfact. You then attach to a metal stake. Whiteflies are attracted to the yellow color, fly right into it, and get stuck there.

This picture is not for the squeamish, but here you can see it worked. Just after a day, there were a couple dozen whiteflies stuck to two traps I put out.

Unfortunately, when I examined the basil plants further, it seems I set the traps up too late. Every day after I shook the plants free of flies, I would come back the next day to see more of them. They say that a female whitefly can lay up to 200-400 eggs at a time, and I don't doubt it. When I looked at my precious basil against the light, I can see they already sucked the juice out of a lot of the leaves, leaving blotches. While it was probably still safe to wash and use for cooking, I was too repulsed to do that.

So, I took the final "Class Photo" of the Aerogarden Class of 2008 (this reminds me of the photo they took in the movie The Untouchables before everyone started getting killed :P

And then, I proceeded to start throwing out the plants. The Red Rubin basil had been one of my strongest plants, but it was the first to grow. Notice here how since I transplanted it into the pot, the root system grew very nicely.

Similar story for the globe basil

I also threw out the Thai basil, leaving me with two Genovese basil plants. I'll check tomorrow to see if the flies are back, and if so, those will have to go too. All in the name of ridding my apartment of all whiteflies before starting the new Aerogardens, which I've decided will be 1) Mesclun Mix, 2) Snow Peas, and 3) the Classic Aerogarden Herb Kit.

Needless to say, it's now personal. My basil is gone, and now I just have to see if the flies have gotten to my prize gardenia or other ornamental plants.

When I set up the new Aerogardens, I will be following these steps:

A) setting up whitefly sticky traps everywhere
B) setting the light to go on during the day and go off at night so as to not attract them during the dark hours
C) At the first sign of whiteflies, spraying with anything I can find. I've heard that soapy water works well. I also have a bottle of natural essential oils I got from Williams Sonoma that I can try out, although as natural as they are I'm still squeamish about using it on edible plants. Finally, there's an interesting recipe for garlic spray, which I hear whiteflies hate.

Here's a great page of suggestions from others who share this plight.

Wish me luck.

By the way, my plan to plant the Aerogardens is on temporary hold while I wait for a new replacement pump from AeroGrow (I bought it for $9.95 on the official Aerogarden site).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Transplanting Aerogarden Parsley into Containers

Remember the parsley Aerogarden I kept going? Well, the parsley was still alive after all these months, even with no nutrient tablets. In fact, the root systems had gotten impressively thick. Here's what it looked like:

And even though the plants in the living room had gotten whiteflies, it looks like they stayed away from the parsley. I noticed that the pump on the unit had stopped working (since this unit is a few years old, it's probably to be expected), and while the lights were dutifully going on and off every day, the water in the unit started to get stagnant. So I decided to pull the plug.
Interestingly, after letting the Aerogarden sit for months and months, it grew some odd deposits of salt and minerals on the outside. I'm not sure what the cause of this is, but it must have to do with the evaporation of what was in the nutrient tablets. The good news is, a quick rinse in the sink and the unit was as good as new.

Using the same technique I used to transplant my Aerogarden plants to containers back when I had the basil plants, I potted the parsley into containers.

I put them in the bedroom, far, far away from the living room and the whiteflies. I'm not sure if they'll last (you might recall my attempts to transplant sage didn't work), but I think the good, thick root systems will give them a fighting chance.
So now, all three Aerogardens are empty. I may need to find a replacement pump for the one unit, and of course I need to get those whitefly traps just to make sure the whiteflies don't proliferate and find their way back to the new plants I'm growing in the Aerogarden.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Whiteflies are back...and the war begins!

So, as faithful readers of this blog know, I suffered an infestation of whiteflies which cut short a promising lettuce Aerogarden and which tormented me during the tomato Aerogarden. Before planting a new series of Aerogardens, I have been waiting to give enough time for the whiteflies to be completely eradicated. The last thing I want is to start up a new Aerogarden and start the cycle all over again (with snowpeas and mesclun no less, plants which I suspect will be whitefly magnets)

Faithful readers of this blog will also know that in the living room, far far away from the kitchen that the whiteflies took over, I have my houseplants. I have a money tree, a gardenia, a spaphff..spaphiff..spapfiff...a peace plant, and of course my beloved basil plants from the original Basil Aerogarden which started this blog. 

To my dismay, when I watered the basil plants yesterday, I was pruning the white flowers off the tops of one of my basil plant, and one of the flowers flew away. It didn't take me long to realize that it was a whitefly. I was sad to see that the whiteflies had made it all the way across my apartment by now. And I am mad. Spittin' and Stinkin' mad. 

This means war. 

The first thing I did was to do what I should have done a long time ago. I went to the Gardener's Supply Company to buy Whitefly Traps. Now I admit, I am skeptical that these will help, but I'm desperate. And the reviews on Gardener's Supply Company seem pretty good. I think the consensus is that while the traps don't always clear the entire problem, at least it helps control it. 

The better solution, if these were outdoor plants, would be to get a bag of ladybugs, but of course for indoor plants, the one nastier thing than a whitefly infestation is a ladybug infestation.

I will also take the advice Corinne posted as a comment a few months ago and try to fill a jar with sweet stuff.

I didn't think whiteflies went after basil (they seemed to like the parsley much better), but I guess when you're a starving whitefly you don't get particular. 

As for the basil, I will probably end up making one last glorious batch of basil pesto, and then ending the basil plants that I had raised since they were young happy seeds. 

Wish me luck--and join me in the first to eradicate whiteflies from the world, or at least from my apartment. It's only once I know the whitefly situation is under control that I can start the new Aerogardens. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday May 3, 2009 Amazon Gold Box Deal

Mother's Day is coming up next week, and if you're checking this blog out on Sunday May 3 (and who isn't) here's a great gift idea for Mom.

Amazon has a Gold Box Deal today only with the best price I've seen yet on an Aerogarden.

For $99.99, you get the silver AeroGarden Classic with 7 herb pods AND a free "Herb and Serve" dressing and marinade maker. I admit I am jealous because I paid $50 more and didn't get the Herb and Serve.

Just click here and enjoy! Today's Gold Box.

If you missed this deal, don't worry, I'll post new ones I stumble across here. And you can always get flowers for Mom this year! :)