Monday, June 1, 2009

Starting over with three new Aerogardens

And so, the day arrived. So far with my Aerogardens, I've planted the standard herb kit, and since starting this Indoor Gardening blog, have planted the International Basil, the Cherry tomatoes, the Romaine Lettuce, and the Holiday Herb Kit. If I had to give letter grades to each of the seed kits, here's what the report card would look like:

1) Standard Herb Kit - A
2) International Basil - A+
3) Cherry Tomatoes - D
4) Romaine Lettuce - C
5) Holiday Herbs - B

So, the Aerogarden shines with herbs. With veggies, I still haven't found one that's blown me away. The Cherry Tomatoes didn't really start to take off until long after the manual said they should. And of course, I was not prepared for the infestation of whiteflies that loved the veggies. But live and learn, if all goes will with the next three, I may reward the folks at AeroGrow by investing in the attachment arm to turn my humble little AeroGarden Classic into a monster Aerogarden Elite so I can plant full size tomatoes.

But first things first. Yesterday, I planted a new cast of characters. I'm leaving on a business trip for the next 10 days, so my plan is to plan the seed pods, leave for my trip, and return to a bunch of full grown plants. That's the plan anyway.

As I mentioned, I decided to go with new seed kits this go-around. I feel like I'm in a sitcom spin-off with the same sets but a new cast of characters, like "What's Happening Now" was to "What's Happening".

The new seed kits are:

  • Mesclun. This is something I learned. When you get a salad in a restaurant, and the leaves don't look like light green leaves (iceberg lettuce) nor dark green leaves (romaine lettuce), then chances are you have Mesclun. Mesclun looks a lot like leaves you'd expect to find on a maple or oak tree, but they're edible and chock full of nutrition.
  • Snow peas. Having been burned a little by the tomatoes, I'm not necessarily holding out too much hope for this. If I can harvest one stir-fry dish, I'll be happy.
  • Herb kit redux. Old reliable. I figure even if the Mesclun and Snow peas don't perform, at least I'll have my good old set of thyme, basil, purple basil, parsley, mint, chives, and dill to use.

Step 1 was replacing the burnt-out grow light on one of the units. From time to time when I see them go on sale at Amazon or Aerogarden.Com, I'll buy one, so I had a set ready. It took all of 30 seconds, just take it out of the box and plug the light in.

After a thorough washing of all the Aerogarden units, I once again put them onto the shelves and plugged them in. It felt like one of those movies where they discover an old, abandoned submarine, flip the switches on, and the lights flicker on and the engines start to rumble. We were back in business.

I decided to plant the herbs first. I'm an old pro at this by now, so after filling the tub with water, I plopped the seed pods in, put the plastic hood on, put the starter nutrients in, and my garden was planted in under 2 minutes.

Snow peas were next. There are a couple interesting things about this package. First of all, the seed pods were the standard seed pods but interestingly, the seeds were, well, dried peas. And they sat on top of the sponge material instead of inside them.
Watching these makes me sort of amazed at how the good Lord created these. They can sit there for weeks and not to anything, and then when you put them around water, they'll start growing. (In fact, within only one day of planting my pods, I could see roots forming!)

Two other interesting things. The nutrient tablets came individually wrapped. This was a great idea, as when they stick them all together in one bag (like with the herb kit), they start evaporating and sticking to each other.

Also the package came with green twisty things, which hopefully I'll discover a use for in a few weeks.

Here's what the peas looked like. Notice that I took my yellow whitefly traps and stuck them into the Aerogarden unit. This time I'm not taking chances. If the critters want to make their way over, this time I'm putting up a fight.

Finally, it was time for the mesclun. I freaked when I turned this one on, and the motor stopped running on it too :( But I scraped off some of the gunk that had accumulated on the metal contacts, placed a little spacer underneath the unit, and it started going again. Let's hope it keeps up.

The one fear I have is that my plan will backfire--the seed pods all say that the seeds will sprout in 6-10 days (the length of my trip), but even after one day, I saw plants coming up out of the mesclun, and like I said, the peas started rooting. I just hope I don't come back to find them choking under the plastic hoods. That'd end this blog very quickly.

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