Saturday, June 22, 2013

AeroGarden Ultra Problem and Resolution

Interestingly, I got an email from Aerogarden that pointed out a design flaw in the AeroGarden Ultra. If you have an Ultra and didn't get this email, you might want to contact AeroGarden to find out more.

Long story short, if you happen to overfill your AeroGarden Ultra, you run the risk of shorting out your AeroGarden.

Those of you with AeroGarden Ultras will notice a problem right away--the way the unit is designed, you pour water into a corner of the unit that's covered by a rubber flap. The problem is that it's hard enough to lift the flap and see under it very clearly, but it's also usually so dark you can't really see inside this corner. I know a lot of times I'll be pouring water in and before I know it it'll be too much and water will be spilling on the kitchen floor (thank heavens that so far there hasn't been any shocking moments!)

In their email, AeroGarden does a pretty good job of explaining the potential problem in detail. They also encourage AeroGarden Ultra owners to send away for a free upgrade. The problem is, they don't really explain what the upgrade does, only that you'll be "upgrading your base plate". What the "base plate" at the bottom has to do with the "pump cord port" that's at the top of the unit (and that can get compromised with overwatering) is anyone's guess.

In any case, I placed my order and I'll be providing more details once I get it. In the meantime, here's the contents of the original email I got from AeroGarden:

Our quality control engineers are constantly testing and re-testing all of our products, and they just told us something I want to pass on to you: In cases of massive or repeated overfilling or spilling of your AeroGarden ULTRA, water could pool and short out your AeroGarden, causing it to stop working. In very rare cases, this might also result in overheating some components. We don't want this to happen to you!

The most important step you can take is to be sure that you don't overfill your AeroGarden. I know it sounds obvious, but please take care not to overfill your water bowl. Do not fill past the fill line mark inside your water port (see diagram #2). Filling past this line can result in leaking through the pump cord port on the back of the AeroGarden (see diagram #3).

The simple Upgrade Kit we've designed can make your Garden more resistant to accidental overfill or overspill. We recommend that you choose one of these two free options:

Option 1) Upgrade your AeroGarden ULTRA base plate.
 We'll send you the essentials: a new, custom-fitted durable part, plus easy-to-follow instructions to switch out the plate. It will take less than 5 minutes, will not affect the look or the growth of your Garden in any way, and best of all… it's completely free! To order your ULTRA Upgrade Kit, click here or call 1-800-476-9669.
Option 2) Have us upgrade the base plate. Call our Customer Service department at 1-800-476-9669 for instructions on how to return the base (only the base please!) of your AeroGarden ULTRA. We'll issue a pre-paid label for return, upgrade the cover plate, and rapidly send it back to you to get your Garden growing again in no time. That's all there is to it! We strongly suggest that you always take care not to overfill your AeroGarden, and we also recommend choosing either Option 1 or Option 2 for a long-term upgrade to your AeroGarden ULTRA. We're happy to help in any way we can.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The end of this generation of indoor gardens...

So, it's been a while since I posted on the blog. Wait'll you hear this one. But just be forewarned--this post is not for the squeamish.

My AeroGardens were both doing pretty well, despite the unpleasantness I described earlier. The herb garden was doing well below; I decided to let the thyme, sage, and oregano continue to bloom on the Ultra, while on top the tomato plant was growing voraciously, although despite my almost incessant "pollinating", flowers and fruits were simply not growing. I did manage the harvest about three red tomatoes, but that's about it.

I've lost track of how many times I've tried to grow tomatoes in the Aerogarden. I do know I've spent close to $100 on seed kits and have harvested about 20 tomatoes across all of my attempts, meaning that I've effectively paid $5 per tomato, not counting the electricity costs. Long story short, I've concluded that the Tall Aerogardens just aren't suitable for tomatoes. Maybe in some controlled environment you can get a yield of hundreds of them, but I've decided that it's just not worth the effort anymore. Maybe when Y2K hits and I'll need to grow my own food supply I'll think about it again, but otherwise I'll just buy my tomatoes at the local farmer's market.

Sadly, the whiteflies continued to infest the herbs. I put those yellow sticky traps on and they'd be filled with dozens of them every day. It became a daily ritual of shaking the leaves, using the Dyson handheld to vacuum up the ones that flew out, and relying on the sticky traps to catch the rest. But it was a losing battle.

The good news is that the battle finally ended. The bad news is how it did.

One day, my wife started noticing little black specks on her smartphone. I didn't think too much of it at first. But then we noticed them on the kitchen counter, and then all over the appliances. There were a few at first, but then there were dozens, and then hundreds! :( After a quick Google search, I concluded that these were bird mites, as a bird had built a nest inside our walls a few weeks earlier and evidently once the birds are gone the mites start commuting to try to find other sources of food, which meant us.

The mites quickly took over our kitchen, where I was treated to multiple infestations of whiteflies and black bird mites.

Happily, after suffering about two weeks, we did get all the mites exterminated, but not before I had to put an end to both Aerogardens.

I do have some extra seed kits lying around, which I'll plant in a few weeks, but in the meantime I'm going to enjoy a few weeks of critter-free existence.