Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Aerogarden Ultra with LED lights

I do have an update on my Aerogarden Chinese cabbage (including what the heck it is--spoiler alert--unlike what I wrote last time it's not Napa cabbage). But in the meantime I just noticed that there's actually a new Aerogarden in town that looks even better than the Aerogarden Ultra.

It's called the Aerogarden Ultra LED, and it retails for $349.95. To check it out, visit Amazon. This is basically the same as the Aerogarden Ultra, complete with the ability to support tall planets and the handy "control panel". The difference is that instead of traditional grow lights, they use LED lights. LED lights are a great solution because they draw less power, don't burn out nearly as often, and have a "coolness factor" that the regular florescent bulbs don't have.

As you can see, there's a "space age" quality about the Aerogarden Ultra LED. It sort of reminds me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. According to Aerogrow, the red, white and blue LEDs aren't just there for show (or for patriotic reason), but actually are scientifically proven to stimulate fast growth (white), bigger yields (blue) and more flowers (red).

 Since it's been less than a year since I plopped down over $200 for the Aerogarden Ultra, I can't see myself buying this new unit for a while. But if you're in the market for the top-of-the-line Aerogarden, this new one is definitely a huge step forward. From a cost savings perspective, it's about a wash--you pay $100 extra for this unit, which could pay for a couple years of replacement grow lights. But if you want the newest and coolest technology, this is the way to go. 

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, most reviews of the Aerogarden LED have been overwhelmingly positive. The one recurring problem has been that early adopters of the unit reported that their clock would run fast and jump ahead, sometimes by minutes, sometimes by hours. Evidently this was a weird situation where the design of the hood and the LED lights caused interference with the clock, which of course wreaked all kinds of havoc with germination and feeding schedules. Aerogarden has since come up with an updated design, and has been offering a replacement hood for Aerogarden ULTRA LED users free of charge. If you've been affected and haven't been contacted by Aerogrow yet, be sure to call them at 1-800-476-9669 and ask for a replacement hood.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chinese Cabbage Doing Well, Other Herbs Not So Much

So, remember those pods I planted a month ago? Here's how they're doing now.

 Here's the Chinese Cabbage growing in the Aerogarden Deluxe:

As you can see, it's growing amazingly well. I was actually curious about what "Chinese Cabbage" was, as the Aerogarden site isn't too specific--there are at least two varieties of plants that go by that name, one being "pekinensis" (a.k.a. napa cabbage or white cabbage) and the other bring "chinensis" (a.k.a. bok choy).

From what the leaves look like, it's pretty clear this is napa cabbage, which is great for us because we use it in cooking all the time. It's great stir-fried with pork, for example, as well as great for making dumplings, spring rolls, soup.

Hopefully the garden will produce enough for us to cook all of them. I'll of course post recipes and pictures as I start harvesting (which unfortunately I have to figure out how to do, as the documentation from Aerogarden doesn't really help). And I really, really hope that I don't have to deal with bugs, at least for a while. Here's the other Aerogarden with the herbs.

What a difference. While the basil is doing well, as expected, none of other other pods are growing. And no, this time I don't want to deal with the trouble of trying to ask for replacement pods. I suppose this is par for the course with Aerogarden--some batches of seeds are just sitting around longer than others, so whether a pod will grow or not can be hit-or-miss. I attempted to salvage these pods by clearing out the bad seeds and the fuzzy mold that invariably grows around them and planting new seeds. We'll see if that helps.

 In other news, I got an email the other day that Miracle Gro is now an investor in AeroGrow. They didn't buy them outright, it seems, but they invested enough that all Aerogarden products are now being co-branded with the Miracle Gro logo. AERO's stock price has shot up to about $2.20 a share, small consolation for me who in 2011 exuberantly bought a bunch of shares at $5 and took a big loss when the stock became a penny stock--but good news for the future of the company--and for people who bought when it was a penny stock (yes, I know, if if's and but's were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Xmas).