Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Alternative Aerogarden Sponges and Pods to Grow Your Own Veggies and Herbs

For the last few years I've been growing everything in my Aerogarden--herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, flowers, It's been a great experience, but one frustrating thing to me is that all too often the price of the replacement seed pods and its are sometimes so expensive that they wipe out any cost savings I might have gotten by growing my own plants indoors.

So something I've started doing is growing my own seeds.

Aerogarden sells its own complete set of grow sponges, grow domes, grow baskets, and grow labels on Amazon for over $55.00. It's the most complete set you can get, but it comes at a price. You get 50 replacement pods but the price comes out to over $1 a pod (without seeds). You can also buy their Grow Anything Kit that comes with enough for 5 pods and liquid plant food for a little over $10 (again, convenient but more than $2 a pod)

If you're the type of person who just wants to get it done and don't mind paying a little extra for convenience, this is a great kit to get. On the other hand, if you're like me and a little more frugal (read: cheap), here's way you can save a ton of money and achieve the same results.

First, be sure to SAVE your plastic grow domes when you use an Aerogarden seed kit. It's tempting to throw them away once your plants outgrow them, but throw them in a drawers.

Second, once you've retired an old Aerogarden crop, throw away the growth sponge which likely has is filled with roots by now. But save the the grow basket and sanitize it using hot water and soap. If the label is still in good shape you can save that as well, but if not it's easy enough to achieve the same effect (which is to keep the seeds dark and hydrated while germinating) using a little piece of aluminum foil or a thick piece of paper cut to fit.

Then, you need to buy replacement grow sponges. AeroGarden sells a pack of 50 of those for $17.95, as well as a pack of 70 plus liquid plant food for $24.95. There's also a seller who sells alternative pods for $5.99 for 25, but when you factor in shipping costs you're only saving $2,36, so I'd go with the Aerogarden brand.

By doing a little recycling, you can get your per-pod cost down to only 36 cents a pod, plus keep just a little more plastic out of the landfills.

Finally, you need to go out and get seeds. Since you have a lot of pods to play with now's your time to experiment. You're going to want to find plants that grow from a single stalk and don't get too big too fast. The consensus out there is that these types of plants will enjoy the most success:

  • Herbs (of course)
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers like bell peppers and jalapeno peppers
  • Leafy greens like kale, spinach, arugula, watercress, and Swiss chard
  • Cucumbers
I'd also add peas and beans to the list. Woody plants (like rosemary) won't work, nor will plants that spread (like strawberries) unless you use the Grow Tray with the organic coconut material--but after my strawberry experience I don't think I'm going back to that for a while.

If you're in the market for seeds, a perennial best-selling vendor on Amazon is Zziggysgal, who sells organi certified non-GMO seeds, including a set of 12 herbs (Italian Parsley, Thyme, Cilantro, Sweet Basil, Dill, Oregano, Sweet Marjoram, Chives, Summer Savory, Garlic Chives, Mustard, and Culinary Sage), all of which will do great in an Aerogarden.

They also have another set of 12 veggies. If you have a tall Aerogarden, the ones that'll grow best indoors are Red Bell Pepper, Golden Yellow Tomatoes, Snap Peas, Cherry Tomato, Lettuce, and possibly Zucchini. They also include in the set Yellow Squash, Spinach, Bush Beans, and Beets which will probably be best grown outdoors or in a container garden. Or you could do both--grow your crops outdoors but experiment with indoor gardening so you'll have fresh crops throughout the winter.

You can get replacement plant food on Amazon as well that'll last you for a good long time and will do wonders whether you grow herbs or veggies.

The fun of it is in the experimentation. Try everything and see what works :)