AeroGarden by AeroGrow
My third favorite seed starting method would have to be the AeroGarden. It is by far the most expensive seed starter I own. I bought it one cold January afternoon in 2007. I had the flu and was stuck in bed for days. Have you seen the Aerogarden infomercial?
It was cold, dark and snowy outside. I was sick and vaguely delirious. All I remember was images of crisp lettuce and fresh herbs that could be growing on my kitchen counter. Out came the plastic and 3 days later our UPS driver Sean was knocking on my front door.
The Aerogarden is a airponic or aeroponic system where the roots grow without soil. The are kept moist by the near constant flow of nutrient-rich water in the base of the unit. The seeds are in a small sponge that has water flowing over it when the unit is running. Hydroponics is similar but uses pebbles or rock wool to support the roots.
The Aerogarden company sells ready-made kits that will give you cherry tomatoes, Italian herbs, flowers and other assorted plants and vegetables. You can also start your own in either starter sponges or a planter block similar to the Bio Dome block.
I find that the kits that they sell work well. But when I used the planter block I choose my own seeds. Some of my choices did not appreciate the very wet conditions. Dwarf basil sprouted quickly and grew well but red basil (Red Rubin) had a very low germination rate. Only about 50% of the sponges (GrowPods) sprouted and the plants, while in the unit, never developed past 2 true leaves.
After transplantation into small plastic pots of potting mix, they were very slow to grow and are just now getting good red color. They have 6 leaves compared to their dwarf basil cousins, transplanted at the same time, who look like tiny shrubs.
Transplanting is more difficult than the Bio Dome because the roots hang down out of the block into the water below, about 4 inches. They get all tangled together. Also the sponges are tiny. So there I am with a wet mass of plant roots trying to push the sponges up through the block with my pinky while holding the rest of the roots back. Its like Plant Twister.
I would not transplant these seedling directly into the garden. They are too small and have such long roots that I think transplant shock would be a problem.
The original Aerogarden seed starting block holds 66 tiny GrowPods (seed sponges impregnated with nutrients). Putting aside the cost of the unit itself and a GrowPods seed starting kit, it currently costs approximately $20 for a refill pack of 75. That is just about 26 cents each. Don't forget to account for the cost of electricity to run the unit.
I do like it for the fresh lettuce and dill in January though!
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