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If you’ve read my review on the Aerogarden hydroponics system, you’ll know that I’m a big fan. It’s a very user-friendly way to learn about gardening.
A lot of people complain that they’re expensive, but personally, I think it’s the most cost-effective way of getting into growing your own food because you get everything you need in one kit.
I got mine from Amazon. It’s the only place you can get them in the UK (as far as I’m aware).
As someone with a long, colourful, and expensive history of hyperfixations, the set-and-forget-it nature of the Aerogarden alone is worth the price tag. Imagine how much a total novice would have to spend on starting a vegetable garden. The cost of tools alone would cover the price of an Aerogarden, and you don’t get all muddy.
THAT BEING SAID
Aerogardens aren’t perfect though. It’s the only brand of hydroponics, er, box I’ve tried, but a quick gander of the reviews shows that it gives best bang for its buck – but the complaints and issues people have are so uniform that you’d think Aerogarden could sort it out.
1 – Pests are a pain
This is not an Aerogarden issue per se – it’s not their fault that aphids exist. I do, however, LOVE their quaint instructions for getting rid of them.
I get it, I really do. Aerogarden can’t tell people to go around dousing their basil in bug spray because they could do some real harm. I do think there’s a balance though.
They recommend a peppermint castille soap solution, which is fine, but they kind of (accidentally on purpose I suspect) give the impression that it’s a one-and-done solution, which it absolutely is not. You’ll need to entirely dismantle your Aerogarden and scrub it all with the soap every few days.
It’s a massive ballache.
My preferred approach to getting rid of Aerogarden pests is to take out the pods, sit them in water so that they don’t dry out, and put them outside. Or find a ladybird.
2 – Aerogarden Customer service
Ok, so I haven’t encountered this issue, a) because my Aerogarden has always worked ok bar some issues with the light sometimes turning itself off and b) I never contact customer services. Ever. Other than my website hosting company.
Why mention it then?
If you look on the Trustpilot reviews of Aerogarden, people are having a LOT of issues with customer service. A LOT.
It always seems to be the same issues too:
- Aerogarden refusing to send out replacement parts or
- Losing orders
As I said, I’ve never had a problem with Aerogarden, and the plethora of 5* reviews would suggest the same, but it’s so frustrating when almost all of the 1* reviews are to do with shoddy customer service. Guys! You could have 5*s if you just invest in better customer service!
They also apparently do that thing a tonne of companies do, which is refer you to Amazon complaints if you bought your Aerogarden from Amazon. In my experience*, Amazon do whatever they can to stop you from emailing, and usually send you a replacement product, so surely this’ll end up biting Aerogarden in the arse in the end? Amazon don’t seem like the kind of company ho’l takes losses like this lying down.
*I appreciate that not everyone has this experience with Amazon. Maybe the chat bot thing I talk to just likes me.
3 – Replacement pods are expensive
I go into this more in a later post, but they’re basically forcing us not to buy Aerogarden stuff.
It just seems like the replacement pods aren’t worth the money UNLESS they’re doing the thing that printer companies do – make the printers cheap but the ink pricy af. SURELY that’s a terrible business model for something that’s basically a hobby? The reason printer companies get away with it is that we’re (i.e. millenials) are so distraught at the prospect of having to print something that we’ll pay anything to get it done asap.
This is not something I’ve ever felt re. my Aerogarden. I have never, ever, not once in my life, desired basil so much that I dropped £16 on some coir cones and basil seeds. And I eat a LOT of pesto.
Pro-tip, by the way – you don’t need to use Aerogarden nutrients. Any fertilizer for use in hydroponic set ups should work fine. In fact, different plants can benefit from different fertilizers – or you could adapt to whether you want fruit (chillis/tomatoes), foliage (herbs/lettuce), or flowers (er, flowers).
4 – It’s harder to find outside of the USA
I did a bit of research as to why this is, and it’s so weird. Why are companies like this?
Basically, Aerogarden were bought out by Miraclegro, who want to concentrate on the US market.
This is fine. You do you Miraclegro.
What is not fine, and what leads to mistrust in companies, is that Aerogarden flat out denied claims that they were pulling out of Europe EVEN THOUGH THEY OBVIOUSLY WERE. And when people tweeted them asking why they could no longer buy the products in Europe, they claimed that they had no idea what we were on about, and no changes had been made to distribution.
I’m assuming that they had to keep quiet about the acquisition, but the solution here guys, is to simply…not gaslight the consumer base of an entire continent. ESPECIALLY SINCE there’s been a massive shift in people wanting to get into gardening especially people with no outside space. Don’t burn your bridges, Aerogarden!
Just say there’s issues with the supply chain! Or, wild idea, keep your customers in the loop!
5 – They make it too easy NOT to pick them
There are a lot of knock-off Aerogarden-type products, but we’re not talking about them. the actual Aerogarden itself is a great system, that’s unique enough to stave off competition. Products like Click and Grow are similar, but their wicking system (rather than an air pump) can lead to issues like stagnation and rot etc.
What I’m talking about is the replacement products. Specifically, the coir cones.
I looked at the reviews on Amazon, and just a few minutes reading shows that they’re not worth the premium price. For a few more dollars, you can just twice as many pods from some generic brand, and they work just as well.
6 – Odd seed kits
Why don’t they do a mix-and-match option?
They do mixed ones, but why not give the option to buy 6 or 9 pods, but within those, pick your own?
7 – No information on transferring to soil
I totally understand this, because they want you to not only use the Aerogarden (fair) but also buy their dwarf varieties of plants. But it’s a bit annoying that I couldn’t find any information on the website about transferring them.
I personally put all my ‘crops’ outside once the threst of frost has passed, and then, over the summer my Aerogarden becomes a propagation station for house plants.
In my experience, Aerogarden plants are a NIGHTMARE to transfer – I assume purely because they’re going from perfect conditions to being ousted out into the wind, bugs, and North Yorkshire’s paltry excuse for a sun.
I used to advise putting them in leca first, but I’m gonig to definitely go the sphagnum route next year, to get their roots used to soil.
8 – You can’t really adjust the light much
You can only move it up and down. I’d quite like a dimmer because I always end up bleaching my house plant propagations. I know that’s not Aerogarden’s intended use, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting OPTIONS.
Also, a better timer on the lights would be nice.
9 – Plants get very overcrowded
The herbs work FINE, especially for people like me, that get shot of the Thai basil and thyme as soon as things start looking a little squished. The mint can fuck off too. I’m not dedicating space in my Aerogarden for plants that I won’t eat regularly.
Ok, I’ve just contradicted myself. You can grow all six herbs together, but they’ll begin to compete for space. If you use small, equal amounts of each herb, and/or you’ll keep them neatly pruned, then go for it. I don’t grow parsley in there – I buy a £1 plant from the supermarket and plant it outside in a MASSIVE pot (parsley is my kind of plant – it dgaf about ANYTHING and its delicious.
See also the mint.
Keep the basil in (if you eat it), especially if you don’t live somewhere with a tonne of sun. Basil needs heat and light to develop the flavour. If it gets aphids, they’ll never leave. Take it outside/set it on fire/ I’m a dill fiend, so I sacrifice all the others for dill.
Don’t grow more than 3 tomato plants at a time. I grew three tomato plants in a 3×3 foot raised bed and they took the whole thing over. Tomato plants are the bullies of the plant world. If you love the idea of growing basil and tomatoes, just grow one of each, and keep the tomato well-pruned.
10. They’re owned by Miracle-Gro
It’s quite difficult to find reputable sources to get to the bottom of whether Miracle-gro are actually bad or not, and how much of an issue this is BUT the issue is that they use synthetic Ammonium and water soluble nitrates which are harmful to the environment. I don’t know if that’s true or not because I don’t think it’s big in the UK (or at least, I don’t use it), but I get why people are concerned.
There’s also the issue of parent companies vs. the ACTUAL company, and whether you’re hapy to use one and avoid the other, or just boycott both.
I don’t want to steer you away from Aerogarden. From what I’ve read online, they’re the best countertop hydroponics system you can buy without having to construct your own setup.
One of the great things about Aerogarden is that they’re suitable for complete beginners – they’re extremely user-friendly and hard to mess up. This post just aims to clarify some of the things that can go wrong, or that Aerogarden are lacking.