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I love my Aerogarden, but if I wanted to get fully into hydroponics (and become self-sufficient or live on bruschetta or whatever) I don’t think it’s necessarily the best place to start.
In this article, I’m going to try to explain the difference between an Aerogarden and a hydroponic setup, and help you decide which one would suit you better
I’m going to primarily concentrate on the benefits of each system, rather than pros and cons of each because otherwise, I’ll be repeating myself a lot.
Also, it’s not really a pro/con kind of deal – Aerogardens suit people who want to buy a complete system that’s quite compact, whereas a lot of hydroponic enthusiasts build their own setup so they can customise them for themselves (and grow a lot more stuff).
What’s the difference between Aerogarden and hydroponics?
Aerogarden claims their product is aeroponics, rather than hydroponics, but I’d argue that aeroponics is a sub-section of hydroponics, because you use water in both.
Aeroponics is also the method used in the popular Kratky hydroponic setup, so they’re all hydroponics.
The only difference between hydroponics and aeroponics/the Kratky method is that in aeroponics a gap is left between the plant and the water, so the roots are dangling their ends in the water, rather than being totally submerged.
Having a layer of air between the water and the plant allows the roots to become stronger – the parts exposed to the air can easily absorb oxygen, and the parts submerged in water can absorb nutrients.
One of the main benefits is that you don’t necessarily need a pump, and can create a hydroponic setup in a jar, though aerating the water will dramatically reduce the chance of root rot (hence why most hydroponics systems, including the Aerogarden, have a pump to provide water movement)
Benefits of the Aerogarden
It’s excellent for impatient beginners
For those of you that carefully research, plan, and budget for your new hobbies, this isn’t for you.
The rest of us, who have a thought, then a sleepless night planning our next hobby, and then buy all the supplies the next day without doing any real exercise bar turning it over in our head a thousand times will LOVE the Aerogarden.
You can buy it and get it all set up within half an hour.
Then we can research.
I know this isn’t the ideal way to go about new hobbies, but we can’t help the way we’re made.
It’s plug and play
The actual setup of the Aerogarden is super easy, and it comes with everything you need.
The light is operated by a simple button, the pump comes with the filter already in place, and they’ve even made it so you accidentally plug any into the wrong bit because the cables are the exact right length.
Everything comes in the box
There’s no need to go out and buy batteries or cables or nutrients. It even comes with seeds.
Traditional, more handmade hydroponics systems leave you to figure out what fertiliser, lights, and pump you need yourself.
Everything is done for you
I think the Aerogarden is definitely a great way to maximise the space in your kitchen, especially if you’re using it as a herb garden. So long as you keep them trimmed back a bit, you can easily grow six different herbs in an area of about a foot square. Perfect for people that use a lot of fresh herbs but don’t have a lot of counterspace.
It’s also very quiet, apart from the odd trickling noise when the pump is running
I love this about the Aerogarden. You do have to be aware that the base and the reservoir aren’t attached, but it’s small and compact enough that you can pick the whole thing up (even when it’s full) and move it to another room.
It’s perfect for a few plants
It’s such a great size for people that just want, say, a basil plant and a tomato plant.
As I said, you can grow up to six small plants in the Harvest model, but if you’re growing tomato plants, you tend to get a better yield with one or to plants that have more room to grow.
My brother grows chilli plants, which grow super well in the Aerogarden, and it’s a good way to grow a few plants without them taking over your countertop.
Benefits of hydroponics
One of the things that attract hydroponic enthusiasts to the hobby is the wide range of products you can buy to customise your system.
Whilst you’d struggle to make a more efficient (in terms of space) system than the Aerogarden, you can adjust the nutrients, lights, whatever to make your system work for you.
You can start off with a system like this and add lights, pumps, PVC pipework, WHATEVER to adapt it to what you want to do.
You can buy a setup tailored to your needs
Aerogarden do have a few different models, but there isn’t a lot of scope for customising it. You’re pretty much stuck with the same light and pump.
Whereas there are hydroponics companies that offer, if not a bespoke system, at least products that you can swap in and out for other stuff. There are companies that can help you, or you can make it yourself.
You can DIY it
Be careful before searching for it on YouTube though, I fell down quite the rabbit hole of watching people spend £50 on pipes and stuff, and building themselves a giant Aerogarden. It’s very compelling!
As cheap/expensive as you want
Aerogardens are quite pricy, especially if you don’t know if you’re going to stay interested for long.
You can get started with hydroponics for very little money – a Kratky jar setup can be done in a clean jam jar.
As big/small as you like
Again, it can be the size of a jam jar, or the size of your bedroom – you make the rules!
You could be self-sufficient in vegetables
The Aerogarden farm is very popular among enthusiasts, but I think you can get something much cheaper and more efficient if you’re looking to make a serious volume of food.
The Bounty and Elite models are only big enough for a few small plants, or a couple of big ones.
And since making your own hydroponics system is so customisable, you can start with a small system and add more over time as you need/want to.
The Aerogarden is great to use as a herb garden and works really well. I have no complaints about it – it works as it should, and provides me with more dill than I’ll ever need (and I love dill).
But it’s very limited. I mean, I love what it does do but it doesn’t do anything else. If I wanted to add more plants, I’d need to buy a whole other system, even though the light is probably big enough to cover 9 pods.
I also don’t really learn much about hydroponics from the Aerogarden. It just does its thing, occasionally asking for food and water along the way.
If you really want to learn about growing food and how hydroponics works, you’re best of doing a bit of research on YouTube (I really like Hoochoo) and building a system that works for you.
I don’t currently have the time or space to do this, but I hope to soon.