AeroGarden v. Power Plant Pro
February 19, 2010 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose between AeroGarden and Power Plant Pro? Please?

I'm at the point in my growth as a cook that it's time to get serious about ingredients. I'd love to start growing my own herbs, but apartment life isn't exactly conducive to starting one's own garden. I also live in a part of the country with snow on the ground for about four months out of the year, so moving things inside sounds like a good idea.

Thing is, I really don't want to mess with dirt indoors if I can help it. Enter hydroponics. I've found two commercially-available do-it-yourself hydroponics machines, the AeroGrow AeroGarden and the Prepara Power Plant Pro. Currently I'm leaning towards the latter because while the AeroGarden requires you to buy these, which can get expensive pretty quickly, the Prepara product lets you use your own seeds with much cheaper sponge refils (30 for $10). Other than that they seem pretty much equivalent.

I'm hoping the Hive Mind has people that have used both and can talk about their experiences with each machine. Please help me get my indoor garden started!

General comments on the quality of produce from either machine are obviously welcome.
posted by valkyryn to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
AeroGrow also offers a 'use your own seeds' kit. It comes in a 3-season size if you want to save by buying in bulk. Not as cheap as the PrePara (31 pods for $25 compared to 30 for $10), but roughly comparable.

My experience with an original 7 pod AeroGarden is that some herbs work better than others, though that may be a function of the seeds that are included. I've never tried using my own seeds. Basils of all kinds work really well. Mint worked alright, as did thyme. Cilantro worked well. Dill worked some times. Chives never took for us.

The salad greens are only so-so. We consistently got very thin (think onion skin paper) leaves that lacked substance. We have the ability to plant larger vegetables outdoors, so I've never tried the green beans, tomatoes, etc.

On the whole we're pretty happy with it. In a month or so we're going to start another round of herbs so that the harvest will coincide with our outdoor vegetables.
posted by jedicus at 11:38 AM on February 19, 2010


I have only owned the AeroGarden and adore it. Seedlings start in 2 days and you can start pinching leaves in less than a month. Almost everything we've grown in it has been very prolific. A possible downside is the constant very faint hum, which may drive you crazy if that sort of things affects you. I noticed it the first day or two, then never noticed it again.

Did you know that you can make your own pods? It's a good, pretty cheap way to get your own specific combinations of plants going all at once, rather than ordering pods to mix and match. Like the AeroGarden herb pack pods, which was the first set we bought - they included (at the time) mint and oregano, two things we weren't interested in growing. So we made our own parsley and rosemary pods instead of those two, and it worked fine. Since then we've made all of our own pods.

Chives never took for us.

We had the same experience - very dinky chives. Not worth the space afforded it at all.

Absolute best growers for us so far have been basil, thyme, parsley, and dill.
posted by iconomy at 11:48 AM on February 19, 2010


I got an aerogrow for cheap, new, from a junk store. May have been the machine, but I found that after a few months, my plants were getting pretty dang moldy, and smelling up the apartment. had to ditch the whole batch.
posted by CharlesV42 at 11:53 AM on February 19, 2010


We like our Aerogarden quite a lot (original 7 pod as well). Everything grew really well (the basil in particular went berserk and tried to stage a takeover. Then it got infiltrated with aphids. Sad trombone.). Starting a new round of herbs soon. It's pretty great to have the fresh stuff around for everyday cooking.
posted by Skot at 12:54 PM on February 19, 2010


Making your own AeroGarden seed pods is definitely the way to go, however, I haven't found a way around their extraordinarily expensive replacement light bulbs. The unit will start blinking a warning at you when you've been using a bulb for 6 months, the unit I have (AG6) requires 2 bulbs@~$17 two times a year. The bulbs have proprietary connectors so nothing at your local hardware store will fit. I like my AeroGarden as it adds a nice bit of greenery to my otherwise dark kitchen but I do feel like it's more of a way to sell massively-marked up lightbulbs than an sustainable hydroponics kit.

Some Aerogardens are very noisy right out of the box. There's just an inexpensive underwater pump inside the water reservoir, the same kind of pump one would find in a small tabletop water fountain. If you happen to get a noisy pump, call Aerogarden's customer support and firmly press for a replacement. They will try to tell you the noise is normal, don't accept this explanation because they stuck a crap pump in there. If you are insistent, they will ship you a free replacement. The pumps also get noisier over time, especially if roots grow into it, make sure to get a replacement while the unit is still under warranty.

Seconding jedicus re the quality of the salad greens. The ones that I grew were remarkably limp compared to the robust ones I've grown outdoors.
posted by jamaro at 1:33 PM on February 19, 2010


Sounds like most people have had a good experience with the AeroGarden, though I was hoping someone might have info on the Power Plant Pro. In either case, I'll stay away from salad greens and chives.
posted by valkyryn at 8:59 AM on February 21, 2010


I have owned AeroGardens for over three years now. Right now I have five units all growing different things.

I have looked at the power plant pro, but by the time you add grow light, it costs more than AeroGarden, and does not have a starter tray accessory function, which is my favorite part of the AeroGarden. (you can start 66 plants at a time and transplant)

I might purchase a couple of mini's in the power plant, as their slender design would fit better on windowsills, but for reliable growth, particularly in the winter, you need grow lights.

For a while AeroGrow made both 6 and 7 pod units. I do not like the 6 pod, and would not recommend ( I own 2) They have an air pump instead of water pump, and it is noisy. The seed pods are not interchangeable with the 7 pod.

I have successfully experimented with reusing both the plastic seed pod holders, and seed pods themselves, and my own seeds. That saves a lot of money, and leaves money to spend on the grow lights.

If you get a unit with a 24 hour timer, you can use older lights on the 24 hour setting to compensate for less intensity, and get really good results.

I would recommend a first grow with herbs. When the herbs are flourishing, I then transplant to self watering containers that I place all around my aerogardens, and start a grrens harvest next. I do not grow lettuces. I prefer mezclun mixes, and sometimes just plant total arugula, which is my all time favorite in salads, soups, and almost all other stews and casseroles.

One extra point - I do not like the newer grow pods, but you can still get foam pods on Amazon, at a good price.

Hope this helps. I have a couple of blogs with tips, and Squidoo pages also, if you want to research further tips.

PS I live in a basement, and think of my aerogardens as an investment in lighting and air purification. All the greens I eat from them is just an added health benefit. And once you start cooking with fresh herbs, you will be hooked.

If you live in an small space, and the lights are too bright at bedtime, you can manually turn them off, or reset the timer for when you go to bed.
posted by The-Java-Gal at 10:35 PM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


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