Seed starting with an AeroGarden

AeroGarden with seed starting tray

AeroGarden with seed-starting tray

My mom gave me an AeroGarden a couple years ago, and while I greatly enjoyed the first year’s herb garden, I also used it last year to start seeds quite successfully. Since there are only so many spaces in the tray, I’m reserving it for the warmth-loving, slow-maturing plants that I want to make sure succeed.

First, you need some equipment
The only drawback to using the AeroGarden is the initial cost…and the ongoing costs. :) Obviously, there’s the AeroGarden itself, which comprises a stand, water reservoir and pump, florescent light bulbs, and one set of six or seven seed plugs and nutrients slated to last about 6 months (although I kept mine going quite nicely for nearly a year) – $99.95 if not received as a gift. To start seeds, you need to purchase an add-on kit of styrofoam insert and sponge plugs in which to plant and grow your seeds – $29.95. Subsequently, you’ll need to buy new plugs every year (or for every batch of seeds you start, if you start seeds indoors in the summer for a fall garden) – $19.95. It is recommended that you replace the proprietary bulbs every six months – $14.95. I haven’t replaced my bulbs yet, but I admit what I planted late this fall did not do nearly as well as the initial herb kit (however, I was also re-using old sponge plugs and using non-AeroGarden nutrients). My AeroGarden uses 42 watts when on, and is on 17 hours per day for starting seeds. That’s 22kWh per month, or $3.01 per month to run.

There are similar plug-style seed starting systems for use with regular grow lights or in a windowsill, but since I have an AeroGarden I might as well use it. The cost of the electricity is considerably less than the cost of the sponge plugs. :)

Planting time
Planting is easy once you have the equipment. Make sure the sponges are still moist – if not, soak them in a tiny bit of water until they are saturated but not dripping – and drop them into the holes in the styrofoam tray. Put a couple seeds in the divet of each plug. As with the other seed starting methods, be sure to write down what seeds got planted where! Put the styrofoam tray in the AeroGarden’s bowl and fill the bowl with enough water to cover the bottoms of the plugs. Cover the tray with a plastic bag to keep in moisture and reduce mold growth until seedlings start appearing. You don’t need to plug the AeroGarden in initially, but be sure to start the lights’ daily cycle as soon as seedlings start to appear.

As the seedlings grow, raise the height of the lights so they don’t accidentally touch the plants. You may need to transplant seedlings into pots for the week or two of hardening off necessary before transplanting outside, if all the seedlings aren’t going to be transplanted at the same time.

That’s basically it. Coming up: a summary of my seed-starting experiment and the pros and cons of each system so far.