The best indoor herb gardens we tested

The epidemic did more than increase our time spent on Zoom; it also increased people’s interest in gardening. The recent gardening craze was so widespread that many seed companies immediately ran out of stock due to high demand from non-commercial consumers. Indoor gardening kit retailers have also noticed an increase in demand, with many selling out of stock faster than they can replenish it.

I’ve been a gardener for more than ten years, and my gardening activities have mostly been limited to the outdoors until recently. I used to think indoor gardening was a passing craze. During the early stages of the epidemic, though, I felt obligated to purchase an indoor growing unit.

My front yard garden is special to me, but indoor gardens are low-maintenance and allow me to grow vegetables all year. I’ve had my indoor garden for two years and can honestly say it’s dramatically transformed my gardening experience.

Over the course of several months, I tested additional indoor gardens for this tutorial. In order to assist others shop for their own indoor edible garden, I’ve planted, nurtured, pruned, and eaten a lot of plants. I also chatted with Dr. Deane Falcone, the chief science officer of Crop One, a vertical farming firm, to get some knowledge on indoor horticulture.

Our testing procedure is as follows:

I utilized all of the gardens in this guide for at least a month — some for even longer — to put them to the test. The criteria I used to evaluate each unit are listed below.

  • Setup: I wanted gardens that were simple to set up and maintain. Was the setup difficult? Is it simple for someone who has never gardened before?
  • Because there are so many variables to consider while evaluating growth rates among gardens, I was more interested with whether taking care of the garden was intuitive. Also, if a garden consistently failed to grow, it would fail the test.
  • Characteristics: Indoor gardening units have the advantage of being able to incorporate a lot of fascinating technology that would be impossible to utilize outside. When I was evaluating the gardens, I wanted to see if any smart features were simple to use and brought any value to the product.

The best indoor herb gardens we tested

Rise Triple Family Garden

Overall, the greatest indoor garden
Pros: Large capacity, automatic lighting, water sensors, and a companion app that tells you when to apply nutrients and harvest.

Cons: There are a few technical glitches, and “Reserve” replacement pods are costly.

The Rise Triple Family Garden is a well-designed hydroponic system for folks who don’t have access to outdoor area. It’s also helpful for eager gardeners who want to extend and grow outside of the growing season.

  • Capacity: 36 plants, with the option of adding additional with add-ons
  • Pricing ranges from $610 for a single-tier unit to $790 for a two-tier unit to $970 for a three-tier unit.
  • Replacement pods are available in 4-packs for $9.99 or 4-packs of “Reserve” pods for $12.49.
  • Best for: People who don’t have enough space for an outside garden and who want a year-round source of homegrown food.

I bought the Rise Family Garden shortly after the pandemic began and have been using it for well over a year. It’s become a focal point in my kitchen and a conversation starter. The Rise is producing picture-perfect vegetables right now, while my outside garden is struggling in the heat.

The three-tier family garden (which comes in one, two, or three tiers) comes with trays that can hold up to 36 plants. Add-on trays can be purchased to boost the yield to 108 plants. The lowest tier is the tallest, making it excellent for growing crops such as tomatoes and peppers. The remaining two shelves are shorter, making them ideal for growing baby kale, lettuce, herbs, and beets.

To get you started, each unit comes with a starter box of nutrients and seed pods. Once it’s put together, all you have to do is fill the reservoir and plug it in. The water pump in the garden circulates water throughout the unit. To take benefit of the garden’s smart features, such as water reminders, automatic plant care, and remote light management, you’ll need to connect it to Wi-Fi.

I’ve enjoyed every minute of my Rise journey. At this time, my apartment has effectively replaced my outdoor garden. There have been a few technical issues here and there, such as flickering lights or connectivity issues, but customer service has always been fast to reply and assist me.

The unit does necessitate routine maintenance, but it’s significantly less than what I’m used to doing outside. Watering, fertilizing, and cleaning every six months aren’t time-consuming tasks.

A hydroponic garden like the Rise may not be able to totally replace an outdoor growing space — there isn’t enough room to plant underground-growing potatoes, for example — but it is a compelling option. Produce grows more faster in the Rise than it does outside, in my experience as a gardener. Everything is also equally delicious.

The best indoor herb gardens we tested

Rise Personal Garden

The most efficient indoor garden
Pros: It’s small, stylish, and has all of the smart features of its larger sibling.

Cons: Issues with the water pump that come and go.

The Rise Personal Garden is a compact hydroponic system that is ideal for those who live in small spaces.

  • Capacity: 8 plants, with the option of adding additional with add-ons
  • $250 in price
  • Replacement pods are available in 4-packs for $9.99 or 4-packs of “Reserve” plant pods for $12.49.
  • Best for: Those who don’t have a lot of room but yet want to reap the benefits of an indoor garden.

The Personal Garden is a scaled-down replica of the larger unit, spanning only 18 inches across. It’s a wonderful option for folks who don’t want to give up any floor space but still need some counter space. It also requires fewer water refills and is easier to clean due to its smaller footprint than the larger garden.

Despite its reduced size, the micro garden can nevertheless yield a lot of plants. Although the machine can contain up to 12 plants, the tray that comes with it only holds eight. Instead of the LED indicator on the larger unit, the Personal Garden includes a small window at the bottom to let you know when the water level is low.

A blue light at the top of the device will blink when the built-in water sensor detects that there isn’t enough water, signaling that it’s time to refill. Although I’ve had some issues with this feature (the light flashes when there’s still plenty of water remaining), customer care has been prompt and helpful. They’re sending me a new water pump to see if that will fix the problem.

In the end, the few technological difficulties did not detract from my Rise hydroponic gardening experience. Checking on my garden, replanting seedlings, and admiring the vivid, often aromatic plants in my kitchen are all things I look forward to. You can anticipate to harvest enough lettuce to make salads several times a week once the plants are big enough, as well as plenty of herbs to add to sauces or use as garnish every couple of days once the plants are big enough.

The best indoor herb gardens we tested

AeroGarden Harvest Elite

The most effective indoor herb garden
Pros: Takes up very little counter space and is quite simple to operate.

Cons: Plant spacing is restricted, and the built-in illumination is warmer than other plant lights I’ve tried.

A low-maintenance, ultra-compact countertop garden that’s perfect for producing herbs and baby greens.

  • Plant capacity: 6
  • The cost is $159
  • Replacement pods: the 6 pod kits are $14.97 and are available in a variety of bundles.
  • Best for: Growing herbs without taking up a lot of space on the counter.

This neat tiny garden is ideal for producing herbs in the kitchen. Most people who wish to always have fresh basil or parsley make the mistake of squandering their money on little potted grocery store herbs. “How do I cultivate herbs in my kitchen?” is a question I’m frequently asked.

The answer is that if you organize things correctly, a tiny hydroponic unit like this one from Aerogarden will offer you with a steady supply of herbs. Plant pods for tomatoes and peppers are available from Aerogarden, but these plants are probably best suited to larger units. Harvest Elite’s compact spacing is too close together for a plentiful harvest from fruit-bearing plants.

It’s been a breeze to maintain the Aerogarden in the month or so that I’ve had it. The unit reminds me to add water and a capful of nutrients every so often, and the lights switch on and off on their own. The light height must be adjusted on a regular basis to fit the growing plants.

The LED grow light is rather warm to the touch, which is my only issue. I haven’t had any problems so yet, but I’m concerned about potential plant burn if I forget to raise the height of the attached light.

Indoor gardening’s benefits and drawbacks

Consistency in growing circumstances is a plus.

Indoor gardening has a number of advantages, according to Dr. Falcone, including the capacity to manage practically all variables. You can regulate the weather with an indoor garden. Inside, the weather is a lot more steady than it is outside.

Pro: Tender, consistent produce

Plants thrive indoors, and as a result, their product is more consistent. Because they are not subjected to shifting conditions, indoor plants are more vulnerable and delicate than those cultivated outside, which can become fibrous and tough, according to Dr. Falcone. Food cultivated hydroponically, contrary to popular assumption, can taste more tasty than produce grown outdoors since you have so much more control over the growth environment.

Advantage: There are less pests.

You also don’t have to be as concerned about pests, he adds. Insect infestations are still possible, but they’re far more manageable. Fungus gnats attacked my Rise Family Garden earlier this year after I brought in an outside plant without thinking, but diligent cleaning with vinegar stopped the infestation in its tracks.

Cons: Producing consistent results necessitates forethought.

While indoor gardening is simple, it still necessitates some planning, much like a traditional outside garden. “Everything is planted at the same time. What’s more, guess what? You’ll be able to harvest everything at the same time “Dr. Falcone agrees. Planting crops in staggered intervals, or succession planting, ensures that you’ll always have something new on hand. Naturally, your indoor garden will not appear as full and vivid as it once did.

Cons: It doesn’t feel as if you’re “gardening.”

Even though Dr. Falcone’s employment entails indoor hydroponics, he acknowledges that nothing can equal the attractiveness of outside farming. He and his wife still garden outside because they want to be outside and engage with nature.

The lack of space is a disadvantage.

While indoor produce can grow large if given the opportunity, space is often limited. Tomato plants, for example, cannot reach the same heights as those grown outside. In the end, you’re limited by the size of the garden you’re working in.

In an indoor garden, what to look for

Light

When planting indoors, Dr. Falcone suggests utilizing a timer-controlled grow light. Thankfully, the illumination in most high-quality smart indoor gardens is automatically adjusted for the user. Furthermore, LED grow lights are a fantastic choice because they are cool to the touch and consume less energy.

Plants produced in bright light not only grow faster, but they also appear more sturdy and less lanky than those cultivated in speckled light. Companies that sell windowsill gardens and claim that you can rely on sunlight are, to put it bluntly, lying. If you can’t grow in the sun, LED lights are a good alternative.

The ease of usage and the amount of space available

I recommend finding an indoor garden with sufficient space for the plants you want to grow. Choose a full-sized unit, which is roughly the size of a bookcase, if you want a consistent supply of greens to feed a family of four. Choose a smaller countertop garden if you only need fresh herbs sometimes to add to your dishes. Whatever you choose, it should be both aesthetically and physically appropriate for your location.

An indoor garden should also be simple to maintain. You’ll find yourself disregarding it if it isn’t. A well-designed outdoor garden is enjoyable to maintain, and a well-planned indoor garden is more likely to become a frequently used home staple.

Soil-based vs. hydroponic systems

A hydroponic garden does not require soil. Plant roots sit in the water and take their nutrients directly from it. In a soil-based garden, on the other hand, the roots are unable to grow past the dirt pods and eventually become root-bound.

Hydroponic units, in my experience, grow plants with greater life than units with soil-based pods. Herbs cultivated in a hydroponic system can last for months and months if you keep harvesting them. Plants that can be cut and come again, such as lettuce, will continue to produce until they send out a flower stalk, at which point they will become bitter.

Avoid potted herb kits unless you’re searching for a pleasant indoor gardening hobby to do with your kids. The plants don’t endure long and are difficult to maintain alive.

Features that are clever

Smart features aren’t required, but they are quite useful. For people who are new to gardening, using an app to track growth and receive reminders to water or add nutrients is beneficial (or scatterbrained).

Water sensors, automatic nutrient reminders, and harvest tracking are all features to look for. They’ll make things easier for you. For example, the Rise app will notify you when it’s time to harvest your plants. Even though the timing is incorrect from time to time, the warning serves as a useful reminder to not waste food.

FAQs

Is it necessary for my indoor hydroponic garden to be connected to my home’s plumbing?

No. A water tank and a pump that circulates water and nutrients are common features of all-in-one hydroponic gardens. When the tank’s water level falls below a certain level, you fill it up with water from your tap.

Is it possible to produce root vegetables indoors?

Technically, it’s doable, but it’ll take some trial and error, and the results will most likely be unappealing. It’s best to stick with plants that grow predominantly above ground.

Is the quality of my water important?

You generally don’t need to be concerned about the water quality as a novice. Dr. Falcone stated, “If it’s good enough for humans to drink, it’s obviously good enough for plants to thrive.”

Advanced growers, on the other hand, may choose to use filtered water. The pH of your system can be affected by water quality, which can cause problems with nutrient uptake. This can wreak havoc on plant growth, resulting in things like leaf yellowing.

You can use a meter to keep track of pH if you want to be even more accurate (5.5 to 6.5 is a good range to shoot for with hydroponic growing). To make modifications, you can use a pH-lowering product in a hydroponic garden.

Our best-selling garden also includes a pH-calibration tool, and the app makes the process simple and straightforward.

What else can I plant in my indoor garden except vegetables?

You should be able to grow some fruits. Strawberries, for example, as well as self-pollinating plants like tomatoes and peppers, thrive indoors. You’ll need to accomplish the task that bees and other efficient insects do for cucumbers and squash. To pollinate the blooms, use a paintbrush or your finger to gently “tickle” them, although a tool like the Bee the Bee Pollinator makes it more fun.

Many indoor gardeners also try their hand at cultivating flowers. You can also give light-starved houseplants some love if you have space under the lights.

How can I keep fungus gnats at bay?

Wrapping plant pods in foil (and poking holes to permit emerging plants) almost completely eliminates algae formation, which attracts pests such as fungus gnats.

Is it necessary for me to employ a company’s nutrients or seed pods?

Nope! Seed packages can be found in hardware stores, nurseries, and on the internet. Hydroponic pods are also readily available through internet shops such as Amazon.

Dr. Falcone recommends using a comprehensive combination with a balanced NPK ratio for plant food (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium).


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