The Hydroponics Experiment (Part 1)

That doesn’t include some other items.

Jiffy Pellet Refill and Burpee Lettuce Seeds (Little Gem)

Even though Hydroponics doesn’t use soil, a grow medium is still useful. Jiffy Pellets are great when starting from a seed. (They start off small, but expand when wet.) Supposedly, it’s good for Hydroponics too. Another parameter of this experiment is to see if I can grow a head of lettuce from seed to dinner plate.

Home Depot was fairly light on hydroponic supplies. That’s why I ordered most of the stuff from Amazon. Although, Home Depot did have the seeds and the pellets. They also had a nice greenhouse shelf thingie, as I want to keep the plants up off the floor. The pellets (about $4), seeds (about $2) and greenhouse (about $16) added around $22 to the cost of the project. That brings the total so far to a rounded $150.

At this point, I’m starting to wonder if I should have just gotten an AeroGarden system. The Ultra LED model was on sale at Costco for $170 – including tomato pods. Here are the advantages of each…


  • Automated system – The nice LCD shows when to add nutrients
  • All-in-one system – Searching for the right items was quite time consuming. The AeroGarden makes it easy.
  • Proven system – I’ve seen videos of AeroGardens in action. It obviously works. My setup, I’m not so sure.
  • Presentable – An AeroGarden can make a great gift, as a 5-Gallon bucket might not fill the Christmas season with as much joy. Also, an AeroGarden could make a nice conversational piece for the kitchen. The custom setup, it was designed for the basement.

Custom Setup

  • Scalability – If this system works, I could easily add more buckets – for growing an insane amount of lettuce and tomatoes. I could also convert it into a rail system. With the AeroGarden, it doesn’t seem as scalable. A 24″ maximum height seems a bit cumbersome for growing tomatoes. Those plants can get rather tall. I’d rather have a system that can adapt for such heights. If I need more lights or more buckets, I can do that. With the AeroGarden, even the 9 pod system seems cramped. The AeroGarden looks like it’s great for growing herbs on a small scale. But for cherry tomatoes, it looked like a lot of pruning was involved. When I finally get to the tomato stage of the experiment, I want to grow big tomatoes, not just little cherry tomatoes.
  • Cheaper – $170 minus $150 is still $20. However, that’s not where the real savings exist. The replacement pods and nutrients for an AeroGarden can get expensive. But with my custom setup, I already have 36 pellets, 2.2 pounds of concentrated nutrients and lots of lettuce seeds. If this plan works, it should produce a lot of lettuce.
  • Better Lights – The AeroGarden LED lights are rated for 20,000 hours. That’s a lot of hours, but I’m not sure how those lights would be replaced. In the custom setup, the lights are replaceable and have a 35,000 hour lifespan. So, theoretically, the bulbs will last longer. Although, at 16 hours a day, it would take 3 to 6 years to truly compare the two systems. But even not factoring lifespan, it’s nice knowing that I can have greater control over the positioning of the lights.

That’s the first part of the experiment – getting setup. It will be about 1-2 weeks before the Amazon shipment shows up. For now, I wait. Meanwhile, it’s fun to imagine a future as a farmer.