The Hydroponics Experiment (Part 7 – Day Zero)

AeroGarden - Tomatoes GerminatingFrom October 24 to November 13, Costco Wholesales is having a sale on the Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Ultra LED. At $159.99 – with the cherry tomato kit – it’s $40 off the usual price. Still feeling badly from my failed hydroponics experiment, I decided to try yet again. After squishy lettuce and slimy tomatoes, picking a different hobby seems like a reasonable decision. Yet, I can be relentlessly stubborn. With all the time I spend in front of the computer, the idea of growing vegetables seems relaxing.

Of course, I would quickly be reminded that gardening can be riddled with frustration. As soon as the AeroGarden sale started, an order with Costco was placed. Throughout the week, I was imagining what it would be like to setup my AeroGarden. Visions of countless tomatoes was in the back of my mind. By Friday evening, a big box was at my door. Later that Friday evening, I was at a local Costco store. The AeroGarden had a cracked LCD screen. It was returned.

Once again, I wondered if this project was worth the stress. It simply wasn’t going well. Still determined, I started looking at my options. Amazon also had the AeroGarden Ultra LED for $159.99. Another order was placed, but then it was canceled. The one from Amazon only had the Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit, not the Red Heirloom Cherry Tomato Seed Pod Kit.

Costco was given another shot. On the last Sunday of October, a new AeroGarden was ordered. By the following Thursday, it was at my home. Fortunately, this one had no apparent problems. Everything was packed neatly and I assembled the parts together without too much trouble.

One of the major differences from the AeroGarden and my makeshift setup is the light. Wow! The AeroGarden Ultra LED is crazy bright. It’s like daylight. While some red and blue LEDs are mixed in, the majority of the lights are bright white. Even with the lamp arm lowered closely to the bowl and base, the LEDs shine like a lighthouse brightens a dark sky.

Setting up the computer settings was straightforward. The “Quick Plant” button was helpful, but I also investigated the various options manually. It asked for the current time. Knowing that Daylight Savings ends this weekend, I already set the clock back one hour. By using the “Quick Plant” option, I could use the preset for Tomatoes. From there, it was just a matter of adding water and nutrients. I had already cleaned the machine, but I also let the machine pump through some water. I didn’t want any stray plastic floating around. For the first 24 hours, I skipped adding nutrients.

Day Zero – Even just to get to this point was a bit of a struggle. I was happy though. Sitting next to this bright light, hearing the water gently swoosh around, I was being to relax. According to the documentation, I should have fresh tomatoes in January. That seems insane. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be growing food without dirt, in the middle of winter.

Here’s the funny part. I don’t even like cherry tomatoes. Although, I’m thinking about blending them up into a nice pizza sauce.

On day 1, I added one cap full (4 mL) of nutrients. I don’t think the full two capfuls (8 mL) are necessary at this point. 8 mL is recommended for the 6/7 pod gardens, but four of the pods are empty. Tomatoes need a lot of space to grow. Once they reach full size, 12 mL of nutrients is recommended. Feedings are once every two weeks.

With the first batch of nutrients already delivered, there’s not much more for me to do but wait. Everything is automatic. The pump runs at preset intervals and the light turns itself on and off. All I have to do is check back in two weeks, to see if the tomato seeds sprout.