Chronicles of an indoor gardener

Beyond the Humidome!

(Anyone remember that movie “Beyond Thunderdome”? )

My first group of seedlings have “escaped” from the humidome! I’m a little concerned about the temperatures being too cold for them, but the weather’s supposed to get warmer the next few days and as long as I move them off the windowsill overnight they should be OK. Fingers crossed!
seedlings in prepara power plant

I may also break down and buy a timer, as recommended in the manual.

First Sprouts!

Five days after planting, my first sprouts in the Power Plant!

I was a bad blogger and didn’t take pictures of them when they first popped through, but here they are 3 days later, under their “humidomes”

power plant mescalun sprouts

Setting Up – Getting Ready to Grow

Since I’m still waiting for the replacement for my Aerogarden’s missing grow bulb to arrive, I decided to start with the Power Plant Mini first.

Since there are no seeds or seed “pods” supplied with the Power Plant, I ordered some of my own online. I’m going to start with a Mesclun Sweet Salad Mix (from Burpee). It’s supposed to be planted early (when the weather is in the 50’s), which will be perfect because I’m setting up these gardens in a spare room which is cooler than the rest of my house.
seed packet

Setting up the Prepara is a cinch. Mix the liquid plant nutrient with a gallon of distilled water and wet the grow sponge with nutrient mixture. Next, “Sow” seeds into the slot in the grow sponge, place the grow sponge in the top tray of the Power Plant. This is a no-brainer because the Mini ships pre-assembled with the grow sponge in place. Then pour more of the nutrient mix into the side reservoir until it reaches the fill line on the gauge…
power plant - watering

Then just cover the top with the cardboard seed cover, plug it in, and wait for something to happen!

Power Plant Mini – first impressions

Now that I’ve unpacked and assembled my Aerogarden, let’s take a look at the Prepara counterpart …

The Power Plant Mini

Power Plant Mini - boxWhere the Aerogarden is the very image of hi-tech home decor, Prepara’s Power Plant is modest and frugal. Think of a Hummer vs a Kia – both will get you from place to place. The Hummer does it with more style, but the Kia costs less to drive and fits in smaller parking spaces.

Same with the Power Plant. It may not make the same fashion statement as the Aerogarden, but basically it does the same thing – grows plants in a soil-free environment. Seeds and light are “BYO” – you can use any seeds you want and you supply your own light source. This can be free sunlight – unlike the Aerogarden, the Power Plant Mini will easily fit on your kitchen windowsill.

I was a bad blogger and in my haste to try out the Power Plant I forgot to take pictures of it before I started, but there’s nothing to be assembled so there’s not much to show. Here’s a picture of the Power Plant Mini in action:
power-plant-mini on windowsill

And here are the accessories you’ll find in the box:

Power Plant Accessories

There are 2 “grow sponges” (foam strips with a slit where you place the seeds), a seed cover (little cardboard strip) and 3 “humidomes” (plastic covers for newly-sprouted seedlings). The Prepara humidomes are actually more substantial and permanent than the ones supplied with the Aerogarden. Not pictured: A bottle of plant nutrient which you pour into a gallon of distilled water (look in the laundry aisle of your local supermarket).

There’s also an instruction manual. I found it funny that the instruction manual is also about 40% the size of Aerogrow’s!

On the front of the box it says “fits all competitor’s seed pods”. and lo and behold, when you look in the top of the Power Plant there are 3 little holders which should be a perfect fit for the Aerogarden seed pods! (I didn’t take a picture of that either, so you’ll have to take my word for it)

The Power Plant Mini’s small size probably makes it less suitable for any plant with a huge root system, and I expect you’d have to rig up some kind of support for any plant that gets tall and heavy, but it should be fine for herbs, salad greens and the like. Prepara also has a new product they call the Power Plant Pro, which is larger, fancier, and bowl-shaped – more like the Aerogarden.

First Impressions – the Aerogarden 3

  • Wednesday Dec 24,2008 07:36 AM
  • By admin
  • In Aerogarden

Although they serve the same purpose, the Aerogarden 3 and the Power Plant Mini are a contrast in styles and philosophies  – the fashionable, “do-it-all”, gadget vs the simple, utilitarian  machine.
Aerogarden 3 and Power Plant Mini Comparison

The Aerogarden 3

The Aerogarden combines form and function, with sort of a retro space-age look. Meant to be seen and available in a range of colors, the Aerogarden would make an attractive accent for your kitchen or any other room of your house. As of this posting, the Aerogarden 3 is available in black, white, silver and a whimsical red ladybug version.

The product is securely packed in recycled packing materials and contains everything you need to get started growing.

The Aerogarden unit is shipped in 5 pieces which must be assembled – the base, the lamp hood, the lamp arm, the bowl which holds the plants and the bowl lid. The base is the “brain” of the Aerogarden, and contains a built-in timer. Assembly is so easy you probably wont need instructions, but just in case you do, the product ships with a 14 page manual with lots of pictures.
Aerogarden 3 - assembly
Once assembled, the Aerogarden 3 is about the size of a coffee-maker. Note that once you snap together the base, lamp arm and lamp hood, you won’t be able to disassemble them for storage.
Assembled Aerogarden and manual

Also in the box, a grow lamp bulb and a seed kit. I was disappointed to find that the bulb was missing from mine, but Aerogrow’s customer service came through for me and a replacement is on the way, free of charge.

The seed kit contains the unique Aerogarden seed “pods” – cone-shaped plastic containers filled with a growing medium and seeds and covered with a paper label which is not to be removed. There are slits in the base of the containers for the roots to grow through. Also in the seed kit, a lot of nutrient tablets, some little plastic domes, and another manual with lots of pictures. Aerogarden seed kig contents

Next, a first look at Prepara’s Power Plant Mini

The Great Aeroponic Garden Experiment

aeroponic herb garden

Do those home aeroponic systems work?  Are they easy to use?  Can they  grow real food and save you money?

Though I grow some raspberries and did have a small herb garden going for a while, my yard isn’t really suitable for gardening.  My attempts at traditional indoor gardening haven’t exactly been a raving success ( I’ve killed everything I tried to grow except a spider plant – my cats killed that!).  I once grew tomatoes in a container on my porch – hours of fussing over them yielded me  FIVE tomatoes.

Nevertheless,  I’m not one to give up,  and when Aerogrow International’s Aerogarden Classic first hit the market,  I was intrigued.

So when I recently  saw two contenders for the consumer aeroponics market on sale for bargain prices at a “going out of business” sale, I finally gave in to my curiosity and decided to launch a little experiment:  Put the Aerogrow’s Aerogarden 3 and Prepara’s Power Plant Mini (the entry models of their respective product lines) to a head-to-head test and see how each one fared in terms of cost, ease of use and most importantly, the results.

Stay tuned and watch my gardens grow!

(… or not!)