AeroGrow International Inc.'s AeroGarden line of indoor home hydroponic growing systems is arguably the most popular mass-produced gardening kit in history. Everything you need is pre-packaged—nutrient tank, nutrient tablets, grow lights and seed pods—all in an attractive, stylish appliance on your tabletop or shelf. An easy way to reduce the ongoing expense for new plantings is to make your own AeroGarden seed pods. Luckily, this is not too difficult—especially if you keep some of the parts from your first batch of seed pods.
If you keep the seed pod baskets and clear plastic grow covers from the first batch of seed pods that come with every new AeroGarden unit, these pieces can be reused along with your own local source of seeds and nutrient solution. Add a couple of homemade components, and the result is a homemade AeroGarden seed pod kit for a much lower total cost than buying a new set of factory seed pods from AeroGrow.
AeroGrow began selling the AeroGarden system in late 2006 via print ads and TV infomercials. Sales were strong, and AeroGrow eventually grew the AeroGarden line into 26 distinct models. In early 2010, they began to consolidate their line into a total of six models, some of which feature an improved electronic grow system controller.
There are two types of AeroGardens. One type (the six-pod models) uses an air pump to constantly aerate the nutrient solution in which the bottoms of the seed pods are immersed. These models require the longer seed pod basket. The other type (the seven-pod models) use a water pump that circulates the nutrient water over the seed pods, with the excess water falling back down into the nutrient tank. These models require the shorter seed pod basket.
The Missing Pieces
If you've kept the seed pod grow baskets and grow dome covers from your first crop, all you need to find are (1) a substitute for the stock seed pod grow sponges (which hold the seeds and wick up moisture for the seeds while they germinate and give the roots something to grab onto), and (2) more nutrient solution from a cheaper source.
Homemade or Third-Party Replacements
The stock AeroGarden seed pod grow sponges can be substituted with any of various air conditioning weatherstripping seals such as Frost King Air Conditioner Weatherseal (cost about $3) or a similar low-density, open-celled foam. Simply cut pieces to size. This one package of weatherseal makes a lot of grow sponges.
The stock AeroGarden nutrient tablets can be replaced by liquid nutrient solutions such as these liquid and powdered nutrients from the following third-party manufacturers (current as of February 2010):
General Hydroponics--liquids such as Flora and FloraNova Liquid Earth--liquid nutrients AeroFalls eBay Store--water-soluble powders Miracle Gro--water soluble powders (All Purpose and Bloom Booster)
If you need a replacement grow basket, a serviceable homemade substitute can be made using a discarded plastic 35 mm film canister. It should be the proper diameter. Carefully cut three, wide, longitudinal slots distributed evenly around the side of the canister using a sharp knife or a Dremel-type rotary tool fitted with a cutting disc.