Is it Possible to Grow Tomatoes Indoors All Winter? Yep!

I bought myself an Aerogarden with the expectation of reviewing it and then dissing its pathetic, useless self right here on this very blog.  Then it grew a tomato for me in 35 days.  I changed plans.

Sometimes when I’m feeling especially vile towards the advertising industry I buy a product to review knowing full well it’s going to fail at whatever it says it’s going to do. I know this, yet I buy it, try it, confirm it’s crap and then tell all of you about how crap it is.

It makes me feel better.

I did it with these fake eyelashes for instance.  I secretly hoped you really could clamp a wad of hair to your eyeballs with magnets and have it result in doe eyes. You can’t.  What you get is less Bambi, more Clockwork Orange.

This is the exact direction of HAH!  YOU SUCK! I thought I was going to be going when I bought the Aerogarden.  What is the Aerogarden?

An Aerogarden is a little countertop gadget that grows plants hydroponically (aeroponically according to some people.)  With the actual Aerogarden you get funny little plastic tubes with a sponge in the centre that’s embedded with seeds. It’s a planting pod.  This was NOT the kind of gardening I leaned towards.  There was no dirt, no planting, no weeding, no bugs, no snakes – basically no fun at all.

It seemed a very clinical way to grow something.

Don’t understand?  Picture yourself living in a tent city on Mars.  And you’re a gardener.  The Aerogarden is probably how you’d garden.

But here’s the thing.  It works.

The Aerogarden

I bought 3 of these Aerogardens.  One for my sister (Fish Pedicure) for Christmas last year, one for my niece and one for me.  I didn’t set mine up until a little over a month ago because I’m not living on Mars and had enough vegetable gardening to be done in actual dirt.

The Aerogarden is easy enough to set up.  You take it out of the box, rip the plastic off, and set the water holding thingee into place.

Then you fill the water holding thingee with water and add some Miracle Grow (which comes with the Aerogarden).

Once you’ve done that, plug it in and just drop your pods into it.  For my trial run I thought I’d grow the most difficult thing – tomatoes.  That would be the most fun because it would result in the biggest failure which would result in the funniest post.

Aerogarden pod.

Except it didn’t fail.  Curses.

The Aerogarden comes in a few different sizes, I got the one with 6 planting holes, but when you’re planting something big like tomatoes (they’re cherry tomatoes by the way) it’s recommended you only plant two plants to give them space to grow. Then you cover up the other planting holes with little plastic discs to prevent the water in the reservoir from evaporating.

HOW IT WORKS

The Aeorgarden is digital and tells you when to do everything.  The digital display tells you when you need to add water and when to add nutrients etc.

The plants grow hydroponically so they need some form of nutrients.  That’s where the Miracle Grow comes in.  2 small capfuls every 14 days for this machine and these tomatoes.  But you don’t need to remember that because the Aerogarden will tell you when to add the fertilizer.

The pods aren’t just sitting in water, there’s a pump inside that pumps water right through the sponge every so often, making sure that the roots stay wet from tip to tail at all times. This is the “aeroponic” part.

The machine has 3 colours of grow lights that give a broad spectrum and the lights can easily be raised up as the plant grows taller.

You can buy any seed pods you like for a continuous harvest of herbs or lettuces BUT the seed pods are stupidly expensive, so I of course am going to figure out how to make my own seed pods. I expect it just involves a type of sponge and some seeds.

THE COMPARISON

Because I really wanted to show how awful this thing was I also planted a couple of the seedlings in a regular pot with soil so I could compare my regular indoor growing method with the Aerogarden.

I just pulled a couple of seedlings out of the Aerogarden pod when they sprouted and replanted them in a pot.  (Each Aerogarden pod has several seeds in it so you can weed out the weaker ones)

Within 2 weeks or so the Aerogarden plant was twice as big as the one in the pot that I watered regularly, set under my grow lights and planted in my special chicken crap compost.

The stem on the Aerogarden tomato was like a log.

After just a few weeks it had grown such long luscious roots I considered clamping them to my eyes with magnets.

Once the tomato plant gets to this size with 5 true leaves, you pinch off the top to keep the plant nice and compact.

At this point in the experiment I was full-on bewildered.  I couldn’t believe this thing looked like it might actually work.  But I didn’t want to get too excited because I mean, anyone can grow a tomato plant indoors.  It’s whether or not it would gro….

ACK!  By the next time I looked at it, the thing had flowers on it and was well on its way to tomatoes.

 

Day 35 after planting.

For some reason the plant on the left is half the size of the plant on the right.  It’s a mystery.

Both have flowers, but the smaller plant on the left has more.

It also has tomatoes.

35 DAYS AFTER PLANTING IT, THIS THING HAS TOMATOES GROWING ON IT!

Granted, they’re not huge, they’re not even close to ripe but the hard part is over. It did it.  Not only did this Aerogarden exceed every single expectation I had of it, it did so well I’m a tiny bit frightened of it.


Aerogarden Quick Guide
  1. Remove Aerogarden from box and remove the plastic protective film.
  2. Plug the water reservoir into the stand.
  3. Fill the reservoir with water and add the recommended amount of fertilizer.
  4. Insert the seed pods.
  5. Follow the instructions on the menu for setting the clock and the length of time the lights are to be kept on depending on what you’re growing.
  6. Sit back and relax while you grow food.

At this rate I’ll have ripe homegrown cherry tomatoes in a few weeks. And nope this isn’t a sponsored post.

This is the model I bought last year. They have newer models now for the same price.

If you’re still at a loss as to what to get someone for Christmas and you want something in the $100 range BUY THEM THIS.  They also sell a kids version that’s about half the price.

Do not buy them magnetic eyelashes.

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40 Comments

  1. May says:

    Karen! I’ve never commented because I feel weird about talking at internet strangers, but I have to tell you I just ordered the new round Aerogarden 30 minutes before this post popped in my inbox. IT IS ORDAINED. I will have herbs not eaten by wildlife or burned crisply by the Florida sun! And now I get to tell my husband all my deliberation today will be worth it in a month or two.

  2. Paula says:

    Wow! This has grabbed my interest!

  3. Brin says:

    Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m sitting here looking at my Aerogarden sitting on the kitchen counter…..and not put together. I bought it last summer but was trying to get tomatoes to grow in my 9′ x 12′ greenhouse. I bought a greenhouse because the deer eat everything. Snow is on the ground and will be for awhile. A nice fresh salad would do me good….so tomorrow I will set it up and know it will do great….because you said so. I also bought the newest Wagner Paint sprayer on your say-so. lol I’ve learned to trust your experience. Thanks so much for posting and hope your salads are delicious!

  4. Allen Zalsman says:

    What was the light that you used?

    • Karen says:

      You mean my regular grow lights for starting vegetables? They’re full spectrum LED grow lights. The Aerogarden of course, comes with its own set of full spectrum LED lights. ~ karen!

  5. Jane Baker says:

    Hi Karen, I actually got an Aerogarden several years ago for Christmas from my Mother and thought exactly the same thing! She’s famous for paying a lot of money for expensive things that don’t work! By the way, that many years ago the things were closer to three hundred. She also included a crap load of seed pods. I wan’t brave like you. I doubted there was any way this thing would grow a tomato and I already had my cold country set up, but one thing I couldn’t grow in winter and wanted to was herbs. In fact, I couldn’t grow the blessed things in high summer! We were only ever guaranteed 9 frost free days a year where I lived and none consecutive so with frost and all in the summer, herbs were out of the question and since we lived 200 miles from the nearest grocery store, and only went in for a shop once every four to five weeks, keeping herbs was also pretty much out of the question, mainly because you needed the fridges for ‘important’ stuff as my other half put it. Enter the Aeorogarden. That thing worked! It was unbelievable!! I had fresh herbs all through the winter, all through the spring, summer and fall! I had enough to cut and give away to some very appreciative friends who are also kick ass cooks, including a chef, who was delighted with the basil bounty, by the way! I even learned to cook stuff I never had before just because I wanted to use my selection of nine herbs. So yeah, the thing really does work. The seed pods are hideously expensive but you can get them at Canadian Tire where they aren’t too, too bad for price. And yep, tried to make my own set up but it didn’t work so good luck with making your own seed pods. I would be very curious to see if they work out. Happy growing!

  6. JosephineTomato says:

    I will be interested in your opinion of the taste. I love my Aerogarden for herbs and it grows great peppers, especially spicy hot jalapeños but I was disappointed with the tomato flavor, they seemed much like winter hydroponic tomatoes, lovely but lacking in flavor. I had such high hopes too as tomatoes are my favorite food!

    • Karen says:

      I’ll let you know. I’m curious about the taste as well. I’ll also experiment with using my own tomato seeds, but I suspect this particular variety that comes with the Aerogarden was chosen by them because of their short growing time and compact size. But … maybe not! Maybe all cherry tomatoes will grow into weird short little stocky plants under this thing, lol. ~ karen!

    • linda in Illinois says:

      I agree, the flavor of tomatoes is completely different then grown in the ground. texture was more mushey as well.

  7. Mim says:

    Please let us know how the tomatoes taste. We have beautiful hydroponic tomatoes in the stores here – there is a farm nearby that grows them. They look perfect, but taste like cardboard. It’s always been my theory that the rich dirt and sunshine give them a flavor that chemical fertilizer and water can’t replicate. In the meantime, I buy Romas and use frozen, roasted tomatoes from the freezer until I can get the real thing again.

    But if you report that these actually taste like tomatoes, I will take the plunge into water-based growing.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

    • Karen says:

      I’ll let you know Mim. I agree about sun and rain and soil. But even if they’re remotely tomato like they’ll be a good source of colour for salads all winter. Fingers crossed they have even just a tiny bit of flavour! ~ karen

  8. Terri says:

    I thought I was finished buying Christmas gifts for myself until I saw your post! Parsley, oregano, French thyme, anything except tarragon which completely took over my summer garden plot and lives thru Colorado winters.

    Amazon has the pods without seeds… 9 pods for $14 and it includes fertilizer, pod covers, etc. If you want to make your own, the manufacturer says they are Canadian Sphagnum Peat.

  9. billy sharpstick says:

    Nice. I’d love to have fresh tomatoes all year long. Have you figured out the cost per tomato
    yet?
    I would try this with “Everglade Tomatoes”, tiny hardy fruits that will actually grow ALL summer! In Florida yet.

  10. Mim says:

    Karen, in terms of replacing the seed pods, you can also just buy the sponges and plant your own seeds. Much cheaper than the replanted. See: https://www.amazon.com/AeroGarden-Seed-Starter-System-Refill/dp/B0015MNIN8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1543241777&sr=8-3&keywords=aerogarden+seed+starter+system+refill+pack

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mim! I know there are sponges you can use but it’s still much more expensive than just a few seeds. My sister actually bought those empty pods and I chastised her for it, lol. I’ll figure it out. 🙂 ~ karen!

  11. Eileen says:

    So basically the tomatoes consist of Miracle Grow? yum.

    • lisaMC says:

      Exactly! I just didn’t want to be the first party pooper to say it!
      I have had an Aerogarden for years (was a gift–before Miracle Gro was the nutrient supplier).
      Have used it on and off–replacing nutrient pack with worm leachate and organic nutrients–my own yummy recipe. Still the veggies never tasted worth the effort.
      Using it with the supplied Franken-seeds and Miracle Gro make me think of Jeff Goldblum’s line in Jurassic Park 2–
      “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming.”

      • Karen says:

        I checked the tomato variety, and they’re *supposedly* open pollinated heirloom. So very much non Frankenstein. And the basil is Genovese Basil. Also non Frankenstein. As far as the tomatoes not being worth the effort, if the only effort is putting water in a reservoir then I don’t mind. I buy cherry tomatoes (not large ones) throughout the winter for salads and the odd recipe that I want a fresh not frozen tomato for. Plus the chickens love cherry tomatoes. So if they even resemble a tomato I’ll be happy with them. 🙂 ~ karen!

  12. Robyn says:

    Hopefully they will taste as good as they look. Even if they don’t, I think there is therapeutic value in being able to see, touch, smell an actual tomato plant this time of year! They are adorable! Enjoy!

  13. Mary W says:

    I tried to name each plant in the advertised link you gave and I was stumped at the Genovese basil. Have you ever tried eating it? Is it sweet? I adore sweet basil and assume the Thai is just that but is it? I’m surprised chives are not there. Is flat leave parsley available? I just might want to invest in one of these things.

  14. Tess says:

    I bought mine to grow pot, but for now I’ll settle on growing flowers.

    For me, the tomatoes were a bust (I’ll just keep buying the Frankin-veg ones from the US). I couldn’t use the herbs fast enough to keep them going but they were good as was the Basil. Cleaning out the roots every month was a bit of challenge (they can clog the aerator pump especially fast growing ones) But growing flowers has been the best experience for me so far esp. growing them in the dead of winter; I’ve even used some of my own seed in recycled sponges when I can.

  15. Sherrill says:

    Hi, glad you found Aerogardening. I have been using these for more than 10 years. They keep bringing out new features every year. Mark my words you Will buy another, and probably another. I have had 4 going at once over the winter, herbs in one, lettuce in another, sweet peppers and tomatoes and Jalapeños in another. It gets me over the winter blues, before the ground unthaws. If you want some fun get the grow everything kit and plant your own seeds. Your family and friends will be astonished at your little garden oasis in the middle of winter. Love this product!

  16. Renee S says:

    Tomatoes LOVE Epsom salts! Chesp, cheap, cheap. Miracle Grow is Monsanto, now Bayer. I willingly use Miracle Grow on flowers but not veggies. Love your blog.

  17. Renee S says:

    Tomatoes LOVE Epsom salts! Cheap, cheap, cheap and healthy. Miracle Grow is Monsanto, now Bayer. I willingly use Miracle Grow on flowers but not veggies. Love your blog.

    • Karen says:

      Just be aware that even though there’s a lot of information about how great epsom salts are for vegetables, most of it is fiction. Kind of like “potato towers”. Also fiction, lol. There’s a tiny amount of micronutrients in epsom salts which can be beneficial, but it isn’t nearly enough nutrition to sustain and feed a tomato plant with what it needs. So for something like an Aerogarden where virtually the only nutrients it gets is from whatever you add, adding epsom salts wouldn’t be nearly enough I’m afraid. ~ karen!

  18. Dana says:

    Been stalking you for years, but first comment. I’m going to get the kids’ version for my kids and can’t wait to hear about your seed pods! Unfortunately, my gardening skills are total crap and I’m hoping the kids can keep me in herbs, as is their duty as small mooches.

    • Karen says:

      Oh the kids one is fun, it has some activity book and the goal is to grow pizza toppings, right? ~ karen! p.s. welcome to commenting!

  19. Hannah says:

    I legit enjoy my aerogarden, but if you can hack the seed pod thing, that’d be great. I just dropped a tomato seed in my lettuce one when it was done and it did grow….but I accidentally put a beefsteak seed in and long story short I had to disassemble my aerogarden to rescue it from the root system.

    I mostly use it right now to feed my fresh basil addiction all winter.

  20. Patty says:

    I’ve had one for a couple years. I usually stick to growing herbs. I was gifted a box of the sponge pods so I use my own seeds in them. Something like this: http://a.co/d/9Q4y995

    When I run out, I’m just going to try packing those plastic pods with coconut fiber or peat moss and see how it goes.

  21. June says:

    The AeroGarden website is having a sale – 30% off all items and some really good doorbusters that are even more discounted.. They include two or three models in one purchase. I’m considering a doorbuster purchase to share with a friend.

  22. Jessica says:

    I want to hear if your own seeds work!!!! Can’t wait. Hope you have a winner here.

  23. Sigi says:

    Yes, keep us posted!! Very interested in the follow-up: how they taste, how long it took, if you find a way to put in your own seeds and use a non-Monsanto fertiliser. Very interesting post!

  24. Shawna says:

    Hi Karen,

    This is a great idea! I’m considering it for my mom, a nephew and a daughter (who hopefully won’t like it so I can keep it:).
    I’m curious about where you bought it? From Canada the aerogarden website is going to charge $80 for shipping for three aerogardens-even though shipping within the US is free as long as you spend $50…very frustrating. You always seem to have the best info on these types of crucial details!
    Thanks for the idea!
    Shawna

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shawna! I bought my first ones from Amazon and the shipping was free. I bought one recently on sale from Canadian Tire! But I believe they only carry the smaller 3 pod ones, not the larger ones that have 6 or 9 pods. Hope that helps. ~ karen!

    • Linda Hoye says:

      They’re on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond in Canada now!

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