If you’re new to the hydroponics game, choosing your first system can prove tricky: there are so many products on the market, and, with all that confusing terminology, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Of course, one of the primary factors when picking out your very first system will be price; after all, the cost of some systems can reach into thousands of dollars. You are testing out the waters (there’s a pun in there somewhere!) and you need a system that will prove economical.
However, the fact that any given system is low cost isn’t enough: it has to offer something more than just a competitive price. The last thing you want to do is skimp on the cost and end up with something that barely works and breaks after two weeks, right? You want a system that’s fantastic value, easy to set up, hard-wearing and, most importantly, that achieves the results promised on the box.
In my opinion there’s one product range that stands head and shoulders above all others in terms of performance at a competitive price: the Miracle-Gro Aerogarden range.
The Aerogardens are by far the best selling-range of home hydroponics models, and there’s a reason why.
They look fantastic, provide exceptional results and come in at three (very affordable!) price-points to meet your needs. Some of the features you find on these systems are rare at these prices, and wouldn’t look out of place on a considerably more expensive piece of kit.
There are three products in the Aerogarden range, designed for different budgets, and all come highly recommended. The systems can be put together very easily, meaning that even if this is your first time growing, you won’t face any set up headaches. In fact, all the parts are manufactured so that it’s as easy as just clipping the pieces together (there’s an in-depth guide to show you exactly how too).
Planting is as simple as dropping some seeds into the pods. You can plant your own seeds, but there are some provided too. For me, this is a really nice touch, and it avoidsa situation where your shiny new system arrives and you realize you have nothing to plant! Then, it’s as simple as adding water, and mixing in some nutrients (also provided!).
The best thing about the systems is, of course, the growing performance: inexperienced growers can be overwhelmed when getting started. Miracle-Gro ensure this isn’t an issue by pre-programming a schedule for a range of different plants into their systems. This takes care of the lighting and watering, meaning you have one less thing to worry about! As you learn more about growing hydroponically, or when want to grow a plant not on their list, well, everything is fully customizable.
What’s more, Miracle-Gro provide fantastic customer service. If you have any beginner questions (and you probably will!) feel free to give them a call and they will walk you through the process every step of the way.
You’ve probably gathered that I can’t recommend these systems enough! To put it bluntly: I wouldn’t just argue that the Aerogardens are the best “cheap” hydroponic systems; they are some of the best systems on the market, period!
The Aerogarden Range
There are three products in the range, all at different price-points. If you are trying to work out which is the best system for you, take a look at the descriptions below.1
Miracle-Gro Aerogarden 7
This is the system that brought indoor hydroponics into the mainstream! It’s still the best selling product on the market, and definitely worth considering as your first hydroponic system.
The “7” in the name refers to the number of “pods” in the system. For me, this hits the sweet-spot in regards to the size.
This is the middle model in the range: in size, features and price. If you don’t want to get the smallest, most basic product, but feel like you aren’t going to be growing huge volumes, this is the product for you.2
Miracle-Gro Aerogarden 3
This is the “3-pod” version of the product, and it is the entry level product in the Aerogarden range. It is the smallest and is therefore the cheapest, but don’t let that put you off. This product contains all the features of the “7”, the only reason it is less expensive is that you can’t grow as many plants. Don’t consider it to be inferior to the “7”, because it’s not. I like to look at it as the “7”‘s little brother.
Depending on what you are looking for, the size can actually be one of the product’s strengths. With only three plants in the system, the kit is small enough to sit on a desk or a table, brightening up your home or office. It is also quite “cute” looking, making it great for introducing your children to the world of hydroponics. Miracle-Gro seem to have caught on to the products potential appeal and have crafted this system in a range of different colours, allowing you to add a personal touch. There is even a bumble bee and ladybug version, which are very quirky and look great!3
Miracle-Gro Aerogarden ULTRA
This is the top-end product of the Aerogarden range, and is actually our top rated of all the hydroponic systems on the market today — that’s some vote of confidence!
It’s more high-tech than the other products in the range, and as a result is the most expensive of the three. However, with all the additional features you get for your money, I actually think this is the best value. It comes with 7 pods, meaning you can grow the same quantity as you can with the “7” system, but it’s the extra features that really sell it.
It comes with a handheld control panel, which walks you through the growing cycle in incredible detail, right through to harvest. You can also use the controls to customize every aspect of the grow to the most minute level of detail. The “7” and the “3” are great products for the beginner, but there are enough features included in this fantastic system to keep you going well into the intermediate level. If you are passionate about gardening, you might find you outgrow some of the features on the other two systems: well, my advice is not to make that mistake and get the best system on the market in the first place!