No patio, sunlight or space? No problem. You can still grow your own herb garden at home
Indoor plant growers are self-contained units that allow you to grow anything from herbs to vegetables to flowers anywhere in your home—even if you live in a basement suite. You don't need a lot of space or even natural light since these units are equipped with full-spectrum lights that promote photosynthesis.
Even the smallest units will allow you to cultivate enough basil every couple of months to make a generous amount of pesto. Even better, you can pick and choose what you want to grow—options include cilantro, mint, parsley and cherry tomatoes—so you can clip a few fresh items when needed and avoid paying $4 for a bundle of herbs at the store (only to end up composting the bulk of it a week later).
Indoor plant growers are also really attractive. They're modern, sleek and fabulous conversation starters, so don't confine them to the kitchen. They look amazing in dining rooms, offices and other living areas, too.
Whichever unit you prefer, there are a few universal tips that will help make your growing experience more successful:
- During germination, warmth is more important than light. Keep your unit somewhere that's draft-free and warm. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can move your unit to its final home.
- These units give off a lot of light, so cluster a few other plants nearby to create a Pinterest-y garden.
- It can't be emphasized enough: these units are really bright so keep that in mind when deciding on where to place them. A small unit can easily light up a small kitchen enough so you won't need to turn on additional lights for everyday tasks.
- Give the individual pots a quarter turn each day to ensure even light distribution. As the plants grow, larger leaves will shade smaller leaves underneath so rotating the pots will prevent uneven growth.
- As your plants grow, increase the height of your lights, which will keep your plants from burning and encourage them to grow upwards.
- If you start to see yellow leaves, your plant is overwatered. Simply take the individual pot out and perch it in a small glass, keeping it next to the unit so it still has access to the lights. Return the pot to the container after a few days when the leaves should again be bright green.
- In between growing cycles, give your unit a clean inside-out to prevent buildup of bacteria in the water well.
Can't wait to start? Here are some of our favourite indoor plant growers for you to try...
1. Click and Grow Smart Garden 3
This system uses Click and Grow's "Smart Soil," a NASA–inspired technology that helps keep water distributed evenly, ensuring plants always have the optimal mix of water, oxygen and nutrients.
The actual growing medium is like a peat moss and doesn't contain any pesticides, fungicides, hormones or any other harmful substances. There are over 45 fruits, herbs and leafy greens to choose from including mini tomatoes, wild strawberries, chili peppers and any herb your epicurean heart desires.
All you need to do is insert the plant pods into the glossy white unit, fill the unit with water, plug it in and wait for germination (four to eight days). The timer is not programmable and functions 16 hours on, eight hours off, so plug in your device whenever you want your light cycle to begin. (For example, plug it in at 8 a.m. and it will turn off at midnight).
The smallest system is a sleek, slim unit with an extendable arm that provides a single row of LED lights to the plants below and includes three pods (all basil). The largest system is a stunning wall unit that can hold 51 pods.
Smart Garden 3, $99.95; replacement pods in packs of three, $9.95
2. Aerogarden Sprout LED
A well-known brand for indoor hydroponic growing systems, Aerogarden produces units that feature an adjustable "hood" containing rows of full-spectrum lights. These nourish plants that grow in water, not soil. Because of this, the object includes a pump for circulating water, which a produces a noise similar to a fish tank.
They also include a digital front-panel monitor that indicates the plants' light, water and nutrient levels. You'll need to add Aerogarden's special Miracle-Gro liquid food to the water occasionally. (Be careful to follow instructions exactly, as too little light will starve your plant and too much will burn them).
The small Sprout LED system includes seeds for Genovese basil, curly parsley and dill. When you're ready to replace your seeds, there are over 150 different flowers, vegetables and herbs to choose from, including a "grow-anything" kit that allows you to grow your own seeds.
Sprout LED, $99.95; replacement pods in packs of three, $12.95
3. Torchstar Plant Grow LED Light Kit
There's a lot to be said for simplicity and this unit by Torchstar is the simplest by far. Not only does it forgo its own proprietary seed-growing system and adjustable light source, you have to assemble it yourself à la Ikea. You'll also need to supply your own pots, soil and plants.
So, yes, it's basic, to say the least. But it's also worth pointing out that fewer parts means potentially less disruption related to this typically no-fuss, stress-free hobby. In addition, the Plant Grow LED Light Kit is probably the cheapest indoor plant grower you'll find.
Just keep in mind that, because you can't raise the height of the lights, your plants should remain relatively low when fully grown. You'll also need to water as you would any other garden or house plant. The lights connect to an on-and-off switch, so you can control them manually or leave them to run on an automated 16/8 cycle if you're away.
Plant Grow LED Light Kit, $45.99.