“How are you with plants?” asked my editor a few weeks back.
“I’m pretty good with plants,” I replied. “For instance, last night I ate a salad.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of plants, comma, cultivation or care of.”
“I’m their worst nightmare. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned. Come the plant revolution, they will exact their horrible, but just, revenge.”
“Then you’re the person I need.”
“Do you have some ferns you need taken off the board?”
“No. We recently started carrying the AeroGarden. It’s an indoor gardening system. Our Test Kitchen team has a sample, which they’re letting us borrow. It should be virtually foolproof, but I want to see if it’s Bill-proof. I’d like you to test it out.”
“I shall do my best to do my worst.”
SETTING UP THE AEROGARDEN
The AeroGarden is a self-contained, countertop, dirtless gardening system whose compact size renders it ideal for people without much space—apartment or condo dwellers, for instance, but if you have a large house with a tiny yard, it would work for you, too. (And even though it’s designed for countertops, don’t be constrained by this. Feel free to place it on a desk, a credenza, a what-have-you. Flat surfaces abound. Explore the possibilities.)
Instead of using soil, the AeroGarden grows plants using a mix of water and plant food (supplied with the machine). The seeds come in little pods labeled with their plant’s name and the time it takes them to sprout (thyme: 7-14 days, tarragon: 8-21 days, etc.).
Setup was quick (10 minutes or so) and consisted of my plugging in the AeroGarden (this is very important to its working), filling the base with water, adding plant food, inserting the seed pods (two each of tarragon, thyme and chives), and—using the LCD display on the front of the AeroGarden—setting the lighting timer. The display also keeps track of days planted and tells you when to add food and water. (I believe the crux of my previous failures growing plants was my terrible watering protocol. Now all I have to do is obey the screen and know that green = everything’s ok and red = something’s wrong.)
AN IMPORTANT NOTE ON THE LIGHTS
You wouldn’t think a 20-watt LED lighting system with more than 100 full-spectrum grow lights would be all that bright, but it is. It’s quite bright. It casts a lot of light. This may influence where you place your AeroGarden. A coworker put hers in her basement. If you set yours up at work, as I did, I suggest putting it in someone else’s cubicle. If she complains, accuse her of thwarting agricultural progress and tell her wearing sunglasses indoors makes her look cool.
AEROGARDEN: THE FIRST FIVE DAYS
Setup complete, I awaited the sprouting of the herbs.
Day One: Nothing. Rationally, I didn’t expect to see any sprouts, but still I was disappointed.
Day Two: Nothing. Bored, I composed a haiku in remembrance of a $33 chicken I once bought at a farmers market: Bank approved my loan/I buy you from the hippie/You taste like chicken.
Day Three: Still nothing. More boredom. How do farmers stand it?
Day Four: Nothing. My moods began to swing from ennui (this is like watching grass grow) to neurotic anxiety (my god, I’ve killed them. I’ve killed the herbs before they had a chance to flavor my food and fill my belly. I’m a monster.)
Day Five: Something. Tiny green sprouts had begun to emerge from one of the thyme pods. They weren’t much yet but, like the faint, pre-first-shave mustaches guys get when they hit puberty, they were signs of strange and wondrous changes occurring.
From then, the growing continued apace, with four of the remaining pods joining the thyme in reaching for the light. The following photos will take us through the next several weeks (and if a picture is worth a thousand words, our photographer Naomi Parker wrote most of this post.)
AN AEROGARDEN ODDITY
Five of the six pods had sprouted; however, the sixth pod, tarragon, showed no signs of progress. This concerned me. Had AeroGarden only blunted my plant-killing powers? Perhaps they were in abeyance, gathering strength, waiting to reemerge and lay waste to the other herbs.
But then a coworker, Maddy, after looking closely at the AeroGarden, said, “I think that one thyme pod has both thyme and tarragon growing out of it.” “You’re right,” I said, because that is what I say when she is right.
Pondering this, I decided the tarragon and the thyme had fallen in love, and this compelled the tarragon to flout convention and propriety and abandon its pod to cleave unto the thyme. Inspired by their vegetable love, I named them Romeo and Juliet. (Although, given my plans to cut off bits of them, Abelard and Heloise may have been more apt.)
CUTTING OFF THEIR BITS
The time had come to prune the herbs, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, for two reasons. First, even though I am perfectly ok with eating plants others have slaughtered and placed in boxes or bins, I proved too squeamish for the actual wetwork required to butcher my herbs.
Second, I had grown quite attached to my herbs, thinking of them, quite irrationally, as my offspring. If I ate my offspring, I would be as bad as this guy.
Instead, I returned the AeroGarden to our cooking class team for their use. They are made of stouter stuff than I.
In conclusion, my efforts proved successful. The AeroGarden worked as advertised, and I didn’t kill anything. I declare the AeroGarden Bill-proof.
Do you have an AeroGarden tale of success? Also, where do you keep yours?
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