Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System
Yes, as soon as I announced that I was going to be testing the Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System, ($239) the inevitable jokes about me growing "herb" in the office sprung up like, well, you know, "weeds".
Things didn't get any better when the plants that I selected were, in fact an herb garden: Sage, Cilantro, Mint, and Parsley. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about the Miracle Grow hydroponic system.
First, it comes partially assembled. Actually, in my case it came partially disassembled. After putting it all together, which amounts to securing the four metal legs to the bottom that houses the pump, and the top with the lights, it turned out that the unit would not work. Miracle Gro sent me another unit. This one worked just right!
You fill the bottom with water, plug the unit in, add up to four plants potted in special holders that keep the dirt from falling into the water, and then pair the device to a smart phone. The app keeps track of what plants you're growing, when you need to add plant food, and when you should harvest. (Interestingly, there is an option to learn "how to harvest", but when you click on it, the web page that pops up primarily serves to offer more plants for sale with no mention of "how to harvest".)
I started with plants that were already potted, but you can grow from seeds or seedling, depending on what planter inserts you use.
On balance, in the right home, this is a remarkable product. seeing plants grow into food, and tending to their care, gives lessons in biology and so much more. Nurturing, responsibility, and understanding of our place in the world is sometimes lost, particularly on those of us that live in big cities where we are removed from the soil (and in many apartments from the sun as well). I do have some caveats. First, you do need to keep on top of the water supply. The unit will flash and send a message from the app when you need to add water. Also, keep in mind that it wants to bathe the plants in its special light 14 hours a day. That light is somewhat contained to the area around the system, but does spill into the whole room. You can modify the light schedule, and pause or lower it temporarily, but I have tended to just leave it on its default settings.
I have some safety concerns, too. There are warnings not to stare at the LED array that provides the light. However, babies and toddlers who are crawling and cruising might find themselves in a position where the light is right in their eyes. Moreover, some older kids will be curious about the lights as well. Likewise, though the unit when filled with water is heavy, it could constitute a tipping danger. By the way, there are small screws that can be used to hold a protective cover in place so that kids can't easily get into the water, but kids are resourceful. So, evaluate your home and its denizens before making this purchase.
Does it work?
In a word, fantastically. Some say I have a brown thumb; what I plant tends to die. But three weeks in, my herbs are looking great and adding fresh flavors to dinner! I love having all this green where I work, and actually think the very bright wide-spectrum light in my otherwise dark office is combating that horrible seasonal feeling I get when the days get shorter. In fact, I suspect that the overall effect of the Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System is to bring a sense of "life" into whatever space it is coming to.