The Kit That Turned Me from Hopeless Gardener to Green Thumb in Less Than 30 Days
I’m not what you would call a natural gardener. And considering the sheer number of succulents that have perished at my hand, I’m not sure what it was that originally possessed me to order one of Aggressively Organic‘s countertop garden kits. Maybe it was the cute, modular cardboard growing containers, which look equal parts hippie and science-fair appropriate, or the recent articles I’d read on the true carbon footprint of my favorite grocery store veggies, or the brand’s use of the term “victory garden,” which called up empowering, Rosie-the-Riveter-style images in my feminist head. All I knew was that the website (and subsequent Facebook ads I was bombarded with) made it look easy: honeycomb-shaped cardboard pods, plus seeds, plus the brand’s proprietary super-charged, super-thin LED light, equals bountiful veggies in one square foot of kitchen counter space, year-round. I ordered the kit shortly after its launch, during the company’s beta phase, and I forgot about my order for a few months. Then in December, it arrived.
Aggressively Organic positions its grow kits as an educational tool as much as a viable food source, so it’s no surprise that I felt a little like an elementary schooler in science class putting each cardboard pod together, soaking the coco coir growth fiber discs and watching them expand, and finally picking up individual seeds with the tip of a toothpick and dropping them into their new homes. (I have an even less impressive record with science classes than I do with succulents, but I’m always down for anything hands-on.) AO lets you select from dozens of seed options (or you can use your own), but I planted eggplant, squash, two pepper varieties, cherry tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and a few other versatile picks. Considering how often I’ve managed to inadvertently kill plants that were well past this delicate developmental stage in the past, my expectations were beyond low.
But less than seven days later, thanks to the LED light, there were thick, vibrant, verdant stalks bursting from the squash seeds in the coco coir. Checking on their crazy-fast progress morning and night, I kinda felt like I’d unlocked the secrets of the universe. I basically had my own private electrical sun, in my house, doing my bidding, like some kind of not-actually-evil supervillain. (During the winter doldrums, my dog had even taken to sleeping in the warm, sunlike glow of the LED light. I also think it improved my mood, but that could’ve been a side effect of successfully growing something for once.) I was overjoyed.
After about two weeks, you’re allowed to move your seedling to their permanent home inside the cardboard honeycombs, where they begin to suck up special plant food-enriched water from bags inside. The exact moment when you move them is determined in part by the plant itself; I’ll admit that not every type of seed experienced as remarkable a growth spurt as the squash. But every. single. one. was growing bright, healthy-looking leaves — an incredible feat for a former plant-killer like myself.
AO suggests keeping the LED light quite close to the plants, to discourage “legginess” and encourage the plants to spend the bulk of their energy growing edible veggies and herbs. The mature plants will, according to the company, produce for anywhere between 3 and 6 months. When veggies appear, you’re encouraged to pick them and enjoy them immediately — no waiting for a particular “harvest time,” just a continuous, slow-and-steady yield. And as it turns out, some veggies, like lettuce, lose the bulk of their nutrients within a day or so of being harvested, so this small-scale farming may have even more benefits to tout.
Even my overzealous squash (which went from seed to 3-inch tall, multi-vined plant in fewer than 14 days) isn’t producing anything edible yet, but I already feel I have enough data to say that the system is working beyond this black-thumb’s expectations. Whether you’re trying to eat healthier, reduce your carbon footprint or just learn a new hobby, the AO kits seem like a pretty safe bet to knock out all your self-improvement projects in one fell swoop. My current mood as a gardener is somewhere between “confident” and “annoyingly smug.” Trust me on this, from one proud parent to wannabe plant moms everywhere: You can’t mess this up.
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(Images via Aggressively Organic)