Aerogarden Replacement Pods
One of the questions I often get when people hear that I have an indoor garden is if I’m able to grow all of my own food and spend less at the grocery store.
The funny thing is I spend way more on this little hobby than I save at the grocery store.
So I do try to save a bit here and there when I can!
Most of the cost with indoor gardening is at set up. The machines can be a little pricey, but after the first planting, new seeds and replacement pods can be pretty affordable.
…Especially if you know the tips and tricks for saving on replacement Aerogarden pods.
How to Make Your Own Aerogarden Pods
And the nice thing is, you’re not limited to the company’s pre-seeded pods.
You can grow practically anything you want in these hydroponic systems – herbs, lettuces, fruiting plants, flowers, etc – as long as you keep the machine well maintained.
You just need some basic materials and then you can use your own seeds to grow whatever you want:
Aerogarden Grow Anything Kit
Aerogarden sells a handy kit called the Grow Anything Kit that contains all the supplies you need.
In the beginning, I bought their kits and from time to time, I still buy them! They’re the easiest all-in-one option and everything is perfectly made to fit the Aerogardens.
They’re just a bit expensive.
Over time, you can save quite a bit of money by purchasing ‘knock-off’ parts from third-party sellers. You can even make your own!
I’ve tried all different brands and DIY options at this point, so in today’s post I thought I’d summarize the best budget friendly alternatives to Aerogarden’s pods.
In some instances, you can save quite a bit from the knock off brands (that work just as well as the originals) while in some instances I’d recommend the Aerogarden’s in-house option.
Aerogarden Pod Alternatives
Aerogarden grow baskets are little plastic cages. They retail for about 30 cents each, whereas knock-off grow baskets cost ~15 cents each.
The knock-off plastic pods work just fine, but don’t always have the most seamless fit inside the holes of the grow deck. So, I prefer the Aerogarden branded grow baskets.
And, the nice thing is you can re-use these!
The plastic is pretty strong and will survive repeated plantings, even if the little vertical pieces break. So I recommend buying the Aerogarden pods. While they are double the price, they last quite a while and that way you get a more seamless fit!
Just wash them with some soap and warm water before re-using and clean off any roots or debris.
Aerogarden sponges are made from Canadian spaghnum peat.
It’s a kind of sponge-y brown moss grown extensively in Canadian peat bogs. Spagnum peat moss is a great growing medium for hydroponics because it doesn’t contain any mineral soil and is therefore free from weeds, insects and diseases.
It also has a high capacity to hold water without restricting airflow, ensuring that your plants will be able to adequately absorb water and nutrients without suffocating.
Hydroponic roots should always look white and healthy. If they start turning dark brown and slimy, they’re likely suffocating.
You can buy spagnum peat moss sponges from any third party company (they all use the same material). The only main difference is the shape of the sponge.
Obviously, Aerogarden sponges are perfectly sized to fit the Aerogarden grow baskets. They’re shaped like an inverted cone, measuring ¾ inch wide at the top and tapering down to ½ an inch at the bottom.
Height wise, they should be almost 3/4 the height of the plastic grow basket.
Some of the knock-off brands are short and wide, so they don’t fit quite as nicely. And I’ve found that the cheaper ones can crumble and disintegrate a little too easily.
But, sponges are one part of the Aerogarden pod that I don’t recommend re-using in between plantings.
They get quite tangled with roots and can harbor bacteria or disease if your old plants weren’t healthy.
I always recommend using fresh sponges (unless a plant has died off very early and the sponge has barely been used). I typically buy a bag of 10o from a third party brand for $20, which comes out to ~20 cents a sponge.
Aerogarden Sponge Alternatives
The main purpose of the sponge is to hold the plant in place. So if you wanted, you could save even more money by using alternative growing mediums, like:
Peat moss is not really an environmentally friendly material (it releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide when harvested) so lots of people prefer less harsh products.
Here’s a quick overview of various Aerogarden sponge alternatives:
Rockwool is extremely affordable.
It’s sold in 1″ cubes in a sheet, so you can buy a huge pack and just cut them to fit the Aerogarden plastic cages. One of the benefits of rockwool is it’s a great option for DIY hydroponic systems, so you could use it for other indoor garden projects.
But, I prefer to not have to cut every sponge individually.
Rockwool blocks can contain micro dust particles and loose fibers that can aggravate allergies, so I don’t use them.
Clay pebbles are another popular hydroponic growing medium. For some plants, I find that clay pebbles work better than the peat moss sponges.
For example, chives are an herb that grow best in a thick bunch. The seeds can take a while to germinate (~21 days) and each seed is roughly medium sized. I try to plant 10-20 per slot in the Aerogarden but this ends up being too many seeds for the small sized hole in the Aerogarden sponge.
Likewise, veggies with extra large seeds like green beans and peas can be a tight fit for the peat moss sponges.
Clay pebbles are also a great growing medium if you want to create a DIY hydroponic garden, kratky mason jar or LECCA pot. So they’re quite useful!
Clay pebbles are sold in a large 8 pound bag for ~$20 and pretty affordable. They’re also re-usable! Just make sure to give them a good wash before using for the first time, as they can be a bit dusty.
Coco coir is a popular hydroponic growing medium because it looks and feels like growing in soil. It’s not soil, but is actually coconut fiber, extracted and processed from the tough outer husk of a coconut.
Coco coir has lots of benefits – it has one of the highest rates of water retention (it can absorb up to 10x its weight in water) so plant roots will never get dehydrated and instead grow strong, healthy roots.
It’s also environmentally friendly, because it’s a repurposed product from what would otherwise be waste and it can also be re-used over and over.
Coco coir is relatively cost effective, but just slightly more labor intensive. The product is usually dehydrated and pressed into dry bricks that you’ll then need to rehydrate and mix.
Dish Sponges and Pool Noodles
I’ve personally never tried using these, but have seen others DIY them.
You can buy a pack of inexpensive sponges and cut them down to fit the Aerogarden grow baskets. They don’t provide the best airflow, but they’re one of the most economical growing mediums.
You could also re-purpose a pool noodle.
Just cut off the ends
These rounded sponge collars work best for wide-mouth net cups though, as opposed to the small Aerogarden spaces.
As I mentioned, you can grow practically anything inside the Aerogardens.
But, some plants will grow easily, from start to finish, while others will need to eventually be transplanted outdoors.
The best types of plants will be container varieties or dwarf sized plants, since they’ll naturally be short and compact. I typically buy my seeds online from heirloom seed companies, because they offer fun unique varieties of herbs and veggies that I can’t easily find at the grocery store.
When shopping for seeds, look for keywords like ‘container friendly’ or ‘compact’. I also find that it helps to read customer reviews. I’m always looking for how tall the plants get, how long it took for fruit to develop and of course, taste!
The size of plant you can grow depends on the Aerogarden system you have.
Saving Money on Seeds
To save money on seeds, you can save seeds from your full grown plants. This is especially easy to do for fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, etc.
I also recommend buying seeds off-season.
Most seed companies will start to have sales in late spring and early summer to clear out their inventory. Often the unique and most in-demand varieties will sell out, but it’s a great way to stock up on seeds you might otherwise not have bought.
I’ve gotten seeds for as little as 20 cents at places like Aldi, and heirloom seeds for ~$2 per packet from Botanical Interests during their sales.
You technically don’t need labels, but I find them helpful to identify what you’re growing.
I’ll often plant a bunch of stuff, swear I’ll remember, and then promptly forget which exact variety of pepper I’ve got going where 8 weeks later..
So far I haven’t found the ‘perfect’ label.
The Aerogarden labels are peel-and-stick stickers. Ink tends to smudge on them so if anyone has tips for what type of pen or marker to use, let me know!
The Aerogarden labels have a wider central opening, which works better for large seed plants, like beans and peas. They’re also a light yellow-green color, which makes blue or blank ink much easier to read.
Third party labels are inexpensive and also operate on the same sticker method.
The labels are darker colored, with plant designs printed on them, so it can be a little harder to read writing against the background. But, the finish on the stickers seems to make ink smudge less.
I also noticed the third party labels often have a smaller central hole, which more effectively blocks out light and more thoroughly prevents algae growth.
But, I noticed when growing beans that the giant bean seeds are much larger than the opening and it restricted the initial seedling growth a bit. The giant bean seeds actually pushed against the sticker and caused it to pop up, so you just have to keep an eye on your plants and make sure they’re growing straight.
For the price, I’d go with the knock off stickers. Aerogarden labels cost about 26 cents per sticker, while third party labels can be as cheap as 7 cents a sticker!
For a DIY alternative, you can use aluminum foil.
Little squares of foil are easy to wrap around the base of the plastic dome and help to block out algae or mold growth. Some of the third party Aerogarden systems use square pods so the circular stickers aren’t a good fit.
In those instances, I use aluminum as a cover and forego the labeling.
The initial Aerogardens come with seed pods and plastic caps.
These trap moisture and create a moist, greenhouse-like environment for the baby seedling.
Save the grow domes! They can be re-used from planting to planting. If you threw out the initial set, most of the third party brands sell replacement grow domes.
They’re very affordable – about $12 for a pack of 100 plastic caps, or roughly 12 cents each.
Aerogarden’s Grow Your Own Kit includes extra bottles of Aerogarden nutrients.
They work very well and I’ve used them to grow herbs, lettuces and fruiting plants. I recommend Aerogarden’s 1 liter bottles of nutrients. It’s still a small bottle, but is a better value than the mini bottles.
It’s also very easy to use – just pour a couple capfuls to the grow bowl (the number of cups depends on the size of the unit). No need to mix anything!
The knock-off Aerogardens like iDoo, AHopegarden, Letpot etc include nutrients as well, but use a more shelf stable form that comes in two separate parts: nutrients A + B. While these work just fine, they add just a little extra step to turn them into liquid form and then add individually.
I prefer the Aerogarden nutrients even though they’re slightly more expensive.
But, lately I’ve been testing out hydroponic nutrients from various other brands, like:
These are all a bit cheaper than Aerogarden’s nutrients and have more detailed formulations of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) so you can give your plants a more specific level of nutrients.
They’re not only a better value, they can help to optimize nutrition requirements for each type of plant you’re growing.
Eventually I’ll write a nutrient guide once I’ve experimented a bit more!
In general, nutrients in powder form will be the most cost effective. By eliminating the liquid, they’re lighter to ship and can last a lot longer. The downside is they come in large bags and require you to mix up the nutrients yourself.
Overall, by using a combination of Aerogarden and third party materials, growing a new plant from seed can be extremely budget friendly!
DIY Aerogarden Pods
|Item||Quantity||Price||Avg Price per Pod|
|Grow Dome (re-used)||—||—||$0.00|
To give you an idea, each new plant costs only ~75 cents!
Nutrients and electricity are extra, but overall pretty minimal. Hope this post helped give you an idea of how you can grow plants indoors on a budget.
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