Tech Savvy: Keep the garden going this winter, indoors with a smart growing system

Options include gardens small enough to sit on a counter, that self-water and have vacation modes, covering a wide range of prices and sizes.

A woman bends down to inspect an in-home garden from Rise Gardens.
Rise Gardens offer small personal gardens able to fit on countertops to ones able to feed families and can be incorporated as a furniture piece in the home. The company reports every Rise Garden includes everything needed to become the source of home-based freshly-picked ingredients in less than 30 days.
Contributed / Hank Adams (Rise Gardens)
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A reprieve of warm temperatures this weekend will make fall preparations much easier, like cleaning out that garden so it will be ready next spring — but maybe gardening doesn’t have to end with the cold weather.

There are many ways to incorporate the indoor garden into homes this winter with a little technology. And that may have benefits beyond the ability to grow peppers inside. Having some greenery and being able to nurture plants during what can be a long winter, may be a mood enhancer as well.

There are smart indoor garden and garden kits for every home size, from a small compact countertop version to larger raised indoor gardens. And they cover the gamut in price range as well. And it might be easier than ever to dive into indoor gardening.

“With LED growing lights and self-watering functionality, indoor smart gardens require almost no maintenance or attention and will grow bountiful blooms of herbs, lettuce, flowers and even meatier vegetables like tomatoes and peppers,” CNET reported after testing several smart gardens to find a best model for every type of indoor gardener. CNET looked at the best ones for most gardeners, for microgreens, herbs and salad greens, a family hydroponic garden and a stylish indoor garden.

When I did a search for a smart indoor garden option, one of the first that came up on several sites with top reviews was AeroGarden, which notes no green thumb is needed and they have options for beginners as well as experienced gardeners with a host of seed kits from gourmet herbs to cherry tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, lavender, heirloom greens, Japanese greens, bok choy, and flowers — like colorful cascading petunias. There are lots of seed kits for about $10. Last week a number of the seed pods ranged from $9.76 to $11.86 with a striking mountain meadow mix for $15.36. The website noted those prices were about $3-6.


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The size of the countertop gardens not only opens the doors to those who find themselves missing fresh herbs and vegetables during the winter, or who miss the garden, but to renters who may not have the option to plant outdoors in any season. Or maybe your home doesn’t have the sun exposure needed to garden successfully.

Being able to pluck a cherry tomato while watching the snow pileup in January has its appeal. While autumn can be a particularly busy time in northern climates as residents prepare for the winter onslaught, long before the snow is gone, there is often a need to see something that is green and growing or sporting vibrant color. The little indoor gardens can provide that. And when looking for the gift that keeps giving this season, these countertop gardens may be the ticket.

There are many companies providing indoor gardens including Moistenland and iDOO, ZestiGreens, Click and Grow Smart Garden, Ingarden, Smart Growhouse and Rise — offering a small option with a few plants to entire gardens to serve multiple families. Rise Gardens also came with multiple recommendations and even add furniture to the home with a garden also serving as a bookshelf or as an option fitting neatly beneath a countertop extension.

So how does it work?

AeroGarden states hydroponic gardening grows plants faster and all without “soil, sun or skill.” The mini-gardens come with an adjustable LED grow light and with seed pods, food and water. The machine tells the gardener when to add water and plant food. AeroGarden has options for three, six, nine or 24 plants. The largest is called a “Farm” and is stackable for vertical gardening. Recently prices ranged from about $70 for a small countertop model to the largest Farm version, as there are multiple options to pick from, for about $735. The company states it backs any seed pods and will replace any that don’t sprout after 21 days.

For the Rise Gardens option, growing is even more automated with a self-watering and self-fertilizing system that is Wi-Fi enabled and can be controlled via the app. Rise notes there is no guesswork involved and people are even guided when to harvest their produce. Recently the Single Family Garden starter bundle was $679. The Triple Family Garden starter bundle was recently a little more than $1,000.

Rise Gardens' personal small garden sits on a countertop in a kitchen.
Rise Gardens includes small options that fit on a countertop. There are a host of options to get into indoor gardening that offers benefits for people who don't have the ability to garden outside or who are looking to extend gardening into the winter months.
Contributed / Hank Adams (Rise Gardens)<br/>

Another option includes the Gardyn Home Kit, which states a big fresh salad can be grown every day in just 2 square feet. Gardyn “ycubes” are popped into the vertical garden (think of different pod openings along pipe like columns) with no tools needed for assembly. Gardyn has automated watering and lighting, an app control for a smartphone, tips to help gardeners get optimal growth and a vacation mode, included with a membership. The vacation mode boasts a patented technology to manage plants for up to two weeks while residents are away. Recently costs ranged from about $849 and $999.

Gardyn says it can fit any size home needing just the 2 square feet and Wi-Fi and can grow 8-10 pounds of fresh produce a month while using 95% less water than outdoor gardens.

So there are many options to keep gardening and have fresh produce during winter months in Minnesota with minimal effort or full automation. Whether it’s for the cherry tomato aficionado in the family, someone who will benefit from green and growing plants this winter, the family looking to add to their food supply, or a gardener who just wants to keep going, this may be the gift that keeps growing and giving this season.


Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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