05 Jan Disabled Garden: AeroGarden Farm Plus Basics
The AeroGarden Farm Plus is a huge investment. But it has many great benefits for the disabled. Before purchasing one, there are a number of things you need to know; things you won’t learn by reading reviews from abled people.
I started my AeroGarden journey with two Spout LEDs. Immediately, I knew I wanted the Farm Plus, not only for the fact you can grow 24 different plants at once at a fraction of the cost of multiple counter top models but to also save money on groceries in the long-term. I did some math and I’ll save more money on my grocery bill within the first year than the cost of the Farm Plus.
The reviews I read were mostly very positive and answered some questions. I setup my Farm Plus on January 3, 2019, and quickly learned there were many things I needed to know as a disabled person that aren’t mentioned in the reviews.
So, let’s break down some of the AeroGarden Farm Plus basics you’ll need to know if you’re disabled.
1. The AeroGarden Farm Plus Is HUGE and Heavy
I’m stressing this point right at the beginning for a number of reasons.
If you live in an area where Canada Post (or equivalent for your country) doesn’t do door parcel delivery, you’ll need help picking it up from the post office, getting into your car, getting it into your house, and getting it to where it will live. If your only means of transportation is public transit and Canada Post doesn’t delivery parcels to your door, do not get the AeroGarden Farm Plus.
On Amazon, it says that the Farm Plus weighs 23 kg in its box. I’m pretty sure it weighed much more than that. Also, getting the box into the back seat of our car was… interesting. It would have fit in the trunk if only the opening to the truck were larger.
Very importantly, you need to build the Farm Plus where it is going to live. Once it is filled with water, it weighs over 50 kg. There is no moving it. The assembled measurements are about 3 feet high, 1 foot deep and 3 feet wide.
*Tip for Placing Your AeroGarden Farm Plus
If you have pets or small children, you’ll need to keep the Farm Plus away from mouths and hands. Your dog(s) and/or cat(s) will love to munch at the herbs as they are growing. You also need to tuck it away so that the sound of the pump and the very bright lights don’t bother you. It can be placed on the floor. That is where most people place theirs.
But that means, you have to bend over or sit on the floor to tend to it. This is where a short dresser comes in. Either tuck it away in its own room, the laundry room or a hallway, and build it on the dresser. Housing it on a dresser not only solves the pet and small children problem but also the bending issues. If you place it in a hallway, you’ll need to sleep with your door closed because of how bright the lights are.
Another tip about the lights came from Elizabeth: Since you can program when the lights go on and off, program the lights to go on when you’re normally sleeping and they’ll go off at a time when bright full-spectrum lighting won’t mess up your sleep/wake cycle.
2. The AeroGarden Farm Plus Is Super Easy to Assemble but Back-Breaking to Setup
I had no problem assembling the Farm Plus on my own, on top of the dresser on which it lives. It took me about 30 – 45 minutes to do so. It look about an hour and a half to: add the water — running back and forth to the bathroom filling up a two litre juice jug ten times — add the nutrients, prepare all of my Grow Anything seed pods, setup of the garden and the garden types on the touch display, and setup of the app.
By the time I was done, my back was screaming. It didn’t hurt at all during the assembly process.
*Tips for Setup of Your AeroGarden Farm Plus
Get help. That’s all I can say. I wish reviews mentioned all that goes into setup post-assembly. I would have had my partner run back and forth to the bathroom for me while I sat in my garden chair and prepared the pods.
Also, don’t fully tighten the screws in steps 3 and 5, otherwise the bars in step 7 won’t fit properly. Tighten them just enough to hold things together while you flip the Farm Plus right-way up, then tighten them fully after completing step 7. There are handy slots at the bottom of storage areas on either side of the hood that allow for this. Not knowing this added about 10 minutes to assembly.
3. The AeroGarden App Isn’t Just a Techy Add-On: It’s an Accessibility Feature!
If you read many of the reviews on Amazon, many mention the app, but they either talk about it as some cool tech addition or as something about which they don’t understand the purpose since you can do everything on the touch display.
After using the app, I immediately became incensed because the reviews were extremely ableist and didn’t mention a single benefit of the app if you’re disabled.
If you’re short like I am and you house your Farm Plus on a short dresser, you won’t be able to reach the touch display without standing on a chair. The dresser that houses my Farm Plus is about three feet high, making the display roughly six feet high. On the initial setup, you have to do it via the display. You all have to pair the app by scanning a bar code on the display. For me, that meant climbing up on a chair which not only makes my mobility issues worse, it’s also dangerous.
But after that initial literal pain and danger, the app allows you to not only check on the status of your garden without having to climb, but it also allows you to lower and lift the motorised lights. I use a journal to track when I planted things and when I need to add nutrients, plus more, but the app also includes a garden log that automatically updates as you feed and water your garden. You can also add your own entries, such as when you pruned/harvested your garden. If you have brain fog because of a health condition, this is an excellent bonus. And of course, it let’s you know when you need to feed and add water to your garden.
After the initial paring of the app to the Farm Plus, you can do the Quick Plant setup from the app for future gardens. No more having to climb after that very first time.
And then there are the nice techy things, like recipes, FAQs, a shop that is only good if you live in the USA, an easy place to contact customer service, and more.
4. You Will Save Money with the AeroGarden Farm Plus
It costs about $2.00 CAD per plant, if you use the sponge and label refills. The increased cost of electricity is negligible because the full-spectrum LED lights are extremely efficient. If you regularly harvest your herbs, you’ll have an unending supply for at least six months. If you take care to pollinate your tomatoes and peppers, those can last up to one year.
To grow a year’s worth of tomatoes at roughly $2.00?! Let’s go super conservative and say $10 per plant per year when you factor in the cost of electricity, nutrients and buying your own seeds. I spend approximately $10 per month on canned tomatoes alone, never mind the fresh ones I also buy.
The Farm Plus comes with a variety of herbs, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. I also purchased the bell pepper kit, chili pepper kit and gourmet herb kit. I plan to grow my own tomatoes and peppers using the sponge/label replacements once I have mature fruit from which to harvest seeds. I also purchased some serrano pepper seeds, catnip, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, sage, cumin, and Manitoba heirloom tomatoes from West Coast Seeds. Once I run out of herb pods from the packages I bought, I’ll also purchase those seeds from West Coast Seeds.
The initial investment has been a lot. It’s quite the sticker shock. But if you also do the math, you’ll also see that you’ll save money within the first year.
5. Your Living Space May Make the AeroGarden Farm Plus Unfeasible
Even if I didn’t have severe mobility issues, I don’t have the outdoor space for a garden. But I have plenty of indoor space for my AeroGardens. They have a dedicated room beside my office. So, I didn’t have to think about lights and sounds when purchasing one. Also, the cost is prohibitive for a lot of disabled people. I got mine thanks to Christmas and birthday money from my mother-in-law. You may be able to get one via a family member.
But, before you even think about getting one, you really need to think long and hard about where you will place it. If you have small children or pets, you can’t keep it in the living room. Also, while the lights will help with mood disorders, they will interfere if you want to watch television or movies with the lights off. The lights for herbs are on 16.5 hours per day and for the tomatoes and peppers side, 16 hours. If you have sensory issues, the hum from the water pumps may soothe you or hurt you. My autistic brain is very fickle when it comes to white noise.
If you live in an apartment, the hallway on a dresser would be a great place for it, but it may not be wide enough. The dresser that houses my AeroGardens is 18 inches deep. You’ll need to measure the width of your hallway to see if you’ll have enough room to pass by the garden. You also may not have a dedicated laundry room to stick it in. Maybe you have a closet with an outlet in it, or near enough to an outlet that you can use an extension cord without it being a tripping hazard. A closet would be a great place if space is at a premium. You can also fit an appropriately-sized dresser in most closets.
If any of the above solutions are a nope, then you can grow tomatoes and peppers in the AeroGarden Bounty Elite which fits on a counter-top, but you’ll need multiples and the cost will run more than the Farm Plus. Alternatively, you can get the Bounty Elite to grow a couple different peppers and a tomato plants, and a couple Spout LEDs when on sale for your herbs.
These are the first five things I learned about the AeroGarden Farm Plus that I wish were mentioned in reviews! I’ll be blogging regularly about my Farm Plus journey, expanding on what’s in my Midori. As I learn more, so will you. I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me!