The AeroGarden Bounty Elite is an indoor gardening system from Miracle-Gro. I got it as a gift for Christmas, so I could keep growing fresh vegetables and herbs year-round after enjoying the backyard garden we started during the pandemic.
Currently on sale for 320 bucks, the Bounty Elite is a very easy way to grow vegetables and herbs inside. The price is high, even on sale, but if you want a simple way to garden regardless of the weather outside, this is one worth considering.
Getting to know AeroGarden
AeroGarden sells a variety of kits that include everything you need to grow herbs, vegetables, flowers and more. The Bounty Elite has space for nine plants and the seed kits AeroGarden sells range from three- to 12-pod kits, depending on the specific system you have.
This system plugs into a standard wall outlet and has a built-in adjustable stand with LED grow lights, a reservoir for adding water and plant food -- and a digital display. This model also has a related AeroGarden Wi-Fi app if you want to check in on things from your phone as well as optional integration with an Alexa-enabled smart speaker or display. (I had issues with the app that prevented me from even trying the Alexa integration; more on that later.)
We started out by purchasing a nine-pod lavender seed kit and set everything up via the Bounty Elite display. Scroll through the options to select the type of plant you want to grow, put each plant pod into an included plastic growing container and place them in each of the nine slots. Cover the top of the pod with one of the included stickers for easy labeling (this wasn't necessary in my case, since we were growing nine lavender plants, but we did it anyway). Then, cover each pod with a plastic cap, also included, while the seeds germinate.
Less than a week after setting up the system, little lavender sprouts began to appear. Along the way, the Bounty Elite display tells you when you need to add water and plant food (included with the seed kit). Weeks later, we had large, fragrant lavender plants that smelled amazing. To keep up with their growth, we simply raised the adjustable light stand. Grow lights are bright and they're on for several hours a day, so put your system somewhere out of the way where the bright purpley light won't bug you.
Now for the smart integrations -- the AeroGarden Wi-Fi app and the Alexa integration. In theory, these features could add value to the system, but my iPhone never got past the first app screen. On the "Create An Account" screen you have to enter a code that goes to your email address (see screenshot below). Without it, you can't create an account or advance to the next page. After waiting overnight, checking my phone for software updates, checking my spam folder and requesting a code three total times, I never got an email. This prevented me from being able to test out the Alexa integration at all. Womp.
The app issue hasn't diminished my overall enjoyment of the system, since I wouldn't have used the app or the Alexa integration anyway. But if you're hoping for streamlined smarts on your indoor gardening system, look elsewhere.
In the weeds
If you want to go rogue and grow your own plants, AeroGarden also sells "Grow Anything" kits. I tried this after the lavender so I could start some seeds inside before my area's final frost date. This worked similarly well. The Grow Anything kits include everything you need -- except the seeds -- and work the same way. This time, though, I added my own heirloom tomato and cherry tomato seeds I saved from last year's garden, as well as some beet and red cabbage seeds from seed packs.
By the time the weather was warm enough to plant things outside, I had established saplings I could transplant to our raised beds, getting a jump-start on the growing season. Now we have five tomato plants, tons of beets and a couple of red cabbage plants growing outside (after a week of hardening them off in containers -- learn more).
Check the frost dates in your area before you do this and remember that they're just a guideline. You may have to cover your plants if the weather unexpectedly dips below freezing after you've planted them outside.
Now we're growing an Italian herb kit we purchased from AeroGarden in the Bounty Elite, some of which I'll transplant to our raised beds and others that will go into containers. The mint, for example, will easily overtake our raised beds, so we're going to relegate it to a large container separate from the rest of the vegetables and herbs.
Gardening made simple
I'm happy with the Bounty Elite, even with the app issues I experienced. It's a simple, small-scale way to experiment with gardening year-round. You can stick with the specific kits sold by AeroGarden -- or you can do your own thing and grow whatever vegetables and herbs you want from seeds. Keep in mind, though, that certain vining plants like cucumbers and melons won't do well in an indoor system like this unless you transplant them outside quickly, before they start taking over the entire room.
That said, it was a gift; I didn't have to spring for the initial cost of the system. The good news is that this and other AeroGarden systems are regularly on sale if you're interested but find the price off-putting.
If you want to learn more about indoor gardening, start with CNET's list of the best indoor gardening systems. The Bounty Elite made the list as "a great garden for herbs and salad greens," but there are many other excellent options. And if you want a garden box subscription or a seed delivery service (yes, these exist) check out this list of options.
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