My book Indoor Salad was pretty down on LEDs. I really wanted LEDs to work – but my experiments with low-cost LEDs were dismal. They couldn't even support low-light lettuce, and the electronics failed within weeks.
But I took the plunge and bought an Aerogarden Ultra LED, planted a month ago. So far, so good! My little test plants are thriving, growing a bit faster than they normally do under CFL light. My test plants:
Red loose-leaf and summercrisp lettuce
Toy choi and komatsuna mustard green
A dwarf tomato
I'm already harvesting the greens, 4 weeks from seed. Beautiful little plants, maximum growth speed, taste great. Mixed results on the red lettuce, though. It's slightly bronzed, but not red. With great light, red lettuce should be redder. So the lettuce says the LED light is adequate, not great. Certainly good enough for greens and herbs.
But the tomato is the real grow here. I'm excited to try this new tomato variety, fantastico. This recent AAS award winner is supposed to stay under 15" tall and yield a heavy harvest of sweet grape tomatoes. I've enjoyed every AAS winner I've ever grown.
As for whether this system is bright enough to grow a tomato – well, fantastico is short. The lights are bright enough – but maybe only for tomato foliage within 6-10" of the lights. For a bigger plant, the usual conclusions may apply. They may need extra side lighting, or you'll grow only 6-10" of productive plant atop a tall barren stick.
But I could be wrong! We'll see. For now, I've got a beautiful compact baby tomato plant, already developing little buds and sturdy side branches.
The whole system uses 16 kWh per month. At my electric rates, that's under $3. And mercifully, very little magenta light escapes. I didn't warm to the weird purple LED glow in my living room.
Sure is nice to have indoor grow lights in the depressing dark days of December!
For more info: My initial review of the Ultra LED on AerogardenMastery. It's possible that the Aerogarden Extra LED has the positive features for $100 less – these things aren't cheap. It's on sale for about $150 today.
Another New Book Out!
E-Cigarettes 102: DIY E-Liquid is a complete how-to guide for flavoring your own e-liquids. Makes a great gift for vaping friends. The previous book in the series, E-Cigarettes 101: How to Start Vaping, is smoker-friendly for a gift without rancor for still-smoking friends.
This weekend, Amazon is also offering 25% off physical book purchases – a chance to pick up Indoor Salad for under $20. A great gift for urban dwellers and downsizers who can't manage an outdoor garden anymore.
Please help me get the word out, by sharing!
What's Growing Now?
Lots of lettuce, as always. My dwarf tomato project under LEDs, above. And in soil under CFLs, I'm taking my early indoor-outdoor to the next extreme, with a lunchbox pepper started in September. Farmer's Almanac says spring will be early in 2015 – a welcome change from the past two frostbitten Mays here. So I've already bought my pansy seeds to start the week of New Year's.
What are you growing now?