Seed Starting – AeroGarden vs Burpee

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This weeks post is another product comparison – my favorite kind of posts. The purpose of the comparisons is to help find the BEST way to do something, in my case that means the highest success rate with the least amount of work. Other factors may be considered, especially when the outcome is close but for the most part it’s all about the results vs effort.

Seed starting is something I’ve always struggled with, to date I haven’t found that magic system that just seems to work with almost anything. I compensate by over planting everything, maybe this is just normal but when I see youtube videos and other blog posts with nursery type results I just scratch my head. What am I doing wrong? Quantity over quality still wins out, I manage to produce plenty but it seems to take a lot more effort than it should. Will one of these solutions be the magic? Lets find out.

AeroGarden Seed Starting System

The first contender in this contest is the AeroGarden Classic (mine is an earlier version with CFL bulbs) along with the AeroGarden Seed Starting System.

AeroGarden Seed Starting Kit

I’ve wanted to try this system for quite some time but haven’t due to cost – until I found this combo deal at the local flea market for $20. The AeroGarden main unit was in very good condition and the seed starting kit was unopened. Here’s what the seed starting kit looks like once opened:

AeroGarden Seed Starting Kit contents

Basically this is a styrofoam tray that sits in the AeroGarden water reservoir and holds the seed starting sponges in place.

AeroGarden Starter System Instructions

The kit also included an instruction pamphlet and four packets of nutrients. This is where I had the first “uh-oh”, the nutrient packets looked partially crystallized. No telling how old this stuff is. Well, no stopping now.

AeroGarden Seed Starting tray in place

I set the foam tray into the AeroGarden as a test fit, you can see how it sets in and what the sponges look like once removed. The setup is real easy, all that’s left to do is set the sponges in, add water and nutrient packet, and add seeds.

Burpee Seed Starting Greenhouse Kit

The second contender in this competition is the Burpee Seed Starting Greenhouse Kit.

Burpee Seed Starting Greenhouse Kit

Why this kit? Well, if you can see the price tag in the corner it was on clearance at Tractor Supply for $5.29. They had the 36 cell kit priced higher, this kit contains two of them. What a deal! Here’s the kit opened and the peat pellets distributed:

Burpee Peat Pellets

Notice anything? A little lacking in quality control, there’s a pellet missing in the bottom right corner. The kit also includes a clear lid for each tray. The instructions are printed on the wrapper but they do include an identification sheet that you can fill out to track what is planted where.

Burpee Seed Starting Kit contents

And finally, the tray with lid attached:

Burpee Seed Starting Greenhouse Kit assembled

The Seeds

For this comparison I’ve put together a somewhat random assortment of things.

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Parsley and Basil
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Eggplant and Tomatillo
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Sage and Wolfberry

I wanted to get an idea if either of these excelled one particular type of plant, plus I haven’t started any Wolfberries yet so why not give it a try?

The Setup

Setting up the AeroGarden was quite easy. As I mentioned before, it was a matter of adding water, nutrient solution, putting the sponges in the holes, and adding seeds. One modification I did make, half of the holes were covered up and not used. I did this to give a little more space between plants plus it made the total count (36) the same as the Burpee tray. Easy!

AeroGarden set up and ready

The Burpee tray was also easy, just add water and let the pellets expand into the cell. They included a little tool (wooden stick) to mix them up a bit. Here’s the results:

Burpee peat expanded

Yes, what you see is a mess. Some expanded a lot, some barely at all. What gives? Here’s a look at some of the size difference of the pellets (I had spares from the other tray):

Burpee peat pellets

That’s a pretty big difference, especially when you compare the expanded results. Lets see if the instructions say anything about this.

Burpee instructions

So, they’ve got themselves covered. Well, good thing I had a whole extra tray of pellets, I guess this 72 cell kit (with 71 pellets) is really around a 55 usable pellet+cell kit. Once I got everything balanced out and pretty level it was pretty easy, just add seeds and water. I’ll be placing this under an LED grow light that is on for 16 hours per day.

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Although the kit is sitting on a heating pad the heater is not turned on. It’s plenty warm here in central Florida, no need to add heat now.

The Results

Ha- just kidding. The results will be the next blog post, the comparison is complete but I didn’t want this post to get too long. Here’s my observations so far:

  • The AeroGarden kit is old, not sure if the nutrients are still good
  • The Burpee kit suffers from poor quality control, shouldn’t affect seedling growth

I won’t make you wait a week for the results, look for them in a few days. I’ve got a lot going on here and there just hasn’t been much time to dedicate to the blog. It’s all good stuff, there’s a lot going on with the property but I’ve also got some family things and my day job takes priority. Until next post, keep on planting (seeds)!

 

 

 

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