AeroGarden vs Burpee Results

Last post was about a comparison using an AeroGarden vs the Burpee Seed Starting Greenhouse Kit for seed starting, now I’ll show the results from the four week test period. There is a significant up front price difference between these two methods so does the AeroGarden really live up to the hype? Let’s find out.

Week 1

After one week the AeroGarden has had a few sprouts, the one in column three is Basil and the ones in column five are tomatillos. A white moldy looking substance is also growing on all of the growth sponges, a little internet research says this is normal and not harmful.

AeroGarden week 1

The Burpee collection has the same number of sprouts, in this case two basil and one tomatillo. I guess this says more about the seeds than the method so far. I did notice the sprouts are a little smaller.

Burpee week 1

Week 2

The AeroGarden has not sprouted any more seeds but the ones that had started are looking pretty good.

AeroGarden week 2

The Burpee tray has sprouted a lot more seeds. At this point I’m feeding it with some Miracle Grow food through water placed in the tray. The additional spouts are eggplant in column one and wolfberries in column six.

Burpee week 2

Week 3

The AeroGarden plants are growing nicely but no other seeds have germinated.

AeroGarden week 3

The Burpee tray is growing but not nearly at the pace of the AeroGarden plants.

Burpee week 3

Week 4

The AeroGarden plants continue to grow well and look healthy. I ended up moving these to an outdoor garden and they are doing good, transplanting was easy. I expected a little challenge getting them out but it was actually quite easy.

AeroGarden week 4

The Burpee plants haven’t shown nearly as much growth. I also transplanted these outside but it was a bit more challenging, the smaller ones were crumbly since there wasn’t much root structure to hold the mix together.

Burpee week 4

Summary

I’d call these results ….. inconclusive. The AeroGarden plants did far better as far as growth is concerned but the germination rate was much lower. The AeroGarden kit has the advantage of pre-measured nutrients and better lighting. I think the age of the seed starting kit may have caused some of the low germination. Is the AeroGarden worth the price? I still haven’t formed an opinion on that.

The Burpee kit was a disappointment to work with (poor quality) but it did have a better germination rate and it is very inexpensive to get started with. There’s probably better nutrient and lighting options that may improve the results but I wouldn’t buy this kit again due to the low quality.

Here’s what I’m going to do to get better results – I’ve purchased a new seed starting kit (refill) for the AeroGarden that has new growth sponges and nutrients. I’ll sanitize the AeroGarden unit and replant with the new kit. For a comparison, I’ll use a Jiffy seed starting kit (similar to the one linked). I’ve used these Jiffy kits in the past with decent results, plus the quality is much better.

Next post I’ll give an update on what’s happening around the property then there will be a series on the chicken coop build. If you have any ideas for seed starting method comparisons I’d like to hear it, future plans include soil blocks and traditional methods. Until then, keep on planting!

 

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.

ag-vs-burpee-10
Parsley and Basil
ag-vs-burpee-11
Eggplant and Tomatillo
ag-vs-burpee-12
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.

ag-vs-burpee-24

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)!

 

 

 

Plant and Seed Exchange – Success!

When I started Three Acre Paradise one of the ideas was to host events (such as a plant and seed exchange) on the property that would encourage others to work towards similar goals of self sufficiency. Why do this? If we leave it up to corporate farms then we will lose many varieties of vegetables and herbs in favor of those that are easily harvested and store well for shipping. A lot of the best tasting and most nutritious fruits are not machine friendly or preserved easily so we are stuck with growing our own or settling for what the grocery stores will stock. We are also becoming overly dependent on the distribution system, a minor breakdown of any part could cause mass disruption (such as a trucking strike or exorbitant fuel prices). I’m not a doomsday prepper but I see a lot of value in staying connected with one of our most important needs, the fuel that feeds us.

 

Plant and Seed Exchange

The original plan was to start holding events in 2019 but recently I have met several people who said they wish there was something happening now. In May I started a meetup group for homesteading, the first event was to be a plant and seed exchange to be held here on the property July 1. The attendance turned out to be higher than I originally anticipated, we had a total of around 12 people show up (I expected half that) and had a good variety of plants.

Various potted plants

Besides the various potted plants, I set up a table for seedlings and seeds along with supplies for taking them home such as envelopes and markers (seeds aren’t visible here).

Seedlings and seeds

What’s the point if you can’t sample some of the goods? Since I grow a lot of peppers there was plenty to share. Nobody was brave enough to try them here but a lot got taken home.

Variety of peppers - Jalapeno and Thai Hot

If you are in the Brevard County, Florida area the next exchange will be in September. A date hasn’t been set yet but you can join the meetup group here.

Dragon Fruit Update

The dragon fruit which I originally wrote about here is doing fantastic. Keep in mind these were planted from cuttings around 9 months ago, they have reached the top of the frame and are starting to branch out. The top of the frame is just about six feet tall so the most aggressive plant has grown at about a foot a month, the others are just behind it. I do have a second frame that is doing good, just not as good as this one. The main two differences seem to be that this one is partially shaded and the soil a little dryer.

Dragon Fruit support

Here’s another picture of the top where you can see the plants are branching out:

Dragon Fruit branching

I’d say this has been the fastest growing perennial plant on the property, I do have another one that has exploded in size (Pigeon Pea) but I’ll save that for a future post. The Dragon Fruit has not fruited yet, hopefully this will happen within the next few months.

Fabulous Iced Tea

OK, now for a product pitch. If you made it this far you may as well continue! One of my goals is to stop eating out so much. We love eating from the land but old habits die hard. There’s also the challenge of my job, it requires a lot of travel so I’m on the road and don’t have any alternative but to eat at restaurants.

That being said, I still like to eat breakfast out every morning. Maybe it’s because we don’t have fresh eggs (chickens aren’t laying yet, the last batch got killed last year by dogs). Maybe I don’t like to clean up a mess, more likely it’s a combination of things. One thing I did figure out, since I’m not a coffee drinker I need my morning caffeine in another form which is iced tea. I’ve made iced tea at home but it just never seems to be as good as the tea from the local diner, at least until now.

Introducing ….. drum roll … the Glass Iced Tea Jug from FORLIFE (they use all caps).

FORLIFE Glass Iced Tea Jug

Yes, it is expensive but so is eating out. There’s several advantages to this over my old method of a tea ball into a pot of water. The tea strainer has tiny holes so the leaves do not leave it (pun intended). It also holds the leaves underwater so they all get to be part of the brewing. The glass is high quality, you can pour boiling hot water right into it. The strainer is easy to remove with it’s chain and hook. The bottom has a nice no slip silicon cushion and the top has a similar one with an opening for the spout.

Tea strainer closeup

My formula – 1 tablespoon of black tea leaves, add boiling water to just over the top of the strainer. Let sit for 20 minutes, remove strainer and fill with water to the FORLIFE logo. Add a spoonful of sugar and stir, since it’s still hot it will dissolve quickly. Pour over ice, put remainder in fridge. Viola! I have tea for the day and it tastes great.

Coming Up

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I’ve got some more good comparisons coming in future posts, many of these are around seed starting. Since they are just being started I’m not showing anything yet, I’d rather make the first post about each once there’s some results to show. In addition, I’ll be posting a series about my chicken coop build and improvements, it’s still a work in progress as I want to add a run and garden near it but the main coop is pretty complete. I’m always open to new ideas, if you have a suggestion for a comparison let me know.

If you are in the Brevard County or central Florida area consider joining the meetup. If you aren’t interested in exchanging through a group and would like to just trade one on one get in touch. Keep on sharing!