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We’re in the midst of a drought here in California, but I’ve still been able to grow a nice batch of greens in recent months without wasting water. I’ve done that with Gardyn, a fully automated vertical indoor growing system.
It lets you grow 30 large plants in 2 square feet of space, with no direct sunlight or water line required. It’s the easiest gardening I’ve ever done, and I get help from the Gardyn app, dubbed Kelby, a personal growing assistant app. It uses the cameras on the Gardyn system to view my crops, analyze their growth, and then offer advice to me.
Kelby tells me when to put water in the system, when to trim back the sprouts, when to put plant food in the tank, when to harvest crops, and even when to order new seeds. It makes it so easy I can forget about it until I need to do something. It came out last year during the pandemic, and I got my first look at it at the virtual CES 2021 event.
It all starts with an $800 contraption that you can buy from Gardyn so that you can grow crops vertically, using a closed “hydroponic” water system that the company says reduces water consumption by 95%. That’s especially important where I live, since the drought has pretty much put a stop to our largely unsuccessful outdoor gardening. The soil in my area wasn’t good, nor was our sunlight due to trees.
The vertical configuration lets you grow a high density of plants. The roots are contained and not messy. The system is connected to the internet. Two high-resolution cameras capture the details of the plant growth for Kelby to analyze with its AI system.
With Gardyn, the lighting is automatic. I keep mine in the garage, where it’s always poorly lit. Gardyn turns on the lights on the contraption for hours at a time so that the plants get enough light. You have to plug the tank into an electric outlet and put water in the tank. Once you do that, it works by itself.
I had to assemble the water tank and the growing tubes attached to it. That wasn’t particularly easy, but it becomes a lot easier once you get past that hurdle.
Gardening is fairly easy. You just put seed pods into the vertical tubes so each plant has its own growing space. The watering system pumps water from the base tank through tubes so that the pods get water regularly. All you have to do is keep water in the tank and add plant food occasionally. Kelby tells you when to do that.
With my first batch of seeds, I harvested the crops too late. They were starting to get wilted. That was because I missed my message from Kelby, and also they matured pretty much all at the same time — I couldn’t eat them fast enough.
You purchase seed pods from Gardyn individually, or you can pay for a subscription of $29 to $39 a month. And Kelby can remind you when to order new seeds. I’m not exactly sure how many pounds of produce I can grow each month, but it’s a pretty good amount. I don’t know if it actually cuts on my grocery bill either, but it certainly means I don’t have to go to the store as often.
And there’s nothing like harvesting fresh butterhead lettuce or basil and putting it into a salad or pasta meal. Since the food is ready to eat, you don’t have to store it in a refrigerator. And it’s not filthy with dirt, so you can just rinse it in the sink.
You can’t grow things with big roots, like carrots or potatoes. But tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and herbs are all fair game. It’s healthy, convenient, easy, and pretty much break-even or better after you get the system. That’s enough to keep me using it. I admit I’m never going to grow a prize-winning pumpkin this way. But I’m also not going to fail to grow plants outside and waste a ton of water either.
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