by Amber

Meet Smart Garden 9

The latest indoor garden design from Click & Grow allows you three times more growing space. The Smart Garden 9 gives anyone, anywhere the solution to enjoying fresh, homegrown herbs, greens, vegetables and more, regardless of their gardening skill level. They’ve made improvements over their earlier models.

Click & Grow has been around since 2009, and their products have evolved as more and more people have used them. There are now over 350,000 people around the world growing with their garden systems. Like any smart business, they’ve listened to customer feedback and requests. It’s the easiest way to figure out how to make user experience better. Seven years of indoor gardener input is what led to the design changes implemented on Smart Garden 9. For starters, it offers 9 grow sites instead of 3. And they’ve also reduced their user’s plastic waste by making the growing pots part of the system instead of the refill pods.

Grow Your Own Effortlessly with Smart Garden 9They’ve made big improvements on the grow lighting. Instead of the light bar stopping short and leaving the last plant only partially receiving direct light, the bar runs from end to end. The LEDs themselves are upgraded to more efficient OSRAM LEDs with a better growing spectrum. They’ve also increased how far you can raise the light for growing taller plants.

The lights are still preset to run 16 hours a day. One user on YouTube a couple years back suggested adding a timer at the plugin to sync the garden with the daylight hours happening outdoors. That’s not a great suggestion. Days are super short in winter, making plants less productive. And plants grown under lights need extra hours of light energy to even begin to provide what they need from the sun. Which is why it’s automatically designed to run the lights 16 hours a day.

Instead of having to sow the seeds to start a crop, Click & Grow provides you with pre-seeded growing pots that are virtually plug-n-play. You don’t need potting mix or fertilizers, the growing medium and nutrients are already in place. There are too many ways an inexperienced grower to have problems. To ensure that more users of their products would succeed, they’ve removed the possibility of choosing an inferior potting mix, or substituting soil to cut costs. Then there’s knowing how to chose a good fertilizer, as well as how much to use, and when to renew it. These are two areas of gardening that newcomers have trouble with. But the number one cause of failure in gardening is under watering or watering too much.

Smart Garden 9 Automatic Watering ActionSo, by using a specially designed porous plug made from natural materials with balanced pH, Click & Grow made sure that their indoor gardens bypass all those frustrating issues that stop so many from growing their own food. What they’re using in the grow cups looks a lot like FlexiPlugs, so it could be very similar. Because it’s more like a sponge than potting mix is, the air passages can’t collapse as is common over time. This ensures that your crop’s roots have constant access to oxygen, which is why over watered plants get diseased or die. They suffocate to death! Or the lack of air flow allow anaerobic pathogens to set in.

To make sure that plants never get too dry, the Click & Grow Smart Gardens use capillary action through wicking that pulls the water up to the root zone from the reservoir. It works just like a tap root in Nature, allowing plants to access deeper ground water as surface stores deplete. The screenshot on the right comes from a Smart Garden review on YouTube dated February 2016 where you  clearly see the wick that the growing media can access through a whole in the bottom of the pots.

The new Smart Garden 9 has a retail price of $199, including the ready-to-grow pots. Though this is pricier than their other gardens, but one should expect that since it’s far bigger. Click&Grow offers the least expensive counter top garden setup in it’s class, and said to be foolproof… as long as you make sure the reservoir is refilled promptly. A few things that can make this not so come to mind…

Like anything that involves plants, especially from warmer climates, the environment the garden is in can affect the crop. Take room temperature for instance, especially in winter for those living in a cold climate. Keeping the heat low is great for reducing utility bills. However, unlike you, plants can’t toss on an extra layer of socks and a sweater. Cool weather can make things like tomatoes and basil disease prone, or unable to process nutrients efficiently. In such a situation, it’s not wise to keep an indoor garden where it’s exposed to drafts from opening exterior doors. The same goes for in front of windows. Even electrical outlets on exterior walls can be a draft source.

Some people with Click & Grow gardens have problems with mold on top of the growing media. As you know, mold grows in moist places that have insufficient air flow – like the shower. The same thing happens on the top of potting mix in seed trays if the media is constantly too wet. So, if the occasional media plug retains excess water creating an over watered situation, increased air circulation can help. It might be a good idea to remove the growing cup lid to see if it corrects the problem. There is only a small hole for the stem. That’s what I would try anyway, though it’s unclear why that cover needs to remain in place through the entire crop life.

Click & Grow states that this is never a problem in response to one user’s comment. But apparently, it is happening to some people. Here’s one person’s not so foolproof grow with the smaller Smart Garden:

Note that not only does he have it in front of a window, but there’s a marble sill. Stone radiates heat and cold. Not that it’s what is causing the mold, but it could be contributing to those plants’ health issues. He is in Michigan, and this was filmed in December, so it’s cold on the other side of that glass. Like in the neighborhood of 28°F the night he did this review. (Yes, I checked weather history for his area.)

Regardless of intermittent issues like that, Click & Grow makes indoor garden systems that make it super simple and effortless to grow fresh food. While their Smart Garden systems are inexpensive compared to similar products, that’s not true of the plant pods. Refills come in 3 packs at $19.99 each. Granted there’s no need to buy seed, media, or fertilizers, but compare the cost of doing so for the same crops for a year. Once you have the light and equipment, the old-fashioned way is far more affordable. Yet, it is also a source of frustration and failure for many.

The Smart Garden 9 is currently in the Kickstarter campaign stage, but that ends tomorrow (Dec. 17). It’s not a crowdfunding campaign that will go nowhere, this is Click & Grow’s 5th product launch. The campaign is wildly over successful with over $270,000 pledged of their initial $78,000 funding goal. Learn more on Kickstarter.

Top image courtesy of Click&Grow.

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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.