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AeroGarden Bounty Elite - Review 2020


If you have a brown thumb or live in an apartment, you might think of gardening as hopeless or out of the question entirely. But if you still yearn for homegrown herbs and vegetables, there’s another option: hydroponics. The $429.95 AeroGarden Bounty Elite is one such gardening system that lets you easily grow up to nine plants at a time, indoors, without sunlight or soil. It supports Wi-Fi, so it can send alerts to your phone when it needs water or plant food. In testing, our lettuce garden grew within weeks and produced enough for daily harvests. So while it’s undoubtedly pricey, the AeroGarden Bounty Elite is a reliable and relatively low-effort gardening system that makes it easy to grow herbs, vegetables, or flowers indoors, no matter the time of year.

AeroGarden Models and Features

AeroGarden makes a number of indoor hydroponic growing systems ranging from $69.95 for the compact, three-pod Sprout all the way up to $895 for the 24-pod Farm 24XL. The company’s Bounty and Farm models feature Wi-Fi connectivity so you can connect them to the AeroGarden app (for Android and iOS) and get alerts when it’s time to add water and plant food to your garden. The app also lets you remotely turn your garden’s lights on and off, control the lighting schedule, and check the water and plant food levels. 

For this review, I tested the $429.95 Bounty Elite model, which lets you grow up to nine plants at a time.

Image of the AeroGarden Bounty Elite

It measures 17.25 by 11.25 inches (WD) and features a 50-watt dimmable LED grow light that’s connected to a cordless, adjustable arm that extends up to 24 inches. With the grow light’s arm fully extended, the entire system stands 34 inches tall. AeroGarden says to keep the grow light 4 to 6 inches over the plants, so you’ll need to manually raise it as they grow. 

Image of the AeroGarden Bounty Elite

The Bounty Elite comes with a nine-pod seed kit of your choice (gourmet herbs, heirloom salad, red heirloom cherry tomatoes, or cascading petunias) and a bottle of liquid plant food. AeroGarden sells additional nine-pod seed kits for around $20 apiece, and offers many different varieties, including kale, jalapeno peppers, pesto basil, pizza herbs, mixed romaine, Italian herbs, edible flowers, and more. The company sent two seed kits with my Bounty Elite test unit: gourmet herbs (basil, curly parsley, Italian parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil, mint, and chives) and heirloom salad (black seeded simpson, red sails, deer tongue, marvel of four seasons, Parris Island, and rouge d’ hiver). 

Image of the AeroGarden Bounty Elite

On the front, the Bounty Elite features a small color touch panel that shows the time, your garden’s water level, how long ago you planted it, and how many days until you need to add nutrients. The control panel features several buttons, including Menu, Vacation Mode, Quick Plant (for starting a new garden), Garden Tips, Light Options (for adjusting the brightness and enabling the Sunrise/Sunset feature), and Light On/Off (to temporarily override your light schedule, which won’t harm your plants when used occasionally).

Image of the AeroGarden Bounty Elite

In the Menu, you can access settings like the clock and Wi-Fi, adjust the light, test the pump, view and edit the plant food cycle, and access indoor gardening tips. A Wi-Fi light on the right side of the control panel will shine blue when your garden is connected. 

When enabled, Vacation mode shortens the amount of time your light is on each day, which roughly cuts in half the amount of water the plants need and reduces overall yield. You can enable this mode at any time for a lower-maintenance garden. The Sunrise/Sunset feature gradually brightens or dims the Grow Light over an hour to mimic the outdoors. 

Planting Your (Aero)Garden

In the Bounty Elite box, you get the garden base, an LED grow light, a power cord adapter, a trellis system for larger plants like tomatoes and peppers, and your selected seed pod kit (which includes plant food).

A quick setup guide in the box walks you through the process of getting your Bounty Elite up and growing. AeroGarden says it grows best at 65 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. To set it up, just insert the light post into the base, then attach the 50-watt grow light hood on top of the post. You’ll hear a click when you successfully attach each part. From there, find a spot for your garden, plug it in, touch Quick Plant on the display, and follow the on-screen instructions. You can use the Quick Plant feature whenever you want to start a new garden. 

When selecting a spot for the AeroGarden Bounty Elite, keep in mind that the light is very bright and will need to be on for around 15 hours, 30 minutes a day for a lettuce garden. I originally put the garden in my kitchen, but I found the light to be overly bright, so I ended up moving it to my laundry room. 

Image of the AeroGarden Bounty Elite

After tapping Quick Plant, it will ask you to set the clock to the current time, then select which type of garden you’re growing (herbs, lettuce, or tomatoes). If you’re growing a different type of garden, select the option that most closely matches. Based on which type of garden you select, it will tell you how long the light needs to stay on each day, and let you select on and off times.

Next, it instructs you to add water through the port, up to the fill line. AeroGarden says that most tap water works perfectly fine, but if you have hard or softened water, using a 50/50 mix of tap and distilled might yield better results. Once the water hits the fill line, the lights automatically turn on. 

Image of the AeroGarden Bounty Elite

When the garden is filled with water, it’s time to plant your pods. Simply insert a pod into each of the nine holes on the grow deck. A label on top of each pod indicates what type of plant it is; keep this label on the pod when you plant it. It then instructs you to place a plastic grow dome on top of each pod. The grow domes help ensure optimal germination conditions, and can be removed when the sprouts almost touch the top. 

If you’re planting vegetables such as tomatoes or peppers, you might want to leave some spaces open on the grow deck to give your plants more room to grow. AeroGarden says to use plant spacers to cover any pod holes not being used to prevent algae growth. 

Next, look at the feeding instructions on the included plant food bottle, and put the appropriate number of capfuls into the water via the port. For the nine-pod AeroGarden Bounty Elite, that means putting two capfuls of food in the water on the first and second feedings, then three capfuls every three weeks thereafter. If you’re worried about remembering when to feed it, as I was, fear not: The AeroGarden will tell you when it’s time to add food.

Image of the AeroGarden Bounty Elite

After adding the appropriate amount of food, press Next, and you’re good to go. 

Remotely Monitor and Control Your Garden

You don’t have to connect your AeroGarden Bounty Elite to Wi-Fi, but doing so allows you to remotely monitor your garden from your phone. The Wi-Fi function is easy to set up and was very helpful in testing. Once it’s connected, the app will alert you when it’s time to add food and water, and periodically send you helpful tips, like how to harvest your garden. 

To set it up, download the AeroGarden app and create an account or sign in if you already have one. If you happen to have more than one AeroGarden, you can use the same account for all of them. In the app, press Add a Garden, then select the type of garden you want to connect (New Bounty, Farm, or Bounty Classic). For the AeroGarden Bounty Elite, you’ll select New Bounty. Photos of each option make it easy to identify what you have. 

Image of the AeroGarden app

The app then coaches you through connecting to Wi-Fi, which is quick and easy. Once that’s done, the app shows your garden’s light schedule, current water level, and how many days until you need to add plant food. It also lets you remotely turn the lights on and off, adjust the light schedule, and keep track of how long ago you planted your garden. 

Image of the AeroGarden app

AeroGarden says the Bounty Elite works with Amazon Alexa, so you can control your garden’s grow light with voice commands, but every time I tried to link my AeroGarden account via the Alexa app, I got an error message. It appears I’m not the only one: AeroGarden’s Alexa skill has a customer rating of 1.4 out of 5 stars, with several users reporting similar issues. 

How Well Does the AeroGarden Work?

In testing, seven out of my nine lettuce plants sprouted within five days, at which point I removed their grow domes. The other two plants never sprouted, but the seven that did have produced more than enough lettuce. AeroGarden says that seeds can “have a mind of their own”—some, like basil, will sprout within days and quickly get tall. Others might take up to a month to grow.

Image of the AeroGarden Bounty Elite

About three weeks after planting my garden, the app notified me that some of my salad greens might be ready to harvest, and I pruned it for the first time. AeroGarden encourages frequent pruning to ensure all plants are getting enough light and room to grow, but says that you should never take more than one-third of each one. In the FAQ section, the app explains exactly how to prune your garden, with a diagram showing where to cut the stems. After less than a month, my garden had grown so much that I had to raise the light. 

Image of the AeroGarden app

Even with just seven plants, my garden yields so much that I can harvest enough for a salad a day. The heirloom salad greens taste delicious, and I love the convenience of being able to harvest what I need at any time. More than just a novelty, this has actually helped cut down on my grocery bill, since I always used to buy lettuce and I now don’t need to. 

Image of AeroGarden lettuce in a salad

After posting about the AeroGarden on my Instagram Stories, my cousin Stephen said he has one too, and uses it to start plants, then transfers them to his outdoor garden where they have more room to grow, which I thought was an ingenious idea. 

My main complaint about my AeroGarden is that it seems to attract small bugs. AeroGarden acknowledges this issue in the seed pod kit instruction manual, noting that small bugs can infiltrate your garden after entering your home on your clothes, pets, other plants, produce, or through an open window. The company says to spray your plants with water, including the underside of the leaves, if you notice any bugs. If they persist, you can use a mild insecticidal soap. 

A Salad a Day

I’m not great at keeping plants alive, so the AeroGarden Bounty Elite is one of my greatest gardening achievements to date. In testing, my lettuce sprouted within days and started producing enough for daily harvests within weeks. The Bounty Elite takes the guesswork out of gardening, guiding you through the planting process with step-by-step instructions on its color touch screen, and keeping track of water and nutrient levels. Its companion app offers helpful tips, instructing you when and how to harvest your bounty. Amazon Alexa integration can be a lot better, however, and at $430 (or even $330, which it can often be found for), the Bounty Elite is a substantial investment, so you’re going to need to eat a lot of salad to help offset the cost of entry.

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