Click & Grow Lightning Review: The Hands-Off Hydroponic GardenS

It's the dead of winter, your outdoor herb garden is buried under a foot of snow, and you've got a margherita pizza in desperate need of fresh basil. What do you do rookie? What do you do?

Use the indoor basil you've been growing for the last four months in the Click & Grow hydroponic herb garden, obviously.

What Is It?

A self-contained hydroponic garden that does the gardening for you.

Who's It For?

People that want fresh herbs, but don't want to endure the hassle of growing in soil and routinely watering.

Design

Apple minimalist. The seeds are shipped in a self-contained packet that sits above the pump mechanism and is surrounded by a covered water reservoir. An LED status light blinks every five minutes indicating whether everything's OK (green), the reservoir needs refilling (blue), or the four AA batteries it runs on need replacing (red).

Using It

Install the four AA batteries into their waterproof housing, fill and cover the reservoir, and place the seed packet in its seat. Set on a sunny window sill (facing south is best for those above the equator, the reverse is true for those below). Wait four months. Harvest either basil or disappointment.

The Best Part

It's the Ronco Rotisserie of indoor gardening. After the initial set up, you don't even have to think about its upkeep (unless you see a red or blue light) until the plants reach maturity.

Tragic Flaw

That LED. THAT FREAKING LED STATUS LIGHT. It's bright, really bright. Like blind-an-airline-pilot-from-your-kitchen-window kind of bright. And what's worse is that it only blinks once every five minutes—and there's no way to activate it on command. So unless you happen to be in the same room with it when it does blink (or at least the next room over), you'll have to stare at the unit like a schmuck for five minutes until the little bastard pops and sears a red, green, or blue blob onto your retina.

This Is Weird...

Everything was going fine; I'd had about two dozen initial seedlings, of which about a dozen really got going. Then, about three and a half months in, they suffered a random mass extinction event, leaving just the three straggling survivors you see above.

Test Notes

  • Use a toothpick to gently remove errant bits of the woolly growing medium from sprouts as they initially push through the cover's holes.
  • You can also try your hand at growing a variety of flowers—including celosia, cockscomb, French Marigold, Lamb's ear, and painted nettle—as well as and herbs like chili, coriander, garden sage, lemon balm, mini tomato, and thyme. Hopefully with better results than the basil.
  • The reservoir required refilling once during the test, the batteries (Duracell Copper Tops) lasted the entire duration.

Should You Buy It?

Seventy bucks is a lot to ask for an herb garden when the soil-based alternative (pot, dirt, and seeds) will run you about $10 at Home Depot. The hydroponics mechanism lends a nice initial wow factor, but doesn't impart any real growing advantages aside from auto-watering. Experienced gardeners should stick with the traditional method, but the Click & Grow makes a great starter kit for introducing kids to hydroponics— or fodder for the Brookstone crowd.

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Click & Grow Specs

• Dimensions: 20cm(W) x 7cm(H) x 20cm(D)
• Weight: 1 pound
• Power: Four AA batteries
• Price: $70 for the Starter Kit, $20 for new seed packs
• Gizrank: 2.5 Stars