I’m no gardener, but this device helped me grow veggies indoors
This AI-enabled smart garden is the secret to my home-grown produce.
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I was curious to see how the Gardyn device works in real life after seeing it at the virtual CES this year, so I received one to test. I planted 30 vegetables and herbs in the Gardyn system and followed the hands-off approach, including taking a 12-day vacation while only monitoring the progress via the mobile app.
What is Gardyn?
Gardyn is a hybriponic indoor gardening system—similar to hydroponic, only this technology recirculates water in a closed loop, which reduces water usage significantly. For gardening novices like me, this AI-enabled system can take care of most of the work that goes into growing plants.
The brand’s website currently offers three options for purchasing this indoor gardening system: the Starter Kit, Starter Kit + One-Year Membership, and the Starter Kit + Two-Year Membership. The latter two options include a subscription to the optional Kelby growing assistant app (more on that later). We tried the most basic option, the Gardyn Home Starter Kit.
What’s included in the Gardyn Home Starter Kit?
The Gardyn Home Starter Kit comes with a base and three columns, into which you can pop in the seed pods, called “yCubes.” The kit includes 30 yCubes with seeds—the Gardyn website offers a big and expanding selection of yCubes with various seeds pre-packed. I opted for the standard assortment of seeds: butterhead lettuce, basil, cherry tomatoes, green mustard, and cardinale lettuce. For refills, users can select the seeds they like. It also comes with a bag of plant food, a rubber yCube holder for trimming and harvesting, and yCube covers.
The base houses a six-gallon water reservoir and a pump that brings water to the seeds in the yCubes. To solve the potential sunlight limitations of indoor growing, there are two poles sticking out of the base with LED grow lights that generate simulated sunlight to aid the plants’ growth.
If you purchase the Starter Kit + One-Year Membership or the Starter Kit + Two-Year Membership, you can access the watering and lighting schedules via the mobile app, as well as visually check the progress through the built-in cameras. When it’s time to harvest, head to the plant book in the app, which houses all the information about each plant.
What’s not included
If you purchase the basic Starter Kit, you’ll have to pay an additional $39 per month for Kelby the growing assistant. Kelby will help you grow your plants quickly and keep them healthy by sending you notifications via the app, letting you know when to trim the leaves or to harvest the plants.
But the system can function without the membership, too. You can treat the Gardyn growing system like a traditional indoor garden by monitoring for visual cues when it comes to watering and harvesting. And don't panic if you're new to this! We've got you covered with gardening tips.
Additional yCubes with seeds must be purchased via the brand’s website, or you can use your own seeds by purchasing the seedless yCubes.
How to set up the Gardyn hybriponic indoor vertical garden
The set-up process was fairly straightforward. It took me and my husband about two hours to set it up because the language in the instructions wasn't the most clear. We also found the hardware attached to the LED light poles a bit confusing to assemble. Thankfully, a combination of video tutorials and Gardyn’s customer support was really available to help us complete the set up. Once the hardware was assembled, the rest of the process became relatively easy.
The watering system consists of two parts, the base which houses a large tank and the pump, and the poles with tubes hidden inside to deliver the water to each pod. You’ll need to make sure the water pump is functioning properly to make use of the automated watering system. I’d recommend running a few tests to check the water flow before inserting the yCubes.
The yCubes are plastic cubes half-filled with rockwool and seeds. The other half of each cube is empty space allowing water to flow through. Each Gardyn device can house 30 yCubes at once.
The last step was to pop in the yCubes and set up a growing schedule in the app—and all that was left to do was wait.
I planted my first indoor vegetables and herb garden—here’s what happened
I planted 30 vegetables and herbs in the Gardyn. All except for one (matilda lettuce) sprouted and two plants (butterhead lettuce and chives) died after sprouting. I noticed that the leafy greens, such as green mustard, red mustard, cardinale, butterhead, and kale, were the fastest growing veggies. Herbs, such as basil and dill, also grew fairly quickly with minor pruning required.
Soon after the arugula sprouted, I observed some dark purple color and referred to the “plant book” in the app for answers. The plant book suggested adding plant food, which contains fertilizer, to fend off the potential disease the arugula was experiencing.
According to the plant book, it takes about 40 days from start to harvest for the leafy greens, and to date we’ve successfully harvested greens and herbs. As we’re publishing the review, we’re still waiting for the peppers and cherry tomatoes to be harvestable. We’ll update this review as more vegetables are ready.
What I like
Gardyn is programmable
As a person whose schedule is too busy to even take care of the handful of house plants she owns, I appreciate the set-it-and-forget-it approach that the Gardyn offers to its users. But don’t be discouraged if you’re not smartphone savvy. The mobile app is intuitively designed for average users like me, who aren’t necessarily tech-inclined.
It’s almost impossible to kill your plants
I’ve earned my reputation as a “plant-killer” because I’ve made numerous attempts to grow my own vegetables from seed to plant. In my past experience, it took months to grow produce so I was happily surprised by how quickly these vegetables grew in the Gardyn.
Simply put, this tech is gorgeous
What I love the most about the Gardyn is how beautiful it looks and how it fits into my home decor. In the past months, when we’ve had guests come into our home, we’ve been asked many questions about this “artwork.” Who doesn’t like a piece of artwork when you can also use it to grow delicious salads?
What I don’t like
Membership costs extra
After shelling out over $800 for the system plus the yCubes to start growing plants, there’s an additional monthly membership fee of $39 to make use of its smart features—namely the virtual personal assistant Kelby. If I were to make a cost-benefit analysis of purchasing an indoor gardening system, I would probably seek out other less expensive options, considering Gardyn’s harvest probably won’t save me a significant amount of money at the grocery store.
The grow lights can be distracting
We put the Gardyn in our living room right next to our bedroom. If we left our bedroom door open at night, the light became so strong that it affected our sleep quality. If you were to find a permanent spot for your Gardyn, try putting it in the basement or the office.
Should you buy the Gardyn indoor growing system?
For people who are new to gardening and growing vegetables, this smart system offers a great introduction and can almost guarantee a bountiful harvest every few weeks. As a city-dweller, I’m thankful for this experience and the company which my Gardyn device provided in the past few months. I can also see it as the perfect learning tool for families who want to introduce their young children to gardening and growing their own food.
But, if your living space is more suitable for a smaller indoor garden, we tried the countertop-friendly AeroGarden that is fun and easy to use.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.