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Obtaining local and fresh herbs and vegetables in the winter is always difficult, but how much more local can it be than from inside your own home? Grow fresh veggies with an indoor smart garden when your outside vegetable garden is covered with snow or frozen solid. Those who live in flats or other homes without the luxury of an outside growing space can grow their own very local herbs and veggies all year round with these indoor garden kits.
The kits we review here are smart because they automatically turn the grow lights on and off, and keep track of when to add more water or nutrients to the growing system. Bring the green outdoors inside and brighten up your living space, and eat healthier too, in the dark days of winter.
All but one of the kits in this review use hydroponics to grow your plants. This means that you only have to bother with water and (usually liquid) plant nutrients. The other kit uses good old-fashioned soil, but with the nutrients already added. For each kit, we list the pros and cons and discuss the main features. We offer our recommendation as to who that kit is best for. Our handy Buyer’s Guide explains what to look for in the best smart indoor garden kits. It also introduces you to the most common problems with indoor gardening and gives you ways to overcome or avoid them.
Our Best Pick is the AeroGrow AeroGarden Harvest Slim Indoor Garden. This hydroponic kit lets you grow up to six plants at once, which is just the right size for a salad garden for a family.
Our Runner-up is the Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 Indoor Gardening Kit. This kit has room for just three different plants for a small garden but you get the flavour of herbs and vegetables grown in soil.
Best Indoor Smart Garden Kit
Top 5 Best Indoor Smart Garden Kits Reviews
1. AeroGrow AeroGarden Harvest Slim Indoor Garden
Best Indoor Smart Garden Kit
The AeroGrow AeroGarden Harvest Slim Indoor Garden is both stylish and functional with its slim matte black tub against the bright green foliage of your healthy growing herbs and vegetables. With room for up to six plants at a time, this indoors garden creates a welcome oasis of green in your home in the dim winter light.
The full-spectrum LED lights provide the right light for optimum photosynthesis in all stages of the plants’ life cycle, from seedling through the growing stages to harvest time. The adjustable light plate follows the height of the plants as they grow to a maximum allowable height of 30.5cm (just over 1ft). This is a significant amount of growing space but you still need to be aware of the full-grown height of the varieties of seeds that you select.
The control panel is easily accessible on the front of the tub and has just three buttons to get the hang of. There’s a button to override the 15-hour on / 9-hour off lighting cycle, a light that tells you to add water and another light that tells you it’s time to add more nutrients to the tank. That’s it. The buttons dim when the lights are not on so the indoors garden fades away in the dark. The pump comes on for five minutes every half hour to ensure that there’s enough oxygen in the water.
You receive six pre-seeded pods of culinary herbs with your purchase and to start your indoors gardening adventures. The herbs are Thai basil, Genovese basil, thyme curly parsley, mint and dill. All the seeds are soil-free and non-GMO. A common complaint is that not all the seeds received germinated or grew but this is a compliment with seeds in general. Online reviewers say that the manufacturer’s range of other pre-seeded pods are difficult to find and are expensive when you do so. It’s also hard to find empty seed pods to use your own seeds in but a search on the internet should solve all these issues.
- The hydroponic indoor growing system in a sleek and stylish matte black design that looks good anywhere in your home.
- Grow up to six plants at one time in the pods arranged in a line within the 38cm-long tub.
- Plants have up to a 30.5cm growing space between the tub and the light plate to grow to a reasonable harvesting height.
- Plants grow in water with the plants nutrient added – no soil, no mess.
- LED lights provide 20 watts of full-spectrum high-efficiency power for the optimum growth of your plants.
- Control panel keeps track of what to do when for you and automatically turns the lights on and off.
- Includes a 6-pod selection of culinary herbs to enhance your everyday cooking.
- Comes with a full season’s worth, an 85gm bottle, of plant nutrients to keep your first plants healthy and strong.
- Dimensions: (38.1cm (width); 11.7cm (depth); 44.2cm (height from bottom to light); 30.5cm (height from top of tub to light plate).
- Complaints in common with most smart indoor gardens:
- Lights are very bright and get warm.
- Pump is a little noisy.
- Difficult to find pre-seeded pods.
- Not all included herbs grew.
The AeroGrow AeroGarden Harvest Slim Indoor Garden is a hydroponic kit with all that’s needed to start an indoor herb garden, including the seeds in their pods. Being able to grow six plants at once (all the same or different) allows you to have a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables at the same time. And six plants are enough to feed a family or a group of friends. This smart indoor garden is intuitively easy to use and does take all the guesswork out of when and how much to water the plants, how much sun to give them and when to feed them. Just sit back, follow its lead and eat your 5-a-day with minimal effort.
The AeroGrow AeroGarden Harvest Slim Indoor Garden is our choice for the Best Indoor Smart Garden Kit. This is for you is you have several people in your home that want to eat more local greens in the winter but don’t want to put too much effort into growing them. This is also your own year-round horticultural patch if you live in a flat/apartment with no outside growing space.
2. Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 Indoor Gardening Kit (Includes 3 Mini Tomato, 3 Basil and 3 Green Lettuce Plant pods)
The Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 Indoor Gardening Kit is the odd-one-out in our review in that it doesn’t use hydroponics to grow the plants. This smart indoor garden does it the old-fashioned way – in soil, albeit with all the nutrients already added. But as the soil comes in sealed seed pods, there’s still no mess or fuss.
This indoors garden also differs in several other ways to the other kits we review. It’s slightly less modern in looks, as there’s a tub with a handle above it that, together, look like a basket. The lights are arranged on the underside of the handle. The tub is a neutral beige and the handle is white, so the entire structure blends into any background or décor.
The nine lights shine over the nine plants there’s room for in the basket. Each group of three lights has two white lights and one red one. You receive nine pods of seeds with your purchase, and there’s room for all of them at once. Click and Grow guarantees to replace, without charge, any seeds that don’t grow, of either these free ones or of any that you buy from their extensive line (50+) of other pre-seeded fruit, flower, herb and vegetable pods so this is a huge bonus.
As we mentioned above, the seed pods contain the seed and soil mixed with nutrients, so you don’t have to worry about adding the nutrient at any time during the plant’s life. And watering the plants is as easy as it gets too – just add water to the tank once a month.
Yet another difference is that you don’t hear any pump noise as there isn’t a water pump. Water is taken up into the seed pods by natural capillary action, which just wicks the water up. This natural movement of water is completely silent. As the lights automatically come on every day for 16 hours and go off automatically, your only interaction with this smart garden is through the monthly watering. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
- Minimally styled indoors garden holds three plants.
- Beige; looks like a basket with a white plastic handle standing up.
- Lights are on the lower side of the white “handle”, with three shining on each plant for perfect photosynthesis.
- Comes with nine pods to start your first indoor-grown salad – three mini-tomato, three basil and three green lettuce.
- Seed pods are non-GMO and fully organic for a totally ecologically friendly indoors garden.
- Seedless pods available so you can select your own plants/seeds to grow.
- A wide variety of vegetables, herbs and other plants are available in seed pods to expand your healthy food choices.
- Guarantee that Click and Grow replaces any seed pods that don’t germinate, without cost to you.
- The growing system needs watering only once a month so you can remember easily when to top it up.
- Pods contain a soil mix that provides all the nutrients that the growing plants need, so you don’t have to worry about adding liquid nutrients to the water.
- The watering system is by capillary action and so is silent.
- Sixteen hours of light provided automatically per day so you don’t have to worry about turning the lights on and off.
- Will replace any seeds that don’t germinate.
- Dimensions: 63cm (width), 18.4cm (deep) and 39.6cm (from top of base to lights).
- Complaints in common with most smart indoor gardens:
- Difficult to find pre-seeded and empty pods.
The Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 Indoor Gardening Kit has soil in its seed pods for the plants to grow in. Some people say that vegetables need to grow in soil to realise their full taste. We say that the ease of growing your veg in this kit is what’s important. The soil contains all the nutrients that the growing plants need and you just have to remember to add water to the tank once a month. If you get bored with the tomato, basil and lettuce seeds included, buy some seedless pods and plant whatever veg, herbs or flowers you dream of.
We’ve made the Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 Indoor Gardening Kit (Includes 3 Mini Tomato, 3 Basil and 3 Green Lettuce Plant pods) the Runner-up in our review. Some people say that herbs, fruit and vegetables grown in soil have more depth of flavour than those grown hydroponically in water and we tend to agree. If you’re of this belief, this is the smart gardening kit for you. There’s no more mess or fuss (perhaps even less) than with any of the hydroponic kits we’ve presented. A little tip is to reuse the pods and fill with soil and your own seeds if you struggle to get the replacement pods you want.
3. iDOO Indoor Hydroponics Growing System
The iDOO Indoor Hydroponics Growing System is one of the least expensive smart garden systems in our review yet it has the most flexibility in terms of lighting cycles and pump options. This indoors garden holds up to seven pods and you receive seven pods with your purchase along with plant food but not seeds. You need to buy your own seeds to start your indoors garden, but this gives you the freedom to grow what you want to.
You can also reuse the pots a few times but you can buy replacements, click here to see them on amazon
While most other smart indoor gardens have just one lighting cycle (around 14-16 hours of light in a 24-hour period), this iDOO growing system offers you a choice of three cycles. All the lighting cycles turn on and off automatically. The Normal cycle is 14 hours of red, white and blue light followed by 10 hours off; the Enjoy mode is 12 hours on of white and 50% red lights and 12 hours off, and the Grow cycle is 16 hours red and white lights and 8 hours rest for the plants. You choose the right amount of light for the life cycle stage that the plants are in.
The two pump cycles are more for your convenience than for the plants’. The normal pump mode is that it runs for five minutes and then shuts off for 30 minutes. This ensures that there’s enough oxygen in the water for a healthy environment. There is also another pump option for those who are extra sensitive to the pump’s noise, though it’s claimed that the pump is very quiet. In sleep mode, the pump works in the normal way for 12 hours and then switches off for the next 12 hours. Some online reviewers, however, have reported problems with the timer which seems to be set to a shorter day cycle than 24 hours. This staggers the on and off times of the lights from day to day.
For such a flexible “smart” part of the growing system, you have to wonder why the indicator that the water tank needs refilling is a loud beep, rather than a more pleasant glowing light.
- Hydroponic indoor garden in a sleek red design lets you grow seven plants at once.
- LED lights give 24-watts of photosynthesis power in three smart modes of different lighting periods for optimum growth at all times.
- Two water pump circulation modes oxygenate the water frequently or turn off for a silent period while you sleep.
- The light plate is height adjustable to a maximum of 34cm above the top of the base to let your plants, whatever their size, stay the best distance from the light source.
- Seven pods are included in your purchase for you to plant your own choice of seeds.
- Dimensions: 56.25cm(height from bottom of base to light plate); 40cm (height from top of base to light plate).
- Problems with accuracy of timer.
- The water level refill indicator is a loud beep.
- Difficult to extend light plate without upsetting other parts of system.
The iDOO Hydroponics Growing System offers you the space to grow up to seven plants of your own choosing. Its matte red finish just screams “stylish” and contrasts well with the various shades of green of the plants. This indoors garden provides variable spectrums of light through different combinations of red, blue and white LED lights so that your plants receive the perfect part of the light spectrum for their growth stage.
If you like to have some control over the amount of light that your plants receive throughout their lifetime, or want the ability to turn off the water pump at night-time for a period of silence, take a look at the iDOO Hydroponics Growing System. Don’t forget this setup does not include the seeds so have these ready if you choose this model, this in some ways is a plus as you can choose the plants you want and not just what you get.
4. AeroGarden Harvest
The AeroGarden Harvest hydroponics garden is an updated version of the Harvest classic model which people still talk about on indoors gardening websites. This newer version looks like a set of scales with a bowl on top, so it’s not as sleek as our Best Pick, the AeroGarden Harvest Slim. But the functionality is all here.
There’s room for six of your favourite salad, vegetable or herb plants in this indoor garden. Your purchase includes six seed pods of popular culinary herbs – Genovese Basil, Thai Basil, Thyme, Curly Parsley, Dill and Mint. Once again, online reviewers complain that some of these plants didn’t germinate or grow but this is general a problem with seeds in general as most seeds never give you 100% germinate rate. (Please see the Problems section of our Buyer’s Guide for some possible reasons for this.) You also receive a bottle of the patented Miracle-Gro plant nutrients (Miracle-Gro is the owner of this brand so you’re in good hands.)
The light plate is height adjustable and has all three colours of LED lights for a small spectrum – daylight white for fast growth, red for more flowers and fruit and blue for bigger yields, according to the manufacturer. You’re offered a choice of length of light cycle: for veggies, for herbs and for 24 hours.
All the controls are on the base of the appliance. You set up the start time of the light cycle there, as well as pay attention to the warning lights that indicate that water or nutrients are needed.
- Hydroponic white indoors garden which is an updated version of the classic Aerogarden model.
- Holds six pods for a selection of six plants for your salad fixings.
- Growing bowl sits on a base that contains the easy to use controls for the lighting selection and the water level and add nutrients warnings.
- LED lighting has 20 watts of high performance and efficient white, red and blue lighting for your plants’ growing pleasure.
- Comes with six pods pre-seeded with gourmet herb seeds, along with the liquid nutrients to give a strong start to your indoor garden.
- Provides selected hours of light and automatically switches off and then on at the right time.
- Dimensions: unknown.
- Complaints in common with most smart indoor gardens:
- Difficult to find pre-seeded pods.
- Not all included herbs grew.
The AeroGarden Harvest hydroponics garden is a solid choice which lets you grow six plants at once. You have a choice of three light cycles – one for veggies, one for herbs and one for 24 hours – which works well if you don’t mix and match your plants too much. This is a straightforward and updated version of an indoors garden with a lot of fans.
If you plan on having an all-herb garden or plan on growing six different types of leafy greens for your salad, and want the specific light cycle for that, this could be the smart indoors garden for you.
5. AeroGarden Sprout LED Indoor Garden
The AeroGarden Sprout LED Indoor Garden is the least expensive smart garden in our review, and it’s also one of the smallest. With space for just three plants, you can use the included seed pods to start your own herb garden. This growing system doesn’t take up much space so you can tuck it into a corner of your kitchen counter.
Although small, the AeroGarden Sprout garden has all the basic functionality of the larger models we look at. The adjustable light plate gives you a maximum head space of 25cm for your plants. You need to select mini or baby vegetables or harvest them before they’re fully grown. You may also need to pinch the leaves at the top of your herbs so they bush out rather than grow tall but this is general advice for most plants when grown from seed.
The LED lighting has 10 watts of power, which is half the strength of the lights in larger models. But the LEDs are still full spectrum so your plants receive the whole width of light wavelengths they need for healthy and strong growth. The control panel on the base lets you manually turn the lights on and off and reset the nutrient timer after you’ve added more nutrients. The “time to add nutrients” light is on the top of the base and you easily view the water level as the water tank is transparent at the front.
- Hydroponic white indoors garden especially designed for growing vegetables and herbs up to 25cm tall.
- Comes with three seed pods containing basil, parsley and dill to start your herbal explorations.
- Holds three plants at one time, all the same or of different types.
- Control panel on base lets you know when to add water or nutrients (included) and controls the lighting.
- Full spectrum LED lighting with 10 watts of power is tuned to the specific needs of plants so they’re not disadvantaged by not being in the sun.
- Dimensions: 13cm (width); 28cm (depth); 39cm (max height above bottom of bowl and light plate); and 11-25cm (height between top of bowl and light plate).
- Complaints in common with most smart indoor gardens:
- The pump is noisy.
- pre-seeded pods expensive.
The AeroGarden Sprout LED Indoor Garden is an inexpensive smart indoors garden that has all the basic functions for starting a small herb or vegetable garden. Choose three of your favourite plants or use the free herb seed pods included. The controls are easy to read and it’s easy to add liquid nutrient and water.
This is an ideal smart indoors garden to introduce children and young people to eating healthily all year long by growing their own food indoors. They can do everything, from setting up the system, “planting” the seeds, looking after the plants and harvesting their bounty. Teach a young person about good nutrition in a fun way.
It’s really not that difficult to grow herbs, flowers, vegetables and even some fruits indoors all year long, but especially in the winter. Smart indoors gardening kits take all the guesswork, effort and scheduling out of indoors gardening as well as provide you with all that you need, including the “sunlight”.
In our Buyer’s Guide we go over the different components of a smart indoors gardening system and describe what to look for in each. We also give a short list of the most common problems that people report with their indoors gardens so you know what to avoid or what you have to work around.
Bowl / water tank
This is the main vessel that you see when you look at an indoors growing system. It’s usually a long rectangular bowl with curved ends, and probably looks stylish enough to put into your lounge. This bowl holds the water and the pump that bubbles air through the water to oxygenate it. This bowl has a closed top into which the seed pods fit and may have the smart controls on the lower front side.
The colour and finish of the bowl determines if it will suit the décor of the room in which you place, along with its dimensions. Also check carefully how many seed pods it holds, as that is the maximum number of plants you can grow at the same time.
The light plate is, well, a plate of LED lights that provide the UV rays for the photosynthesis to happen in your plants. The lights are on the lower side of the plate and should shine directly down on to the plants below.
It’s crucial that the height of the light plate is adjustable so that it’s the right distance above your plants when they’re seedlings, in their growth period and when they’re ready to harvest. The light plate is usually on a stand centred in the middle of the bowl or is held between two arms, one at each side of the bowl. It may be adjustable in pre-set increments or fully adjustable to wherever you want.
Check carefully how high the light plate can move up to. The space between the top of the bowl/tank and the bottom of the light plate is the maximum height your plants can grow to comfortably without bending and curving outwards.
Also of interest to you are the power and spectrum of the LED lights. Power is identified in wattage as usual and the more watts the lights put out, the more powerful they are. Also look for full spectrum lights, or at least a light plate that contains white, red and blue LEDs. Plants need light from different and specific parts of the light spectrum at different growth stages.
All the smart indoors gardens we review use seed pods in which to plant the seeds. Four of the systems are hydroponic in which the plants grow in water plus plant nutrients, while the fifth system uses good old fashioned soil plus water. But even some of the hydroponic systems have a small sponge of peat in the pods. In short, you need to buy seed pods for all of these indoor gardens, and the types of seed pods are unique to each model.
Most of the available seed pods are pre-planted with specific seeds that the kit manufacturers say are non-GMO and free from herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. But this limits you to growing only what’s offered to you. All the seed pods are suppose to be single-use as the roots of the plant that grows in them tangles around the plug of peat or the soil and cannot be separated from it. Some manufacturers do offer seedless pods for you to plant your own choice of seeds. Of course, you can buy seeded pods, remove the seed straight away and replace it with one of your own choice. But that gets expensive and quite fiddly.
Just be aware that. Once you’ve made your choice of smart indoor garden system, you’re tied into that manufacturer’s available line of seed pods unless you find a workaround such as attempting to reuse the pods and removing the peat or soil and replacing it which some people have done successfully.
And if you choose your own seeds, look out for miniature or mini sizes that fit into the space between the bowl and the light plate when fully grown, ideally no larger than 25cm in most cases, tomatoes such as tumbler tom work well as they don’t grow too big. Or harvest them early for baby lettuce or young spinach.
This is where the “smart” part of our indoor gardens comes in. The best indoor gardens take all the scheduling and worry out of raising indoor vegetables for you. The controls should be easily accessible on the front of the bowl, clearly marked and easy to use.
First up is the amount of light the plants receive and when they receive it. Most of the models we review have a set period of lighting – usually around 15 or 16 hours, followed by a period of darkness. You can usually select the time that the light period automatically starts and the smart garden turns the lights off and the end and on again at the correct time. The iDOO Indoor Hydroponics Growing System gives you a choice of three light period lengths, depending on the growing stage of the plants. You choose a single time for the whole session.
Warning lights are useful. At the least, you should be warned when it’s time to put water in the tank again and when it’s time to add the plant nutrient to the water. Most of the models we review tell you this by lashing or turning on a light, which is a comfortable way of conveying the information. However, the iDOO Indoor Hydroponics Growing System, unfortunately, lets you know of a low water level with a loud beep. That being said it could be useful for blind people so could be a good thing.
In doing the research for the reviews, we came across online complaints from users of smart indoor garden systems. Some of the same problems were described time and again, and it’s these that we bring to you here. You can overcome or side-step some of these issues and others you just learn to live with. But remember that nothing tastes better than home-grown vegetables and herbs.
LED lights are very bright, and that’s why they’re prized for their efficiency. But having them on for 16 or so hours at a stretch can be annoying, especially as the lights in these indoor gardens are said to be very very bright. You would think that all the light is directed downwards onto the plants, but some does escape and light up the room around the garden. Some users use these lights in their own right in dark corners of their rooms and others hide them away in corners of their kitchens. We suggest maybe not having the indoors gardens in your bedroom. In addition, the long period that the lights are on for lets them heat up and become surprisingly warm, so keep an eye on your more tender plants.
The pump is necessary to move the water around and to inject air into it to bring oxygen to the plants. Stationary water becomes stagnant and smelly and harmful to the plants and their environment. Moving the water keeps everyone happy, except that pumps are usually a little noisy. The pumps in indoor gardens aren’t continually on; some operate for perhaps five minutes every half an hour. However, some online reviewers are disturbed by the bubbling of air up into the water, comparing it to the sound of a similar event in fish tanks.
If these kinds of sounds annoy you, look for one of the gardens with a quieter pump. Our Runner-up, the Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 Indoor Gardening Kit, may suit you as it doesn’t have a pump at all. Water from the tank gets into the seed pods by natural capillary action and this is completely silent. The iDOO Indoor Hydroponics Growing System has pump that’s designed to operate for 12 hours and then to sit quietly for the next 12 hours. Run the system when you’re out during the day and you won’t have to listen to the pump in the evening or when you’re in bed at night time.
Many online complains deal with the inability of the seeds in the pods included with the purchase of an indoors garden to germinate. This may be due to several reasons outside the control of the manufacturer – the garden may have been sitting on the shelf for a while, it may have been stored at an incorrect temperature or the new user may have not followed instructions well, perhaps the seeds where just not high enough quality, after all, most of the time, not all seeds germinate in when grown outdoors. Relying on the free seeds that come with the garden kit seems to be a hit and miss way to start an indoors garden. You may prefer to supply your own seeds.
Another reported problem is less easily solved. For some brands, users report that the seed pods are difficult to find in the UK. [In addition, it may also be hard to find replacement lights.] And if you do find them, they tend to be expensive. Remember that the seed pods are designed for one-time use only. However, online users report that information about hacks around this is available on YouTube, so we recommend perhaps taking a look.
Buying a smart indoors gardening kit gives you everything (with maybe the exception of the seeds) you need to start growing extremely local herbs and vegetables in your own home, whatever the weather is like outside. The smart controls in these gardening systems take care of worrying about the amount and timing of lighting for you and remind you to water and feed the plants. We really like the slogan for this from AeroGrow: Always fresh, always local, always in season.
Our Best Pick is the AeroGrow AeroGarden Harvest Slim Indoor Garden. Grow up to six plants at one time stylishly in this hydroponic indoor garden system. The full spectrum lighting provides just the right amount of the right type of light for this ecological organic growing system.
The Runner-up is the Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 Indoor Gardening Kit. This growing system is for those who prefer the taste of vegetables grown in soil, as the pods are filled with nutrient-rich soil that only needs watering once per month.
If you have the luxury of outside growing space in the summer, check out our Best Raised Bed Kit For Growing Plants and Vegetables review.
Last update on 2021-04-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API