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A garden on your windowsill

The new-age gardens fit on a counter or windowsill and can be tailored to your skills as an amateur gardener

Prasun Chaudhuri Published 03.02.19, 11:37 AM
SproutsIO: Smart Microgarden

SproutsIO: Smart Microgarden File picture

I still remember the day I plucked the very first tomato from the plants I had grown in the kitchen garden behind our government quarters. And the satisfaction I felt when I bit into that plump, juicy red fruit — no tomato tasted as good before or since then.

That was, of course, a couple of decades ago. Growing vegetables in the backyard is now an impossible dream for most urban Indians who live in cubbyhole apartments with little sunshine or ventilation.


It has, however, not dampened the enthusiasm of some die-hard gardeners. No open space for a garden? Let’s just grow plants indoors! And, to make life easier, there are now indoor gardening systems available in the market. These new-age gardens usually fit on a countertop or a windowsill and can be tailored to your skills and experience as an amateur gardener.

A basic smart garden usually comes with the following parts: pods prefilled with the right type of soil and seeds, a self-watering vessel, an LED lamp that works on a timer and a built-in WiFi connection. You plant the pods in the container, fill it with water and turn on the LED light. The LEDs are automatically regulated, according to the plant you are growing. The WiFi is not exactly necessary but can help you check the plant’s status. That way you get to know if your plant baby is getting the right amount of light, water and nutrients. And if it needs extra care, you get to know it too.

What is different about SproutsIO is that it can grow plants without soil. This micro-farming system has been developed by grad students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, and uses a hybrid hydroculture technology. It combines the two main types of plant-watering — hydroponics, which involves submerging a plant’s roots, and aeroponics, which waters a plant through misting.

Aeroponics nurtures your plants with a nutrient-rich mist. Its makers claim a reduction of 98 per cent in water use and 60 per cent in fertiliser use over conventional cultivation.

Based on research initiated by Jennifer Broutin Farah at the MIT Media Lab in 2011, SproutsIO allows people the joy of growing their own food. It took three years of intense research to come up with the world’s first-ever intelligent, plug and play, hybrid hydroculture system.

Farah and her team have recently finished their “complete functional prototype” phase, and will continue to create systems for beta testing. And I am waiting for the opportunity to rekindle my passion for growing tomatoes, this time on the windowsill of my flat.

MiracleGro Aerogarden Bounty Elite

MiracleGro Aerogarden Bounty Elite File picture

Gadget: SproutsIO: Smart Microgarden

Tech specs: Device dimensions: 30.5cm by 91.5cm; device weight: 5.5kg, adjustable LED lamp, power cord and hybrid hydroculture basin (with sensor module)

Price: $699

Best for: Growing produce indoors

Pop pick

Another indoor smart garden

MiracleGro Aerogarden Bounty Elite: You can grow up to nine plants in this smart garden. The plants will love the 45-watts of high performance, energy-efficient LED lighting that changes colour according to need. The lights are tuned to the spectrum that allows plants to maximise photosynthesis, resulting in rapid growth and abundant harvests. With ideal lighting and optimal levels of water and nutrients, plants grow up to five times faster. The Bounty Elite WiFi comes with a free AeroGarden App that provides prompts to guide you from setup to harvest. To help you grow healthier gardens, it provides you with FAQs, gardening tips and one-touch access to expert AeroGarden Customer Service specialists.

Price: Starts at $249 on Amazon

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