After nearly 5 months, the first run of herbs in the Aerogarden were finally tired to the point of no longer useful (I started with AeroGarden Gourmet Herb Seed Kit (6-7-Pod) and it worked really well — way more than $18 worth of fresh, tasty, results).
One of my goals with the Aerogarden is to gradually replace all the pieces until I’ve effectively created a homebrew Aero-Hydro solution that will eventually integrate with our atrium’s pond (fish poo fertilizer FTW!), use LED lighting, and, hopefully, be an interesting conversation piece.
The next obvious step was to replace the seed pods and baskets. The seed pods/baskets are the one piece that needs to be replaced with each planting. The baskets — white plastic things that fit in the holes on top of the Aerogarden — can be mostly reused, but the original design is obviously optimized for cost, not effectiveness (they don’t actually fit correctly in some of the holes!). The seed pods, themselves, are little bundles of seeds in growing medium; Aero’s are good quality, but relatively expensive and the seeds are of unknown variety (i.e. generic curly parsley and not some particular strain).
At left is the current phase; seed pods and growing medium replaced with Basil sprouts showing some signs that it is working!
Starting with ViaCAD and my trusty Calipers, I came up with the seed basket that you see to the right. It seems to work quite well (2 of the 7 pods full of seeds have sprouted in less than a week — and I happened to start with old seeds for this run). In particular, it is designed to hold significantly more growing medium (Rockwool growing medium) and has a little notch in the bottom that locks into the little water spout that is in the hole that the basket is inserted into. It should provide a more stable growing medium for the plant’s roots, while ensuring that a more consistent amount of nutrients arrive at the plant.
However, this particular project, more than anything, was proof that ViaCAD is really not terribly well suited at all for this kind of modeling. I ended up with an “infinitely thin” section of the model such that no slicer settings would yield a print that was durable enough to be used. Fixing this issue proved to be a nightmare; ViaCAD’s UI just doesn’t give either enough feedback nor control to figure out and fix such an issue. There are too many ways during modeling where a seemingly innocuous step cannot be reversed or otherwise makes vast swaths of the model’s geometry no longer editable.
I also printed a bunch of lids to go over the top of the baskets. These keep the moisture in when the seeds are sprouting and until the seedlings mature a bit. Total overkill; any old plastic rounded lid like thing would do.
Overall, I suspect this is going to be mostly a failure with a couple of very water tolerant plants thriving. I need to figure out a way to decrease the moisture retention a bit, I think. Hrm.