Future Gardening: Dining Room to Table | Chow | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Future Gardening: Dining Room to Table 

Tech hits the dirt with less space, more veggies

A wheel filled with lettuce and herbs rotates and glows in my dining room. It's there because my partner backed the Kickstarter for OGarden, a technology-driven indoor gardening system from Quebec that got funded in six minutes.

"I thought it would be fun to grow stuff in the house," he explained. "It seemed to be a more hands-off and compact system with some cool technology. Plus, I liked their mission to reduce the amount of square footage we need to grow our food."

What goes around comes around with the OGarden greens grower. - LISA SIPE
  • Lisa Sipe
  • What goes around comes around with the OGarden greens grower.

Even though the Kickstarter funded fast, fulfillment took forever. We initially received regular updates, then every few months we'd hear about delays. After almost two years, it was crickets. We filed a complaint to Kickstarter, letting them know the seller was unresponsive. A week later we received a shipping notification. The following week the OGarden arrived.

All the components were crammed inside the cabinet the wheel sits on. As we unwrapped each piece, we were surprised that the materials—plastic and chipboard—seemed so cheap. Once assembled it was clear: the OGarden photographs beautifully, but it's not very high quality. For example, our cabinet doors don't line up at the top so when we close the right door it scrapes to shut.

Using a three-week cycle, the OGarden is set up to grow plants in four stages. One set is in the germination cabinet beneath the wheel, where seeds planted inside compressed peat discs are automatically watered and given light. After 21 days, when they are about 2 to 3 inches high, they move above into the wheel. The wheel has automatic watering and lighting as well. You almost always have plants ready to harvest while new seeds are getting ready to replace them.

Good times with the OGarden

click to enlarge If the lettuce don't get you, then the lighting will; small wheel grows graceful greens. - LISA SIPE
  • Lisa Sipe
  • If the lettuce don't get you, then the lighting will; small wheel grows graceful greens.

The technology and idea behind the OGarden are cool. It's fairly hands-off, only needing water every seven to 10 days and requiring about five minutes of maintenance a week. Using LED lighting and 120 watts of electricity, it consumes a low amount of energy while not taking up much space (15 inches by 29 inches by 52 inches). Swapping out one crop to the next is super fun. It's very satisfying to make dinner, walk over to the OGarden and snip a few sprigs of fresh thyme or grab some greens to add to a meal. The initial investment in the OGarden is expensive, retailing at $995 but frequently found on sale for $695. The biodegradable, compressed peat discs with fertilizer are $59.95 for 90 discs, and a typical 500-seed packet is $3.25—so once you own the unit, growing vegetables is relatively inexpensive.

Telling it like it is

The OGarden has some limitations, particularly with the peat discs. With a maximum height of 2.5 inches there isn't a lot of room for roots. Plants that can keep producing, like peppers or tomatoes, don't have space to expand their roots. Also, the watering system is very temperamental and once plants get to a certain size the amount of water they get cannot keep up. The peat discs dry out, become hydrophobic and the plant dies. This limits the types of plants you can grow. Ideally the plants you choose should be ready to harvest in 45 days maximum (there isn't a lot of choice in that range). We've had the best luck with herbs and lettuces.

LISA SIPE
  • Lisa Sipe

Because we live in a dry climate and the OGarden is open, it can't hold humidity or heat, making the plant growth slightly stunted. For comparison we have a 24-inch by 48-inch by 60-inch enclosed grow tent with compact florescent lights in our dining room. It produces lettuce twice as big because it has a greater soil depth and can retain heat and humidity. Plants can be left in longer and allowed to grow to maturity. However, it uses 360 watts of electricity and takes up more space.

Even with those complaints we're still glad we have the OGarden. Watching a ring of vegetables grow around a tube of light is pretty badass. If you have kids, they may love learning about gardening, too. Harvesting fresh, tender greens in the middle of winter from your living room and making a salad is simply delicious.

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