Aerogarden Tips: Troubleshooting Non-growth

An interesting phenomenon occurred during my last garden restart. More specifically, I had planted the following pods:

  • In the three-pod garden, two shishito peppers.
  • In the six-pod garden, two fairytale eggplants.
  • In the nine-pod garden, two tomatoes.

I’ll discuss “why so few pods in the larger gardens” at another time. The simple answer is that I wanted less to deal with while researching best practices.

But here’s the really weird thing. Within two weeks, only one pod within each garden had begun sprouting. From the other pod, zero. Zilch. No signs of life, and definitely not a space station instead of a moon. Just empty soil-cylinder-things with seeds not growing.

Upon determining that water levels were fine, pumps remained operational and plant food had in fact been added in appropriate amounts, judging by the prolific state of the remaining plants, the less likely variables had to be checked off the list.

Thought Zero Point Five: The thriving plants were cannibals working together to take over the garden.

Answer: Not enough data. Cannot confirm or deny, but roots do not seem long enough for this. Continue to observe.

Thought One: All three gardens sit on a tiered series of selves. Was the unit itself crooked?

Answer: No. Unlikely, as the non-germinating pods were on different sides of the gardens. Checking the shelves themselves with a level confirmed this as a non-variable.

Welp, there goes my “plants came from an alternate universe” theory. Though the roots I recently trimmed (hey, do that, it’s a good idea) definitely made me relive darker moments of Stranger Things

Photo by cottonbro on

Thought Two: Were all pods appropriately submerged?

Answer: Well… sort of. Closer inspection of the faulty eggplant pod showed that the water clung to the outside of the surface of the soil-cylinder rather than actually being absorbed into it. I don’t know anything about the process of making these little pods, but it seemed slightly strange that it happened to display some sort of hydrophobic-ish sci-fi forcefield around it. I can think of some starship engineers who would have a field day with that one…

Solution: Ran the sucker under the sink, in lukewarm water, to see if I could encourage soaking. I also poured water over the top of the pod daily. This seemed to work, and germination seemed to finally occur just over a week later.

One down, two to go.

Photo by Akil Mazumder on

Thought Three: Did the seeds have access to the water or nutrients at all?

Answer: After closer observation, the seeds themselves were visible, but close to the surface of the pod. No signs of taking root or movement beyond being a simple seed. The tomato seeds were nestled right at the top of a shallow cavity likely meant to submerge them further into the pod, while the shishito slightly was deeper in, but lodged off to one side. Luckily, I couldn’t see evidence of mold or rot. Good news.

Solution: Using one blade of the pruning shears, I gently pushed the seeds further down into the pod cavity, and then doused them with fresh water over the top. It didn’t take long for them to start sending out roots after that point.

Photo by Pixabay on

Three for three! Unfortunately, this meant that half of my plants would move along a different timeline in terms of pruning, flowering and fruiting, but perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing in the long game. Who knows?

So, before you start e-mailing Aerogarden about lack of germination, try these steps:

  1. Ensure all parts of the garden are working properly and as designed.
  2. Check the pods to ensure that water/nutrients are being absorbed. If not, set the sink to a temperature that doesn’t feel warm or cold to the inside of your wrist and give the pod a good soaking in a soft flow of water.
  3. Look into the top of the pod itself. If the seeds are visible and don’t display signs of mold or rot, try to use a chopstick or a pencil to gently push them further down into the cavity. Follow up with some water over the top.

Published by Allie

Foodie explorer with Stardew Valley dreams. Lover of wine but not beer, cheese but not milk, and all things chocolate. Working to learn as many self-sufficient, at-home food production skills as possible.

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