Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Indoor Garden of 2021

Credit: Michelle Powell
By Nick Miley, Michelle Powell, and Penney Garrett  ⋅  Jan 5, 2021
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Looking to up your culinary game with some fresh produce? Our hands-on review of the 5 best indoor gardens available in 2021 will steer you in the right direction. We bought and thoroughly tested all of the products here reviewed from seed start to harvest. We also evaluated each garden for ease of use and the variety of plants that can be grown. The results of our work have been conveniently organized such that you can easily make comparisons across products, all but ensuring that you will find the right product for your home.


1

Best Indoor Garden


AeroGarden Bounty Basic


Dimensions (Max H x W x D): 34" x 17 1/4" x 11 1/4" | Max Plant Height: 24"
Informative LCD screen
6" trellis included
A bit spendy
May be too large for some

The AeroGarden Bounty Basic is a user-friendly hydroponic garden that accommodates 9 plants at a time and allows plants to grow as high as 2 feet. The unit boasts an intuitive LCD user interface that guides you through the set-up process as well as keeping you informed of the water level and feeding schedule. As if that wasn't enough to ensure plant health, the unit is WiFi-enabled, allowing one to control the lights and check the garden's status remotely. The Bounty Basic comes with prepared seed pods (many varieties available for purchase) that promote rapid germination, helping to shorten the time to harvest.

The Bounty Basic has some of the fastest seed to harvest times (~5 weeks) that we observed but this is in part due to the large size of the unit. While the ample proportions of this garden are not necessarily negative, those with limited countertop space may find it a bit too large. In which case, one should consider a more compact model. That said, this unit offers space for 9 plants to flourish in a sharp-looking design that will make a splash on most countertops or window sills.

This unit is among the largest in the class allowing plants to grow...
This unit is among the largest in the class allowing plants to grow up to 24" before touching the lights.
Credit: Laura Casner

2

Best Mid-Sized Indoor Garden


AeroGarden Harvest 360


Dimensions (Max H x W x D): 17 1/2" x 9" x 9" | Max Plant Height: 12"
Automated water/fertilization reminders
Wide variety of seed pods available
May be too small for some
Relatively low max light height

The AeroGarden Harvest 360 is a fantastic little garden unit that maintains the classic rounded plant pot look. In typical AeroGarden fashion, this garden reliably brings plants to harvest in just over a month. Also, the garden is easy to set-up and maintain with a user manual that boasts gardening tips that we found quite helpful. Other thoughtful design features are the water and fertilizer reminders that help to keep the garden healthy and thriving. Lastly, AeroGarden's pre-packed seed pods come in a plethora of plant varieties and all but ensure successful harvests.

Despite the manufacturer's laudable efforts to remove chance and circumstance from healthy plant outcomes, there are some considerations to be aware of before pulling the trigger on the Harvest 360. Specifically, the unit's light array maxes out at 12 inches which will require a bit more pruning as compared to other models with more reach. Also, the unit accommodates just 6 plants, which isn't a problem, but other 6-plant gardens have notably smaller footprints than the Harvest 360's 81 square inches. Yet, this shapely hydroponic garden is a producer that will reliably bring a flash of fresh greenery to one's home.

This figured hydroponic garden is easy to use, yielding quick...
This figured hydroponic garden is easy to use, yielding quick harvests. Our only complaint is the relatively low (12") lighting.
Credit: Laura Casner

3

Best for Limited Counter Space


AeroGarden Harvest


Dimensions (Max H x W x D): 17 1/2" x 10 1/2" x 7 1/2" | Max Plant Height: 12"
Compact footprint
User-friendly manual
Limited light height
Small water reservoir

The AeroGarden Harvest is a compact, effective indoor garden best suited to those with limited countertop real estate. Despite its dimensions, this little unit makes the most of the space it's granted with a capacity for 6 plants to grow up to 12 inches tall. As is the case across the board with AeroGarden products, the set-up and operation of this garden is a cinch as the instructions are holistic and easy to digest. Additionally, the unit keeps the user apprised of the water level and fertilization schedule with helpful reminders that keep the garden on track.

While the Harvest is a sound hydroponic garden, it is not without some issues related to its compact size. For example, the relatively small water reservoir requires a lot of refilling and the pump becomes increasingly noisy as the water wanes. This issue is exacerbated by the plant's roots which take up much of the tank's capacity when they are developed. Moreover, the healthy root structure complicates cleaning the tank if there isn't an extra set of hands to hold the plants (and dangling roots) aloft while cleaning. Despite these frustrations, and the extra work they create, this unit remains in high esteem among our testers because it yields quality produce in just over a month while consuming little kitchen space.

A bountiful harvest at your fingertips produced in a countertop...
A bountiful harvest at your fingertips produced in a countertop hydroponic garden. Now that's just awesome.
Credit: Penney Garrett

4

Best Bang for Your Buck


Click and Grow Smart Garden 3


Dimensions (Max H x W x D): 19" x 12" x 5" | Max Plant Height: 14"
Accommodates a wide variety of plants
Easy seed starts
Relatively protracted time to harvest
Hard to fill tank

The Click and Grow Smart Garden is a basic but effective compact indoor hydroponic garden. The unit eschews a water pump, digital interface, and moving parts such as an adjustable light. As such, this machine is considerably more affordable than the competition. Given the simplicity and affordability of this unit, it's a good choice for kids at home or in the classroom as well as small kitchens and even at a desk.

As is often the case with products like the Click and Grow, its strengths can be seen as weaknesses when taken out of their proper context. For example, the unit's small size means that it can only take three plants at a time. Additionally, it has a small reservoir that will require frequent cleaning and refilling. The lack of a digital interface means that all feeding and watering schedules will have to be maintained the old-fashioned way — manually. That said, the simplicity of the unit means there is little that can break or malfunction.

This unit's simplistic (but effective) design saves money...
This unit's simplistic (but effective) design saves money and limits points of failure but requires an investment of time.
Credit: Laura Casner

5

A Humdrum Indoor Garden


VegeBox Small


Dimensions (Max H x W x D): 14 9/16" x 6 3/8" x 12 7/8" | Max Plant Height: 14"
Grows many plant varieties
Accommodates nine plants
Involved seeding process
Prolonged time to harvest

The VegeBox Small struggled to meet the standards set by the other indoor garden in the class. However, it does have some redeeming features that kept it in the running. Specifically, this unit will grow a whopping 9 plants — significantly more than the higher-rated competing models. Also, this unit foregoes a water pump as well as a digital user interface. As such, there is little that can go wrong, save neglect from the gardener.

The flip side of our analysis reveals that the VegeBox is a difficult to manage hydroponic gardening system. For starters, the germination process is quite involved, requiring implanting the seeds (not included in purchase) into sponges with tweezers and then soaking for 24 hours prior to placement in the garden receptacles. Additionally, pouring water into the intake port is difficult due to the size and location of the opening. Lastly, the VegeBox's light array tilts to adjust, meaning the plants closest to the hinging point effectively can't grow beyond 9 3/4". For the right user, these shortcomings may be minor, but if ease of use is your goal we recommend looking at other products here reviewed.

This unit's deceptively simple design will have you feeling like...
This unit's deceptively simple design will have you feeling like you've been lead up the garden path.
Credit: Laura Casner

Why You Should Trust Us


Senior Research Analyst Michelle Powell and Senior Review Editors Penney Garrett and Nick Miley are all experienced cooks with nearly four decades of collective experience catering, running restaurants, testing kitchen equipment as well as making food for family and friends. These activities have taught this trio the value of having fresh herbs on hand to take the flavor profile of a dish to the moan-out-loud level. So, when the indoor garden market took off, these pros were thrilled to test some of the best products available.

No stone (or plant in this case) goes unturned in our...
We grew tons of herds in the course of our testing. We found that...
Our ease of use analysis found fault in a number of products that...

Once the selection was settled on and the products arrived in the lab, the team made practical tests of performance while analyzing product features. For example, they looked at the time required to bring plants to harvest, the ease of operation, the seed starting process, and the variety of plants that the units accommodate. All told, their analysis covers every aspect of these indoor planters.

Analysis and Test Results


If you're in the market for fresh herbs grown in a convenient indoor planter unit, you've come to the right place. Our comprehensive analysis and hands-on testing looks at the practical functionality of the top models on the market. The results of our in-depth evaluation are organized such that one can easily make comparisons amongst the various products under our review. Read on for the details of each test as well as the indoor gardens that performed well and why.

Time to Harvest


If you are interested in an indoor garden, you probably want fresh herbs in hand as quickly as possible. With this desire in mind, we recorded the time from planting seeds to harvest for each garden and closely monitored the progress of the plants between these temporal bookends. All of the AeroGarden models (Harvest, Harvest 360, and Bounty Basic) delivered rapid harvest times with the Click and Grow close behind. The AeroGarden models yielded a harvestable leafy canopy starting at approximately 30 days. The dill and basil plants required another week or so.

Plant a seed and watch it grow. Here we see promising beginnings...
Plant a seed and watch it grow. Here we see promising beginnings nourished by the Bounty Basic.
Credit: Michelle Powell

The harvest metric is not a complex series of tests. It is simply based on how long it takes to grow plants large enough to start cutting them for use. To standardize the process and make comparisons between the various products possible, we tracked the progress of each garden from sowing seeds to harvesting, making liberal use of photos and written documentation. Each product was rated in part relative to the other products reviewed.

We took careful notes and frequent photos from seed to harvest to...
We took careful notes and frequent photos from seed to harvest to make a comparative analysis of the productivity of each model's plants.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Ease of Use


As the title implies, the ease of use metric takes stock of the user-friendliness of the indoor gardens. Analyzing these units from this perspective leaves no doubt as to the supremacy of the AeroGarden Bounty Basic. This model's straightforward set-up is guided by the LCD screen and the well-written user manual. Additionally, the onboard computer notifies the gardener of feeding schedules and water levels as well as allowing light cycles to be automated. The Harvest and Harvest 360 offer very similar features with the exception of an LCD interface.

This Bounty Basic's LCD interface makes monitoring the garden a...
This Bounty Basic's LCD interface makes monitoring the garden a breeze as it walks the gardener through the set-up process and signals alerts when it's time to add fertilizer or water to the reservoir.
Credit: Michelle Powell

Specifically, our ease of use evaluation considered features such as the adjustability of the light, the size and location of the water tank access port, and, of course, the set-up process. Additionally, we rated the water monitoring system, the accessibility of the plants for care and harvest as well as the seed sowing process. Finally, we noted anything we thought could be improved or was otherwise annoying or taxing to the user. Complaints of note were the difficulty of adding water (as was the case with the Click and Grow's narrow access port) and the difficulty of cleaning the water reservoir when there is a robust root system in place. This latter issue was common to most of the gardens reviewed here.

The ease (or difficulty in some cases) of accessing the...
The ease (or difficulty in some cases) of accessing the water reservoir is a key component to the ease of use metric. Here we see an access port that is a bit narrow with access obstructed by the lighting hood.
Credit: Michelle Powell

Seed Starting


All of the gardens that we tested start plants from seed. While there is a good argument that seed starts are more robust than cuttings, they do add additional obstacles on the path to harvest. As such, we carefully appraised the garden kits for the methodology, features, and add-ons affecting the seed starting process. The Click and Grow and the AeroGarden Bounty Basic lead the class in this metric in part because of their plug and play pre-seeded pods (these pods are common to all AeroGarden models). However, it is the Bounty Basic's LCD interface guided process and the Click and Grow's simplified operations that put these two models ahead of the rest.

This unit's informative screen guides the gardener through every...
This unit's informative screen guides the gardener through every step of the growing process from planting to harvest.
Credit: Michelle Powell

On the other end of the seed starting spectrum is the VegeBox. This unit requires that the gardener load the seeds into their starter sponges manually. This requires carefully following a poorly written user manual that outlines the 24-hour procedure. While manually loading the seed pods opens up the possibility of growing whatever plant variety one desires (more on this below), the added steps can prove daunting to the uninitiated indoor gardener.

Having loaded the seed pods into the garden it is just a waiting...
Having loaded the seed pods into the garden it is just a waiting game for the starts to emerge to soak in the artificial sunshine.
Credit: Michelle Powell

Plant Versatility


As was discussed above, the most effective models for starting seeds are those with preloaded seed pods, however, preloaded pods limit the gardener to the plant varieties that the manufacturer produces. The AeroGarden models are the least limited in this regard as the manufacturer offers up a cornucopia of preloaded seed pods online. Moreover, if AeroGarden doesn't make a preloaded pod with a plant variety of interest, they sell a kit to make seed pods at home. While we did not test these aftermarket kits, they appear to be much more fleshed out than the system provided by VegeBox.

When it comes to plant options, we want the freedom to grow whatever...
When it comes to plant options, we want the freedom to grow whatever we fancy. As such, we favored gardens that have a vast selection of preloaded seed pods or, barring that, the ability to easily load our own selections.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Other indoor garden features contributing to successfully cultivating a variety of plants are accessories such as trellises, support stakes, and adjustability in the light height. Again, the AeroGarden models — and in particular, the Bounty Basic — lead the class in this assessment. The Bounty Basic's light can easily be adjusted to heights ranging from 9 inches all the way up to 24 inches. Additionally, this model comes with a 9-inch trellis if you choose to tackle plants yielding weighty produce.

Towering plants? That's no problem with the easily adjustable...
Towering plants? That's no problem with the easily adjustable telescoping light rig on the Bounty Basic.
Credit: Michelle Powell

Conclusion


Our hands-on review of the leading indoor gardens covers every practical aspect of these products' functionality and performance. We tested each model for ease of use, the time from seed start to harvest, as well as the diversity of plants that the units will cultivate. The data derived from our research is put into context and organized to facilitate apples-to-apples comparisons of the products. So, get ready for the sweet, earthy aroma of fresh basil, the pungent, tart odor of fresh rosemary, and the soft citrus zest of fresh dill — and a whole lot more. Salud!

Nick Miley, Michelle Powell, and Penney Garrett