Grow-your-own inventions that can feed your family |

2023-03-16 17:19:30 By : Ms. Candy Fan

With reports of fresh fruit and vegetable shortages sending healthy eaters into a salad spin, it may be time to grow your own. Not all of us have green fingers, nor the space or time to garden, but help is at hand. There are some amazing hydroponic systems out there, which use only water, light and oxygen, along with smart technology, to produce a wide range of fruit and vegetables in small urban spaces. Growing your own to feed the family can be as easy as flicking a switch.

Everyday items like tomatoes have been particularly hit by shortages, caused by poor weather conditions and rising energy costs, which have forced growers to switch off their greenhouses, concerned they would not get the returns in the marketplace. Some UK supermarkets have introduced customer limits on certain fresh produce, so it’s no surprise that many of us are turning our thoughts to creating our own self-sufficient gardens to fill our salad bowls.

Click or scroll to see the latest fruit and veg tech. Prices in ascending order and correct at time of publication.

Created to fit snugly on a window sill, the compact Giardino Planter was made with tiny living in mind. It may feature fewer bells and whistles than some of the other models in our round-up, but its clever design helps to minimise the margin of error for rookie gardeners. The integrated waterfall and drainage system prevents overwatering, with a perforated canopy that stops water from pooling.

Cleverly, there’s also a plastic insert tray below the planter where excess water can escape through holes in the base. The modern, minimalist unit also comes with three stamped metal name tags for labelling your seedlings. To clean, simply wipe the exterior with a damp cloth, or when the growth period is over, take the elements apart and clean them with hot soapy water.

Designed for small outdoor spaces and balconies, the Tower Garden aims to bring healthy living into the home by giving families the opportunity to grow a fridge-full of fruits and vegetables with easy to follow monthly packs. The Tower Garden benefits from a vertical design to aid aeroponic gardening, creating produce that is cleaner, less costly and has a lower carbon footprint than the groceries you might find in your local supermarket.

With Tower Garden, budding botanists can grow many kinds of fruit, vegetables and herbs at once— making it a more advanced option than many other home hydroponic kits. Plus, over 150 veggies can be grown, from aubergine to squash and various types of tomatoes. Each month you will receive seeds, Mineral Blend plant food and dedicated customer support to help troubleshoot any problems along the way. 

If you’d prefer to give one type of plant your tender loving care and attention at a time, the Botanium smart plant pot is a simple yet chic way to nurture hydroponics. Not only does it look fabulous, but this system is also incredibly easy to use: the only thing you need to do is fill the reservoir, which sits at the base. Plus, the sleek pot won't take up much room on the countertop, so it's a great way to utilise space in a small kitchen.

The minimalist Scandi design creates a seamless, soil-free environment with plenty of water and oxygen, which is optimal for plant growth. As Botanium is a Swedish company, they’ve designed their smart plant pot to survive throughout dark Scandinavian winters, too—all it needs is a spotlight. Even the most hopeless urban gardeners will find delight—and chilli peppers—in this nifty little contraption.

The tall boy of a range of products from this particular company, the Akarina 15 incorporates adjustable height design and wall-hanging functions for when space is limited. It features a vertically sliding grow light that can be re-positioned as your plants grow taller thus giving the optimum amount of grow light power at each stage of growth. As with other models, it has an integrated timer and dimmer, and comes with loose-leaf seeds and liquid fertiliser.

The adjustable height feature is ideal for tall plants that need lots of light but do remember to raise the lamp in good time before their leaves get singed. Like all models in the range, the Akarina 15 doubles up as a decorative addition to any room, in this case providing an attractive living wall light.

Seed Pantry’s Grow Pod 2 is the updated, second-generation version of the company’s popular Grow Pod. The LED light adjusts to the height of your growing greens and is smart automated, so it adapts to the needs of its environment. Because of this, you can put the Grow Pod in your darkest room and it will still flower, as long as the plants are watered and the kit is plugged in.

What sets Seed Pantry’s products apart is their seed subscription service. From a monthly payment starting at £13.99 ($17), boxes of bulbs, seeds and plants are delivered straight to your door for use in your Grow Pod and beyond. Their selections have been specially chosen to fit the season, so expect to have tasty treats all year round.

If you are looking for something more discreet, the diminutive Akarina 14 is the one for you. It’s unlikely to provide a bumper crop but its smaller size makes it perfect for placing on a shelf, windowsill or even using as a living, breathing bookend. What it lacks in size, is made up for in quality with the same premium LED lights for rapid growth, featured across the Akarina range.

If you’re prone to letting your herbs wither away, the Click & Grow Smart Garden does (most of) the work for you. A great place for horticultural hobbyists to begin, it’s available in three models: 3 (pictured), 9 and 21. The Estonian company’s smart gardens take care of your plant for you through LED grow lights and NASA-inspired Smart Soil, providing the perfect combination of water, oxygen and nutrients.

Winner of the Estonian Innovation Award, it’s conceptualised around a criminally simple notion: plug in the biodegradable plant pods—available in over 40 varieties including lettuce, pak choi and wild strawberry—fill the water tank and plug in the power. Not only is it bountiful, but it comes in a sleek, minimalist design—a perfect adornment befitting of even the trendiest kitchen.

Also worth considering is the Ezorkas LED 12-pod Hydroponic System, which features three separate modes so you can flit like a butterfly from fruits to vegetables to flowers. The control panel tells you when to add plant food and the kit is designed with a water circulation system, increasing the oxygen in the water so that hopefully everything comes up smelling of roses, or whatever you happen to have cultivated.

With space for nine plants, the Bounty Basic—part of a larger range called Bounty that has different colour options and some other models—can grow herbs, tomatoes, salad and flowers in any small space. It claims to be the largest countertop cultivator on the market and the 30W LED grow light raises up to 24 inches to allow plants to get to a good size before you need to harvest them.

The Bounty Basic uses hydroponics to deliver liquid nutrients to your fledgling produce and promises they’ll grow five times faster than in regular soil. It is simple to set up and there’s also a 'vacation mode' setting to keep your indoor garden fed and watered while you’re away.

It may not be the prettiest design on the market but the iDOO 20Pods Hydroponics Growing System comes with four water tanks and allows you to grow larger items up to 20 plants at a time, including plump tomatoes bursting with flavour. You can adjust the height to help veggies absorb energy from LED lights depending on the growth stage and customise the timer according to the specific needs of plants.

Using only water, light and oxygen, hydroponic systems can grow your greens up to five times faster than regular gardening, with some iDOO customers saying their plants were thriving after only three weeks. But what’s extra handy about the iDOO range—which is also available with 7 or 12 Pods—is that you can also use it as a 'sunlight' source for your soil potted plants as seen here. 

If you buy an Akarina 14 TWIN Starter Pack they will include free seeds and a bottle of nutrients, plus the design duo makes for a rather attractive table setting. The innovative Akarina models will certainly appeal to eco-friendly millennials keen to grow their own greens, plus they are design classics with the flagship Akarina 01 featuring in the Design Museum’s 'Moving to Mars' exhibition a few years ago.

Probably the most stylish on the list, the Akarina 01 with its contemporary Japanese design, blends in beautifully with most interiors. It also works just as well as a lamp, without even taking into consideration its horticultural role. It sits pretty on most kitchen worktops and most importantly, is easy-peasy to use, with minimal setup, three removable culture trays and an LED light with an integrated timer and dimmer function.

The Akarina 01 is the result of extensive product development by Tokyo-based Olympia Lighting Fixtures Industries and uses cutting-edge LED grow-light technology to produce plants like these little cherry tomato beauties. It was also voted best home hydroponic kit by The Independent.

For the horticulturally challenged, it doesn’t get much simpler than the Modulo indoor garden. Simply fill the planters with water, insert one of the company’s plant pods—these include seeds, plus nutrients and soil to help your produce grow—then plug in the unit. Water only needs to be added every two to three weeks, while the LED light turns on and off automatically. After a month, your first harvest will be ready.

You can grow everything from tomatoes, lettuce and chillis to mint and basil in these ingenious planters. Then, at the end of the growth period, you can simply pop the biodegradable pod into your compost and slide in a new one. One of the big bonuses of this stylish system is its flexibility. The modules can be easily customised to create a standalone unit for your kitchen counter, a space-saving, wall-mounted design or a double-sided vertical garden.

The system uses what the company calls Lingots to ensure healthy growth. These are combined seed, soil and nutrient blocks that are inserted into the unit. Fitted with its own built-in irrigation system, the garden’s water tank can hold three weeks of water, so even if you go on holiday, your plants won’t shrivel and brown. Finally, a way to take the graft out of growing!

Featuring an automatic light that mimics the cycle of natural daylight, the super-smart Veritable Indoor Garden is the result of two years of painstaking research. The LED light includes a specially designed colour spectrum that helps accelerate plant growth and enhances the flavour of produce. Ideal for homes where space is at a premium, you can simply leave the unit in a dark corner and watch everything from herbs and edible flowers to veggies spring to life.

Another marvellous invention from Click & Grow, the Smart Garden 27 is the perfect vertical vegetable patch for those who lack outdoor space. Although an investment, the smart system provides everything your seeds need to thrive, offering just the right amount of light, water and nutrients. The design includes three of the company’s smart gardens, which feature 1.2-litre water tanks and energy-efficient LED lighting.

All you need to do is add water, plug in the unit and insert Click & Grow’s seed plant pods, which are packed with all the nourishment and vitamins your plants require. The Smart Garden 27 package includes nine sets of basil, lettuce and miniature tomato pods, so you’re ready to plant from the get-go. Built from pine, the ladder-style unit can either be freestanding or mounted to a wall to free up floor space.

Possibly not for those on a budget, the EZ GRO Deck Garden is, however, the best option for those who want to cultivate their own edible goods on a large scale with minimal effort. The stacked system measures just 3ft x 7ft, and claims to allow you to grow up to eight times as much produce as traditional methods in the same amount of space. 

The seasoned gardener will love this product. With a built-in timer, nutrient reservoir and circulation pump, this growing system makes home horticulture simple. Because the plants grow vertically, the Deck Garden allows users to grow up to a whopping 300 plants! That’s a whole lot of ingredients for your salads this summer…

Loved this? We have lots more gardening tips from design to growing your own fruit and veg

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