This Is the First Indoor Garden That Has Ever Worked for Me

When I did a stint in Los Angeles during my 20s, I told people the only thing I didn’t like about living there was the weather (I’m weird). But upon leaving, I did miss the easy access to a garden full of ripe tomatoes in February. So, naturally, living in a place where winter exists, I’ve been lured in by the promise of many indoor gardens. “Grow your own produce any time,” they promise. “Minimal effort involved!” Who among us would be immune to the appeal of these claims?

The problem is usually the follow-through. Before this year, I’d made five attempts with different indoor garden setups. Some were self-watering, some had grow lights, one was powered by fish poop (RIP unnamed Betta fish). I found all of them disappointing. But the Rise Garden has reinvigorated my optimism for the indoor garden. After several months of use, it’s proven to be both as functional and as easy as I’d hoped my previous failures would be.

One problem with gardens I’ve used in the past, like the AeroGarden or the Click and Grow, is that they were just too small to be useful. The most they ever provided me was a meal’s worth of basil or cilantro. They really offered only the illusion of gardening for an urban apartment dweller. Rise’s Family Garden, on the other hand, comfortably fits a dozen plants on every level. It offers enough space that what it grows can meaningfully complement weekly grocery shopping, while still fitting (relatively) unobtrusively behind the couch. If you keep it clean it actually passes as attractive living room furniture as well.

The Rise has a lot of polished automated features like timer-set grow lights, a pump that constantly circulates water through the garden, and a water sensor that sends alerts to your phone when water needs to be added, which for me is every week or so. But it also requires actual tending. I sprouted seeds from Rise pods in small plant nurseries, then thinned out the seedlings before transplanting them to the garden itself. I also occasionally had to prune anything that wasn’t an herb to keep all the plants healthy and under control. But that’s because the Rise offers something much more like actual gardening than what you get with a countertop model. After a few weeks I had a bounty of herbs, kale, chard, and lettuces that I could actually plan a weekly menu around.

The one aspect of the Rise that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped was its capacity to grow more substantial vegetables. I sprouted tomatoes, eggplants, and mini peppers. The latter two never flowered, and while the tomatoes did, they didn’t ripen effectively. The tomato plant also took over its section of the garden, crowding out everything else. I also tried planting my own seeds—Rise makes empty pods that you can fill with whatever you want—and got massive bird’s eye chili and sugar snap pea plants, but no actual peppers or peas.

I chalked up my disappointment here to a case of misplaced expectations. Thinking I might get a fully stocked farmers market from something the size of a children’s dresser was very unlikely to pan out. What I did get were fabulous greens. And while I wait for it to warm up enough to plant outdoors, I’ve already replanted a whole new garden inside.

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