Does your backyard herb garden perpetually look like General Sherman just marched through it? Don't worry, the Smart Farm from Click and Grow takes all of the guess work (and 95 per cent of the work work) out of producing fresh produce.
What Is It?
It's a self-illuminated, hydroponic, indoor herb garden.
Why Does It Matter?
Just because your semi-subterranean studio apartment has virtually no natural light doesn't mean you can't grow fresh herbs.
It's a white box about the size of a loaf of white bread, more rectangular and a bit taller than last the last Click and Grow we took a look at (not to mention a whole lot more productive). Its three pod ports sit under an extendable boom of LED lights and above the system's water reservoir. There are no user controls (the lights cycle automatically on an 18-/6-hour rotation) though you will have to check the reservoir's discrete bobber every couple of days to ensure that it is still full.
Outside of the initial setup, you don't so much as "use" the Smart Farm as wait for it to finish. To start, you pull out one of the three included seed pods, place it in the Smart Farm's port and press down until it clicks, then repeat with the other two. Then you fill up the reservoir until the bobber sits flush with the unit's upper lid, plug in the power cord, and get to waiting. The box's onboard sensors and timers will take care of the rest, keeping your plants perfectly moistened and illuminated throughout their growth cycle.
It's so easy it almost feels like cheating. The lemon balm, basil, and thyme sprouted immediately and, as you can see, have grown spectacularly over the last two months or so. I don't have to worry about inclement weather or watering, or snails and gophers eating the sprouts and roots. There's no need to fertilise either.
Raising herbs like this feels a lot like catching trout at a fish farm -- it's a hollow victory. Sure, I've now got a steady supply of delicious herbs but I didn't have to do anything but spend money to get them. The visceral connection you make with your garden as you care and tend for it doesn't form when all you have to do is plug in a cord. Still, it's way better than not having any garden at all.
Also, the LED lights are surprisingly bright and cannot be cycled manually without unplugging the unit and resetting the 18-hour timer. This limits the places you can use the Smart Farm -- anywhere you plan on sleeping, for example -- though you can always toss a tea towel over the unit to dim the light pollution.
Should You Buy It?
If you don't have the time, space, talent or patience to deal with a full-scale backyard garden; or you want to gently introduce your kids to urban farming; or you just want a quick and hassle-free means of producing your own herbs, yes, this is a solid and sleek option. It's only $US100 for the starter pack and includes three three pods that otherwise retail for about $US7 - $US10 each.