(I decided to steal an idea from Tom Naughton over at Fat Head; whenever he posts about his farm doings, he titles it Farm Report. Since I don't have a farm yet, I decided I'd call my posts about garden stuff my Garden Report. That way, you guys will know what you're getting into before you start reading.)
When I bought my little Aerogarden 3SL a few weeks ago for a mere $30 on clearance, I didn't realize that it was a pretty low quality model. I would have hoped that, at its original price of $50, it would at least last a few months or maybe even years. It's hard for me to part with money, and when I do, I like to get the highest quality thing I can afford. I knew I was buying a cheap Aerogarden model, but I didn't know it was a very badly built model.
The reviews on Amazon had a lot of talk about how the pump frequently stopped working, and sometimes the lights would then stop working as well. So I paid extra attention to my 3SL to hopefully take care of this problem before it ruined the whole device.
Sure enough, a few days into owning it, the pump stopped working, as I wrote in a previous post. I simply cleared the holes of the bubbler as best I could, and it seemed to work just fine. I would have to do this every day or two, but I figured that would be that and the 3SL and I would live happily ever after.
Except, one fine day, the bubbler just wouldn't work no matter how much I tried to clear it out. The bubbler might have been clogged further in; for some reason, even though it had screws that could be unscrewed to remove the bubbler, I couldn't get it to detach completely. However, I didn't think that was the problem; the pump just seemed to be getting weaker. I wasn't really sure what to do, but I didn't want to leave it running and burn out the pump before I made up my mind about how to handle it. So I turned the whole unit off and moved the seed pods from the 3SL to the three holes in the Bounty whose seeds never germinated.
Then I took the 3SL apart! I enjoy taking apart electronics and seeing if I can fix them. I was pretty surprised when I opened that baby up; I'm sorry I didn't take any pictures of it. Inside, there's two circuit boards, a tiny pump, and some wires. Surprisingly simple. But it was very illuminating. I instantly found my problem, and also the reason why so many other 3SLs were breaking down. The whole thing inside was covered with water. The pump didn't have any one-way valve or anything, so I think when it shuts off at night, water runs down the tube, into the pump, and then it starts leaking all over everything else. Sigh. What a terrible design.
I had a couple of options, but I decided to go with the simplest solution, which was to cut out the original pump and aerate with an external pump. Which is fine, because I was actually thinking about getting a pump for the Bounty anyway. The Bounty doesn't have an aerator built in; it just trickles water over the seed pods every so often. I heard that with an added aerator, the plants grow much faster (plants like air; who knew?).
Now, picture time!
After cutting out the pump, I very thoroughly covered the hole with packing tape. I took the plug from the top of the 3SL (that covers a little opening for an extrernal pump tube) and used it to plug the bottom of the tank, and then taped that on as well. It doesn't leak a bit.
And now I have a little oasis of green growing things in the dead of winter. Chad's keyboard (the musical kind) is night next to this, so I usually come in and sit on his piano stool and just watch the lettuce grow.
I'm not the only one who enjoys the green growing things, either. I found this guy the day after I installed the pump.
I actually installed the pump over a week ago, and the plants are ridiculously big compared to these pictures. I'll be sure to post again soon to show their progress.