Review

Hands-on review: Tregren T-series hydroponic planter

Internet of Things tech comes to the kitchen with kit that takes the hard work out of growing your own indoor herbs and veg.

This high-tech kitchen garden combines home hydroponics and Internet of Things app control for a fast, low-maintenance growing experience. The planter has built-in LED lighting and automatic watering.

All you do is tell the app what seeds or plants you’re growing and replace the nutrient-laden water when the app prompts you to, which is every three weeks or so. You don’t need to think about the watering and lighting. It’s automatic and optimised, so plants grow around three times faster than normal.

The T-series comes in three sizes: T3 for up to three plants, T6 for up to six and T12 for – you guessed it – up to a dozen. And it comes in three colours: white, grey or black. We tested the T3 in white.

Assembly is very simple. Then you dissolve a sachet of nutrients in a litre of water and pour it into the reservoir that sits underneath. The water is pumped up via a mini fountain, at an interval that depends on what you’ve planted or sown – you tell it via the app. The timings for the grow light are also set via app.

There are two types of nutrient sachets: one for herbs and salad, another for fruits and flowers. €12 buys eight sachets and you’ll use one sachet every three to four weeks.

You can also buy seed pods made of compressed peat from Tregren, with or without seeds. We tried a pack of six Italian herb seed pods: basil, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley and thyme. You get six discs of compressed peat plus six circles of filter paper. You soak the peat discs in water for 10 minutes, during which time they get much taller. Then you push the papers (which contain the herb seeds) firmly on top, so they get moist.

The T3 is just large enough for the six pods but it would only fit a couple of supermarket herb pots, which is the other obvious use for it.

We put the prepared pods in the T3, being careful to tell the app that it was in seed-growing mode, put a litre of tap water in the reservoir and waited. You don’t add nutrients to the water until the seeds start to sprout. Only two of the four papers had the name of the herb printed on them, the others were a guessing game.

The app is simple and minimal. You just tell it what you have planted when and it does the rest – communicating with the T3 via the Internet of Things (so the first time you set the garden up, you must connect it to the app and then give it the password for your Wi-Fi router, all of which went smoothly).

The seeds took a week to sprout, at which point we added the nutrients. Two weeks later, four of the six were thriving and getting big enough to see that basil and parsley were in the lead. It’s suggested that you can harvest after four to eight weeks.

It’s hard to say how much faster the process was than straightforward planting, but it’s very clear that it was effortless. We were almost willing the other two pods to fail because there’s no end of seeds we’d like to try in the T3. Cut-and-come-again salads like rocket, sorrel and lettuce are top of the list. We soon found ourselves pining for the extra growing space of the T12.

So we experimented on the side. Literally. We’d heard that one of the best and easiest ways to use a Tregren garden is simply to extend the life of supermarket herb pots. There was no space left inside the T3 for our cheap-as-chips pot of basil from Aldi, which was on its last legs, so we parked it right next to the T3 and poached its light.

Bingo! The basil came back to life and very soon began to thrive. It needed watering regularly, because it didn’t benefit from the Tregren’s automatic watering and nutrients, but the bright and constant LED light did our budget basil the world of good... and we were sold on the benefits of the T3.

The successfully Kickstarted T-series aren’t Tregren’s first products. They were preceded by Herbie and Genie, which boasted similar beautiful design but no app control. The T-series is more refined all round.

Home hydroponics is a technology long overdue reclamation. It’s primarily known for cultivating marijuana, and the association is so strong that very few companies have looked to bring it into our kitchens where it belongs. Farming food more efficiently and locally is a growing concern and it doesn’t get more local than this. Forget food miles, this is food millimetres.

Buying hot-housed supermarket herb pots, only to watch them wither after a week, is a miserable waste of resources when they could thrive for months. If you love herbs that aren’t hardy enough to thrive in the garden, a Tregren T-series smart garden is well worth considering.

from €90 tregren.com

Alternatives

Click and Grow gardens

Its smaller hydroponic growing stations have industrial design that’s uncannily similar to Tregren, but Click and Grow also offers entire “wall farm” vertical gardens along the same lines.

from €100 eu.clickandgrow.com

Grobo One

This tall hydroponics kit from Canada is aimed at the medical and recreational marijuana markets. As well as app control of lighting and nutrients, there’s a lock and a carbon filter to nix smells.

$1,993 grobo.io

Niwa One

Available to pre-order from the US, this does all of the above but also controls heat and ventilation. Available in three sizes or you can buy a $259 kit and build the plywood casing yourself.

from $429 getniwa.com

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