Now that the outdoor growing season is ramping down (notice I didn’t say stopping) I am shifting my focus to ramping up my indoor growing. I have multiple hydroponic systems that I use to extend my growing season to year round. So now is the time to give them all a good cleaning and make sure they are up to the job ahead! Today it is my Aerogarden Sprouts that need to be cleaned. I have two of them mostly so that I can use them to run “experiments” in, the new one is a root trimming experiment so stay tuned for that in the new future. But before that can happen they need a good cleaning. So let’s take a look at how to clean an Aerogarden Sprout.
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Now I should start by saying the Aerogarden Sprouts were not nearly as big a mess as my Aerogarden Farm Plus was when I decided to give that a good cleaning. You can check out that train wreck right here. It was embarrassing really! The sprouts were just a mess of untamed plants and old leaves. They were originally set up for the afore mentioned root trimming experiment BUT I should have known better than to set it up during the peak outdoor growing time. Long story short the plants grew and nary a root was trimmed, then Bacon (my French) went on a tiny tomato rampage and well we ended up with this mess.
You should give your units a good clean in between harvesting cycles. You always want to start a new batch of seeds in a spiffy clean unit. Part of me just loves seeing a clean unit as it always seems like it has so much potential!
So safety first, let’s start by unplugging the pump and the power supply on the back of the unit. Then you can empty the bowl, making sure not to get any goopy water on yourself. The small size of the grow bowl on the Aerogarden Sprout makes dumping yucky water on yourself waaaay less likely than doing the same task with the bigger models!
If you have any plants still in the unit that you want to save then you can transplant them to soil. If you haven’t done this before you can check out my YouTube video where I walk you through the whole process.
Once you have made it to the sink and dumped the water safely it is time to CAREFULLY take out the pump. The pump in the Aerogarden Sprout is held in with two clips, one on the front and one on the back. I found it easy to get off the first one and damn near impossible to get off the second. I ended up using a butter knife to carefully pry off the second clip. Now I should state that my finger nails are about as tough as tissue paper, so if you have strong nails you may be just fine using those.
Once you finally free the pump, take special care to make sure you don’t lose the small filter that sits under the pump. Make sure to set it aside so it doesn’t go down the drain and we will clean it in just a minute.
Next you are going to want to wipe down the inside of the grow bowl. I just use water and an old face cloth. I don’t like to use any soap or anything as we will sterilize the whole until soon enough. So just use some warm water and bit of elbow grease.
Make sure that you don’t want to use anything that will scratch the surface of the bowl. Any grooves or scratches on the inside of the bowl are a breeding ground for algae, and we definitely do NOT want that! Once the bowl is visually clean it is time to tackle cleaning the pump. If you have had any roots make their way into the pump it may take a bit longer to clean it. I was lucky and the roots had not made their way in. This is one of the reasons that people like to employ root trimming in their hydroponic system. I have never done this, but I am planning an experiment to test out if it has any negative (or positive) impacts on the plants. Well as soon as both the Aerogarden Sprouts are clean I will!
Start cleaning the pump by washing the outside thoroughly with warm water and the wash cloth or sponge. I found that there was a lot of reside on the bottom of the pump where all the little intake holes are. So I gave this a good scrub to clean them all. Next we need to clean the filter, run it under the warm water. Make sure to pick out any roots that might have woven their way into it. I found it helpful to rub the filter against itself to loosen any of the residue stuck into it. Once it is clean set it aside again, so that it doesn’t get lost.
Just when you think you are done cleaning the pump, I am here to tell you there is MORE! We need to clean INSIDE the pump, look at how gross mine was inside! In order to get into the pump you need to separate the little bottom “table” from the top of the pump. On one of the longer side of the pump you will notice a little notch, you can see it on the top of the picture above. I just stuck my nail between the two halves and it pulled apart pretty easily. I used a Q-tip to clean in here very carefully.
Once the inside of the pump is all clean you can put the two halves back together, making sure to line up the notch and groove on the one side. Then you can nestle the filter back under the little “table” and click the pump back into it’s space in the grow bowl. Make sure you have the side of the pump with the cord facing the back. Now we can move on to washing the grow deck.
One thing I LOVE about cleaning the Aerogarden Sprout is how much easier it is to clean the grow deck! In any of the other models the grow deck is actually two pieces that need to be separated to clean it properly. If you though getting the pump out was hard try taking apart the grow deck in one of the other models! All that we need to do is wash it with warm water and the wash cloth.
Next you need to fill the grow bowl with your choice of sterilizing solution. You have two options to choose from, either bleach and water or vinegar and water. For the larger models I usually use bleach and water as it would use so much vinegar! But given that the Aerogarden Sprout’s grow bowl is so tiny I will use vinegar. The option is up to you and I will give you instructions for both methods and you can decide with is best for you.
Cleaning with Vinegar
I like to use cleaning vinegar when I am sterilizing my hydroponic systems and also when I am making my own cleaning supplies. You can check out my recipes for the natural cleaning products I make and use in my own home. If you are sterilizing using vinegar then the ratio is 1:1 for water and vinegar. The Aerogarden Sprout grow bowl holds about 5 cups of water, so for this method you will need 2 1/2 cups of water and 2 1/2 cups of vinegar. Using the vinegar is a much more natural way to remove bacteria without harsh chemicals such as bleach.
Add the vinegar and water to the grow bowl and then reconnect the pump and then the power cord. Once both are connected you can plug it back into the wall and let it run for 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes are up you can disconnect the pump, dump the contents out and refill the grow bowl with clean water. Reconnect the pump and let it run for another 5 minutes. Empty the grow bowl one last time, refill with clean water and you are ready to replant you Aerogarden Sprout!
Cleaning with Bleach
If you have chosen to use bleach to sterilize then you will need about 1/8 cup of bleach per 5 cups of water. Add the bleach and water to the grow bowl, reconnect the pump and power supply and let the unit run for 30 minutes. When this time is up, disconnect the pump, refill the grow bowl with fresh water, reconnect the pump and let it run for 5 minutes. Once the 5 minute are up you can disconnect the pump, dump the water and set the grow bowl aside to dry for 48 hours. This allows any residual bleach to dissipate.
The next day you can fill the grow bowl with fresh water, reconnect the pump and then you are ready to plant your Aerogarden Sprout with a new batch of plants. While you can use anything to fill up the grow bowls but I do love the no-spill watering jug. Though, I do use it more with my larger Aerogarden Farm Plus than I do with the Sprouts.
Now with it all clean it is time to get some new grow sponges, nutrients, sponge grow baskets and your favourite seeds (I really like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) and get your indoor garden back up and running! If you’re not sure what to grow in your Aerogarden then check out my post on 14 Vegetables you can grow in an Aerogarden and 10 you can’t.
There is something amazing about growing food year-round in the basement! It is also a great way to start your plants as long as you make sure to harden off your seedlings before moving them to the garden. What is your favourite thing to grow in your aerogarden? What model(s) do you have? Or are you just curious about growing hydroponically?