Although I do most of the cooking and cleaning, I like to joke that my husband is in charge of keeping all the living things in our house alive. He makes sure I eat real meals like a normal human (not just cheese and gummy candies), he feeds our fish and the dog we sometimes babysit, and he's in charge of all our plants.
This division of labor came about after I killed three too many succulents and an air plant. (Seriously, how does one kill an air plant?) It's not entirely my fault, I like to tell myself — the light in our apartment is never the same!
I have also killed every basil kit I've ever tried, yet I was eager try the Smart Herb Garden by Click and Grow. After all, they make it sound so easy! Here's how it went.
The setup seemed simple enough (especially considering I didn't read all the directions before I started. Don't judge! I was too excited!). I unpacked all the pieces, popped the three included basil pods into the device, added water, and was about to plug the machine in when I saw a handy little warning tag.
"Grow light cycle is 16h on and 8h off. To avoid running the light at night, plug it in right after waking up!" it said. Thanks for the tip, tag. Given that it was the early evening, I waited until the next morning to plug it in.
Buy: Smart Herb Garden, $60 at Click and Grow
This thing is bright! How bright is it? My husband said it was so bright, he thought I had left the refrigerator door open when he first keyed in the door one night after work!
Growth! Already! I couldn't believe it! My husband was getting grumpy about the light, saying that whatever money we were saving by not buying basil at the supermarket, we were now spending on our electric bill. I calmed him down by sending him this text from the Click and Grow website:
"We've worked with the world's leading LED technologists to invent a natural-looking light system that gives plants enough light to grow while only requiring 6 watts of energy. This keeps the electricity bill for running the Smart Herb Garden a whole year to around 4-5 dollars."
The sprouts were already starting to look like basil! And I hadn't even really had to do anything yet. I regularly checked the bobber, which indicates the water level, and I didn't have to add any water. So far, I didn't have to do anything!
It was time to take the plastic domes off (you're told to do it once the sprouts start to reach the domes). I removed them, and I swear I got a whiff of fresh basil. I was gardening!
My garden was looking so good, I got a little brag-y and decided to use my kitchen's chalkboard to show off what I was growing. My husband said it was hardly food, but despite his jabs, I could tell even he was impressed!
I was getting impatient and wanted to see what my basil tasted like. I ripped off one of the smallest leaves I could find (probably an act that's not endorsed by Click and Grow) and popped it into my mouth. It was flavorless and bitter at the same time. I felt bad for disturbing the plants. I do not suggest this.
Look at all this growth! My favorite part of this experiment was going into the kitchen every morning to see how much my plant had grown.
My husband and I went away for the weekend. Before we left, I filled up the water reservoir (something I'd had to do a few a times now) and briefly wondered if I should add the second included arm, which would move the light higher away from the plant. I decided against it because we were in a hurry and I wasn't sure it was necessary. Turns out, it was. The plant grew as tall as the light and some of the leaves got burned as a result. Ecks. Was this the beginning of the end, I wondered?
With the second arm added in, the plants seemed to be recovering nicely and they didn't seem too mad at me for my lapse in judgement.
I did it again! Argh! We went away for a full week and I thought there was no possible way the plants would grow so much in just seven days. A few of the tallest leave burned. This was on me.
With the third and final arm added into the light, I wondered when it'd be time to start cooking with my basil. I think part of me was waiting for a light to change colors, alerting me to the fact that it was time to eat. There was no such light and I checked the instructions, which let me know that I could have already been trimming and eating the plant!
I trimmed some leaves and made the best-tasting, freshest pesto I've ever whipped up. (I make a lot of pesto, but usually with stuff from the grocery store). Within a few days, new leaves were already growing up from the stem.
The three plants are still growing strong (although some stems are starting to get a little droopy). And I'm up to my eyeballs in basil. Not complaining!
My Final Thoughts on the Click and Grow System
This electronic garden really can turn anyone's black thumb into a green one. It was extremely forgiving of all my mishaps and continues to grow a plentiful supply of fresh basil. While it does a lot of the work for you, it does not do all of it. You do have to add water (the bigger the plants get, the faster the water needs to be replenished). You also have to add the arms to the light (but there is some wiggle room there in terms of timing). And you have to watch the plants and know when it's time to harvest. Luckily, I'm beginning to get a feel for when my basil needs a trim. The biggest problem I'm having now is coming up with enough meals to use up all this fresh basil. (Again, not complaining.)
Of course, if you are even a little bit better at keeping things alive than I am, you should have no trouble with a basic pot.
Read how to do it: The Easiest (Annual) Herb You Can Grow Indoors
Some Basil Recipes I'm Considering
Have you tried Click and Grow? What about other basil kits (or just growing from regular old starts or seeds)? What's your favorite method?