Introduction: Aerogarden Grow Pods Using Old Coffee K-Cups
Because of the Scraps Contest, I wrote this Instructable. Hopefully its helpful to the community.
So, Ive been using the Aerogarden a lot lately. Primarily to start plants from seed in late Winter, and then transfer them to the outside garden.
Aerogardens and similar grow machines are, IMO, really only good for growing herbs (and seed starting obviously). Don't let the images of bountiful tomatoes and strawberries and even mini citrus trees loaded with oranges fool you. And even then (for herbs) the machines are overkill if you have a sunny windowsill to put a few pots on with that stuff in the pots. You know that stuff that's all around outside. What's it called?, oh yeah, Dirt!
I've had mine for many years, and they are fun to play with, but just realize you aren't going to be eating a giant fresh salad every day like the marketing would have you believe.
I actually got much more enjoyment with mine at work. My office was deep inside a very large industrial building with no windows, so I would always have one at my desk growing different things. (The natural light they produce is also much better for you than the harsh fluorescent lighting inside most buildings.) Mostly while at work, I tried different hot peppers. I've started all kinds of Habanero, Jalapeno, Bhut Jolokia, Carolina Reepers, etc. to give to coworkers and take home for the garden. Even started a Tabasco pepper plant that I had in my garden for many years, but last winter we had a bad frost and it died.
OK - To the point of this Instructable. The "Sponges"!
They are the brown things in the last picture above. They come with a new kit or can be purchased separately. However, they are one-time use only and replacements are extremely expensive (relative to what they are).
2 for $1 is about the average price for these.
SF BAY COFFEE PODS to the rescue.
- Compostable Coffee Pods
- Aerogarden Machine (any size)
- Aerogarden Nutrient Solution
Not a single tool needed (other than your fingers)!
Step 1: SF BAY Coffee Pods
These coffee pods are unique in that they are:
- 100% COMPOSTABLE
- Even the bag they come in, which is I think 10 pods per bag
- And then those bags are inside a cardboard box
From their Amazon listing description:
"ECO-FRIENDLY, COMMERCIALLY COMPOSTABLE: OneCup pods, including the outer bag and one-way coffee valve, are made from plant-based materials and are certified fully commercially compostable by BPI."
I'll admit to being a coffee snob, so this is not my go to method of C8H10N4O2 dosing, but it is at least a great step in the right direction when it comes to the huge waste and plastic pollution problem from single serve coffee makers.
Its not my favorite coffee for our Keurig machine, but since its compostable and actually affordable its our brand of choice.
Step 2: Repurposing the Pods
Recently I ran out of the grow sponges and after making a cup of coffee was about to throw the used pod in the trash and wondered if it would fit. It does! With a little twist. Or a flip actually.
(I've tried several other things as replacements for the sponges but nothing really worked. So, I won't bore you with all that. However, if you have a question - "Will _____ work?" I probably can answer it!)
- Tear away the top cover on the pod and empty the used grounds
- Rinse the woven fiber thoroughly to clear away as much of the coffee remnants as possible
- Flip the woven fiber pouch portion to the opposite side (first image above). Basically, turn it inside out.
This creates a slightly deeper pocket to reach into the water bath below once placed in the pod wells of the Aerogarden, but it also allows the clear dome covers to be attached. The domes fit because the inner diameter of them matches (not perfectly but close) the outer diameter of the lower portion of the pod's hard ring (second image above).
NOTE: The domes are used at the start of a grow cycle to limit evaporation and keep the humidity inside the grow pod high. Once the seedling emerges, the dome is removed. Usually within the first week or two.
Step 3: Planting
I only had three of these at the time, otherwise I would have loaded up all 6 spots.
Steps (in order with the pictures above):
- Place the repurposed K-Cups into each well and push the woven fiber pouch down into the opening
- Fill with potting mix (I think I used Miracle Grow brand all purpose garden mix)
- Add your seeds of choice (I know I way overloaded it with pole bean and zucchini seeds, but this was for a test.)
- Push the seeds down into the soil a bit and cover the seeds completely with more potting mix
- Start the Aerogarden with a new cycle and add the nutrient solution according to your model for seed starting
- On mine, I had to fill it more than the normal "FULL" line so that the water would be in contact with the bottom of the pouches from the K-Cups
- Using a baster, take some of the nutrient water from the base of the Aerogarden, and dribble it into each seed pod to fully saturate the potting mix
- Place the domes over each seed pod
TIP: I always use the Aerogarden branded nutrient solution. I've tried others and nothing works as well as this.
Step 4: Design Tweak
Obviously 1 of the 3 just failed to start. I think what happened was the soil dried out as the level of the water inside the Aerogarden lowered and I didn't notice till it was too late.
As an adjustment, going forward, I added some twine to the used K-cup (see last two images above). Simply double knot one end, then poke a hole in the woven fiber pouch, and feed the twine through. This should allow the water to wick up into the soil.
Step 5: Transplanting
Once the seedlings are good size, simply remove from the Aerogarden and plant the entire thing in a larger pot or in the ground. The plants' roots will penetrate the woven fiber material very easily. And the plant's main trunk (unless you started a tree or something that will grow to have a large trunk), won't get bigger than the K-Cup ring, so just leave it in the ground.
This is my first time trying this (Spring 2020), so I don't know how long it takes for the hard ring of the K-Cup to decompose, but I'll update the Instructable with my findings later.
Thanks for taking the time to read through my Instructable, and please let me know if anyone has any questions. I try to respond to every comment/question I get. Stay safe and healthy! And happy planting!
Participated in the
Scraps Speed Challenge
3 years ago
Creative and simple solution, nice job!
Reply 3 years ago
Thank You. Moved them to the garden today. I'll update with images later.
Reply 2 years ago
Nice job on this idea. I am totally new to this style of gardening. I’m assuming you could adapt your own version of this with any other hydroponic sprouting system, correct?
Reply 2 years ago
Thanks. I'm actually working on another Instructable for that exact thing. Keep watching my channel.