As an engaged woman on the cusp of 30, my fiancée Lexi wants little more than anything to be a mom—a plant mom, that is. After a year of long distance, Lexi moved to New York City in 2019. She filled our apartment with greenery to combat the concrete jungle we were now living in together; those plants, however, quickly died and were replaced with fake ones. We moved to Brooklyn in spring 2020, where Lexi made her quarantine hobby gardening. And I have nothing but admiration for her determination. My dad has always had a green thumb, but it definitely skipped a generation. I can somehow kill bagged lettuce between the time I buy it and put it in our refrigerator. Despite Lexi’s troublesome history keeping flowers, plants, and herbs alive, this was going to be the time to learn to care for them. Our new home once again filled up with flowers, herbs, and vegetables…which were once again quickly replaced with those of the plastic variety. Lexi has used grow lights, UV lights, apps that tell her how often to water her plants, Reddit and other internet forums for advice, and talked to my father, the avid gardening enthusiast. The Rise Gardens Personal Rise Garden is the first solution that helped Lexi accomplish her dream of keeping plants alive.
Rise and Shine
The Personal Rise Garden was a perfect fit and hit in our cozy Brooklyn apartment. Jason Lederman
|– Fits on almost any surface||– Not all pods are compatible with the Personal model|
|– Can be placed in any room, even one without windows||– Nutrient-to-water ratio requires more liquid than the model holds|
|– Easy to use and greenery grows quickly||– Expensive compared to competitors|
What is Rise Gardens’ Personal Rise Garden?
Hydroponic gardening is a system by which plants, like an herb garden, grow in a solution of water and nutrients rather than in dirt. These typically self-contained units can be small enough to fit on a countertop or large enough to need an entire greenroom.
Rise Gardens started in 2019 by Hank Adams, a self-proclaimed entrepreneur with a passion for gardening and growing food. The $280 Personal Rise Garden, the smallest model made by the hydroponic garden technology company, is a rectangular frame that measures 18 inches high by 11 inches deep by 16 inches wide and weighs just 10 pounds, including its own light source to grow your vegetation.
Rise offers three other, larger sizes of the indoor garden: the Single Family Garden, Double Family Garden, and Triple Family Garden. The Single Family Garden is a stand-alone unit that measures 36 inches tall wide by 16 inches deep by 39 inches tall—each size up from there adds an extra tier to the model (and essentially $200 to the cost), and can hold another dozen plants.
All four of Rise Gardens’ models grow plants from seed- and nutrient-filled pods, similar in size to those in a Keurig or Nespresso machine. Each machine comes with a starter kit that includes eight seed pods (the Personal Garden can hold up to 12) to grow herbs indoors, as well as a month’s supply of hydroponic nutrient solutions. Rise sells additional seed pods and nutrients separately, depending on which greens you want to grow, and has subscription options available. In addition, the gardens are connected devices, compatible with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks, that pair with an iOS or Android smartphone app.
The Rise Garden’s design
The Personal Rise Garden is small enough to fit nearly anywhere and its sleek light wood design with white shelf and light can fit into nearly any decor. In fact, thanks to the built-in light, this model doesn’t even need to be near a window—you really can be growing herbs throughout your home (as long as there’s an outlet within reach of the power cord).
This hydroponic home garden has a water tank underneath that can be refilled with a panel in the lower left-hand corner. Blinking lights on the front of the machine (as well as alerts in the app), let you know when it needs water.
Lighting up our lives
Lexi was incredibly excited when a large box from Rise Gardens showed up at our front door. Though the physical assembly was fairly straightforward, we did have a small mishap of not installing a filter, which the machine alerted us to with a blinking light. Our seed pods shipped separately, so we were disappointed until a second, much smaller box arrived from Rise Gardens 24 hours later.
The associated app makes connecting the smart garden straightforward, guiding you through the process. The device has its own temporary Wi-Fi network that needs to be connected to, similar to a Google Chromecast or many other smart devices. One of the last things to do is to switch back onto your regular Wi-Fi, but you still need to confirm setup is complete within the app after you do so—it took a few attempts to achieve success because of this step.
The app lets users note where plants are in the garden, though the digital grid-style layout in the app doesn’t necessarily align with the staggered real-life layout of the garden. It also notifies users when water levels are low, how much of the included nutrient solution to add for each plant, and to schedule the lights turning on and off, as well as when greenery is ready to harvest. The app will also let gardeners know when to clean the machine, which Rise recommends doing every four to six months.
Sowing the seeds
Inserting the pods into the machine is as simple as dropping them in and poking a hole through the foil-coated top with your finger. The foil on top of our basil broke too much and Lexi peeled it off, revealing a moss-rich environment.
As an observer, the Personal Rise Garden seemed to just work. I saw Lexi add water and nutrients every so often. One minor complaint she had was the water capacity of the machine compared to the solution it asks you to prepare; she had to mix 1 gallon of water with 1 milliliter of growth nutrients, even though the machine only has a half-liter capacity (our Brooklyn apartment, along with cats who like to knock over containers of liquid, doesn’t leave us with much room to leave half a gallon of water just sitting out until needed). But each day we were excited to see the lettuce leaves grow (lettuce is easily the star of our garden, having gotten much bigger, much faster than the other plants), followed by mustard greens and cilantro.
One of Lexi’s favorite features on the app is the short wait it tells her to take after adding one of the nutrients to her plants. It ensures that the supplement is spread properly throughout the soil and plant before adding anything else (like water or other nutrients) that could wash it away or make it less effective.
The plant that took the longest to grow—the one that Lexi was the most excited about—was the basil. It took nearly two weeks for a sproutling to break through to the surface. Whether or not that was due to the removal of the foil or the plant itself, I cannot say, but it’s worth noting.
So, who should buy Rise Gardens’ Personal Rise Garden?
The Personal Rise Garden isn’t cheap—and the price only goes up for the larger models. But if you don’t have access to a garden or your passion for plants outweighs your tendency to kill them (and you have a spare $300 lying around), this product definitely works.
Similar models are available for half the price or lower—the AeroGarden Harvest retails for $150 and also uses a pod-based system. However, it doesn’t use an app or provide real-time updates on the plants you’re growing; Rise Gardens’ app is really the secret to its success. The push notifications, simple-to-use interface, and easy-to-follow instructions make an indoor herb garden or growing vegetables indoors nearly foolproof. Thanks to the Personal Rise Garden there’s a green garden in our home finally made from real plants.