Everyone has had, at one point in their lives, the sad supermarket basil sitting on the kitchen windowsill. You might have had great intentions initially; watered it regularly, regularly plucking off leaves to use in your cooking, all with the hope that it will live beyond the standard couple of weeks.
Before long, the basil is as withered as your intentions, a drooping, damning indictment of your gardening skills.
Or perhaps you’ve tried your hand at growing herbs from seed. That may work out better for some people, but if you are the type to forget to water the tiny seedlings, they don’t usually make it for very long. My personal favourite when it comes to house plants are the ones that will survive benign neglect.
But there may be help at hand. The Veritable Smart Garden will help you grow herbs and mini vegetables with minimal effort on your part. It includes integrated lighting, a water reservoir and up to four clots for growing various plants. Fill it up, plug it in and you are ready to go.
There are a few different models of the Veritable garden, each with varying degrees of “smart”, but the version reviewed here is the Veritable Smart garden, which has lighting that adapts to the light conditions of its surroundings. That means you can put it in a room with very little light or near a window, and the integrated LEDs will make sure your plants get the required amount of light each day – and the necessary blackout period.
It works on a 16-hour cycle, so your mini herb garden will get enough light to grow and enough darkness to rest, an equally important part of the equation.
The seeds come in lingots – pre-prepared bricks of organic seeds, in organic soil, with the necessary nutrients – that slot neatly into the smart garden. Then all you have to do is fill the water reservoir to the maximum and top it up whenever it drops lower.
The Smart package came with four herb lingots – basil, chives, parsley and thyme – but you can buy more and a wider variety if you want. Some, such as the tomatoes, will require a helping hand in pollination, but even that is virtually effortless.
It was fascinating to watch the seeds sprout even as everything else in the garden was dying off. Within a week, there was small signs of growth on three of the four herbs and the final one followed a few days later. If your seeds don’t germinate, by the way, you can get in touch with Veritable for a replacement.
This is usually the stage where my good intentions falter. Once the green shoots begin and the excitement has worn off, inevitably someone forgets to water or feed the plants, and they bravely soldier on for another week before withering away. But the smart garden took over where the good intentions left off. Things have continued to thrive, even in the face of benign indifference.
Each of the lingots should produce enough herbs to last for four to six months, depending on the variety you have gone for.
The concept itself is not new – hydroponics has been around for decades – but packaging the Veritable garden and its seeds in such an easy-to-use package certainly makes it more appealing. It is almost impossible to mess it up. I say impossible because if someone gets a little too enthusiastic with the energy-saving measures and switches off the socket the smart garden is plugged into, you might run into a small delay with your seeds growing.
As of writing, the supermarket basil was struggling along with a few leaves left; the smart garden basil should be strong enough to take over by the time it finally gives up the last leaves.
Easy to set up and manage, the Veritable Smart Garden makes it easy to grow your own herbs at home. Sure, it should be easy just to throw some seeds in a pot and keep them watered, but the herb industry thrives on the fact that most people don’t have the time, the space or the skills to nurture plants long-term.
There is a good variety of plants too, from herbs and edible flowers to fruit and vegetables, such as peppers, chilies and strawberries. If you fancy a go at it yourself, you can get the “grow anything” lingot, pop some seeds in and see what happens.
The initial outlay is expensive, although if you weigh it up in terms of the amount you’ll eventually save on killing off various potted herbs, it probably balances out.
Having to plug in the device may also be an issue if your socket space is limited.
The LED light poles are adjustable, so as your plants grow, the lights can be moved. If you want something with more feedback, the Veritable Connect smart garden comes with an app for feedback from the plants.
Almost foolproof way to grow your own. And without getting your hands dirty.