Price: From $250. Additional seed pods start at $10 for a four-pack. Subscriptions available for nutrients only.
Where to buy: Amazon and RiseGardens.
What’s included: Tank with installable pump, stationary lights, seed pods (four lettuce types and four herb types), starter bottles of nutrients and pH balance solution, and litmus strip.
What it grows: In addition to supplied seed pods, Rise offers 59 varieties of herbs, greens, microgreens, flowers, and vegetables (beet, celery, hot pepper, mini tomatoes, radish) for this model.
What we like: Room to grow more plants, wider selection of available vegetable seeds, huge trove of info and advice, responsive customer support, and active user community.
What we don’t like: Overly complicated setup and maintenance. Instruction booklet can be confusing.
The Personal Rise Garden is a commitment to hydroponic gardening, not a flirtation. Getting the most from this 12-pod unit required more effort and thought than the other units I tried. For example, it’s the only indoor garden that supplied litmus strips to test the pH of the water, a solution to correct pH imbalances, and two vials of nutrients for different plant growth stages.
The 29-page hard-copy manual reads like a middle-school science text, including explanations of the impact of water quality on hydroponics (distilled water: great; softened water: really bad), and how different light intensities and durations affect plant growth .
But the manual isn’t clear on some basics. That tripped me up. The text doesn’t specify, for instance, that the tiny pinholes in the seed pods’ foil tops need to be enlarged so that the seedlings can emerge.
Being a word person, I ignored small drawings beside the text showing a finger poking a hole in the pod top. As a result, most of my plants failed to thrive. So I removed the stunted seedlings, cleaned out the unit, and started over with free replacement pods that Rise Gardens customer service provided.
I also got confused about when to use the Rise “nursery,” a little plastic trough that’s not included on the “What’s in my box?” instruction page, nor in another page calling out all the parts, and only mentioned in passing in the setup instructions. But whatever. Once I got new seeds, they began to grow.
Soon after, the Rise app told me that the tank’s water was low—a state it assumes when the pump stops operating. But the tank was full. After phoning customer service and checking the Rise site, I determined that the pump had been broken—perhaps when I cleaned the unit.
Referring to a Rise tutorial, I tried to fix the pump, unsuccessfully. I then partially emptied the tank and added new water and nutrients, a more primitive method recommended by Rise. I could have requested a new pump, but I chose not to because of time constraints. (Rise Gardens has a 3-year warranty for hardware components and a 1-year warranty on electronic components against defects in workmanship.)
These snafus—some caused by me—made my experience with Personal Rise Garden less than optimal. Still, you might want to try it if you have a real interest in hydroponics—and patience. With 12 holes in which to place seed pods, the Personal Rise Garden offers the potential to grow more plants at once than the other gardens I tried—though the spacing it recommends for some plants means some holes go unused.
It also offers seed pods for more vegetable types, as well as empty pods so that you can use your own seeds. (Rise sells more than 70 seed pod varieties, though some are meant for units that are taller than the Personal Garden.) The Rise Gardens Facebook community is also large and active, and users share photos and support. The app and website also include lots of advice and information.