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Like a lot of things, indoor gardening grew in popularity during the pandemic – see what I did there?

Since I’ve notoriously killed every single plant I’ve ever brought home, I’ve been hesitant to plant a garden, but when I heard that you could grow one indoors and with the assistance of a smartphone app, I was curious.

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I tested the basic kit from Rise Gardens, which lets you grow fresh herbs and more inside. It’s all thanks to a setup that includes everything you need from special lights to a pump to circulate water.

Did I mention these plants grow in just a tiny bit of soil? The roots are mostly in a bed of water.

When the box arrived, there was some initial setup, but it was pretty simple. The main thing you have to do is select your plants and tell the app where you are “planting” them. Rise sells seeds that are already in a bit of starter soil, you just place them in your indoor garden, fill it with water and let the app guide you through the entire process.

It wasn’t as straight forward as I expected, I was confused how to place the plants and you have to connect the garden itself to your WiFi network, which worked, but I wasn’t completely sure if it was talking to my phone.

Still, it all worked because about a week later I had some plants sprouting. The plants are bathed in artificial sunlight for about 15 hours a day.

Hank Adams, CEO of Rise Gardens

“We just want everyone to be able to grow food at home and enjoy growing it with their family,” said Hank Adams, CEO of Chicago-based Rise Gardens. We spoke via Zoom.

“You really do get attached… once you plant the little seed and come up and grow it’s really fun,” explained Adams.

That’s an understatement. I was checking my plants every day and marveled at how well they were growing. In a few weeks I had enough basil to top my pizza and enough greens for a small salad. It was probably the freshest lettuce I’ve ever tasted.

Mars Manley of Los Angeles

“I think this is an awesome way to cut down on our carbon footprint,” explained Mars Manley, a Rise Gardens user in Los Angeles.

“I grew up in the country… we always had a small garden and herbs,” she explained, but once she moved to the city, an outdoor garden was no longer an option.

Now, she has tarragon, basil and even a tomato plant growing in her apartment.

Manley says she’s thinks it’s great “to see that and experience food growing and where it comes from.”

The price of smart gardens ranges from about $150 up to over $1,000. Rise sells their basic model for about $300, but the company believes many people can easily make that back in the food they grow.

“This is something where you can easily offset the price of it. We estimate in about a year to a year in a half you’ve paid it off and you’re saving from that point on,” said Adams.

I have been very impressed with having a flourishing garden in my home office. The entire process seems magical to someone like me that has trouble keeping most plants alive.

It’s fun to be able to pick just what you need for a little something here and there. I made guacamole with the cilantro and it was delicious. App notifications let you know when it’s time to add more water or nutrients to keep things growing optimally.

It’s a neat twist on the outdoor garden, even if it does feel a bit like cheating on mother nature.

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