Dear Omar

Yes, Cannabis Will Grow in an AeroGarden Device

I mean, that’s what we heard… from other people. Not because we did it. (Ahem.)

Photo Illustration: Save As / Medium; Source: Getty Images

Welcome to Dear Omar, a weekly Debugger column from tech expert Omar L. Gallaga. If you have questions for Omar, send them to debugger@medium.com with the subject line “Dear Omar.”

There was a kind of boredom that happened during the pandemic shutdown in 2020 that we may never feel again. It felt like you couldn’t go anywhere or do anything that didn’t involve puttering around your home like a 70-year-old. Knitting was suddenly hot. Home improvement projects abounded. Gardening was suddenly something a lot of us began to dig as a new hobby. We became more comfortable with puns.

It may have happened that during this extended period of new-hobby adoption and exploration of The Old Ways that one might have purchased a gadget called an AeroGarden to grow veggies and herbs. AeroGardens, which can grow plants out of Keurig-like seed pods with only water and liquid nutrients, were hard to find last year as the pandemic increased demand. They were coveted by people like me who wanted to learn how to garden and grow edible crops, but were also really bad at growing plants with soil and sunshine and water.

Once the AeroGarden arrived and proved bountiful in its ability to grow green things, it might have led one to wander over to Google late one night and type, completely out of curiosity and with no intent of action, “AeroGarden can it grow marijuana?”

Not me, of course. I live in Texas, where cannabis is still very, very illegal. It would be foolish even to type such a thing into a search engine because what a waste of time that would be! Ha ha ha! Can you imagine?

But let’s say you had just purchased an AeroGarden, you had access to the internet and its many gray virtual alleyways, and you didn’t live in Texas. How would that even work? You know, for someone who could do it legally. Not me, certainly. Maybe you or someone you know.

It turns out, if you bothered to look, as I obviously did not, that there are lots of very easy-to-follow guides online on how to go about taking everything pot growers have been trying for decades and applying them to the modern technology of an AeroGarden.

Aeroweed.info, for example, is an entire site devoted to growing buds from the seed to vegetative to flowering stages with simple directions and friendly graphics. It details all the basics that a new grower with an AeroGarden (not me!) would need to know, as well as more nitty-gritty details such as testing the pH balance of water, special nutrients to buy, and add-on products such as additional water reservoirs or oxygen-pumping water stones that can help raise yields. Yields are how much actual usable cannabis you’d get from a plant grow, not that I know anything about that because I never pursued it or read much about it, as I’ve mentioned before.

Several sites that deal in selling cannabis seeds (illegal in some states, read the fine print!) and reviewing hydroponics products also have guides with different methodologies for getting good grows.

If you want to know what these guides suggest, or how this would all work without clicking on those links (don’t blame you, I wouldn’t!), I suppose I could summarize for you, although you shouldn’t take my word for it because I don’t know anything about it.

First, you’d need to invest in some AeroGarden Grow Anything Seed Kits. These allow you to put any kinds of seeds into new pods that you’d label and grow in one of the AeroGarden’s holes. You’d then order seeds from a reputable online dealer that probably doesn’t accept credit cards, but will discreetly ship seeds to someone in the U.S. but only for the expressed purpose of using the seeds as a novelty gift, or as a collectible, not to grow a cannabis plant because that would be a strange use of a seed, right? You’d want to pick a strain of seed that is autoflower, and that grows very very short because most AeroGarden models have a set of lights that only rise about two feet at most. A full-grown dwarf or short cannabis plant (such as Blueberry Kush or Fastberry) will barely fit into that space. If one had to guess and didn’t know firsthand, I mean.

Because cannabis plants have lots of thick roots, it’s advisable to only plant one to three at a time. Any more will create clogged roots and will take up too much space in the AeroGarden. If, in fact, this were even a thing someone who is not me would try to do.

Some sites suggest soaking the seeds in distilled water in a dark place for at least 18 hours before planting. Once you plant the seeds in the AeroGarden, if they germinate, it may only be a few days before the first leaves emerge. Then, allegedly, it’s just a waiting game as the plants begin to grow and grow and grow, and the stress of trying to keep it alive begins. Some online guides suggest eschewing the AeroGarden nutrient mix for the kinds of grow chemicals that marijuana farmers use. One who experiments, but not in Texas, might find that the AeroGarden nutrients work fine, but adding a calcium-magnesium mix called “CalMag” also helps.

Autoflower seeds, which are cannabis seeds that won’t need to be pollinated by other flowers and pretty much just do their thing without much help, typically take about 10 weeks to reach the bud stage, according to online guides, but I can imagine a scenario where it could take four or five more weeks than that, especially if one was completely inexperienced and wasn’t exactly sure what the harvest stage looked like, despite the proliferation of YouTube videos on the subject.

An anonymous cannabis plant growing in an AeroGarden from somewhere on the internet. Source unknown.
An anonymous cannabis plant growing in an AeroGarden from somewhere on the internet. Source unknown.
An anonymous cannabis plant from somewhere on the internet. Source unknown.

Before things even got to that stage, I could also picture a scenario where one would get so obsessed with the health of their beautiful, growing cannabis plant that one would get stressed over spotty, burnt, or browning leaves and wonder what to do about the water or the hours of simulated sunlight the AeroGarden is giving off. (20 hours on, four hours off a day might be a good rule of thumb; I wouldn’t know.) One might go down the internet rabbit hole wondering how to get rid of the smell that comes from growing cannabis in an AeroGarden in, say, a bedroom closet, and learn that people have come up with incredibly elaborate (and pricey) workarounds using plastic tent material and carbon filters. You might buy a humidity and temperature reader just to make sure conditions in the grow room (or closet) are ideal.

The internet is also a good place to figure out what to do with cannabis once it’s actually grown enough to harvest. Did you know you can buy a tiny jewelers’ loupe online that allows you to peek into the strange and beautiful world of mushroom-like trichomes? I did not and continue not to know that.

Once the hairlike follicles on the weed are to the grower’s liking, it’s time to cut, dry, and cure the cannabis, a process that takes another few weeks before the weed is usable for recreational purposes. This doesn’t involve the AeroGarden, but if the yields are very bountiful, it may take several rounds of cutting, drying, and curing. The AeroGarden may continue doing its work growing some of the cannabis while some of the stems that were cut are on their way to drying and curing for five to 10 days.

The most fascinating thing that someone who isn’t me might find from growing cannabis in an AeroGarden is that it opens one up to lots of knowledge from a lot of different online sources on best gardening methods that can apply to lots of other plants and even to growing traditional veggies and herbs in the AeroGarden. You learn a little bit about chemistry, a lot about how plants actually grow through their various stages, the ways that the duration and intensity of daylight spur leaf growth, and why harvesting at just the right time is so important. You learn the satisfaction of taking a product from a humble, tiny seed into a gigantic, barely manageable plant that is producing ounces and ounces of a valuable product that can help relieve stress, sleep issues, and body pain if used correctly when the time comes.

Sometimes technology comes back around to teach you a thing or two about something very analog, something tactile, and real-world that makes you feel a little more connected to an unlikely pursuit, such as agriculture.

I mean, that’s what I hear online. It’s not like this is something I would ever try myself.

Tech culture writer and podcaster, now freelancing in Texas. Bylines: Washington Post, WSJ, CNN, NPR, Texas Monthly. Here for all your wordy needs.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store