I've opened the garden, opened the nurseries and assembled the garden. I've planted my first pods and am now eagerly awaiting a harvest from the new Rise Gardens garden. While waiting, I have some time on my hands, so this post is an overview on what I really like and what I think can be improved. I'm going to just cover the physical garden in this post, and in the next one I'll go over some improvements that would make the mobile application and subscription service amazing.
Let's start with what hasn't been great. It's customary to do good news, then bad news, but overall I am very pleased with the garden so far. Granted, I'm not even at my first harvest yet, but first impressions have been good. I wanted to end the post on the "good" things about the system.
Packaging has been a mixed bag. Packaging of seed pods and nutrients, has been flawless. Packaging of the garden, itself, was less so. As I pointed out in my post where I [opened the garden][unboxgarden], there were areas where packaging just didn't hold up.
The screws broke out of their paper bag and scattered all over the inside of the tray. This particular tray has a few scratches on it that the other two levels do not. I presume it is from the sliding screws.
My suggestion here is to either put the screws into a plastic bag instead of the paper one, or put the paper bag of screws into a little box. A box the size the pods arrive in would be perfect.
My top shelf was also scratched. This was stored right next to the bottom shelf - with drawers - and both parts are metal. I assume they rubbed together during shipping, causing the scratch. I think the easiest way to prevent this would be to add some small barrier between the two.
Finally, for the packaging complaints, we return to the small little antenna. This looks like it was picked from a warehouse bin by a worker with dirty hands. That's not uncommon for that line of work. My suggestion, in this case, is to have the antennas stored in some kind of protection - a small plastic bag, perhaps.
I'm now about three weeks into my first set of plants, and while a majority of them sprouted, there were several that did not. I know that not all seeds will sprout, but if I'm getting only four pods of seeds per box and one of those doesn't sprout, that's an expensive failure rate over time.
For my first transplanting, 7 out of 18 plants didn't sprout after 10 days. After 14 days, those seven still had not sprouted, but a new set of pods had.
Unfortunately, I don't have a suggestion on how to improve this right now. As I watch the next round of plants, and my May seeds when they arrive, I'll be watching failure rate carefully.
So far, this is my biggest and only major complaint.
I have three items that I think would make an immediate improvement on how the system is physically assembled.
Something I mentioned in my assembly post, was that the area my garden sits in is not perfectly level. The garden needs to be level though, so that the water flows correctly. My solution to this was cardboard box slices the length of the foot, so that we could level it out.
My suggestion though, is to add adjustable feet. This eliminates the need for users to come up with a way to level a garden that is 50+ pounds that isn't supported by the company. It'd also look much nicer than 6-7 slices of cardboard stuffed under one leg.
The next item on my wishlist would be a light sensor. The controller has two unused ports. A light sensor could fit into one of those ports and could be used to automatically decide if the overhead lights should be on and at what intensity.
As the year passes, the sun rises and sets at different times of day. I received my garden after day light saving kicked in this year, but I am curious how it handles that too. Right now, the lights are controlled by the application to come on at a specific time, stay one for a specific number of hours and then turn off. My garden receives sunlight throughout the day. I'd like to use the overhead lights to augment that natural light. If it's a cloudy day - turn on the lights. If it's during that time of day where the sun goes over the corner of the room so the garden is in shade, turn on the lights. If it's early in the morning and the sun is shining on the plants, but it's just not the intensity recommended, turn on the lights at an appropriate intensity to augment the sun. As it rises and places the garden in more direct sunlight, lower the lights.
Wire harness around controller¶
The garden has some nice groves built into it to hide the wiring for the lights. It works really well and makes the garden look nice when you are looking at the plants, or showing off to family members. But, this nice wiring solution doesn't exist once everything is inside the cabinet. It's a giant free for all of wires. There are light wires, the pump power wire and the power cord for the whole system. It is fortunate that the wires are long enough that things can be moved and adjusted, but it also means that there is a mass of wires that hang around in there. A harness of some kind to keep these wires in the correct location would be helpful.
With my list of complaints and wish list items out of the way, let's go over what has been good about the garden. Let's make it clear that, apart from my concern about the number of seeds that didn't grow, the scratches and other packaging things I mentioned are small and easy enough to ignore. The smudged antenna cleaned up and the scratched top can't be seen.
The design of the garden is fantastic. Assembly instructions are clear. At first they appeared to be long, but after using them during assembly, that's because they are complete. There were no missing steps. The components fit together well, the hardware needed to assemble the garden was all provided and nothing was missing.
The kids helped to assemble it, and I believe that's a testament to how easy it is to put together. They knew what to do and how to help.
The system is solid. I am confident it's going to hold the weight of the water and the plants. The biggest thing I need to worry about is a power outage, which would drain the water (due to gravity) in the basin in the cabinet. If this happens soon after I refill the water, I suspect it'd overflow. It'll happen at some point, so we'll see how it works out. But, apart from using a larger basic for a three level garden, I don't think there is anything that needs to change here.
I've reached out to Rise Gardens support a few times now for various questions I had. I did this both pre-purchase and post-purchase. In all cases, support has provided me with accurate and helpful answers within a day or two. During the delivery delays, the company continued to communicate with me.
If they keep this high quality customer support and open communication thing going, they will do well in building customer loyalty.
Rise Gardens is a young company. It's been my experience that young companies don't always turn out high quality productions on their first iteration. Rise Gardens has show that experience is not the rule. Everything worked as expected when I assembled it.
The pump, the electronics, the assembly instructions. It all just works.
The physical hardware of the garden has a few areas where improvement would take a great product to even another level. The packaging could be improved to reduce some of the cosmetic complaints I have.
This is a great design. Rise Gardens has clearly put in the time to design something that works as expected, but is easy to set up, maintain, and use.
In my next post, I'm going to cover some more improvement ideas focused on the mobile application and subscription service.