It’s cold, snow and ice preclude any efforts toward outdoor gardening. Sometimes just being outdoors presents a challenge, with stiff winds making temperatures feel even colder. Stuck inside for the duration, gardeners feel the lack of Vitamin “N,” or Nature.

Potted plants, mostly tropical and sub-tropical ornamentals take up some of the slack, but they offer only visual stimulation. What can we do to also reap tangible results, as in real, fresh vegetables?

It appears as if I have found the answer. Well, not me, exactly, but my friend Russ Arnold. Several years ago, Russ was admiring a hydroponic device at a friend’s house and finally bought one for himself. It wasn’t long before Russ had a thriving salad garden growing inside. He kept me abreast of the garden’s progress and soon, Russ reported that he and his wife, Deb, had their first homegrown salad.

The device, specifically, an AeroGarden, produced enough greens for the Arnolds to enjoy at least two salads each week, sometimes more.

Time went on and, sorry to admit it, I became envious. Russ kept mentioning how much he enjoyed his AeroGarden and I knew I wanted one. But being a thrifty Scot, it was difficult to justify the cost. AeroGardens begin at around $100 and go up in price from there. So for a long time, an AeroGarden was only a dream.

Then I took time to do some simple calculations. Store-bought lettuce is expensive, especially the leaf-style lettuce I so enjoy. One point in the AeroGarden’s favor.

After that, I considered quality. I am never able to find truly fresh lettuce in the grocery store. At best, it only good for a few days in the fridge before becoming wilted. Two points for the AeroGarden.

Finally, I thought about the pesticides used to grow commercial lettuce and every other commercial vegetable. Yes, buying organic allows a way around that, but organic lettuce is ridiculously expensive. Homegrown lettuce, though, precludes any thought of pesticide contamination. Three points in favor of the AeroGarden.

In the end, I decided to order an AeroGarden and I’m glad I did. It performs exactly as advertised.

The device consists of a rectangular reservoir for water and fertilizer, openings on the top to allow for planting, “seedpods,” pre-planted, cylindrical tubes filled with growing medium to sit in the openings and a height-adjustable light designed to perfectly mimic natural daylight.

The thing is digital and all it takes to set it up is to add water and fertilizer, set the pods in the openings, tap a few icons to set the timer for automatic light on and off times and times for the pump to circulate water in the reservoir. That’s all there is to it. After that, the device will light up if it needs more water.

Other plants

Lettuce is not the only crop that can grow in an AeroGarden. My buddy Russ grows cherry tomatoes, and his crop is more than bountiful.

Flowers, too, thrive in an AeroGarden. In winter, flowers are good for the soul and also give us a heaping dose of Vitamin N.

Herbs, too, go well in an AeroGarden. In fact, I have one pod with Thai basil in among my lettuce pods.

Other vegetables will grow in an AeroGarden, peppers being one example. Root crops are not feasible because they will burst the seedpods. Other than that, almost anything goes.

Adjustable light

One of the good features of AeroGarden is the adjustable light. This can be incrementally raised as your plants gain height. Remember, though, that some plants grow faster and higher than others, so it is necessary to trim the higher plants to keep them all the same and keep the lower plants from being starved for light.

Here’s something else to remember. The seedpods, as my friend Russ pointed out, can be re-used. Just plant your own seeds in them and begin anew.

Regarding that, I suggest buying seed from a good catalogue. One of the well-known, New England seed companies had problems with their seeds failing to germinate last year. I planted my lettuce three times and others found similar problems.

For information on AeroGardens, go to AeroGarden.com.

Tom Seymour of Waldo is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.