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Gardyn Home Kit 3.0 review: A fruitful, indoor smart garden I don't regret buying

For the serious home garden enthusiast with limited outdoor space, the indoor urban farm, Gardyn Home Kit 3.0, brings all the green.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Kerry Wan

Gardyn Home Kit 3.0

4 / 5
Very good

pros and cons

  • Large output
  • Supports a great variety of vegetables
  • AI-powered reminders
  • Setup is a chore
  • Cleaning it is cumbersome

My quest for delicious homegrown veggies in our WWII-era sailboat led me to consider a variety of indoor garden systems. For countertop growing, we homed in on a small unit from Click & Grow, but we also knew we wanted to level up to some serious gardening power.

Also: I grew a little garden on my houseboat. Here's how

For that, we settled on the newly released Gardyn Home Kit 3.0, which combines three grow towers with high-tech lights and near full autonomy. Factor in the app, onboard cameras that monitor plant health, and a great selection of grow pods and you have the makings of a garden to go.

We've had the Gardyn for about two months and our first harvest is upon us. How is it working out, and is this a long-term indoor gardening solution for us? Read on to find out.


Size and weight 24"W x 12"D x 64"H & 20 pounds shipped
Lights 2x 60W LED lights 54kWh estimated energy use per month
Sensors Measure water level, humidity and interior temperature
Cameras 2x 5MP inward-facing cameras
Power Line voltage | 110V – 240V Frequency | 50-60Hz grounded outlet, 24VDC, 7.5 AMP power supply
Materials Columns and UV-stabilized, recyclable, BPA-free yCubes made of corn-based compostable plastic
Wi-Fi Requires 2.4GHz band* 802.11n wireless network. *Not compatible with 5GHz
Price $899

Setting up the Gardyn

Okay, this was a little trickier than I bargained for. The Gardyn 3.0, which adds durability and evolving AI capabilities since the 2.0 release, takes up a relatively small footprint but, dimensionally, is quite large, standing 64" and encompassing three different growing towers. 

Factor in the two vertical light elements, the large base, and various connecting bits and you're talking about a big box and a lot of packaging. It took me 15 minutes to unpack the thing and I was left with a lot of cardboard. I was encouraged to not see a lot of plastic in the packaging, but I was still dismayed that I would need to use our wagon to cart the refuse up to the dumpster.

Setting up the Gardyn Home Kit.

Setup takes some time. It's Ikea-level involved -- not hard but requires some time and attention. 

Greg Nichols/ZDNET

The setup itself isn't complicated but it is involved. You're basically assembling a piece of furniture, and while I'm now familiar with the Gardyn and its components after several tank cleans, it took me the better part of an hour to set up initially. In fairness I'm slow on the uptake with step-by-step instructions and the process suffered from the fact that I installed two of the towers incorrectly to start and then forgot to hook up one of the irrigation hoses to the pump, requiring multiple partial disassemblies. A more observant student of Ikea builds would have done better.

Also: Best smart indoor gardens (and what you can grow)

Pro tip: Set this thing up in the location where it'll end up. I thought I was doing that, but once I had the Gardyn standing in front of me in its full glory, I realized it wasn't going to work in our boat's upstairs common area. Instead, it would be relegated to the engine room downstairs, where it would freshen the air even as our big Caterpillar diesel churned away.

How its technology works

Gardyn employs what it calls Hybriponic technology, a riff on "Hydroponic," which is the generic term for growing plants in water without the use of soil.

The term is marketing buzz but the system it seeks to describe is pretty cool. The vertical garden is a mostly autonomous workhorse that grows a surprising density of plants. Where systems from many competitors start with a vertical garden housing designed for outdoor use and retrofit lights, Gardyn is designed from the ground up for indoor use.

Also: The best smart lights money can buy

The integrated LED lights are shockingly bright when they blink on for the first time, and the light is directed at the plants in various zones that correlate to full sun or degrees of indirect sunlight. A water pump moves water from the base up dedicated irrigation tubes inside the towers, where each pod is watered according to a programmed schedule. As the plants grow, the roots are held in the contained "yPods," making harvesting easy. 

The Gardyn 3.0 stationed in the engine room of a boat.

We're keeping our Gardyn 3.0 in the engine room. It makes for quite a contrast, and it definitely brightens up the space.

Greg Nichols/ZDNET

The coolest feature is also the one that's easiest to miss. The built-in cameras monitor plant growth and optimize the schedule based on your garden. The system can tell how fast your plants are growing and customize the light and watering cycle to suit your specific garden. This is vastly more powerful than simple timer-based devices.

App experience 

All communication with your Gardyn takes place via the app. Gardyn's AI essentially tells you what to do via Kelby, the smart personal assistant.

Kelby sends push notifications to your phone to indicate when an action is needed. For example, once sprouts begin to grow, many plants need to be pruned to enable a single stalk to thrive. It's also important to stay on top of water quantity and quality. A full tank change is necessary about once per month, with water added periodically between tank cleanings. 

Also: The 5 best plant subscription boxes

The plants also require plant food once they've started to sprout. A sizable quantity of plant food comes with the system, enough for several harvests, but this is something that requires some vigilance.

Demoing the Kelby smart assistant via the Gardyn app.

The Kelby smart assistant does a great job keeping you updated with to-dos and tips.

Greg Nichols/ZDNET

Kelby also gives you tips and tricks relevant to your plants. Personally, I could actually do with slightly fewer notifications, although now that my first big leafy green harvest is approaching, I'm finding myself more engaged with the garden day to day.

One cool feature is that you can view your plants in real-time in your app through the two cameras on the Gardyn. There's a timelapse functionality in the app as well, although mine has yet to populate and I get an error message when I click on it. I'm not sure if that's because my plants are still growing or the functionality remains in development.

The app's plant book allows for some great discoverability. I wasn't familiar with borage, for example, but look forward to growing the edible flower. 

A quibble

Overall I'm really impressed with the Gardyn Home Kit 3.0 and plan to use it onboard Lindy for years to come. But I do have some notes.

The first is related to the clunky setup process. Because the Gardyn requires such routine tank cleaning, it needs to be partially disassembled fairly regularly. I have done this multiple times but have yet to figure out an elegant way to do it. The tower portion of the Gardyn comes off easily enough via two locking latches on the base, but to get to the tank, you have to lift the entire tower structure up and put it down, dripping wet, on a nearby towel, leaning it against a wall to stay upright. I have mine anchored to the wall via the included strap, which means unscrewing it from the wall before I execute this maneuver.

Lining up the tower as it's lifted back onto the base after cleaning has consistently required multiple attempts. Meanwhile, the whole garden is wobbling and I feel an impending sense that some part or another is going to break. It's not that the materials are cheap feeling -- they aren't -- but rather that the system wasn't built with ergonomics and handling in mind. If this were a static piece of furniture, that would be fine -- a refrigerator isn't built to be lifted routinely either and no one complains about that. But we're talking about a process that needs to be performed every month, and it feels like it should be easier.

Bottom line 

At the end of the day, I'm very impressed with the Gardyn Home Kit 3.0 and I'm happy to have it as a centerpiece feature of our home, which happens to be a boat. 

Despite my quibbles above, this ranks as an impressive and powerful home-growing system for a wide variety of vegetables. The company's technology is first-rate, and while setup is a chore and water changes can be cumbersome, the proof is in the pudding. I'm getting garden fresh greens and veggies in the belly of our old boat. It's so cool being anchored off the Channel Islands here in Southern California with fresh greens for dinner waiting to be harvested below. 

If you don't have outdoor space but want to grow a large quantity and variety of plants and herbs, this system should definitely be on your radar.

Alternatives to consider 

Elegant and stackable, you can start with one Smart Garden and add levels.

A no-light, low-cost alternative to the pricier all-in-one indoor units. 

A single growing stand that's expandable to 36 plants for a legit indoor farm.

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