All you need to do is fill up the top half of the Botanium with the stone-like growing medium (not soil!), fill the bottom half with water and a dash of nutrients, plant some seeds in the growing medium, plug the thing in to the wall, and wait.
It’s the middle of winter as I write this, and the temperature here in the Digital Life Labs is typically in the high teens, which proved to be too low for our chilli seeds to germinate in the Botanium.
It’s not what you call instant gratification, growing plants from seeds.
So after a week or so, we put some more seeds in a small plastic bag with some damp tissue, sealed up the bag and sat it on our warm NBN modem, which maintained the seeds at a toasty 30 degrees and allowed them to germinate in a few days.
We then replanted them in the Botanium, and waited.
It’s not what you call instant gratification, growing plants from seeds. We’ve been at this review for a month now, and our little chilli plant is only 2.5cm tall.
But, as I said, it is cold here in the Labs, which is probably slowing things down, and the grow light we set up to test the Botanium is perhaps a little underpowered for optimal growth.
Botanium actually sells a grow light on its website that’s rated at 16 watts and has a built-in timer that keeps it on for 15 hours a day and turns it off for the other nine.
But we wanted something a bit more flexible, so we installed a WiFi-controlled LIFX bulb instead that’s rated at only 11 watts but has the advantage of allowing us to control the colour temperature (how warm or cold the light is) and the brightness very precisely throughout the day and night.
The LIFX app has a “Day & Dusk” mode that changes the bulb’s settings on a timer, so we set our grow light to be like daylight during the day, with a colour temperature the same as the Botanium grow light (4000 degrees Kelvin, for what it’s worth), and then to transform itself into a much dimmer, much warmer light at night – more to light up the plant as a feature in the room than to grow it.
So far, it seems to be the perfect setup for our Labs. The LIFX definitely puts out enough light to grow a plant, even if it is (we suspect) a little slower growing than it might be with the proper Botanium light.
But we don’t mind how slow it is, nor how long we have to wait, because the thing about the Botanium is, you don’t have to do much while you wait.
The USB plug powers a small pump that sits in the Botanium’s water reservoir, and every three hours that pump comes to life, squirting some water onto the growth medium. So you never have to worry about watering your . . . err hum . . . chilli plant yourself.
And because the growth medium is a porous, stone-like substance rather than soil, any excess water stays clean enough to simply trickle back into the reservoir and be reused, over and over again until your . . . err hum . . . chilli plant soaks it up on the way through.
Which is to say, between the automated lighting, the automated watering system and the fact that the water recycles, you barely need to think about the Botanium while you’re waiting for something to grow.
We filled up the reservoir when we first began our review a month ago, and it’s still got around 90 per cent of its original water. It’s as set-and-forget as you could imagine.
Come summer, when your . . . err hum . . . chilli plant is bigger and more water is evaporating away, the system will doubtless require more attention (Botanium says you have to refill the reservoir about once a month), but even so, it’s as hands-free as you could hope for.
Though, of course, it depends on what you’re growing.
If you’re growing something like a chilli plant, and if you’re growing it indoors and away from insects, you may also need to manually pollinate the plant once it starts flowering, to get it to fruit.
But if you’re growing the plant that maybe, just maybe you’re supposed to grow in the Botanium, well that might require a little more attention. It may need constant pruning. Daily pruning. Whenever you get the urge for pruning.
Likes An extremely easy and neat way to grow plants indoors and not kill them.
Dislikes A little smaller than you might imagine, possibly limiting its use.
Price €69 (about $110)