7 Foolproof Products to Help You Grow a Garden Inside Your Home

The iHarvest
The iHarvest
IGWorks

It can be tough to grow fresh vegetables or herbs at home when you don’t have enough yard space or free time to tend a full-blown garden. Fortunately, there's another way. Countertop gardening systems take the guesswork out of growing herbs and other plants at home. They’re easy to use, even if you’ve never planted a seed in your life, and some are even fully automated, with sophisticated watering and lighting features. Many are hydroponic, meaning they don't even require soil.

Not sure where to start? Here are seven of the best indoor gardening systems you can buy online right now.

1. The BlueSkyGrow Indoor Vertical Garden

A woman chops vegetables next to her indoor garden

BlueSkyGrow, Amazon

If you want to recreate the aesthetic of the verdant bouquets arrayed on the shelves of your local supermarket, this is one way to do it. BlueSkyGrow's hydroponic system lets you grow up to eight fresh herbs and flowers in your home, no soil necessary. It's basically foolproof: Its self-watering drip system means you don't need to do any maintenance for several days at a time, and a touch-screen control panel lets you know when to replenish the water supply.

Buy it from Amazon for $97.

2. The iHarvest

The iHarvest system is ideal for someone who has little time to invest in their garden but still wants to reap maximum rewards in the form of ripe tomatoes, juicy strawberries, fresh basil, and more. It uses LED lamps and recycled water to nourish up to 30 plants at once, and there are hundreds of different plant types to choose from. The iHarvest’s vertical design makes it more compact than your average planter bed, but it still might be a good idea to make sure you have a place to put it first. This garden measures 2 feet, 8 inches wide and covers 2.5 square feet of space.

Buy it from Kickstarter for $599.

3. Mindful Design LED Indoor Herb Garden With Timer

Three potted plants in a Mindful Design garden system

Mindful Design, Amazon

If you’re looking for a garden with some decorative flair, this indoor herb garden from Mindful Design would look great on a kitchen counter or windowsill. It doesn't require any natural light—though it does need to be near an outlet. The apparatus is equipped with LED lights that switch on and off automatically to mimic a plant’s natural cycle. Unlike other indoor garden systems, it also doesn't require any special seed pod. Just grab a pot and add the seed or plant of your choice—as long as it won’t be too tall to fit—and watch it grow!

Buy it from Amazon for $38.

4. The EcoQube Sprout

Not ready to invest in a full-scale garden? Consider starting small. The EcoQube is a “microgarden” that lets you grow microgreens like spinach, kale, and arugula. It can grow up to $20 worth of veggies in 10 days, and additional stackable garden cubes can be purchased to double or triple your output. The EcoQube is also extremely low-maintenance—just add water to the base, put a seed pad in place, and drop in the seeds. The seed pad will automatically absorb the water when your plants get thirsty.

Buy it from Indiegogo for $20 to $60.

5. MoMA's Self-watering pots

If you'd like to keep your garden minimalist, check out these self-watering pots created by Swedish designer Nils Plöjel. Made of terracotta and encased in hand-blown glass, they are as attractive as they are functional, which is how they ended up in the Museum of Modern Art's Design Store. Just fill the glass portion with water, and the plants will soak up the moisture through the terracotta pot as needed. They’re dishwasher-safe and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, as long as the forecast doesn’t call for frost. (Unlike some other systems, they don't have built-in LED lighting, so you'll need a natural light source.) The pots come in three sizes, with the smallest being able to accommodate one or two mini cactuses, and the largest being able to hold an azalea or fern.

Buy it from the MoMA Design Store for $34 to $74.

6. The Dragon-Lily Smart Succulent Planter

A succulent planter

Dragon-Lily, Amazon

Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a place that enjoys sunny weather year-round, indoor succulents can be surprisingly easy to kill. This “smart” pot from Dragon-Lily aims to make it a little easier to prolong the beauty of an indoor succulent, regardless of where you live. Its dimmable LED grow light is self-timed, and it also has built-in fans for ventilation purposes. If succulents aren’t your thing, you can also use it to grow a small moss garden.

Buy it from Amazon for $40.

7. Spigo indoor garden

A small potted garden

Spigo, Amazon

This mini garden would be a good starter kit for someone who is new to gardening and wants to keep it simple. Like many of the products above, it relies on automatic LED lights, but you can also dim the lights at will. While it’s comparatively smaller than some of the other gardens on this list, it can still hold a few plants at once, including edible herbs, nettle plants, and succulents. It also features a water gauge so you’ll always know when it’s time for a refill.

Buy it from Amazon for $65.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

11 Patriotic Products to Celebrate the Fourth of July

Amazon
Amazon

Whether you’ll be lounging by the beach or grilling in your backyard this Independence Day, don’t forget to show off your all-American spirit with a little swag. Here are 11 products to help you celebrate Fourth of July—all of which would pair nicely with your collection of presidential bobbleheads.

1. Declaration Of Independence Signatures Mug; $15

Mug decorated with the signatures from the Declaration of Independence.
CafePress, Amazon

The names of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence are on display on this ceramic coffee mug. Studying the signatures each morning might inspire you to perfect your own John Hancock.

Find it: Amazon

2. Stars And Stripes Cufflinks; $55

Cufflinks with images of stars and stripes on them

Cufflinks Inc., Nordstrom

Brighten up your wardrobe with a splash of American pride. One half of this cufflinks set is striped red and white and the other is blue and spangled with stars. Together they make a patriotic accent piece.

Find it: Nordstrom

3. Fireworks Light Show Projector; $41

Portable fireworks light projector.
Uncle Milton, Amazon

If you want a low-hazard Fourth of July that still delivers thrills, consider getting a light show projector. When it’s pointed at a wall, the device displays vibrant fireworks animations accompanied by realistic sound effects. And it works indoors, so you can count on your Independence Day party ending with a light show no matter the weather forecast. (There's also a Disney version available for just $20.)

Find it: Amazon

4. Inflatable Cooler; $14

Inflatable American flag cooler filled with ice and drinks.
Fun Express, Amazon

When preparing for a picnic or barbecue this Fourth of July, don’t bother breaking out your tiny roll-away cooler. This 54-by-28-inch inflatable trough holds enough bottles and cans to keep your party going well past sunset. Once the cooler has been drained and deflated, it folds neatly for easy storage.

Find it: Amazon

5. American Trivia Cards; $15

Even players who paid attention in American history class might find this game challenging. Each box comes with 150 cards of United States trivia. Some questions—like what was the first state to grant women the right to vote—highlight important moments in our nation’s history. Others—like how many columns the Lincoln Memorial features—are a little more random.

Find it: UncommonGoods

6. U.S. Navy Blanket; $200

The U.S. military has been going to Faribault Woolen Mill Co. for its blankets for over 100 years. This one is crafted from 100 percent wool and weighs 3.5 pounds. The design is inspired by the blankets supplied on Navy ships—and if it’s tough enough for the Navy, you can bet it will withstand a Fourth of July picnic. We like the gray version, but it comes in several different styles and colors.

Find it: Faribault Woolen Mill Co.

7. American Flag Cornhole; $90

Two American flag cornhole boards with bean bags.
GoSports, Amazon

Baseball faces some stiff competition from cornhole for the title of No. 1 American pastime. This lawn set includes four blue bean bags, four red bean bags, and two boards decorated to resemble the American flag.

Find it: Amazon

8. U.S. Map Cutting Board; $20

Wooden cutting board in the shape of the U.S. map.
Totally Bamboo, Amazon

This 100 percent bamboo board eschews the traditional rectangle shape in favor of the outline of the American mainland. You can either keep it in the kitchen and use it as a cutting board or bring it out to the party as a serving platter for fruits, cheeses, and other hors d'oeuvres.

Find it: Amazon

9. Boston Tea Party Tea Sampler; $15

Six piles of loose-leaf tea.
Solstice Tea Traders, Amazon

A sip of one of the teas in this sampler will put you in touch with your inner revolutionary. Each of the six loose-leaf varieties—bohea black tea, oolong, congou black tea, souchong, singlo, and hyson—was among those tossed over the sides of British ships during the Boston Party. Whether you drink the tea or chuck it into the nearest harbor is up to you. (If you're looking for something to put on display, UncommonGoods also sells a slightly pricier, more elegant option with five teas.)

Find it: Amazon

10. State Map Prints; $27 and Up

A poster featuring a colorful map of Wisconsin
Bri Buckley, Society6

These unique prints by Bri Buckley highlight the beauty of each U.S. state in vibrant color. Each state map is available in both a modern and a vintage style, and like most Society6 art, the design is also available on tapestries, shirts, pillows, tote bags, and more.

Find it: Society6

11. Bald Eagle Pool Float; $15

A man and a woman ride a bald eagle pool float
Swimline, Amazon

Cool down the patriotic way this Fourth of July. This massive 8-foot-by-6-foot bald eagle pool float can fit up to two people comfortably, and will look great floating around your pool during your backyard barbecue.

Find it: Amazon

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated for 2019.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Turn Your Phone Into an Instant Camera With KODAK's New Handheld Printer

KODAK
KODAK

Instant cameras are all the rage, but when you're already carrying a high-end camera everywhere you go in the form of your smartphone, the idea of carrying around an extra gadget might seem like more work than it's worth. You don't have to choose between the convenience of your phone's camera and the fun of having a tangible memento. KODAK's new SMILE digital printer combines all the fun of using filters and image editing on your phone with the delight of having a printed copy of your photo.

Blue, green, black, red, and white KODAK SMILE printers printing photos
The KODAK SMILE line of instant digital printers
KODAK

The handheld Bluetooth printer—which is roughly the same size as KODAK's SMILE instant digital camera—lets you edit photos on your phone, then print your image instantly on 2-inch-by-3-inch sticker paper. Using the KODAK SMILE app, you can add Instagram-esque filters; rotate images and change contrast, brightness, and other characteristics; and add stickers, text, doodles, and borders.

Most uniquely, you can add augmented reality elements to your photos, so that when you (or someone else with the KODAK SMILE app) point the app at the physical print, the image is replaced by a short video clip. The effect is something like the moving photographs in Harry Potter—you can surprise your friends by asking them to view a photo through the app's AR function, then watch their delight as the still image begins to move.

The KODAK SMILE app
KODAK

KODAK sent Mental Floss both the SMILE instant camera and the SMILE printer to test, and while there's a lot of fun in snapping photos on an instant camera and accepting whatever weird flaws that photo might have (though you can do some light editing on the SMILE camera before printing), in our opinion, the breadth of image-editing features and convenience of being able to print photos you've already taken on your smartphone makes the digital printer the better option if you're trying to choose between the two.

This is especially true if you're going on vacation or trying to capture a night out on camera; it's just easier to whip out your phone rather than break out another camera, and it's easier to edit photos on your phone than to manipulate photos on the SMILE instant camera's small screen.

Blue, black, green, white, and red KODAK SMILE instant-print cameras
The KODAK SMILE line of instant-print digital cameras
KODAK

The SMILE printer is available on Amazon and Walmart for $100 and comes in five different colors: white, black, blue, green, and red. The SMILE instant-print digital camera is also $100 on Amazon and Walmart and is available in the same colors.

While the camera and the printer both come with a starter pack of sticker-backed ZINK photo paper, you can get 50 refill sheets for $24 when you run out.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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