If you’ve ever considered vertical gardening, and want to reduce your water usage, these clever stacking hydroponic pots by Mr Stacky are a perfect place to start.
For gardeners seeking space-saving solutions for simple crops, we’ve tested and reviewed Mr Stacky’s Smart Farm below, and hopefully, our experience should help you get started with your own, or decide if it’s right for you.
Introducing the Mr Stacky Smart Farm
Mr Stacky is a solidly respected brand, producing sturdy, reliable hydroponic kits for those of us on a budget. What’s important to remember here is that these kits, while clever, useful, and space-saving, aren’t up to the same level of innovation as some other kits out there, but they're not what they’re designed to compete with.
Mr Stacky’s Smart Farm is designed to allow gardeners with small spaces, and small budgets, to upscale and upskill their growing operations.
For example, if you live on a balcony, you’re always going to be limited by your space, and if you’ve got kids running around the garden, it can be hard to justify giving up space for raised veggie beds.
But, with a simple Mr Stacky hydroponic system, run entirely on solar power, you can grow as much in 1 metre of space as you would traditionally need 5 or 6 square metres to grow.
Perhaps the biggest bonus though, is the price because you can do it all for less than you’d spend on getting a gardener in to build, line, and fill raised beds with compost.
How does the Mr Stacky Smart Farm work?
Mr Stacky’s Smart Farm is hydroponics in a really basic way, effectively managing nutrients in peat-free, nutrient-free soil, so that you have full control over your plants, and can grow far more in a much smaller space.
By storing clean water in a large reservoir below the vertical planter, you can grow plants from seed to harvest in one simple unit. In comparison, larger hydroponic or aeroponic systems require you to grow from seed in a propagator before transferring to the growing units.
Mr Stacky, by having a water-fed inert growing medium, acts like a self-watering pot, but with the advantage of free-draining, clean, filtered, hydroponic watering.
The system pumps clean, nutrient-fed water to the roots of plants, which can pack out their coir compost with young roots, before sending mature roots directly into circulating reservoirs of water.
The results are harvests in about half the time you would usually see them for summer-grown crops.
Difference Between Hydroponics and Aeroponics
Mr Stacky, and a few other vertical gardening brands produce systems that are now called aeroponic gardens, but this is a super-simple hydroponic system, ensuring circulated clean water.
The advantage of aeroponics is better root health, but provided you keep your water clean and use clean coir compost each time, hydroponics is a much more affordable system.
What to grow in your Mr Stacky Smart Farm?
There is honestly no limit to what you can grow in these smart vertical gardens from Mr Stacky. We’ve grown everything from salad to tomatoes, but I’ve seen friends grow aubergines, and even cranberries using this system.
If you could grow it in moist compost at home, you can grow it in this system, and you’ll use much less water in the process!
What You Get with Your Mr Stacky Smart Farm Kit
When your Mr Stacky Hydroponic Tower arrives, you’ll get a ton of kit with it, and there is some set-up required, so it’s important to understand exactly what everything is for, and what it brings to the party.
Smart Farm Reservoir & Lid
The base of the tower doubles up as a reservoir and a weighted stand to provide stability. It’s easy to set up, and all you need to do is set up the pump, along with the solar panel, and drop it into the filled tank.
Once you thread the poly tubing through the planters, it works automatically whenever the sun’s out.
5 Large Planters
The set comes with five planters, each with four growing spaces, making a total of twenty planting pockets, meaning you can grow twenty plants to full maturity, or hundreds of leafy salad plants for cut-and-come-again crops.
Poly tubing for pump and water connections
The poly tubing is basic but durable enough to do its job. You’ll have to thread the tube through the stacked planters and secure it to both the pump and the distributer before getting started.
5kg Coco Coir & Perlite
5kg of coco coir, dried, washed, and compacted down into a neat bale is easily enough to fill the entire system, but regardless of what you’re growing, I’d advise mixing all the supplied perlite though too, as coir is great for water retention but perlite will ensure that water and nutrients can flow more evenly to plants near the base.
Centre Pole & Coupling
The pots stack really well into each other but don’t be fooled by that stability, it’s still essential to add the centre pole and planter coupling to give absolute stability against wind or flying footballs from elsewhere in the garden.
Solar Panel & Pump
The whole system is solar-powered, so it doesn’t need plugging in, and can be used anywhere in the garden. The solar panel does require at least 4 hours of direct light in order to pump enough water around per day, but in a bright, North facing spot in the garden, that’s easy to achieve, and means the running costs of this system are $0!
The nutrients supplied with the system are plenty for your first season of growing, but once you’ve got started and worked your way through them, maybe have a look for slightly more advanced organic nutrients to continue building your knowledge and expanding your skills to grow more diverse plants.
The water gauge is essential and should be inserted into the reservoir to check water levels without needing to lift the lid and check the tank (which is pretty much impossible when everything is planted up).
Mr Stacky’s Smart Farm really is a simple system. The distributer head is essentially a very low-pressure sprinkler system, which creates a basic drip irrigation system that will run constantly through the day, meaning you’ve got (roughly) an 8 hours-per-day watering system, which automatically shuts off at night to prevent over-watering.
And some optional extras
Trolleys, extra nutrients (pellets and liquid), Test kits for EC, pH, and nutrients, as well as organic insecticides and nutrient adjusters, are all optional extras, but if you prefer to garden more naturally and avoid even organic nutrients, you can make your own to save some money.
Though for beginners we’d strongly suggest getting a few nutrients and pH adjusters once you’ve tested the quality of your tap water.
How to Install Mr Stacky Smart Farm
The Smart Farm hydroponic system by Mr Stacky is super simple to set up, and I mean simple. If you can do a kids’ jigsaw, you can build this without instructions. Just set the reservoir up on level ground, attach the pump to the polytube, then pop the lid on, and secure the centre pole.
After that, just add each planter, using the centre pole coupling to secure it, with the tubing through the middle. When you get to the top, secure the distributed head, and you’re done.
Move your constructed Mr Stacky planter to any bright, sunny spot, and add the compost and perlite to the planters. Fill the reservoir, add nutrients, and position the solar panel in good sun.
It should turn on straight away, and that’s it – a fully functional, ready-to-plant vertical hydroponic garden.
Mr Stacky Smart Farm Frequently Asked Questions
What can I grow in the Mr Stacky vertical garden?
Mr Stacky systems have generous planting pockets, and circular watering reduces the risk of pests and infection, so you can grow almost anything other than full-blown trees and shrubs. Start small with lettuce and kale, and build up to pumpkins, melons, and broccoli.
How do I add nutrients to my hydroponic tower?
All hydroponic systems are fed with nutrients called A & B nutrients. They can be fed in equal parts throughout the year, and you don’t need to adjust them for different stages. For the 60L tank on the Mr Stacky Smart Farm, you’ll need to add 300ml of each nutrient every two weeks.
How to avoid overwatering in a hydroponic tower?
In low-light conditions, hydroponics with coir-growing mediums can become saturated and the circulation will slow. If your tank is running empty faster than normal, but the coco coir is still damp, consider moving the entire tower to a sunnier spot, where the water will evaporate, and plants will use nutrients faster.
For more helpful gardening products, check out our review of The Airgarden aeroponic vertical garden.
Get Your Mr Stacky Smart Farm Today
Hydroponics doesn’t need to be a scary thing. I know there are plenty of blogs out there that make it sound like the most complicated thing in the world, but essentially, you’re just automating everything your plants need, and if you can do that outdoors, the sun will do 99% of the automation for you, especially on solar systems like this.
Mr Stacky’s Smart Farm Tower Garden is the easiest hydroponic grow kit you’ll find online, and it saves so much space for balconies, and family gardens, so why not give it a go?