There are so many different types of gardens we can create here in sunny Southern California. But what I would consider the most useful as well as fun would be an edible garden. Luscious strawberries, crisp lettuce, aromatic herbs all growing right in my own home.
The joy of growing, nurturing and eating from one’s own garden is something everyone should discover and experience and taste. But with jobs consuming a lot of time, let alone all the other chores of life, getting a garden growing for delicious, nutritious organic food needs to be streamlined and easy to do or else it just isn’t going to happen.
Lauren Hurwitz brought to my attention a revolutionary way to garden for food that is just a few steps away from the kitchen and only a mouthful away from homegrown goodness.
Q: How hard is it to grow an edible garden in a small space such as a patio?
A: It’s actually very simple. Instead of space consuming rows of vegetables on the ground, grow them vertically going up. We call it vertical gardening with the Tower Garden. Growing plants vertically allows easy access to all the plants which makes growing and harvesting easy as pie. It can be placed anywhere there is fresh water, an electrical outlet and sunlight for at least half a day. It’s perfect for rooftops, patios, balconies, terraces – just about any relatively sunny place outside. And it’s a smart choice, both environmentally and economically.
Q: What is a tower garden?
A: The Tower Garden is a state-of-the-art, aeroponic growing system. It requires no soil and little maintenance and provides a farmer’s market right in the backyard. It grows up to 20 organic plants at a time (or 28 with an extension kit) and uses a “closed-system” technology that recycles 100 percent of its water and nutrients. It’s basically a tower with holes in it to allow the plants’ root systems access to the nutrients inside the tower. The tonic is an all natural earth mineral solution designed to nourish the plants and encourage all stages of a plant’s growth. This solution is excellent for the plants and benefits humans, as well.
Q: What is aeroponics?
A: It’s the process of growing plants in an air and mist environment, using no soil. It uses air and water to produce better tasting and more nutritious fruits and vegetables in less space. NASA has tested this medium and their research shows that aeroponic growing takes about half the time of traditional gardening. Any high-quality organic seeds from your local nursery can be used. I always like to look for non-GMO seeds to plant. And it’s fun. You get to plant your seeds in volcanic rock wool cubes provided with the garden, then transfer the cubes to the Tower Garden, plug it in and watch the plants grow. In no time there is delicious fresh produce to pick and eat.
Q: Are there any advantages to using the system besides requiring little space?
A: First and foremost, it allows you to grow organic, vine-ripened produce in your backyard, which makes for healthier, more nutritious food to put on your table. Supermarket produce is picked before it’s ripe and 50-75 percent of the nutrients are delivered to the food during end stages of growth. So by growing it right outside your door, you are able to pick and eat your produce at the height of ripeness. And it tastes better. We get the most delicious greens to eat. My kids pick arugula and kale off the tower garden as a snack when they get home from school! Studies show that when children are involved with planting fruits and veggies they will want to eat more of them.
Q: So it’s good for kids, as well.
A: From the very start! They can have fun helping you put the garden together and are usually curious about this new way of gardening. Have them find the best location to put it and let them choose what vegetables, fruits and herbs to grow. Kids can be part of the growing process by helping check water levels and, when ripe, harvesting the delicious food they actually helped grow.
Q: Kale and arugula are great greens. What other produce can it grow?
A: The Tower Garden can grow many different kinds of greens, herbs, fruits and vegetables. Some examples are lettuce (all varieties), beans, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, melon, strawberries, basil, cilantro, and edible flowers such as nasturtium. The only limitations are root veggies, anything that grows from a tree or fruits grown on wooded bushes.
Q: How much maintenance is required?
A: Actually very little maintenance or gardening experience is required. The closed system runs automatically. Just plug it in and call yourself a gardener. Minimal maintenance includes checking water levels and pH weekly. The garden does need to be rotated each day to ensure proper sun coverage to each plant. Once a month the pump needs to be checked and cleaned. And then once in a while some of the crops need to be changed out. And besides simple to use and maintain, it is an eco-friendly way to grow food.
Q: How is it an eco-friendly choice?
A: It reduces carbon footprint. The Tower Garden uses about 10 percent of the nutrients and water compared to traditional gardening. And the closed system technology mentioned above recycles 100 percent of the water and nutrients, thus recycling natural resources. The vertical design uses less land than is normally required to grow produce. Herbicides and pesticides generally are not needed. Strong healthy plants are grown that better protect themselves from plant pests and disease, and since it is grown upwards, ground pests are definitely not a problem. Vertical farming is quickly becoming the answer on a global scale and with the Tower Garden there is an option for people to grow vertically in their own backyards.