Water-wise Gardening in an Aeroponic System
Keeping green around me is therapeutic and healthful. Living in the desert with an absence of green was hard to adjust to at first but alas I've found some ways to increase the likelihood there will be green in my future! Let's garden!
Where it started eight years ago -- let me paint a picture here. Imagine killing a beautiful 2 foot healthy sunflower planted by a friend within two weeks. Not only that, other plants like succulents didn't seem to survive because I've been been known to overwater them. I didn't inherit the green thumb from my mother or so it seemed.
So... I tried my hand at gardening in the soil for the first 4 years after moving to the desert and it didn't go well. I even volunteered at a community garden for 2 of these years, helping to maintain the soil, weeding, watering, planting seeds, etc. and with a group of helpers, I was successful there. Matter of fact, my son's school asked me to help with their garden and I was feeling confident that I could do it because of my group of volunteer friends! I knew I could ask them if I ran into any issues and I did!
In addition to volunteering at my son's school garden and the community garden, I started composting! I dug a 2' x 3' x 3' hole in the ground adding food scraps and organic materials like leaves and newspaper. It was challenging keeping the soil moist enough to turn over and use. I literally scrapped this idea a year into it. I will consider a composting bin later when I want to get back to trying the soil way to grow beautiful flowers for the bees. Then...
I learned about another way to garden, but I must share that I was apprehensive about it due to the cost and my track record. I really wanted a garden!
I observed others for years and read the forums and waited to see when I would be ready. So, in 2016, I started an aeroponic garden. My first year and a half was a success. During the first 18 months, I was only buying seedlings from commercial aeroponic growers. Then when I needed more plants to replace what was harvested, I would settle with buying organic seedlings in soil from a box store and rinse all of the dirt off. What I didn't know is that I introduced pests to my garden each time I did it this way. Then in the summer of 2018, temperatures stayed in the 110s for 6 weeks. I lost all except herbs! I started again sourcing different organic plants and again the pests took over. I took down my garden in the late fall of 2018.
Skip 2019 as I didn't plant anything!
2020 was upon us and I was ready to get a plan together and then the pandemic hit and what should've propelled me to start a new garden for some reason didn't until after the summer months. I purchased a new tower as the previous ones I had were used when I got them and I lent one of them out to a friend who wanted to try her hand at it too!
In the cover photo, is my son helping me in early November. I purchased all of my seedlings from a commercial grower located in another state. I have a preferred grower but they were all out of seedlings when I was ready to order. A few seedlings from the initial purchase didn't do well and were replaced (see photo below).
I've been growing my plants from seed and I am having more success this year because I purchased an indoor grow light. I will continue to purchase seedlings from my preferred commercial grower as I'm still getting it down when it comes to starting from seed.
I've found myself to be successful with aeroponic gardening.
Disclaimer: In this post, I will be sharing tips and information about growing aeroponically. I am not an expert (clearly!) but I am resourceful! If you decide to grow using this system, please note that it is an investment and an interest free payment plan is available if paying in full isn't feasible at the time of purchase. I am an affiliate and you are welcome to purchase up to 3 through me at a time. For commercial farming options, I can get you in contact with someone to help you through that process. Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, let's get started!
Summary: No soil! No kneeling, tiling, or weeding! Fewer bugs! It's considered a plug and play kit by most. Everything you need to start out of the box - easy assembly! 20-32 growing spots. Food grade plastic, UV-stabilized, USDA approved.
Let me introduce the Tower Garden: It is a state-of-the-art vertical aeroponic growing system. It uses 10% of the water and 10% of the space of traditional gardening/farming. Produces a 30% higher yield. Ultimately, it provides food safety, food quality, and food sustainability!
Ordering and Support
a). Place your order for 1, 2 or 3 Tower Gardens on a representative's site.
b.) It's arrived! Open the box. All instructions are inside. May need another person holding the unit as you hand tighten the bolts. Use a rubber mallet to ensure the sections are together.
c). If you're on Facebook, ask to be added to the Tower Garden forums. If you're not on social media, you can find resources on the Tower Garden website as well as YouTube.
Note: There are several warranty options on this purchase. Up to 5 years. And a 90-day return policy. All details about this are on the site before placing the order.
Tower Gardens are available in the U.S.
Accessories and Other Essentials
Upon putting it together, make sure it's level. Use a leveler tool.
Plants will need no less than 5 hours of sunlight (or if indoors, use Tower Garden's grow lights). You can rotate the lid or move the tower if you have the dolly. Do this daily (or try to remember).
The dolly is helpful in extreme weather. You can zip tie the lid to the base.
You'll need access to water. An RV filter helps with hard water.
You'll need access to power. Socket boxes are great for protecting plugs. (I own one.)
Make sure the cord connections and factory timer are not near a sprinkler.
Use extension cords that are at least 12 gauge or better so the GFI doesn't trip.
The tomato cage is helpful for supporting not only tomato plants but larger plants that can get excessively big and heavy fast. I use mine with an agricultural cloth to protect my plants from high winds (see the cover photo in the middle for a glimpse of my cloth).
I grow outdoors year around. I use a submersible aquarium heater during the cold months and I keep frozen bottles of water on the ready to keep the water cooler in the hot months.
What to grow:
Plants that grow above ground, no root veggies. Check out the list of ideas on the Tower Garden website.
Grow what you eat!
A successful tower has plants on it that you will eat!
Follow your local growing zone to choose what you can grow.
Visit your local nursery to see what they are carrying to get an idea of what is good to grow locally.
The Tower kit comes with everything you need to get started.
Have fun shopping for seeds!
Don't put too many seeds into each hole of the rockwool unless you want your plant to grow as a bunch.
Keep seeds inside until you see the green cracking through.
Once you see green, add a clip (net pots are standard issue when ordering), considering adding the clips that are available on the Tower Garden website.
You can always get seedlings from a commercial grower like I have/do.
When seedlings go into the Tower, you'll use half strength of the Tonic (or 200ml for 20 gallons).
Watching the Plants Grow
After the initial food (half strength with small plants), when refilling the reservoir during the cool months (Nov-Apr) use full strength tonic (400ml of A & B). During the warm months, half strength - 200 ml of A & B (due to evaporation of water).
Add tonic every other time you add water. I typically wait for my water level to drop to the half way point before I top off.
Eat off your Tower!
Keep plants trimmed and remove debris. Wipe the Tower off weekly to remove mineral and hard water build up. A microfiber cloth works excellent!
Plant smaller plants at the top and bigger plants on the bottom.
Love on your Tower, hug your Tower once a day!
Check water level twice a week (especially in the summer).
Check pH at least once a week.
Keep pH between 5.5 - 6.5.
Keep the water temperature between 66-78 degrees.
Keep roots away from the pump. Don't be afraid - just reach in and tear the hanging roots. Don't use scissors.
Clean pump filter monthly or every time you change out the water.
Change out the water monthly or no more than every 6 weeks. (That's what the clear hose is for that comes with the purchase!)
Fully clean your Tower at least twice a year. A baby pool is the best way to clean a Tower in full. You can also use the reservoir basin to soak the sections. Do not use bleach. Use distilled vinegar, a pinch of soap, and water.
Oh No! I found a pest!
Monterey BT, Neem Oil are two options. You can also use a couple drops of Dr. Bronner's peppermint castile soap and water in a spray bottle.
Hot pepper wax spray and neem oil to prevent bugs.
Neem oil and potassium bicarbonate to help with powdery mildew.
Always spray the above after the sun has gone down.
Always buy the above in concentrate, if possible. Mix fresh.
Spray under the leaves! A pronator 360 nozzle spray bottle is great for this!
Note: Neem oil is preventative! Spray it weekly to deter bugs and help with powdery mildew. It is not going to kill aphids or bugs once you get them though.
Still not convinced? Maybe these 10 reasons will encourage you to consider the aeroponic system:
If you'd like to place an order or have more questions about this article or purchasing a unit in the future, contact me on this website and I'll be happy to answer your questions or point you in the right direction. You can definitely order one, two, or three from me!
Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting on this post. Happy Gardening! If you'd like, tell us about the types of gardens you have and your favorite plant to grow/eat!
Choose, eat, and live well!
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