Tower Time!

by Bethany Plonski June. 02, 2019 307 views

My mom got an interesting addition to her garden a few years back, a Tower Garden aeroponic system. At the time, I knew enough about water-based gardening to be interested in what she was doing, and once I saw what nice vegetables it could grow, I looked into getting one of my own. I balked at the price though and gave up on it for the time being. But now that my mom is retired, busy with grandchildren, and traveling more often, she hasn't had the time to maintain her tower, so she passed it on to me because she's awesome. :)

This is my third year growing with it, and I finally feel like I'm getting it dialed in. It's a pretty easy system to use, but I made a lot of mistakes the first year. The biggest one was starting with soil-based seedlings. I tried my best to clean the roots of all the dirt, but it was incredibly time consuming and too much of a shock to the plants.

Last year I found a greenhouse that specializes in Tower Garden systems, and they sell seedlings that are ready to transfer directly to the tower. It made a world of difference in the setup. So much easier!

The other thing I've learned is that certain plants grow root systems or stalks that are just too big to work in space provided - peppers or okra for instance. Last year, the plants that did the best out of the bunch were lettuces and greens, so this summer we decided to fill the tower mostly with things we could use in fresh salads.

Frisee

Frisee

This is what an aeroponic seedling looks like. The seeds are started in rock wool, which you then put in a little plastic root basket and pop in the tower. The tower is hollow inside so that water can be pumped from the basin below up through the tower to drip down over the roots. The pump is on a timer, so every 15 minutes, it turns on and off to provide water and nutrients for the roots.

Baby broccoli

Baby broccoli

Microgreens - an assortment of herbs that are meant to be kept short and used as toppings for sandwiches, salads, etc.

Microgreens - an assortment of herbs that are meant to be kept short and used as toppings for sandwiches, salads, etc.

Baby broccoli

Baby broccoli

Butter crunch lettuce - one of the few lettuces that can tolerate a Georgia summer.

Butter crunch lettuce - one of the few lettuces that can tolerate a Georgia summer.

Asian cucumber - these are longer and thinner than typical cucumbers but delicious and very heat tolerant. They also have a really high yield.

Asian cucumber - these are longer and thinner than typical cucumbers but delicious and very heat tolerant. They also have a really high yield.

Now that everything is finally set up, I just have to check my pH levels in the water every few days, maintain the water and nutrient solutions, and trim the roots once the plants get established. Well, that, and replant my herbs and peppers, which I am way behind on this year. One thing at a time though! :)

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There are 23 comments , add yours!
Pete 1 year, 6 months ago

does the water run down the inside or the outside of the tower?

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Pete 1 year, 6 months ago

Through the inside. There is a pump in the bottom basin that sends the water up to the top of the tower and lets it drip down the inside over the roots every 15 minutes.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Pete Replied to Bethany Plonski 1 year, 6 months ago

thanks for the Info, fascinating

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Camellia Staab 1 year, 6 months ago

Ok Bethany, I have no idea how I missed this post but so glad I found it. The amount of detail you have provided here both with the photos and the narrative is excellent, especially letting us know about some of the "mistakes" you made. Thank you for sharing. Btw your mom is definitely an awesome woman to give you such a "gift" smile

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Camellia Staab 1 year, 6 months ago

Thank you so much! I'm glad you found it too. It's been fun learning how it works (eating all the food is great too smile). And yes, my mom is such a generous lady. I'm very lucky!

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Andi Saw 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm super behind too! smile 
So... plants grow in this tower... But, after awile you need ot repot them in soil... ot they stay there? 
i read carefully twice, but I'm not sure I understood. 
Anyway... take another picture set in a month! I'm supercurious! blue heart

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Andi Saw 1 year, 7 months ago

They stay in the tower the whole time, which is one reason I usually choose smaller plants like lettuce (they don't interfere with their neighbors as much). As the roots keep growing, they start to stretch down through the tower into the basin in the bottom, and I have to trim them to make sure they don’t get sucked into the pump and clog it up. Then when the season is over, it’s like a wrestling match trying to pull the roots out! The hardest part of using this system is breaking it down and cleaning it (it can grow algae and collect plant debris, etc). Everything grows superfast in in it though, so I’ll post more pictures soon to keep you updated! 
And PS, you have very good reasons to be behind on your garden this year! smile Good to hear from you, Andi.

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Andi Saw Replied to Bethany Plonski 1 year, 7 months ago

I have 2 very good reasons. 
One is the one that popped in your mind and the second one May was cold and horrible. 
Usually, by now, I had 50 jars of apricot jam... My apricots are still on the tree and they are all green. 
Meanwhile my plum are turning purple... in JUNE... 2 month earlier. This is beyond crazy! 

Thank you for your reply. I'd love to see more picture, when your plants are bigger. 
It seems fun... except the end-of-season-cleaning... (Ask Andrew!) smile

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Buster Bruce 1 year, 7 months ago

Ive seen hydroponics mostly in greenhouses. Your system appears to be outside. Im not sure what's the difference between aeroponics and hydroponics? Either way, your images and report are most interesting.

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Buster Bruce 1 year, 7 months ago

Thank you for your comment, I’m glad you found it interesting! Yep, this is outside, although they work fine indoors or in greenhouses too. I believe aeroponics might be a subcategory of hydroponics? It seems like the main difference is that aero systems don't have a constant flow of water over the roots. They use an on/off watering cycle so there are times when the roots will be exposed to air too.

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Tsao T-F 1 year, 7 months ago

You really get a wonderful gift from your mom.

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Tsao T-F 1 year, 7 months ago

I think so too! She is a blessing in so many ways, such a generous and caring person. smile And always so helpful when I have gardening questions too.

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Russell Smith 1 year, 7 months ago

Is this something that you could plant fresh herbs in also and how do you like it. I first saw an ad for this on facebook a few months ago and have been curious about it.

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Russell Smith 1 year, 7 months ago

Yes, definitely! I tried basil, sorrel, and cilantro last summer, and they all did well. But what I really love for my herb garden is another thing my mom showed me, called an EarthBox. It’s the most foolproof planter box I’ve ever used. Everything I’ve grown in it has thrived and required very minimal effort. 
I think herbs have a stronger flavor from being grown in the soil vs. water, but the Tower Garden is really nothing to complain about either. I don’t know if I’d have noticed if I hadn’t been growing both ways last summer and decided to do some taste tests. It's amazing how fast and how much the tower garden can grow in a small space.

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess 1 year, 7 months ago

WOW! So Kool!!! Great photo reportage!

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Jay Boggess 1 year, 7 months ago

Thank you, Jay! It's a really fun system to work with. smile One of the schools I worked at got a grant for a few towers for the kids to take care of. Once I saw how well they handled it, I was convinced I could do it too. smile

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Bethany Plonski 1 year, 7 months ago

Looks like a great idea, especially for limited space venues....

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Olga Helys 1 year, 7 months ago

#6 #8 are my fav!
Interesting&cool

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Olga Helys 1 year, 7 months ago

Thank you so much! Those are two of my favorite foods too. Looking forward to harvest!

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Greg Blaney 1 year, 7 months ago

Very informative, Bethany. I've never heard of a tower garden - but then, gardening isn't my thing. My wife would be interested though. Good thing your Mom retired!

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Greg Blaney 1 year, 7 months ago

Thanks, Greg! It’s been fun to learn a new approach, and thankfully this one has a pretty gentle learning curve. And oh man is my mom enjoying her retirement! I'm so happy to see that. smile

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Björn Roose 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm sure it works perfectly fine for anything mainly existing of water, like lettuce, indeed smile

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski Replied to Björn Roose 1 year, 7 months ago

Yes, it's perfect for that. smile And although I think soil is the best way to go, it’s still a treat to eat fresh-picked lettuce instead of store-bought.

1 year, 7 months ago Edited
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