Harvesting and Cleaning

Once matured, lettuces and herbs can be cut and eaten until the lettuce becomes bitter and/or bolts. It’s good to not cut more than 1/3 of the total plant at a time. I tend to harvest the full plant and wrap it in Saran Wrap for delivery.

Using a paint can opener, I’ll pull up on the rockwool just a little to loosen it.

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Then I’ll pull up on the net pot and pull everything out. (If the lettuce is very big, it will feel like you’re going to break the net pot. If you do, don’t worry. The net pots will still work fine.) This leaves the roots attached so they don’t fall into the Tower Garden. I remove the roots that have grown through the net pot, but leave the rockwool attached to the plant. Then I wrap each plant in Saran Wrap and place them in a plastic tub with a little bit of water. If the rockwool stays wet, the lettuce will stay fresh for several days.

This lettuce from the Tower Garden is ready to be donated to the local homeless shelter.

This lettuce is ready to be donated to the local homeless shelter.

In order to keep bugs at bay, I’ll soak the net pots in hot water and a little bit of vinegar.

I soak the net pots in hot water and a little bit of vinegar.

Net pots soaking in hot water and vinegar.

Using a rag soaked in hot water, I’ll wash the ports.

Using a rag soaked with hot water, I clean the pots.

Using a rag soaked with hot water, I clean the pots.

Remove the top of the Tower Garden and check the holes each time you harvest. It’s important to keep the holes on top of the Tower clean. This allows all the plants to receive the water they need. If you’re seeing wilting plants on one side of the Tower, this is the first place to check.

I take a 12 penny nail and push it through the holes. The nail just fits when the hole is clear.

I take a 12 penny nail and push it through the holes. The nail just fits when the hole is clear.

With regular cleaning each time you harvest, you’ll be less likely to attract insects.

Can I Grow Tomatoes Indoors on the Tower Garden?

When I first started growing on a Tower Garden, I tried growing inside tomatoes that came with the Tower Garden. They were leggy (cue the “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” music here) and attracted insects. I switched to lettuce and did much better, but never investigated why the tomatoes didn’t do well. When I wanted to try tomatoes indoors again, I asked questions and did some investigation. I discovered that it’s possible to grow tomatoes indoors, but they won’t do near as well as growing outdoors. There are 2 reasons why.

  1. Pollination
  2. Light spectrum

We have to mimic inside what God designed perfectly to grow flowering fruits and vegetables outside.

Pollination

Bees pollinate your blossoms which produces the fruit and vegetables. Indoors you’ll need to pollinate the blossoms yourself. That trick can be learned – and with the declining bee population, it isn’t a bad skill for outdoor gardeners to know.  How you pollinate will depend on what you want to grow.  Peppers, for example, pollinate within the same flower.  So all you have to do is shake the stalk. Tomatoes pollinate between blossoms so you’ll need a paint brush, etc.  I can’t go into all the differences here and how to pollinate.  That’s what Google is for.  🙂

Lighting

But the most difficult problem is the light spectrum. For a plant to flower and produce fruit, it needs light in the low end of the spectrum—around 2,700 Kelvin. For a plant to produce nice leaves it needs a light in the high end of the spectrum—around 6,500 Kelvin. So tomatoes, for example, need a 6,500 Kelvin light during the leafy part of growth. Then they need a 2,700 Kelvin spectrum to produce the blossoms and fruit.

Outside, the tomato gets this as the summer progresses. During the heat of the summer, the light is on the higher end of the spectrum helping the plant to produce nice leaves. As the summer progresses and the tomato grows, the light switches to the lower end of the spectrum helping the tomato to produce the blossoms and fruit. (Here’s more than you probably ever want to know about light spectrum.)

The lights that come with the Tower Garden are in the 6,500 Kelvin range. This spectrum of light produces great leafy greens, but won’t help produce the fruit.

Could you switch bulbs mid-way through the growing cycle of a tomato plant? It’s possible, which would make it a great experiment for an upper-level science class.

What about Full Spectrum Bulbs?

Full spectrum lighting does not contain both ends of the color spectrum. Full spectrum lighting is usually the higher end of the spectrum. I’ve seen bulbs marked ‘full spectrum’ that are 6500 Kelvin and some that are 5,000 Kelvin.  Manufacturers don’t even agree what Kelvin full spectrum lighting should be.  The best thing to do is look at the Kelvin rating of the bulb and purchase accordingly.

But They Grew Tomatoes!

You’ll hear that someone has had ‘success’ growing fruit, inside, with the lights that come with the Tower Garden.  They might be growing near a window letting natural light in or some other reason that you can’t duplicate. It’s also possible that their definition of ‘success’ isn’t your definition. They might be very happy getting 5 small strawberries from one plant. Maybe you’ve grown strawberries outdoors and gotten 25 large strawberries from one plant and want that same production indoors.

In order to get the same production inside as outside, you’ll need to create the same environment inside as outside.  The two main factors are light and pollination.  Temperature is also a factor, but that’s a good topic for another article.

So What Do I Do?

Have fun trying to grow indoors or out whatever you want. I have brussels sprouts and egg plant growing in my Tower Garden now.  I don’t know if either will work, but it’ll be fun to try.