A Tower Garden is an aeroponic growing system. Using just water and a nutrient called Tower Tonic, a wide variety of vegetables and herbs can be grown.
The Tower Garden is sold through Juice Plus distributors. Visit skoontz.towergarden.com to find out more and to order.
The Tower Garden works well in a classroom for project based learning. It’s easy to grow lettuce and herbs indoors, fits in the corner of a classroom and comes apart for storage. There’s no soil, no weeds, and very few bugs. Not only can plant science be taught using a Tower Garden, but math and English as well.
A curriculum that matches Indiana academic standards has been released. Find out more here.
Here are videos from the Tower Garden company to help you setup your Tower Garden for the first time.
This video covers adding water, nutrient solution, and setting the timer.
Since I mostly grow indoors, I use a 2 gallon watering can instead of a garden hose. The video will tell you to set the timer at 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off. For indoor growing, this should be 15 minutes on, 45 minutes off because the rockwool won’t dry out as much indoors as it will outdoors.
The Tower Garden comes with directions for starting seeds in daylight. Joe of Level2 Concepts introduced me to a procedure that starts seeds in the dark. I’ve adapted his procedure a bit and have it outlined here.
Most plants like a pH of somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5. Rockwool has a natural pH of around 8.0. To give your seeds the best chance of starting, you’ll need to soak the rockwool in water that’s between 5.5 and 6.0.
- Soak rockwool for 30 minutes or more in water with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.0.
- Cut the bottom off a 5 gallon ice-cream container or use the bottom of the growing tray that comes in your Tower Garden with the lid removed. (I’ve also used butter containers, etc.) Put masking tape around the outside of the bottom of the ice-cream container and write numbers on the masking tape to coincide with the rockwool cubes. The ice-cream container bottom works well because you can get 10 rockwool cubes around and 4 in the middle. On a piece of paper write down the numbers and the seeds you planted.
- Shake excess water from each cube, but do not squeeze the cube. You can also use a salad spinner to shake off the excess water.
- Place rockwool cubes into the bottom of the growing tray or other plastic container.
- Sprinkle seeds into the hole in the middle of the rockwool. There’s no set rule for how many seeds per rockwool. For arugula, I sprinkle 15 or 20 and don’t thin them. For bibb lettuce, I’ll plant 6 or 8 and only let 1 seedling grow. Generally the smaller the seed the more seeds you should plant. You can always thin the plants with scissors later.
- Pour about 1/4 inch of pH adjusted water in the container.
- Put black duct tape around the top of the ice-cream bucket and place over the rockwool so the seeds are in the dark. (I’ve also used a box for this.) If your house is cold, you’ll get quicker results if you use a plant starter heat mat. I got mine at Menards, but here’s one on Amazon.com so you get the idea.
- Every day, replace the water with fresh pH adjusted water.
- Check your seeds every 12 hours or so to see if any have sprouted. Most lettuce and herb seeds will germinate in 36-48 hours. Uncover the seedlings and place them in another container on the base of the Tower Garden with the lights turned on. When you see white fuzz near the seeds, you want to uncover them. This is important. If you wait too long, your seedlings will become leggy. Your goal is to have short plants with large leaves.
I have a 12″ fixture with a 6500k T-5 bulb that I use for seedlings. This allows me to get the light right close the plants. The closer the seedlings are to the light, the better they’ll grow. I’ve also used a regular desk lamp with a 6500k bulb to get the light as close to the plants as possible.
- Once a seedling is under the light, you need to drain and replace the water every day. To do this, mix up a container (I use an apple juice container) of half pH adjusted water and half water from your Tower Garden. This will give your seedlings a little nutrient solution.
- Day 1: Replace water with half nutrient strength
- Day 2: Replace water with only pH adjusted water
- Day 3: Repeat Day 1
- Day 4: Repeat Day 2
- Continue with the above until you see roots starting to exit the rockwool. Once you see roots on the bottom, it’s time to put the seedlings into the Tower Garden.
I’ve used this procedure successfully for tomatoes, peppers, various lettuces and herbs. Your mileage may vary depending on the crop and your environment.
Adapted from a seed starting procedure by Joe of Level2 Concepts.
Since I’m growing indoors, the weekly maintenance is very consistent. The water level drops about the same amount each week.
I fill up a regular watering can with tap water. Don’t use softened water or very hard water. We’re on city water and have a water softener, but this tap isn’t connected to the water softener.
Then I put 5 ml of pH down into the watering can. I’ve done this enough that I can get very close to the proper pH with 5 ml per watering can full of water. I check the pH in the Tower Garden well about once a month. You’ll need to check the pH more often until you find out if it’s consistent.
I add 50 ml of Tower Tonic A and 50 ml of Tower Tonic B to the watering can. Add A and B separately. (Don’t mix them.)
Then I pour the mixture into the Tower Garden well. As the plants get more roots, you’ll notice that more water is needed. Always balance the pH of the water you put in. If I think the water level is down due to evaporation, I may leave out the Tower Tonic for one watering can full of water.
Experiment with this to determine what works best for you. Your plants will tell you once you get it right. 🙂
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.
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.
In order to keep bugs at bay, I’ll soak the net pots in hot water and a little bit of vinegar.
Using a rag soaked in hot water, I’ll wash the ports.
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.
With regular cleaning each time you harvest, you’ll be less likely to attract insects.
This seed starting procedure has been adapted for the classroom from a procedure shared by Joe of level2concepts.com. It’s a little different than what’s in the Tower Garden manual, but works well in a classroom. This procedure works best growing herbs like basil, and...
Not enough (or too much) water to the plants Check that the pump timer is set to 15 minutes on, 45 minutes off. (indoor growing) Check pH (should be between 5.5 and 6.5) Check that rockwool is pushed all the way to the bottom of the netpot. Check that holes at the top...
Insects The best way is to keep insects off your plants is to practice good Tower Garden hygiene. Don't have plants in regular soil near your Tower Garden. Between plantings, Clean netpots thoroughly and soak them in a 10/1 solution of hot water and vinegar for 30...
The weekly maintenance for indoor growing is usually very consistent The water level drops about the same amount each week. A regular outdoor watering can works well as it takes about 1 watering can per week to refill the green tub. Don't use softened water or very...
Here are videos from the Tower Garden company to help you setup your Tower Garden for the first time. This video covers adding water, nutrient solution, and setting the timer. Since I mostly grow indoors, I use a 2 gallon watering can instead of a garden hose. The...
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,...
A Tower Garden is an aeroponic growing system. Using just water and a nutrient called Tower Tonic, a wide variety of vegetables and herbs can be grown. Visit skoontz.towergarden.com to find out more.
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...
August 24, 2015 Planted 2 purchased rockwool cubes of Burpee sweet basil. September 13, 2015 Placed in the Tower Garden. October 22, 2015 The sweet basil grew well. I harvested twice. Leaves were very large.
I went out one evening and found my plants wilted. The Tower Garden pump had quit working. Thinking it was totally dead, I ordered another one. About a month later, a friend of mine took the pump and fixed it. Here's how we did it. Now use a toothbrush to clean...
In order to get more space for growing arugula in the Tower Garden, I decided to purchase full block of rockwool and cut my own. I found some at htgsupply.com. (I also purchased from them a single-bulb, t5 fixture to replace one of my fixtures that went out.) August...
I'm narrowing down the best way to grow arugula - at least for my Tower Garden setup. Of course, your mileage may vary. 🙂 Burpee arugula seeds seemed to produce a higher yield than Ferry Morse, Slicing the bottom of the rockwool seemed to help as well. Letting 8...
I picked up some Burpee Cress (Berro Cresso) to try. The packet says days to harvest is between 15-35 days. I used this seed starting procedure, but poked extra holes in the rockwool like I've done with the arugula. The seeds germinated in about 24 hours and are...
I cut a circular slit in the rockwool to plant the arugula seeds. (My wife says all I need is a little smile on the plate now.) July 5, 2015 Cutting a circle out of the rockwool didn't work as well as just cutting a hole in the middle and planting the arugula. So I'm...
I dug a hole out of the center of the rockwool and planted about 20 seeds. July 5, 2015 August 12, 2015 At 2 1/8 ounce, this arugula bunch is the largest yet after 32 days in the Tower Garden.
With the success of putting 8 holes in the rockwool from this experiment, I decided to max out the holes with seeds and see what happens. I poked 8 holes in 5 rockwool cubes and planted the following: Rockwool #1 - 2 seeds per hole Rockwool #2 - 3 seeds per hole...
This experiment is similar to cutting the rockwool in half. I've cut slits in the bottom of the rockwool to help the arugula roots reach the Tower Garden water sooner. The seeds have been started using this seed starting procedure. June 6, 2015 After 6 weeks the...
This experiment could easily fail, but I'm going to give it a try. I'm wondering if the arugula will grow quicker if I cut the rockwool in half. My theory is that the roots will reach the Tower Garden water sooner. This experiment is similar to cutting slits in the...
I'm trying to get as much arugula as I can out of one piece of rockwool in 35 days. (Ferry-Morse seeds say 35 days to harvest) So for this planting, I took 5 pieces of rockwool and planted each in 5 different ways using this seed starting procedure. May 16, 2015 May...
I’m trying to rotate arugula through the Tower Garden to get 5 bunches per week. This is set #3. (See set #1, set #2 and schedule) April 18, 2015 May 10, 2015 May 11, 2015 May 16, 2015 May 23, 2015 May 28 Tragedy struck. I checked the Tower Garden and found wilting...