I started indoor gardening for the fun and enjoyment of being able to garden, however as the plant collection grew I had to be more discerning about what I grew. I decided to grow things that were deemed ‘useful’. I still have some things that I like growing just because, but for the most part I limit my plant adventures to useful plants, things like herbs, medicinal plants, and edibles. My view of the amount and type of edible produce I could produce purely indoors was drastically changed one weekend when I was introduced to the Tower Garden at a local farmers market. As the lady was explaining everything and showing how it worked I knew that this was something that could be garden-changing for me. I’ve had a Tower Garden for 10 months now and I have not been disappointed, it has been garden-changing!
The Tower Garden (TG) is described (by them) as an aeroponic vertical growing system. If your wondering about aeroponic vs. hydroponic, in hydponics the plant roots sit in flowing water, while in aeroponics they just sit in air and at timed intervals have water flow over them. Either way, I don’t waste time quibbling over terms; both use water to deliver the necessary nutrients to the plants instead of soil. The basic TG has 20 spaces to grow things and the extension kit adds another 8 spots. The basic kit comes with everything you need to get started including a water pump, timer, seeds, and rockwool. I got the basic kit, the extension, the tomato cage, and the light kit. While it was definitely an investment at the time, for us it has really turned out to be worth it.
The TG is easy to set-up, it took an hour, if that to read through the directions and get it together. They have a very active Facebook page and discussion boards where you can go to get help and ask questions. You can tell they definitely have a slick marketing theme going, however don’t let that turn you off. It really is an awesome product, especially for someone like me who has limited space and no yard.
Now you may be wondering if I’m going to spend all the time and money on a hydroponic system why not just get into actual hydroponics? Good question! While a do-it-yourself hydroponic system is certainly cheaper, there is a definite learning curve. I can also grow a lot more items in the TG than I can in the same space if I was using a traditional hydroponic system.
I started seeds for my TG the beginning of August and transplanted them into the TG mid-August. It is now May, in that time frame I have done 3 major plantings: the original, a second batch around December, and am working on a third batch now. By major plantings I just mean starting a lot of seeds and switching things out, I do have some plants like the tomatoes and peppers that lived out a full and productive life (over winter!) and that just recently died a natural death. My system is completely indoors with the grow light kit as the only source of light.
Plants I have personally successfully grown in the last 10 months in the TG:
Cherry tomatoes (3 plants): Have done fantastic and produced more tomatoes overs the winter than we could eat!
Bok Choy: Did great but you only get 1 or 2 harvests from one plant so maybe not worth it.
Oregano (2 kinds): Did great
Lavender: Grew but eventually died from too much moisture (not surprised, this was more of an experiment)
Sage: Did very well
Thyme (2 kinds): Did great
Wild Bergamot: Did perhaps too well, had to keep cutting it back so it wouldn’t crowd out everyone else.
Chives: These do awesome! Currently have some blooming
Collard Greens: These seeds were included in the kit so tried them, did great, but same as Bok Choy; limited harvests so maybe not worth it
Cilantro: Does great
Lettuce (2 kinds)/Arugula/Spinach/Romaine/Kale: Does great
Spearmint: Does great
Lemon Balm: Does great
Bell pepper: Grew great, harvested about 20 total bell peppers before I pulled the plant. They tasted great, very different than the ones you buy in the store.
Cayenne Pepper: Grew great, harvested a ton of peppers and made our own cayenne spice.
Chamomile: Does great
Rainbow Chard: Grew great, limited harvests
Nepalese Bell Pepper: Currently doing great
Gold Berry Tomato: Currently doing great
Jalapeno: Currently doing great
Yarrow: doing well
Mint: doing well
Plants that have not done well for me:
All of these had the same problem, I would hand pollinate, fruit would set and start to grow, but then the babies would start to rot. I have tried adding Calcium to the water to no avail, still can’t get anything along these lines to grow.
- If you go on the forums TG says you can’t grow tomatoes and peppers with their light system and people seem to have problems with that a lot on the indoor board…. I’m not sure why they say that. I have grown 4 different pepper plants and 5 different tomato plants and have had no trouble whatsoever with it, having just used their light kit. Now I did have it under the ceiling fan at our old place, and now I do have a small fan blowing on it now to help with pollination. But I’ve had no trouble getting produce out of it using their lights and nutrients.
- It comes with rockwool… call me crazy but I HATE rockwool. To me it feels like fiberglass, it falls apart, seems to grow mold easier, and bits of it always end up under my nails… I hate it! So, instead I went down to my local hydroponics place and found these Rapid Rooters. Rapid Rooters are a peatmoss derived plug that you can start seeds in and use for hydroponic or soil gardening. (I now use it for everything) I freaking love these! They are a lot easier to deal with; I drop some seeds in (no vermiculite needed) and go. The plants seem to love them as well!
- TG website says you can get plants by either seeds or small seedlings. Since I am strictly indoors I have to be very strict about diseases and pests. I therefore made the rule to start everything from seed and left it at that. I use mostly Baker Creek seeds which have done great and they have a huge variety of everything.
- TG also claims a great thing about their system (which is true for hydroponics in general) is the less chance of disease and pests. To encourage this outcome I have a small fan blowing on the tower to keep the airflow going and, as I said earlier, I start everything from seed. I also keep it separated from my soil garden. Having taken these preventative steps, I can confirm that I have not had any disease problems. I did recently have one infestation of red mites and I was super worried about it. However, I was able to release some of the beneficial bugs I discussed in my pest control post and they worked just as well on this system as in a soil based system. I was relieved! Otherwise, no pest problems at all.
- The system comes with a set of chems “specially formulated”, according to their site, for the TG that I used successfully until I ran out. I then went in search of a local source of chems so that I didn’t have to order off their site. My local hydro shop had Dyna-Gro, which I decided to try. According to the TG marketing my tower was destined to die a horrible death if I used anyone else’s chems… I’m still waiting…. My tower did not seem to suffer any ill affects of my using other hydroponic chemicals. If you do talk to a full blown hydroponic enthusiast they will try to convince you that you need one chem for growing and then a separate chem for blooming or all will be lost. Again, all is not lost, I’ve stuck with Grow from DynaGro and everything has been fine. I did have a guy recommend sticking to ‘cleaner’ chems as opposed to trying some more organic options just so that it keeps the system cleaner. Since I am using this system indoors for year round planting, I took his advice. Another option is the General Hydroponic line, which I think I might try out next.
- At my old place I was able to situate the TG under a ceiling fan. At my current place I don’t have a ceiling fan so I did set up a small clip fan to keep things moving. I recommend this for several reasons. First, I really do think it helps to keep diseases in check. Second I think it helps make plants stronger, and perhaps most importantly it helps with pollination! I always check my peppers and tomatoes to see if their self pollinating or not. I believe all tomatoes are technically self pollinating but the air flow helps the pollen reach the right male parts within the bloom.
- One of the best tips I ever got was when setting up the TG was to label each spot as you go so that when you start planting you can easily keep track of what is planted where. My TG, with extension kit, has seven sections, each with four spots. I labeled each section 1-7 and each spot A-D. I then keep an updated chart of what is planted in 1A and so on. It has been a life saver!
- Regarding starting seeds: I usually start seeds in my rapid rooter pods in a little seed starter thing on a heating pad and then transfer them over when they’re big enough. I have also just thrown the pod into the TG and poured some seeds in it. Both methods have worked for me so it’s really whatever your prefer.
All in all, I am really glad I took the plunge with buying a TG. I know they’re expensive and some might prefer to stick to soil or go full hydro and that is perfectly fine. Honestly, this system works fully indoors, all on timers, and is super easy to put together and maintain. I check the PH once a week and that’s it. The rest of the time I am enjoying fresh herbs, and more peppers and tomatoes than the two of us know what to do with! We honestly had no idea that there was such a taste difference between fresh herbs and the dried ones that we both grew up shaking out of a bottle. It’s night and day! Now I’m not even sure why people bother with dried herbs. We’ve started making our own pesto with all the basil we have (homemade pesto is delicious!) and we add herbs to everything now. It has truly been amazing and has really expanded what I thought was possible with indoor gardening. Not to mention, being the only ones around with fresh grown tomatoes and herbs in the dead of winter was awesome.
Feel free to post in the comments and experiences you’ve had or questions I might have left unanswered! Thanks and happy gardening!
Squash and cherry tomato: 19 day difference
Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form involved with or affiliated with Tower Garden or JuicePlus. These are my real thoughts and experiences posted here, some of which run contrary to what their marketing team will tell you. Oh well.