Category Archives: Urban Gardening

Tower Garden Spring Strawberry Crop

Photo of red strawberry I grew in my Tower Garden in 2 months.

I grew this strawberry in just 2 months in my Tower Garden.

Being an urban gardener with a small backyard I am always looking for urban gardening ideas. I realized the best way to use my limited space to grow vegetables was vertical gardening. I am using Tower Gardens by Juice Plus to increase my crop yield.  Last year I planted my first vertical strawberry garden in one of my Tower Gardens. Click here to read a blog about it.

Photo of my Strawberry Tower Garden that has been growing for 2 months.

My Strawberry Tower Garden has been growing for 2 months.

Last fall I trimmed the runners off my strawberry plants and planted them in the soil for the winter, covering them over with straw. In the beginning of March I took one of the Tower Gardens I had stored outside, click here to read article, and prepared it to plant my strawberries in. I filled the reservoir with water and installed a 20 gallon aquarium heater, setting it to keep the water at 65 degrees. I let the Tower Garden run constantly for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate out of the water and to give the water time to warm up. Next I uncovered my strawberry plants and very carefully removed them from the ground, being careful not to damage the roots. Once each plant was removed I put it into a dish pan of water and very gently cleaned the dirt off the roots. When doing this be very gentle and try not to remove the fine hairs coming from the roots. These are what the plants use to get nutrients.

Photo of ripe red strawberry I grew in 2 months on my Tower Garden.

Strawberry on my Tower Garden I grew in just 2 months.

I cut my rock wool cubes in half and placed them around the strawberry plant roots, then put them into the Net Pot , then into the Tower Garden.

I normally have the water timer on my Tower Gardens set to run 15 minutes  on and 15 minutes off,  letting air get to the roots. Since we were still having cold nights I covered the Tower Garden with a Tower Blanket to keep the frost off the plants during the night and set the timer to run the water constantly during the night. Once the sun came up and was shinning on the Tower Garden and the temperature was in the low forties the Tower Blanket was removed, and the timer set back to 15 minutes intervals.

It is now mid May and my strawberry plants have strawberries that are beginning to turn red!  In just two months  ! This is the very best vertical container gardening system I have ever used for my backyard gardening. If you would like to have your own Tower Garden click here.

Christmas Cactus Vacation

Christmas Cactus in full bloom photo.

Christmas Cactus in full bloom. Photo Credit Northern Gardens.

It’s time to put our Christmas Cactus outside! They love to get the extra sunshine and fresh air.  Some words of caution:

Bring your cactus back inside if there is a possibility of frost during the night.

Begin by putting your cactus in some partial shade and totally avoid direct sunshine for a couple of ­­weeks.  You will give your cactus a sun burn it placed too soon in the full sunshine! Yep, just like your own skin burning from the sun, the fragile outer tissues of the cactus will burn.  With humans, we peel off the burned skin and grow new skin underneath.  Not true for plants!  Their outer layer of tissue can’t be replaced near so easily, if at all. And don’t rub your sunscreen on your cactus either!  The oils will suffocate the plants ability to absorb oxygen! And that is also true for humans!  Best to choose sunscreens without oil, or at least a very fine oil that won’t clog your skin pores as you absorb some of your oxygen through your skin pores.

You may need to increase your watering routine for your cactus since it’s in more sun.  But, only water when the cactus is completely dry to your touch.  It is a cactus and likes drought.

Grow People:  Are you in need of a mini vacation like your Christmas cactus?  Spend 15 minutes in the sunshine every day, relax and take several very long deep breaths.  See, you feel better already!

In the fall I’ll give you a couple of secrets to get the best blooms on your cactus ever!

Would someone do a brag and share their beautiful Christmas cactus pictures that I can share with my fall posting by emailing them to me at SpiritTowerGarden@Yahoo.com.

Healthy Living Positive Effects of Fruits and Vegetables

Photo of kale growing on our Tower Garden.

Kale growing on our Tower Garden that we pick to make our green breakfast shake.

Bob and I often have people tell us how good our skin looks. That we have a healthy glow. We have always attributed this to taking our  Juice Plus daily and eating lots of fruits and vegetables in our diet. We have a green shake made with kale and other greens from our Tower Garden, seeds such as flax or chia, rice milk, fruit and 1 scoop of Complete shake mix for breakfast every morning. For lunch we have another Complete shake which we often add fruit in order to have a variety of flavors. Dinner is mostly a vegetarian meal of more vegetables, fruits and non gluten grains.

I recently read an article that explained why people were noticing our “glow”. This article explained some of the more noticeable ways the foods we put in our bodies, including fruits and vegetables, can affect how we look, feel, and what we excrete.  If you have ever experienced asparagus pee (characterized by a potent sulfur smell), garlic body order (when every pour of your body seems to be exuding the stench of garlic), pine nut mouth ( a metallic taste in your mouth), or a nutmeg high (too much is hallucinogenic), you know what I’m talking about.

Most of the food effects discussed in this article are harmless, if less than welcome. But it got Bob and I thinking about the positive effects fruits and vegetables can have on our bodies and what they tell about our overall health.

Fruit and Vegetable Effect: Sweet potato skin

What it is: The healthy glow you get from eating lots of sweet potatoes or other carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables.

What Causes It: Carotenoids (the yellow-red pigments in fruits and veggies such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, red peppers, and carrots).

What’s Happening: A diet high in carotenoids has been shown to support skin health by giving your complexion a rosy glow after just six weeks of increased consumption.[1] These plant pigments accumulate in your skin, literally changing its color. That’s a good thing, because carotenoids are antioxidants, which means in addition to making you look better, they’re also protecting your skin against UV damage.

Fruit and Vegetable Effect: Blueberry brain

What It Is: The mental clarity you find from eating blueberries every day.

What Causes It: Anthocyanins (the red, blue, and purple pigments in fruits and vegetables like blueberries, purple cabbage, and beets).

What’s Happening: Anthocyanins are thought to increase signaling in the brain. That could be why eating them has been shown to support mental health, improving memory, learning, and mood. [2],[3]

Fruit and Vegetable Effect: Apple breath

What It Is: The sweet breath you get from chomping on apples.

What Causes It: Fiber.

What’s Happening: When you eat crunchy, high-fiber foods, your mouth makes more saliva, and the oxygen in saliva inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Apples also support oral health because they’re particularly effective at cleaning your teeth, removing the food particles that bacteria so love.[4]

Fruit and Vegetable Effect: Leafy green eyes

What It Is: The visual clarity that comes from consuming plenty of leafy greens.

What Causes It: Lutein and zeaxanthin (the yellow pigments in leafy greens like kale and spinach, as well as some yellow vegetables such as corn).

What’s Happening: Numerous studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin support vision health. Specifically, they protect against age-related macular degeneration — the leading cause of blindness in people over 55.[5] These pigments actually collect in the macula of the eye, where they act like a shield to filter out damaging UV light.

Fruit and Vegetable Effect: Broccoli mood

What It Is: The good mood that comes with being a regular broccoli eater.

What Causes It: Folate.

What’s Happening: Folate, also known as folic acid when consumed in supplement form, is an essential B vitamin. Folate deficiency has been linked to depression. This may be because folate helps the body make neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which support mood health.

While you may not want asparagus pee or pine nut mouth, I’m guessing you’d love to have sweet potato skin, blueberry brain, apple breath, leafy green eyes, and broccoli mood! Have you noticed what positive effects eating fruits and vegetables has on your health? To read the full article click here.

Click here if you want people to notice how healthy your skin is when your eat fresh fruits and vegetables grown from your own Tower Garden.

How to Plan Your Perfect Tower Garden

Spring is in the air! Here in the Pacific Northwest the plum and cherry trees blossoms have come and for the most part are already gone, being replaced with new leaf growth. Now is the time to begin to plan what you are going to be growing this year in your Tower Gardens. There are 3 important steps to planning and planting a Tower Garden:

Photo of Tower Garden with new plant growth.

Tower Garden in my greenhouse with plants just a few weeks old.

  • Find the ideal location
  • Picking the right plants based on your preference and growing conditions
  • Stocking up on necessary supplies

If this is your first season planting on brand new Tower Garden that you just purchased from me you will need a location with about a 2.5 square foot print with the following things:

  1. Find the Ideal Location
  • Light

If you want a productive Tower Garden (and who doesn’t), most plants need 6-8 hours of full sun or 14 – 16 hours under grow lights. Check your seed packet labels for plant-specific light requirements. If you grown outside in a location such as Arizona with intense summer heat, keep in mind your plants will need to be protected from the hot afternoon sun.

Tower Tip: If your Tower Garden sits in a location where only one side receives sun light such as against a wall, rotate it a quarter turn each day. This will achieve balanced growth. This is the easiest to day with a Tower Garden Dolly.

  • Water

Since Tower Garden uses a water + nutrients solution instead of soil to grow plants, a nearby source for clean water is critical. It’s best not to use softened, heavily chlorinated or very hard water. Not sure if you have hard water? Take a look at this water hardness map (you can also request a free water test strip via the same link).

Tower Tip: To remove chlorine, fill a bucket with marked gallon marks so you know how much water is in it. Let it sit outdoors for in the sun for two days (48 hours). This will evaporate the chlorine from the water. Then add the appropriate amount of Tower Tonic to the water to fill up the reservoir. I keep several 2.5 gallon buckets on hand with water ready to add Tower Tonic too. This way I always have water ready when needed to add to my Tower Gardens.

  • Electricity

You’ll need electricity to run the pump (and lights if you’re growing indoors). If your growing outside, ensure safety with a waterproof connection protector.

  • Level Location

    Photo of Tower Garden reservoir with wedges.

    Floor in my greenhouse is not level. Wedge was not enough. I used a piece of scrap plywood and wood to level reservoir.

Wherever you put your Tower Garden, make sure it is level, as this is essential for proper operation. When putting Tower Gardens outside I always use a bubble level to ensure it is level. I often use wooden wedges to slide under the reservoir to level it. If you are locating your Tower Garden in a garage remember the floor slopes toward the door and you will be to level it.

  1. Pick Plants

The next step is the most fun, picking your plants! As you do this think about the following:

  • Your food preferences

What produce will you actually use? To answer this, consider what you typically bring home from the supermarket. For example, I use lots of greens – such as kale, chard and lettuce – almost daily for salads, stir-fries and other dishes. So two of my Tower Gardens are filled with greens year round. Identify what you use on a regular basis, and add these to your list of plants to grow.

Produce that you only buy occasionally or goes bad before you use it will likely just take up space in your Tower Garden. Unless you’re thinking about changing your eating habits, think twice before growing such plants.

  • Produce price and availability

Tired of emptying our your wallet for fresh basil? Can’t find your favorite variety of tomato? Whether you want lower costs or more options, there’s a solution: grow your own! You’ll likely find yourself with more free basil than you can use. You’ll impress your friends with amount of quality, great tasting produce you will grow.

  • Growing conditions

Now that you’ve got an idea of what you want to grow, let’s refine the list by looking at growing conditions. While some plants – such as chard, collard greens and kale – tolerate a range of temperatures, most prefer either cool or warm weather. What you grow depends on location and season.

Since spring is just around the corner, greens and herbs are good choices for most gardeners starting now. If you’re lucky enough to have mild winters by living in a place such as Florida, the list of what you can grow this time of year is longer.

List of 16 super spring crops.

These plants grow well in the cooler temperatures of spring.

 

This list isn’t exhaustive, of course. Want to learn what else you can grow? There are several planting schedulers. My favorite is The Old Farmers Almanac, which shows when to start seeds and when to expect to harvest, based on your location. A online service that does this well is All Things Plants. If you’re willing to create your own planting schedule manually, seed packet labels often indicate when to sow and harvest based on your plant hardiness zone. If you are growing indoors, season and your location don’t really matter provide you are using grow lights.

How to grow a healthy Tower Garden graphic.

Use this guide to determine how many plants you need and how to arrange them.

As a general rule, you want to arrange plants like a pyramid. Put larger and vining plants, such as squash and tomatoes, on the bottom. Avoid planting more than 4 of these, as they crowd out other plants. Put smaller plants such as lettuce and herbs, on top. Placing larger plants beside smaller growing plants is another strategy. This will help to ensure they have enough room to grow.

Photo of all the supplies that come with your Tower Garden.

Make sure you are stocked up will everything you need to get growing.

Have everything figured out? Download and print this planting plan (PDF) and fill in the blanks with you you’ll grow to document your plan. Click here to go to our blog listing growers of plant starts for your Tower Garden.

Tower Tip: Get detailed instructions for 11 different plants in the Resource Center.

 1. Secure Growing Supplies

Congratulation, you’ve made a glorious plan! Don’t forget to make sure you have everything you need to actually get growing. At a minimum, you’ll need the following supplies:

While not essential, you may want to consider these accessories.

Photo of Tower Garden covered with Tower Blanket

Tower Blanket covering one of my towers.

  • Tomato Cage or Trellis – Larger vining plants such as tomatoes or squash, need extra support for healthy growth.
  • Weather Protection Blanket – This can protect your plants from late frosts and cooler spring nights. It’s also useful for preventing heat stress in the summer.
  • Tower Dolly – Planning to move your Tower Garden around much? A dolly makes that pretty simple.

Click over to the Tower Garden Store to order any supplies you may need.

 

Summary and Next Steps

To recap, the 3 essentials of Tower Garden planning are:

  1. Finding the best location to grow
  2. Picking the right plants based on your preference and growing conditions
  3. Stocking up on necessary supplies

Once you have the essentials covered, you’ll be well on your way to growing a successful Tower Garden.

Ready to execute your plan? Here are some helpful resources:

Click here to buy your Tower Garden Now!

Are you psyched about the approaching growing season? If you have any questions use the contact form below to contact me. 

Tower Garden Seedling Farms

10 Tower Garden Seedling Farms

If you are looking for the most convenient way to start your Tower Garden, seedlings are the way to go.

Photo of lettuce that I am growing from a seedling start.

Lettuce that I am growing from a seedling start.

I have not purchased seedlings from all of these providers. I have purchased from two of them. So I can’t offer any personal commentary on most of the following list. Their are several positive reviews on the Tower Garden Facebook page.

These are certified Future Growing Tower Garden Farms, which means they grow seedlings specifically for Tower Gardens. (i.e. they’re already growing in rockwool cubes, so you don’t have to wash dirt off the roots before transplanting).

Tower Tip: If you choose to purchase seedlings from a local nursery instead, select only those with perfectly formed leaves and no evidence of bug presence. Damage leaves typically means plants have been sprayed for pests.

Providers that ship seedlings and offer on-site pick up:

Living Towers, Eustis, Florida

Montecito Urban Farms, Santa Barbara, Califorina

ATL Urban Farms, Cumming, Georgia

Nature Crisp, Soperton, Georgia

True Garden, Mesa, Arizonia

Providers that offer on-site pickup only:

Santa Barbara Urban Farms, Santa Barbara, California

Chapala Gardens, Santa Barbara, California

So Cal Urban Farms, San Diego, California

Iron Towers, Middletown, Connecticut

Sunrise Hydroponics Amish Farm. Available Saturday mornings at: South Bend Farmers Market, 1105 Northside Blvd, South Bend, IN 46615.

Additional Resources

Once you’ve got them, be sure to read how to start your seeds (page 7) and or transplant your seedlings. If you prefer to watch rater than head, here is a great video tutorial.

And don’t forget about the 11 growing guides in the Resource Center of my website. They cover everything from planting to pest control. Review this information to ensure your new plants flourish.

Happy Growing!

If you wish to contact me use the form below.

Tower Garden Strawberries are the best ever

You’ll be amazed at the most luscious strawberries you will grow! Even my berries that are just turning pink taste better than any strawberry from the grocery store! You can buy aeroponic starts in season. Last year, I missed that season so I purchased ever bearing root starts, thoroughly rinsed off the soil, and put them into the rock wool. You can see last year’s post by clicking here.

You know how strawberries send out runners! Those young plants are what you want for next years crop. I let a couple dozen runners develop on last year’s Tower Garden. In the fall, I cut the starts off, planted them, and covered them with straw for the winter. Worked perfectly. Just saved myself a bunch of money with minimal labor!

Here is a short video of this year’s process.

Since we still have an occasional night time freeze Bob put a standard fish tank 20 gallon water heater in the reservoir to keep the roots about 60 to 65 degrees. This further protects the starts and speeds up their growth, I suggest a landscape cloth called “row cover“. It’s a very fine weave material that allows light to pass through and will raise the temperature from 2 to 5 degrees around your plants.

Young strawberry starts ready for spring in my Tower Garden.

Young strawberry starts ready for spring in my Tower Garden.

Small plants are better than mature plants when planting your Tower Garden.

Small plants are better than mature plants when planting your Tower Garden.

Tower Garden covered with row cover fastened  with cloths pins.

Row cover added to protect strawberries from freezing. I secured with cloths pins, but you can use anything.

 Click here to order your own Tower Garden right now!

Links to past blog posts about growing strawberries in my Tower Gardens.

http://backyardtowergarden.com/2015/03/15/tower-garden-getting-ready-for-new-strawberry-crop/

http://backyardtowergarden.com/2013/10/31/tower-garden-halloween-strawberries/

You can contact me using the form below:

Healthy Living Linda’s Fresh Kale Salad

Fresh kale is a bit difficult to chew sufficiently so that our stomachs can digest it and get the full benefit. My recipe tells how to overcome this objection.

Linda's Kale Salad made with chopped apple, onion; sliced almonds, rice vinegar, feta cheese is rich in protein.

Linda’s Kale Salad ready to serve as part of a healthy meal rich in protein.

All ingredients are approximate.

Two cups of packed fresh kale. I like to mix varieties and use the youngest leaves possible.

Tear the leaves in to small pieces. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Massage with your fingers for 1-2 minutes. Cover and set aside for half an hour.

Now add to the bowl

Six varietes of fresh picked kale from my Tower Garden in a pan.

Six varieties of fresh kale picked from my Tower Garden ready for me use in my kale salad.

½ chopped apple

¼ cup chopped red onion

1 Tablespoon of rice vinegar (other vinegars may be used)

1 Tablespoon feta cheese, optional

1 Tablespoon sliced almonds or chopped walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds.

Gently mix and serve.

Converting to more vegan meals? Kale has

Kale in a bowl with olive oil and salt added.

Kale with olive oil and salt added.

-more iron than beef

– more fiber, beef has zero

-more calcium than dairy

– kale contains large quantities of antioxidants, meat has zero

– kale has anti-inflammatory properties, meat’s cause inflammation, as in arthritis and digestive issues.

From a sustainability perspective, kale grows to maturity in 55 to 60 days versus a cow raised for beef for an average of 18-24 months. Kale can grow in most climates and is relatively easy and low impact to grow at home or on a farm. To raise one pound of beef requires 16 pounds of grain, 11 times as much fossil fuel and more than 2,400 gallons of water.

The best tasting kale I have ever eaten I grown in my Tower Garden. Click here now to order your Tower Garden and grow the best tasting kale 30% faster.

Please contact me using the form below.