I Almost Killed My Vertical Garden!
Content updated May 30, 2018
I went outside to pick some collard greens off one of my vertical gardens. To my shock and horror all the plants where drooping and wilted. I thought it was out of water. Took the cover off and looked inside. I had water, a bit low but still plenty. What is going on?
I unplugged the pump and pulled it out. I found the intakes where all plugged up with broken off pieces of roots and a thick green slime. It looked like Slimmer from the Ghost Busters had visited my hydroponic vertical garden. Yuck!
Unhooked the pump from the tower. Took it out of the reservoir and gave it a good cleaning. Pulled the end off and took the filter out and cleaned it with my garden hose. A soft spray and the filter was clean again.
I then took an old toothbrush to the outside of the filter and cleaned all the roots out of the portholes to the filter. A rinse of the filter and pump with the garden hose and all was clean again. Than put the filter back in and put the filter cover back in place.
Put the pump back inside. Hooked up the hose to the tower and all was well again. Been 3 days now and no problems. All is well.
You may be wondering why the empty ports? This vertical garden had been inside all winter long and had been taken outdoors the week before. The plants that were harvested and at the end of their growing season where removed. New plant starts are growing in the greenhouse. As soon as they are ready they will be filling the empty ports.
I thought my problem with the pump being plugged was because I pumped as much water as could out of the vertical garden and took it outside without taking it apart and cleaning it since it still had plants growing in it.
In a discussion Tim Blank, the inventor of the Tower Garden, recommended that at the end of the growing season that vertical gardens be totally taken and cleaned thoroughly using a mild detergent such as dishwashing detergent and bleach to kill all bacteria that may still be present.
Replace all the Tower Tonic in the reservoir with new tonic. The water is filled with plant root debris which was the cause of my pump clogging up. Use the Tower Tonic that you are removing from the reservoir as fertilizer for your garden vegetables and flowers. You plants will thank you.
What I have found works the best for me is to take the plants that I will continue to grow and put them into dishpan basins with enough of the Tower Tonic from the reservoir to keep the rockwool wet while cleaning and reassembling the hydroponic vertical garden.
The older plants will have large, established root systems coming out of the rockwool. These need to trimmed back so they are not blocking the port holes in the tower section. In most cases the netty pot will no longer push through the plant port. You will need to put plants into the ports before adding the next section above to the tower. You will need an assistant to help with this.
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