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Urban Farmer: Tower Garden * Tips
January 01, 2013


The Urban Farmer, Issue #054 * Tower Garden  *  Hydro Tip

January, 2013: 



"In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy."

         ~Robert Brault


Vertical veggies: Tower Garden
methods cultivate easy bounty


The Jalenak children -- Kyra (from left), 5, Ava, 7, Sofia, 7, and Lucas, 11, -- have been loving their Tower Garden, says their mother, Monique, who hopes the system will encourage the children to eat more vegetables and teach them how food is produced.


Participants in the Garden to Groceries program at the Boys & Girls Club Technical Training Center in South Memphis grow edibles in 12 Tower Gardens to use in the food products they sell at farmers markets. From left: Kennerio Roberson, Eron Jackson and Amelia Butler.

Some gardeners are switching from traditional in-ground gardening to a method by which vegetables grow without any soil at all.

They are practicing hydroponic gardening, a method of growing plants with mineral nutrient solutions in water. Plants are grown with their roots in the nutrient solution.

Some Memphis-area gardeners are investing in the Tower Garden, a white plastic obelisk that provides a continuous source of water, nutrients and oxygen to the roots of the plants installed in the sides of the tower.

This combination of hydroponic and aeroponic growing techniques results in faster-growing plants, according to NSA, the Collierville-based company that distributes Tower Garden.

Monique Jalenak bought one about three weeks ago; she has already harvested a few strawberries, and her tomatoes, zucchini, lettuces and other veggies are growing bigger every day.

"The kids have been loving it," said Jalenak, who hopes the new garden will encourage them to include more vegetables in their diets and teach them how food is produced.

Seeds are grown in Rockwool starter cubes until the roots can be seen emerging from the bottom of the cubes. Then they are placed in openings on the sides of the tower where they grow into mature plants.

The Tower Garden system was developed by Tim Blank, who formerly headed up the 2-acre hydroponic farming display at The Land Pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World. Tower Garden is designed to make complicated aeroponic and hydroponic technology easy enough for home gardeners, restaurateurs and other non-professional enthusiasts to use.

A circulating pump sends nutrient-enriched water up to the top of a 20-gallon reservoir, and then, using gravity, it gently flows over the roots of the plants to deliver nutrients and oxygen.

Lettuce is sprouting out of the openings of a tower bought from Gerry Finney and franchisee Shali Ledbetter Atkinson and installed on the patio at Acre, a restaurant in East Memphis.

"We're trying to grow as much as we can on our little plot of land in the center of the city," said Andrew Adams, executive chef at Acre. He's already had success in producing small-size herbs, edible flowers and salad greens all winter under grow lights in the attic of the restaurant. Now the same varieties will be able to grow to full size in the outdoor tower.

"Instead of baby mustard greens on a plate, we're looking forward to mustard flowers," Adams said.

He has already begun to harvest mixed lettuces planted about four weeks ago.

Towers cost about $500, including enough "tonic" for a season.

Twice a week or so, the pH of the water in the reservoir needs to be tested and adjusted. Water and tonic are replenished as needed. The pump filter should be cleaned about once a month.

Ciao Bella in East Memphis installed a tower on the patio in front of the restaurant last weekend. The tower will be used to grow herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano, as well as salad greens and Roma tomatoes.

"We have a traditional garden a few blocks away where we grow vegetables and herbs," said Judd Tashie, a co-owner. "But I like the idea of having a garden just outside the door where our customers can see it. I also set one up at my house, so we can see how they both work out," Tashie said.

At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, an urban garden consisting of 26 tall aeroponic towers has been installed in the rotunda building between Terminals 2 and 3.

The vegetables and herbs produced are being used in airport restaurants such as Tortas Frontera and Tuscany.

More information

To find out more about the Tower Garden, visit




Hydro Tip of the Month-  

Dang Moths!
Are there Zillions of tiny white moths fluttering about your plants?  Sounds like whiteflies.

We hope you have enjoyed this issue of The Urban Farmer Ezine. Each month, we will bring you another inspiring photo, gardening quote or idea, plus fresh new hydroponics news, techniques & products.

Insiders tips to get you growing...


~Stella and Simon from Hydroponics-Simplified.

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