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Garden Towers can be directly seeded! We highly suggest raising your own starter plants from widely available organic, Non-GMO seeds. The Garden Tower Project was created around an ecological growing solution (the Garden Tower) and we strongly support the preservation of all natural species. Choosing organic seeds, plants, and plant products is an easy way to help prevent the destruction of native organisms and a number of rippling ecological consequences that cascade through the food chain and affect our own health. Investing in ecological ideas to problems is critical to creating a future free of increased use of herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals causing known and unknown harm to life.
Saving Your Own Seeds
Whether you’ve saved your own heirloom seeds for generations or generally just rely on whatever you can find on the nursery rack each spring, the American Seed Alliance’s Seed Saving Guide has a wealth of useful information for any gardener.
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When to Plant
Planting times will be location dependent. Search online for “Last Frost Date” for the particular location name or check the references below Planting Schedule and Hardiness Zone Guide – Look up your zone by zip code, to see when to plant.
The general guidelines for planting are:
- 4-5 larger, bushier plants in the top
- Determinate (bush variety) tomatoes, basil, eggplants, peppers & beans have all done well in the top
- Cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, kohlrabi all do well in the (lower & mid) side pockets. Lettuces, spinach anywhere it can fit
TIP: We do highly suggest studying the Companion Planting Guide since, in the GT2 the area is compact and the root zones are very close together, Companion Planting can make all the difference.
- Herbs like cilantro & parsley can also be interspersed with like companions
- Flowers can be planted throughout and act as a beacon to beneficial insects. Marigolds are reported to be good for certain pest controls and Nasturtiums are delicate, beautiful and the flowers are edible!
- Vining things, like Indeterminate tomatoes, squash, cucumber & melons, should go in the bottom two rows of the Tower and are to be trellised away from the tower to a railing, stool, chair or other garden art, to prevent them from blocking sun from their neighbors. This will sacrifice some rotation in the later part of the season
- Larger plants like cauliflower or broccoli can be planted diagonally for the same reason
TIP: If you are having issues growing a particular plant or variety, we suggest that you look for a container or bush variety of whatever type of plant has had issues
- Companion Planting Guide – A very helpful resource. Prevents inhibited growth by planting complimentary species\varieties.
TIP: We recommend against planting Strawberries and other woody-stem, vining and potentially invasive things in the Tower, like mints as the high nutrient density makes it possible for them to take over other crops. In the following year (or two) you will have a big woody mess to cut out of the Tower. The GT2 will make that easier because of its sectional design
VEGETABLES Amaranth (vegetable type), Arugula, Beans (Lima, bush, pole, shell, fava), Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Cauliflower, Chard, Chicory, Collards, Cucumbers, Dandelion, Eggplant, Endive, Escarole, Gourds, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Melons, Mesclun, Mustard Greens, Dwarf Okra, Peas, Peppers, Radicchio, Sorrel, Spinach, Squash, Strawberries, Tomatoes (note: vines such as squash and melons grow nicely from the bottom holes, trailing onto the ground).
HERBS Angelica, Anise Hyssop, Basil, Calendula, Catmint, Catnip, Chamomile, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro (Coriander), Dandelion,Dill, Echinacea (Coneflower), Feverfew, Flax, Garlic Chives, Goldenseal Hyssop, Lavender, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Milk Thistle, Mint, Nettle, Oregano, Parsley, Passion Flower, Pleurisy Root, Rosemary, Sage, Salad Burnet, Saltwort, Savory, Shiso, Stevia, Thyme, Valerian, Wormwood
FLOWERS Edible Flowers: Calendula, Carthamus, Dianthus, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Pansies, Salvia, Violas
ORNAMENTAL FLOWERS Ageratum, Amaranth, Ammi, Aster, Bells of Ireland, Bupleurum, Morning Glory, Nigella, Petunia, Phlox, Polygonum, Poppy, Ptilotus, Rudbeckia, Safflower, Salpiglossis, Sanvitalia, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Stock, Strawflower, Sweet Peas, Verbena, Yarrow, Zinnia
- Four to five larger plants may be planted in the top
- Large plants such as tomatoes are a great choice for the top of the tower and can be trellised or staked many feet in the air.
Tip: Plant tomatoes very deeply in the soil for steady access to water
- Trailing vines such as squash and zucchini do best on the bottom row, will require more floor space to accommodate their growth, and most importantly will make your tower very difficult to rotate
- If you have limited space, or wish to have the option of being able to rotate your Tower, these types of plants may not be your best choice.
Tip: Look for “bush” varieties of these vining or trailing veggies as they are more compact and much easier to grow in small spaces
- Pay attention to the space requirements of the plants you’re planning to grow and consider spacing plants that require less space, between plants that require more space
- Planting identical plants in diagonal columns or in small clusters of three to five generally performs well and looks beautiful
- You can begin with seed or small starts, available at garden centers and farmers markets.
Tip: Start your seeds in soil in a compact flat or tray where they will grow into small starts for easy transplanting. Water your seeds with a misting sprayer
- When planting side pockets, start at the bottom row with your bushiest mature plants. Working up the rows, choose your next plants according to size (and other factors) as you plant; you are looking to choose plants of decreasing mature size as you plant from bottom to top.
Tip: Check out our “companion planting” for a source of more information on what plants grow well together
- Adding an organic, non-manure-based plant food to the soil makes nutrients immediately available in the system. Liquid organic plant food mixtures will provide the most available nutrition for young plants but have to be re-applied every so often. Granular types are more of a time-release and will provide nutrients for around three months. As the central compost column begins to produce its own fertilizer, this will no longer be necessary
- Maintain a regular watering schedule. Morning is best, afternoon is OK, evening less desirable
- We recommend strongly against watering with a hose because it is very difficult to learn how much water your tower is truly requiring (unless you are an experienced container gardener)
- By watering with a container you will learn quickly how much water is ideal
- Do not get plants wet during the hottest part of the day
- A general watering schedule during the active growing seasons is 15-22 litres of water every 2-3 days
- Test the soil for dryness by placing a finger in a pocket in the lowest row. If the soil feels dry, a heavier watering is required (19-26 litres). If the soil feels slightly moist, maintenance watering is all that is required (7-15) litres
- If water is draining into the drawer more often than twice per week, you’re watering too frequently
- A layer of mulch on the top surface of the tower will help maintain constant moisture
- Tend to your garden as you would with a regular garden, remove dead or damaged leaves, cutting back unruly growth, replacing harvested plants
- As a self-contained, self-fertilizing system, the Tower requires limited care
Extended Growing Season
You can get 2-3 weeks extended growing on each side of the season! Because of the large thermal mass presented by the volume of the Tower body and soil, this protects seeds, starts & plants both in the spring and at harvest. In the spring, The Tower heats up faster that the ground around it, therefore you can plant 2-3 weeks ahead of what you would put in the ground. On the flipside, in the fall, you will be able to harvest 2-3 weeks later than similar plants in the ground.
If it gets too cold, we suggest putting a piece of clear plastic over the Tower, with stakes positioned to protect the plants. In the fall a simple piece of plastic was enough to overwinter and harvest fresh parsley, chives & cilantro… after freezing weather for three weeks, two storms and there was 6” of snow on the ground! If you are protecting plants, use clear plastic. If you are protecting worms during a severe cold snap, than darker plastic will absorb more warmth and provide more protection to the compost column.