STEPHEN RITZ IN ORLANDO MAY 16TH 2015!

Steven Ritz pictureUrban gardens! Schoolyard gardens! Preschool gardens! Come hear a guy who is making these happen all across America this Saturday ~ Guests are free!!! All you need to do is let me know you’re coming. See email link below.

Hyatt Place Lake Mary/Orlando North
May 16
11:00AM
1255 S. International Parkway, Lake Mary 32746
What a blessing to have Stephen Ritz come to our back yard! Stephen Ritz has inspired thousands of teachers and students to go back to their roots and eat what they grow. Graduation rates go up and student discipline goes down. Not to mention the long term health benefits as these kids learn to love their greens!
Interested in adding Tower Gardens to the curriculum to a school in the central Florida area? I can help you with grant opportunities. Now’s the time to get that process started for next year. tracy@endlessharvesttowers.com.

Spring Tower Planning

purple beans from google images

It’s time to prepare for your spring Tower Garden by deciding what you’d like to grow and placing the seeds on order. The Sky’s the limit for your choices this time of year here in central Florida (until the summer heat rolls in).

Try new things! The seed catalogs that have been arriving in our mailbox over the past few weeks picture so many options it’s hard to pick just a few.  Of course we have our favorites but love to try new veggies each season. How about the green beans (pictured above) that are bright purple until cooked when they magically turn green before your eyes. Beautiful, aren’t they! Read More

 

Nutrients – When and How Much

nutrients easy referenceColder weather means full-strength nutrients (20ml per gallon of A and the same for B). I switch to full-strength when the temperature no longer reaches above 85 degrees. This applies whether the plants growing in your Tower are all mature or a combination of seedlings and mature plants.

Use half strength nutrients (10ml per gallon of A and the same for B) in the summer when the temperature is steadily reaching 90 degrees or anytime of the year when your Tower contains all new seedlings.

The graphic above provides an easy nutrient reference guide. Remember, nutrients should be added each time you add water to the reservoir. See page 3 of this document entitled Water for a handy way to measure the water in reservoir.

What Can You Grow in Your Tower Garden?

Yard long beans, lettuces and celery

The answer is any plant that’s not a tree, bush, or root vegetable. That leaves lots of options! Yes, you can grow melons, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, peppers, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, peas, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, lettuce, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kohlrabi – to name a few. This photo album of our Towers and produce grown via this easy gardening method shows the abundance it produces, Our Productive Tower Gardens.

This document on Seeds, Seedlings, and Planting includes a list that will give you lots more ideas.

Enjoy growing a large variety of nutrient-dense and tremendously tasty produce in your Tower!

Questions? Contact me at tracy@endlessharvesttowers.com.

10 Winter Tower Gardening Tips

reservior heater

It’s unseasonably cold across the country for this time of year and we’re no exception here in Florida. However, no matter where you live, you can keep our Towers growing in spite of the cold weather. Here’s how:

1) Keep your Reservoir Full: The water will stay warmer when the reservoir is full. It’s much easier for a volume of 20 gallons to maintain heat than it is for only 5 gallons.

2) Place your Tower in the Sunniest Location: If you have the option of moving your Tower to a sunnier location, do so. The days are shorter and the sun less intense in the winter months. Your produce will be happier with more sun.

READ MORE

Download the Fall Growing Guide

Towers 11-14-13 2Wondering what to grow this fall? So many veggies and herbs are happy to grow during this wonderful time of year when the weather is not too hot and not too cold. To help you select greens, lettuces, herbs and produce for your fall Tower, here’s a list of fall plants Mike and I have enjoyed growing or have been successfully grown by other central Florida Tower Gardeners.

Click on the “Fall Growing Guide” listed on the Resources and Downloads page of this blog and let me know if and how it helped you!

5 Tips for Growing Lettuce in the Summer

Severely Bolted Red Crisp Magenta Lettuce

Severely Bolted Red Crisp Magenta Lettuce

One of my absolute favorite things about the Tower Garden is the ability to grow lettuce all year round here in central Florida. Because the ground gets too warm causing dormancy, lettuce can’t be grown in the traditional garden during our summer months.

That said, it’s helpful to keep the following things in mind when growing summer lettuce in the Tower Garden:

Bolting: Lettuce will bolt much faster in the summer due to the combination of heat and longer hours of sun. What is bolting?  Read more: Newsletter – 5 Tips for Growing Lettuce.

 

How To Keep Seedlings Cool in the Summer

Seedlings grow much better when the water surrounding the base of the rockwool is cool. This can be a challenge in the summer. Here’s how I keep our seedlings cool until they’re ready to be transferred to the Tower.

Hope this helps you grow lots of strong seedlings this summer! If you’d like to receive my posts, please click the ‘SUBCRIBE’ button near the top of the right hand column.

 

Oops… Large Plant, Wrong Place

Tower Garden instructions indicate it’s best to place herbs and large plants in the bottom rows of the tower. After a year of tower gardening, we’ve learned the reasons behind this directive include what can happen both outside and inside the tower.

Blocked Water Flow:  For example, the photo below shows how the root system from a Tuscany kale plant, grown at the top of the tower, wrapped around the inside blocking water flow to the plants below. But what you can’t see is how the roots extended down 4 levels!

Kale Roots

The kale root system is small compared to what you see in the following photo. One tower gardener discovered just how aggressive mint can be when the roots of two plants completely blocked the flow of water within the tower. Another tower gardener had a similar experience with purple basil planted near the top of her tower.

Too much mint

We usually have mint growing in the bottom row but have learned to remove the plant once it reaches a certain size, regardless of it’s location.  How can you tell it’s time to pull it out? Remove one of the plants in that row so you can see what’s happening inside the tower. When there’s a thickness of roots wrapping all the way around the inside, pull out the mint. Dry the plant for tea, plant it in a pot, or give it to family or friends.

A few weeks before that point, start more mint. Fortunately propagating mint is quite easy. Cut about a 3-inch piece off the top of the plant, remove all but the very top 4 leaves, place the stock in rock wool that has been soaking in water for 30 minutes, and transfer the rock wool to the tower.

Blocked Sunlight:  Large plants growing at the top of the tower cause another problem…shade. Take a look at this huge brussel sprout and thriving parsley. Seedlings placed in lower net pots will struggle to receive the proper light, whereas reversal of the top and bottom plants in this tower would solve that problem.

Brussel and parsley

Now you know two reasons behind planting the Tower Garden like a pyramid…smallest at the top and largest at the bottom. Remember, young plants can be moved around. If you think a plant might do better in a different location, don’t hesitate to change it.

What are those Caterpillars on the Parsley?

Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar 1 Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar 2

These beautiful caterpillars are sometimes mistaken for the Monarch variety, but in fact they will become Black Swallowtail butterflies. Of course, that’s after they consume all the leaves off your parsley, dill, or fennel plants. (The lower photo is the same caterpillar after I touched it. The two orange tentacles pop out of their head when you do that.)

eastern black swallowtail butterfly courtesy IFas - Donald Hall of U of F

I was willing to sacrifice our potted parsley plant for the good of these little guys. After all, they will turn into striking butterflies that pollinate plants and watching the tentacles pop out of their head several times was pretty entertaining. If you’re willing to sacrifice your parsley plant, I have good news….it can regenerate. Here’s a photo of ours making a surprising comeback a couple days after the caterpillars disappeared.

Parsley coming back

To save the foliage on your plant, just remove the caterpillars. No need to spray anything. Since they only consume parsley, fennel, Queen Anne’s lace and dill, they will die without these food sources. Another option is to give them their own food source, perhaps a second plant or fresh herbs from the grocery store placed in a narrow container of water. A narrow container prevents the caterpillars from falling into the water and drowning.

As garden pests go, these are good ones. Providing a food source for butterfly caterpillars, other than the plants you want to eat, is a win-win for insect, human and the environment alike.