The instructions that come with the Tower Garden we bought are pretty thorough. We bought the Tower Garden home through JuicePlus. They also have lots of great resources on their blog. I just wanted to create a helpful reference sharing our journey in how to grow a hydroponic tower garden.
Ray got me a Tower Garden for my birthday, and the grow lights were out of stock. If they have them in stock I would suggest getting them. Despite the price, I think the convenience of being able to control them indoors is worth it. We may order some in the future, but for now we have kept our Tower Garden outdoors for the most part.
To start out, I wanted to find a good place to order the organic seeds I was looking for. The Tower Garden home we purchased did come with some starter seeds. I wasn’t able to find all of the seeds I wanted to try, but I found the majority through this site. With the packets we bought, we had more than enough to fill up the tower and even have extra for the future.
It is recommended for the Tower Garden home that you stick to baby greens, herbs, and large greens. I wanted to try out a few others, but I mainly stuck with that recommendation. If you would like to grow more of the flowering and fruiting plants alongside the greens and herbs I would suggest getting a Tower Garden flex. The Tower Garden flex does not have the option of the grow lights, but you could try to make your own set up.
What We Planted
Since this was our first experience growing anything from a seed, let alone in a hydroponic tower garden, we got a wide variety of seeds to try. We mainly chose foods that we already eat and buy at the store, so we could conveniently use them to make salads or garnish our meals. We have learned a lot just in the past five months about the challenges and benefits of having our own hydroponic tower garden. I hope that in sharing you will be able to learn and have success growing your own if you’re interested as well as learn from our mistakes.
When we were trying to figure out what is best to plant and the best way to arrange the different herbs and greens I could not find a ton of resources and information. So, we just winged it. I decided to document our journey in hopes of creating a helpful resource for others who are newbies at this too. For the first two rounds of seedlings we used the rock wool that came with our garden, but in the future I’m interested to try out coco coir.
So, onto what we actually planted as well as what worked and didn’t for us. We started out with snap peas, sorrel, calendula, watermelon, cauliflower, broccoli, collard greens, spinach, cilantro, parsley, mustard greens, kale, Brussel sprouts, celery, sweet peppers, snow peas, chard, fennel, arugula, and basil. The baby greens (arugula, basil, broccoli, chard, cilantro, kale, parsley, peas, sorrel, and spinach) were some of the quickest to sprout and be ready for transplant to the tower. They are also some of the most nutritious.
I had no method for where I placed the seedlings in the tower garden aside from the thought that the heavier fruiting plants should be closer to the bottom for more support. In less than eight weeks it was amazing to see how what once was a bunch of tiny seeds grew with just water and minerals into a huge, green garden ready to harvest and eat. I have to confess that to this day I still haven’t harvested the gigantic amount of fennel on our garden. It’s actually pretty important if you want to avoid pests and maintain growth to stay on top of pruning your garden. I have just been lazy the past couple months!
The plants that thrived and grew well were: the peas, sorrel, collard greens, spinach, cilantro, parsley, mustard greens, kale, sweet peppers, chard, fennel, and basil. Some tips for if you choose to grow the peas or peppers would be to grow them near the bottom. They grow super tall and will provide too much shade for some of your other plants so be aware and prepare for that. The calendula and watermelon grew for a while and even flowered, but I think when we went on vacation during the hottest week of the summer they got fried. The cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, celery, and arugula all started to grow and wilted away. I was pretty sad especially about the arugula that both times didn’t grow for me.
I think the top section of our tower garden does best with basil, cilantro, parsley, and other baby greens that won’t get crowded out or block the sun from the other greens. I would plant the kale and mustard greens which grew pretty large a little lower. For the most part, if you stick with the recommendations of baby greens, herbs, and greens I don’t think you should overthink your placement. As long as you are frequently pruning and using your plants your garden should thrive!
The user guide that comes with your hydroponic tower garden should come with detailed instructions on how you should maintain your tower. We typically have to refill the water tank every two weeks with around 20 gallons of water. We get reverse osmosis water in five gallon jugs to pour inside. You are supposed to check the pH every week. All of the supplies you need should be provided. The only thing we’ve needed to buy more of in the past five months is the mineral solution since we ran out. I think it’s also recommended that every six months you completely empty the garden to do a deep clean. You should wipe the tower down at least monthly or sooner as needed though.
We love to be able to just grab greens from our garden to make salads or get some herbs to garnish our meals with. They have a far superior flavor to store bought herbs and greens. I have made the most amazing pesto with the basil. I need to look up a way to try to preserve some of the fennel since we have so much!
A few other things to consider when deciding what to plant if you’re planting outdoors are the time of year that you are planting and what the weather is like where you live. This may affect the success of what you plant. Also keep in mind if you plan to travel. The garden is pretty self sustaining, but I would avoid leaving it out in the snow or rain or extreme heat conditions.
We had caterpillars show up overnight and take over half of our garden recently! They pooped all over our kale and mustard greens, so unfortunately we had to trash it. There are some great recommendations on the tower garden website for natural pesticides you can DIY. In order to prevent this from happening in the future, we are trying to keep the plants pruned to make it harder for pests to spread between them. I also try to check every day for signs of pests such as holes in the plants to get rid of them. If you have your tower garden indoors with grow lights it’s less likely this is an issue you will have to deal with.
We already love the flavor of what we’ve grown so much and the experience of watching the seeds sprout. I am so excited for us to continue growing our garden, and hopefully soon add a Tower Garden flex to our collection next! Do you have a garden? I would love for you to share your experience in the comments! I’m always learning and growing. To see more of my experience growing a hydroponic tower garden, check out my gardening highlight on instagram. Click here for more DIYs!