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Go vertical to grow your garden

Joan Fieldstone

May 19, 2015

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Landscaping and PoolsGreen Living

For some time I've been reading about vertical gardens from both a home décor and garden design perspective as well as a green, eco-friendly one. If I didn't seem to kill every plant I've ever tried to grow -- or live with cats who are prone to chewing anything in a plant container, including botanicals made from silk -- I'd have a house full of all sorts of flowers and greenery. I can't think of a finer way to decorate a home than bringing natural elements into your interior environment, assuming you appreciate them and are not allergic.

I've also been intrigued by the idea of growing my own produce. I'm not a vegetarian, but I love salads and the delicious taste of fruits and veggies that are not contaminated with foul-tasting chemicals or shipped from thousands of miles away. Most of the latter seem to rot from the inside out before they are even ripe, and at best they taste bland. Let's just say I like my produce to be as yummy as Mother Nature intended it to be.

'Grow up' with aeroponic gardening

I found out recently that my acquaintance, Aileen Easley, shares with me a similar philosophy about nutrition. When I saw she'd put up a page on Facebook about a product she is promoting -- one that I'd seen about a year or two ago that had totally caught my interest at that time -- I decided to give her a call to find out more about it.

The Tower Garden is a vertical garden system for anyone who wants to grow fruits and vegetables and maximize their growing space. It's ideal for a sunny spot on your deck or balcony, taking up as little as 2.5-by-2.5 feet of space. With growing compartments for 20 plants and room for an additional eight with extensions, even one Tower Garden can be your own little produce farm on your back patio thanks to the wonders of aeroponic gardening.

Aileen described Tower Garden as the "easiest way for someone with no green thumb to grow their own food from garden to plate." With urban homesteading growing in popularity, this is a great way to try your hand at a little city-slicker farming. Studies have shown that growing plants using aeroponic technology produces 30 percent more than the equivalent soil gardening. Growing times are shortened, too.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

So far Aileen and her family have successfully grown bell peppers, hot peppers, and strawberries with their Tower Garden, but the TG can be used to grow flowers (both ornamental and edible), herbs, lettuce and other leafy greens like spinach and kale. You can grow tomatoes and even melons in the lower compartments -- anything except trees and root vegetables. The system pumps water and nutrients from a reservoir in the base up through the tower to nourish the growing plants' roots. If you're concerned about water usage in drought-stricken areas, it uses a fraction of the water conventional soil gardening requires. The pump runs on a timer, so the Tower does require access to an electrical outlet. As with any garden, you must provide care and maintenance. Fortunately, as the TG has caught on a lot of forums and YouTube videos online have been sharing best practices for optimal results.

One of the things Aileen likes most about Tower Gardens is that the company is committed to teaching kids about the benefits of growing and eating fruits and vegetables. Their policy of donating Tower Gardens to schools gives students the opportunity to learn hands-on about how plant nutrition originates. Some schools even have made "garden to plate" a full-cycle learning experience by utilizing in school lunches the fruits and veggies the children have grown and harvested.

If you have the space for one or more of these growing systems and would like more information, check their website or Google "Tower Garden."

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