The Tower Garden Experiment

 I work for a school district in Kansas.  Some of us, who wanted to work with it, were provided an extremely nice Tower Garden from Juice Plus+.  It has all the bells and whistles including a very nice light kit.  What we produce in the tower will be served to the kids getting lunch in the area during the summer.  During the school year it will be served to students in the schools.  We won't be able to produce enough for every school but may do a round robin type thing.  

The Tower Garden is a hydroponic unit, meaning your plants grow without dirt.  It uses water and nutrients that you add.  The pH needs to be kept fairly neutral as well.  That is all down in the bottom part and there is a pump inside that pumps the liquid up to the top in that center tube and it runs down the insides and keeps the plants moistened.  The outer structure is called a "tomato cage".

This first photo shows the tower assembled and waiting for the light kit and plants.

The seedlings need to be started outside the garden.  They are planted in Rock Wool and covered with vermiculite to keep them moist.  It only took 3 days to see the first sprouts!

This is how they appeared one week later, quite the growth!  If you click on the image (any of the images) it will be able to be viewed larger and you can see what I have planted.

The seedilings are thinned and in the tower as the lights have arrived.  Very exciting.  The pump runs for about 3 minutes at a time and waters the tower.  Then it is off for about 10 minutes or so and so on throughout the day.  The lights will run for about 14 hours as reccomended.  They are also on a timer.  It's all very slick.  The top ports are empty at the moment as I have some spinach seeds sprouting and they were not ready to go in the tower quite yet.

It's all very fun and exciting and I will be very interested to see how it all goes and exactly how much it will actually produce.  Photos I have seen on the web of this type of thing shows that they seem to do well.  Time will tell.

Keep checking back to follow the progress.  I plan to post a photo at least once a week to show the plant development.

Update 1 - 6/22/21

Here are the seedlings at 2 weeks old growing in the Tower for a week.

Update 2 - 6/28/21

Here are the seedlings at 3 weeks old.  They are showing a good amount of growth.  At the top of the tower are 8 pots that are now planted with the Spinach seedlings that I had sprouted in the refrigerator.  

Update 3 - 7/6/21

Here we are at week 4.  Some significant growth since last week.  The Gormet lettue is really developing well.  The other items, Bibb, Kale and Spinach are producing recognizable leaves and are coming along well too.  I took this image at a bit of a different angle so that one of the 2 Tomato plants is visible in the lower right.  It is developing very well and looking quite healthy.

Update 4 - 7/15/21

A bit of a delay, I was out of the office and then I forgot my phone to be able to take a photo.  Here is the Tower at week 5.  Crazy growth on the lettuce.  It is doing the best.  I rearranged the lights, I am thinking the Spinach was not getting enough.  The Kale is not as far along as the lettuce either but itis coming.  The Tomato plants are doing quite well and are about as big as my ones I have at home in my garden.  No flowers as of yet though.

Update 5 - 7/19/21

This is how the Tower looked on Monday.  Very full.  The Lettuce is doing quite well as are the tomato plants which are starting to get flowers on them.  I am in the process of pollinating them, hopefully it works.  

Update 6 - 7/21/21

Harvested a lot of the lettuce on the Tower.  Left the Kale and Spinach to see how it does with more light available.  What was harvested made for several nice sized bags of lettuce that we handed out at one of our summer feeding sites.  I ad a report that the kids were very excited to receive fresh lettuce.

Update 7 - 7/26/21

After the harvest the Tower was looking slightly bare but as I thought, the Kale and other lettuce with more light has begun to fill in.

I also took this photo of the flowers the Tomato plant is producing.  If my pollinating is succesful, we should have several clusters of tomatoes.  I am using the vibrating technique and vibrate the flowers once a day or more to simulate the bees moving them around.  Crossing my fingers that it works.  😁

Update 8 - 8/3/21

We are up to 7 weeks in the Tower.  The Lettuce has gone just crazy and is quite beautiful looking.  The tomatoe plants are to the top of the Windows!  The lettuce needs harvested again and we will most likely do that next Monday and use for a staff training where I will tell them about the Tower Project and how it will be used during the school year.  The Spinach is bolting and will be replaced with lettuce and possibly some Basil Plants as well.  

Additional update, we have tomatoes!  In addition to the plants growing so tall we have actual tomatoes!  My buzzing the flowers like a bee has actually worked.  I am very happy.  You can see them in the upper/middle left of the image, especially if you view it large.

Update 9 - 8/10/21

So we are at Week 8 of the Tower Garden.  Here is a shot of my second group of tomatoes.  Very exciting!  My bee buzzing is working well.

Here is what the Tower itself looks like.  The 2 tomato plants are crazy!  As you can see almost to the ceiling.  There are bunches of flowers.  So even more tomatoes to come.  We harvested the lettuce again yesterday and had it for our Team training.  It was beautiful and a hit.  The plants are all getting rather unruly and I think I am going to start some more lettuce seed and basically start over.  I may grow some Basil in the lower light areas as that will be a good partner to the tomatoes.  I have Basil growing in a semi shaded area of my garden at home and it does well, just slower.  The Kale did not do as well as I would have expected.  I think the lettuce blocked too much light to it.  It is the darker green in the lower left and mid left of the image.

A late update - Update 10 - 8/20/21

All the lettuce and spinach has been harvested.  I removed what was left of those plants because they were becoming bitter and unmanageable.  The roots on these plants were amazing to see.  Quite long and thick, like white hair.  I have new seedlings started of lettuce and a few Basil plants.  As you can see, the Tomato plants are still going crazy.  This is only 2 plants that have grown like a jungle.  There are all kinds of baby tomatoes but none that are ripening yet.

Update 11 - 8/27/21

The tomatoes are ripening!  4 of them were ready to eat.  The 2 plants are still crazy big.  They would provide enough tomatoes for home use.  For use at school, I don't think enough will ripen at one time to make it worthwhile even with as crazy big as the plants got and the number of tomatoes it seems to be producing.

Update 12 - 9/20/21

I have not updated for awhile.  Not much to see except how crazy the tomato plants are.  This is the result of only 2 plants.  View large to really appreciate.  They have just about taken over the tower and window.  Just crazy.  They are producing a good amount of Cherry Tomatoes, not enough for a school but would be great for a family.  It's been an interesting experiment.  My Cherry tomatoes in the garden have never grown or produced like this.  There is also new lettuce growing in the tower and a few Basil plants.


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