How do I transfer seedlings into my Tower Garden?
Remove plant from pot. Squeeze mass of roots and soil to disturb soil held together by roots, holding plant over a 5-gallon bucket to save the soil. When the majority of soil is knocked off, hold the seedling gently to keep from stressing the stem and swish the roots back and forth in a half-filled 5-gallon bucket of clean water. Finally, dip the entire seedling in a third half-filled 5 gallon bucket of water to remove any dust from the leaves.
You will find that a 3-4 week old seedling in earth has generated a thick network of roots. Many of the most tender roots will break off, but fewer roots are needed in the tower. Don't purposely break off any, but don't worry if you lose some in the soil removal step. Because roots can trail long, it may be useful to make an opening flap on the bottom of the black net pots. Here's how:
Flip the basket upside down and you'll see 18 spokes on the bottom, radiating from the center to the edge of the basket circle. Note the two spokes radiating right and left to points coinciding with the lipped half of the basket top. The spokes under the lipped side of the basket sit low when placed in the Tower. The non-lipped portion of the basket pops into the Tower and the spokes under it sit high.
Cut the 8 spokes under the non-lipped half of the basket, at the edge where they meet the bottom circle. Snip them close to the circle with small, pointed scissors (manicure scissors work well). When you finish cutting, you'll see that pinching the basket sides causes the flap to open. That's where you pull the developed roots through so that they are not compressed inside the basket.
After water-moistening the rockwool, you can use a paring knife to cut open one side so the roots can be laid into it, with the stem well-supported and most of the roots allowed to trail under it. Pinch the basket and drop the roots through the open flap. Seat the rockwool well and tug gently on the roots. Then place the basket into the Tower.
The trick to seating the basket is (1) after roots are all in, push basket down until the lipped half seats against the leading front edge of the Tower cup. (2) Put one thumb on each side of the basket where the lip ends and push until the non-lipped portion of the basket pops in.
When removing the basket a few weeks later at harvest, lift the lipped portion first (careful not to mash the plant against the Tower), then poke fingers just inside the Tower at the cup opening, to squeeze and pull out the non-lipped half of the basket. The roots will follow.