16 Replies Latest reply on Jul 11, 2016 10:12 PM by leahbrooks

    growing spinach in the tower garden?

      Has anyone found a trick to get seedlings for spinach to take off and continue growing in the tower garden? I have not had success in the tower. I have tried indoors and outdoors in the summer. t

        • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
          joed

          Hi sgheen, Spinach is fussy and inconsistent in hydroponic systems like the TG... almost to the point of being not worth the effort (many commercial TG growers avoid it). Spinach is also notoriously difficult to germinate (temperature control and age of seeds is critical). If you still consider growing spinach in the TG a worthwhile investment in time and energy then you may find this information helpful:

           

          How to Grow Spinach In Your Tower Garden

           

          FYI:

          • Spinach is a cool weather crop that lends itself well to the hydroponic realm only when properly cared for. It does not perform as well in higher temperatures. Prolonged warm temperatures will cause most varieties of spinach to bolt to seed, which basically ruins your crop. Spinach that has bolted is bitter.
          • Temperature should never exceed 75 F at anytime during the growing process. Average day cycle temperatures of 65 - 70 F and average night time temperatures of 60 - 65 F will contribute to the best results, in quality and in producing a quick timely harvest.
          • Spinach germinates best at temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees.
          • For seeds that have not yet been germinated - store at 40 to 70 degrees F., cold stratification for a week or two prior to planting is a nifty little trick some growers use. Keep the seeds in the refrigerator for a few weeks before sowing them - it has the effect of hardening them and leads to a healthier plant.
          • Seeds become less viable as they age, germination rates decline incredibly. Be sure to use seed that is packaged for the current growing season.
          • Spinach typically takes 6-10 days to germinate.
          • Resist the temptation to transfer spinach seedlings into the TG until you see roots exiting the rockwool cube (two weeks is typical).

           

          -- [please mark this post as "Correct Answer" and/or "Helpful" when appropriate] -- Happy Growing! -JoeD towergarden level2concepts tgtech TG Tech

          11 of 11 people found this helpful
          • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
            growstrongllc

            Thanks this is very helpful.  It explains why a set of spinach seedlings I started in the fall germinated fine, and I had a bumper crop of spinach in my indoor tower garden all fall and early winter for about 4 months. The tower is in the basement which is cool enough to prevent them from suffering  Sadly, when changing out my tower for a fresh round of crops this winter, I made the mistake of putting the seed starter tray on top of the fridge, which for most of my seedlings helped them germinate quickly. Now I understand that was too warm for the spinach seedlings. I'm going to try again, this time putting the seeds in the fridge before planting, and leaving them in a very cool spot in the basement to germinate.

            1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
              leahbrooks

              The #1 suggestion I have is to get good seeds. I buy mine from Johnny's Seeds. I've started about 120 spinach seedlings this year with no problems at all using Johnny Seeds. They do prefer to germinate in cooler weather; though I did germinate about 30 about 2 weeks ago in Florida weather (ranging from the 70s to the 80s). They are looking gorgeous! Direct seeding into the Tower Garden often provides a cooler environment than starting in a tray. Give that a try.

                • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
                  joed

                  Sidenote: I do not recommend starting any type of seed directly in the TG. And doing so does not necessarily provide a "cooler environment". As a matter of fact, it can be just the opposite. Seedling tray vs. TG temperature really depends on geographic location and several other factors.

                  -- [please mark this post as "Correct Answer" (under Actions menu) and/or "Helpful" when appropriate] -- Happy Growing! -JoeD towergarden level2concepts tgtech TG Tech

                    • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
                      leahbrooks

                      Back in March of 2011, when I bought my first Tower Garden, there were many things that were not recommended. For instance, strawberries came in little dirt pots in netting and we grew mini everything (mini Bibb, mini peppers, etc). We thought towers would be a Florida, Texas, California phenomenon, and only for a few select dedicated gardeners. Happily, we were wrong! Towers have taken off all over the country...people grow gigantic plants...gardening happens in every climate...and more!

                       

                      One of my team mates introduced direct seeding to me. In fact, she was not even soaking her rockwool. Just popping a dry rockwool cube into the net pot, adding seeds, and starting her plants. It worked for her and she is a rockstar Tower gardener.

                       

                      Just for fun, I decided to try this method two years ago with spinach and lettuce. 100% germination. Next I tried with green beans. 100% germination. Hmmm.... let's try some other stuff. And why not? Tower Gardens are fun! Let's experiment! Just make sure you pop that rockwool cube in a hole that gets plenty of sun (not under that giant Swiss chard plant).

                       

                      I'm off to go play in my garden. Here's a pic from yesterday. You can't see the spinach on the back side, but it was direct seeded. Have a beautiful day!

                       

                      Leah BrooksAtlanta Tower Garden.jpg

                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                        • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
                          joed

                          Hi leahbrooks, I am glad to see your growing approach works for you. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That being said, what works for you will not necessarily work for everyone else. Everyone's growing environment is different... each with different challenges. The recommendations made to the TG growing masses via documents like the TG Growing Guide are based in scientific fact and attempt to provide general guidelines that will cover the majority of growing conditions across the country. A little deviation from the general guidelines, like not pre-rinsing rockwool, can in many situations, completely prevent seed germination. Again, if your process works for you (and by the looks of your picture, it does) then stick with it. However, it is important to realize that your process works because of your specific growing environmental and physical conditions. Change any little aspect of your environment and that may no longer be the case.

                          -- [please mark this post as "Correct Answer" (under Actions menu) and/or "Helpful" when appropriate] -- Happy Growing! -JoeD towergarden level2concepts tgtech TG Tech

                            • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
                              leahbrooks

                              Joe, you should give it a try . I've shared this method to a couple of hundred people who are growing in all different circumstances (growing indoors, growing in cool climates, etc) and we've found that it can overcome one of the hurdles many people have with starting their own seeds - TIME! Popping a dry rockwool cube into the tower and dropping in a couple of Romaine seeds takes seconds and can mean the difference between growing and not growing for that busy mom of toddlers.

                               

                              We've found this method works reliably for things that germinate quickly, like lettuce and green beans. I've had 100% success with spinach. Fresh seeds are key, of course, but that holds true for any germination method.

                               

                              This method doesn't always work the best for tomatoes and peppers and eggplant, which can take longer to germinate.

                               

                              I'm not sure how not pre-rinsing rockwool would prevent germination. Put a dry rockwool cube in your tower and see what happens. Over a few hours, it will be just as wet as any rockwool cube that is pre-soaked.

                               

                              I've started thousands of seedlings...indoors under grow lights ... outdoors in the sun ... directed seeded into the tower .... and have not found it to be a difficult process. Water, light, and fresh seeds seem to be the key. Most issues can be resolved just by making sure those three components are there. I don't actually follow the growing guide, which was not available when I started growing Tower Gardens. I've not used vermiculite, I don't gradually move the seedlings into light, etc. Full sunlight immediately after planting or within a day of planting works for me...and for many others.

                               

                              Thanks for your input, Joe. You might find it fun to give this method a try.

                               

                              seedlings 2.jpg

                              seedling 3.jpg

                              1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
                                  joed

                                  Hi leahbrooks, Sorry, I think you misunderstood me... permit me to clarify: I didn't say direct seed planting in the TG and not pre-soaking rockwool doesn't work... What I am saying is that without question, doing so does not provide your plants with an *optimal* growing environment. And for the record, Yes... I have experimented with direct TG seeding, "dry" rockwool, different pH ranges, and many other "unconventional" growing practices over the years. Time and time again, the guidelines provided by the experts (that can backup their recommendations with scientific fact - important!) have proved to be the most *consistent* and *optimal* for the *majority* of TG growers across the country. For what it's worth, experimenting "outside the box" is how I came to discover the optimal nutrient pump timing for the TG - 1 minute On, 5 minutes Off. Turns out the 15/15 timer recommendation is based on a limitation of the supplied TG timer and not because of any cold hard scientific fact. As to your comment about saving time, personally, I don't see the benefit in saving a little time by cutting process corners if doing so might, in any way, jeopardize consistency and/or produces a sub-optimal growing environment. I grow in a way that gives my plants the absolute best chance of producing a healthy and consistent harvest.

                                   

                                  You may find the following scientific facts helpful. They are just a few (not all) points behind the guideline recommendations we have discussed in this thread:

                                   

                                  Placing seeds directly in the TG (not a good idea):

                                  Various substances such as abscisic acid, cinnamic acid, and phenolic compounds produced by plants prevent the germination of seeds until conditions are favorable for development. These growth inhibitors delay seed germination until the inhibitor substance has been leached away (typically by the presence of water). Some growth inhibitors even act on the seeds of other species, thus limiting their competition for growing space. When you place seeds directly into the TG, you leach these growth inhibitors into the nutrient solution. Because the TG is a recirculating system, these growth inhibitors eventually make there way to all the plants in your TG. This is certainly not an optimal growing environment for your young seedlings.

                                   

                                  Pre-Soaking Rockwool:

                                  Rockwool out of the box has a very high pH. This is due to lime deposits leftover from the manufacturing process. All rockwool manufacturers (who are the ultimate experts with this grow medium) instruct users of their product to pre-soak the medium for at least 30 minutes in water that is pH adjusted to the target nutrient solution pH (i.e. 5.5 to 6.0). When you place "dry" rockwool cubes directly into the TG without pre-soaking, the lime leaches out into the nutrient solution and fights with the pH buffer compounds in your water... ultimately causing a rise in pH. This in turn, causes various vital minerals (like calcium) to become unavailable to your plant's roots and in extreme cases can cause these minerals to precipitate (come out of solution and form visible solid matter (ex: crystals) floating around in your nutrient solution.

                                   

                                  -- [please mark this post as "Correct Answer" (under Actions menu) and/or "Helpful" when appropriate] -- Happy Growing! -JoeD towergarden level2concepts tgtech TG Tech

                                   

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                              • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
                                quixotequest

                                Leahbrooks: Are you direct seeding indoors with a grow light on, indoors alone, or outdoors with sunshine? I started my spinach well in my Aerogarden, but once moving to the TG its growth in its first 2 weeks has been slower and leggy. (As have been case with all my lettuces/greens.)

                              • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?

                                I prefer to start seeds directly in the tower when growing indoors.  I use dry rock wool, plant my seed, cover with vermiculite and pop it directly into a net pot on a tower.  The 15 on and 45 off is great for starting seeds and keeps the rock wool moist while the seed germinates.  I find that keeping TG growing simple invites even novices to be successful.  In my experience it is the ones that over complicate growing that have the most trouble.  The instruction manual is short for a reason... it's not that complicated.  Fear over starting seeds is keeping customers away from a full growing experience.  Success can be found by starting directly in the tower or by using a tray.  As long as seed is fresh and temps are right for the plants being started does it really matter how people get their seedlings started? 

                                2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                  • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
                                    joed

                                    Hi eatfresh365,

                                    "As long as seed is fresh and temps are right for the plants being started does it really matter how people get their seedlings started?"

                                    Yes, it does... for the reasons I cited above.These are the very same reasons commercial TG growers start seeds in trays (best chance of success with consistent, optimal growth). As an example, see the photos of a commercial TG installation coming soon to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL (note the seedling trays in the second photo). And for the record, the simple TG Growing Guide instructs TG owners to start seeds in a tray so I am not clear on your "The instruction manual is short for a reason... it's not that complicated" statement. To be clear here (and as not to offend those who would fight to the death to defend the "direct TG seeding" method)... I am NOT saying direct TG seeding doesn't work... all I am saying is that it is not optimal, and is not consistent with *all* types of plants.

                                     

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                                    -- [please mark this post as "Correct Answer" (under Actions menu) and/or "Helpful" when appropriate] -- Happy Growing! -JoeD towergarden level2concepts tgtech TG Tech

                                    1 of 3 people found this helpful
                              • Re: growing spinach in the tower garden?
                                kym

                                Amazing perspectives and experiences! I have had terrible luck with growing spinach, so I'll give the experiment of direct seeding a go!

                                 

                                We have found that growing in the Tower Garden is art and science, more like cooking than like baking. Baking requires precision and following the guidelines to a T or failure ensues! Cooking is more flexible, more art and creativity. And like both cooking and baking, if at first it doesn't work, start over and try it again!

                                 

                                We can all agree that our Tower Garden experiences bring a lot of joy. We encourage you to explore new plants, as well as try new methods! The guidelines are there to help, but the art of the garden is the ease of  experimentation. If this seed doesn't grow, plant a new one, and see how it goes!

                                 

                                Thank you to all of our impassioned Tower Gardeners. Happy Growing!

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