I am new to the Tower Garden site, but I am not new to tower garden farming. I am hoping to share some thoughts and experiences that I have learned managing a tower farm. For many of you, tower growing is a new adventure and likely more complicated than you had hoped, but fear not, it is not that difficult once the nuances are learned.
First a little background, this product was developed by a gentleman named Tim Blank back in 1993. Tim is an accomplished grower and agronomist, and very highly respected in the industry. So much so that he was hired by Disney to oversee their Living on the Land (if I am correct about the name) exhibit at Epcot. He worked that exhibit with cutting edge technology for years. Eventually he left to promote the Future Growing Brand full time. Tim, and Future Growing, are who we (Bakers Bay Golf & Ocean Club in the Bahamas) purchased our first 72 towers from. Their customer support was fantastic and I have two extremely able local Bahamians managing Bakers Farm with outstanding care and success.
For reasons that I am not privy to, Tim coupled with Juice Plus+ to market the product for the residential market, in which I must assume the majority of you fall into. Future Growing still markets to commercial clients and growers. You can check out their website at Future Growing.com where you may pick up some useful information.
Some of the issues that I have seen consistently since I began to monitor this site are regarding light, pH monitoring, the correct nutrient solution (we use automatic Dosatron units to meter the nutrients to each of our reservoirs, taking any guess work out of it). First let me say that these towers were developed to be used outdoors. If you are not a seasoned gardener, along with this cutting edge technology that is new to you, it is even tougher trying to accomplish it indoors. Keep in mind, most of what you are growing much prefers natural light, no matter how good the artificial light sources have become. They also prefer fresh air, breeze, rain, etc. Air conditioning is not conducive to good growing conditions, nor is the low humidity that AC promotes. No natural breeze is a downside to indoor growing, as is no natural insects, some of which are helpful (not all bugs are bad), obviously a major factor for those of you who have had pollination problems. The pH of the solution is critical, within reason, follow the directions and mix it correctly. Check it daily and learn how to correct it properly (gently and easily, no major swings all at once). Water source is also a critical component, you may not think so, but tap water is full of all kinds of things that are not good for growing, that is why we use well water, sophisticated filter system on our pump stations, and other technology in horticulture to provide the most conducive water we can. Chlorine or chlorides, fluoride, and many other additives that are supposed to solve other issues, or provide healthcare advantages to humans, are all toxic to plants, none of those things are in rainwater (ever notice how your lawn looks naturally greener after a thunderstorm? It is related to how the molecules in the water ard charged by the atmosphere). Test your water for pH and other solubles and try to find an affordable way to adjust it for maximum growing performance. I have noticed some rather long intervals of on/off time in pumping the nutrients. Indoors (with which I am not overly familiar), may be somewhat different, but outdoors, especially in warmer temperatures, I run the nutrient solution through the tower for 15 seconds every three minutes, 24 hours per day, and I have an alarm that will alert my phone if something goes wrong, I have seen great looking crops go bad in as little as 45 minutes. Keep in mind, the root systems are hanging in the air, no growing medium to hold moisture or nutrition.
Do not be afraid to use any seed brand of your liking, there is no magic bullet here, and any plants that you prefer, although we only grow short crop plants, the system has never been extremely conducive to long, heavy vines, like tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins. It is fine to experiment, but those crops are a lot of work, take up valuable space, and restrict the use of other parts of the tower, not good if you are looking for maximum production. We leave those plants in the ground where they are far easier to manage. We do use the old solution from the reservoirs to fertilize the bedding plants. We change the solution and clean the reservoirs every few crop rotations to provide fresh nutrients, and to combat some of the other issues I have seen discussed. Finally, never remove the entire plant, roots and all, unless you have a good reason for wanting to do so. If you learn to harvest properly, you can get at least two, and sometimes three good harvests from the same plant before it begins to fizzle and you will want to replace it with a new one. Each successive crop may be a little less perfect than the first, but still far better and fresher than store bought.
I hope some of this was helpful to some of you testing your skills with this great technology.