Britt and I hosted a really cool event in our back yard one gloriously beautiful morning a few weeks back. 20+ folks arrived to learn more about what a Tower Garden® is…and if it’s something they’d want to consider having for themselves. While sipping on smoothies, we were schooled in all things Tower Garden® by a great friend of mine…Bret Bowlin, with ATL Urban Farms. ATL Urban Farms is one of only about 10 or so certified seedling providers for Tower Garden® in the US. (And if you don’t know what a Tower Garden® is, check out this post that I did last year on mine.)
During his presentation, Bret shared his best practices for growing food in a Tower Garden®. And they are really very helpful tips. And as I read through Bret’s information, I realized that not only are his tips helpful for growing food in a Tower Garden®, but they are also very helpful for those of us who are growing food more traditionally as well…in the ground.
So I thought I’d share Bret’s tips with you…tweaking them a bit to apply to wherever you grow your fruits and veggies. [To download a PDF of Bret’s Tower Garden® best practices handout, click here.]
1. Start Strong & Start Right!
Whether you’re growing veggies in a Tower Garden®, in the ground, or in a container…it’s important that you start strong and start right. In other words, make sure you’re starting with the right plants for where you live in the right season…make sure you plant them where they will thrive (location)…and that you provide them with the nutrients they’ll need to produce the harvest you’re looking to enjoy (soil).
I know…pretty basic right? But what I’ve found is…both personally and with my clients…that these basics are often not fully thought through before many people take their first steps down their veggie garden path. And the results…or lack thereof…can be very frustrating. Then what’s worse is that because they weren’t successful the first time, many people won’t ever try it again. Which is a very sad reality.
So do yourself a favor and…start strong & start right!
Tower Garden® Tip – Start Strong!: Where you live helps you plan crops and seasonal change-outs. Generally, 55°F at night defines cool vs. warm season transition. Plants thrive with direct sun, water, minerals, air circulation, and pruning (harvesting). Learn the basics of Tower Tonic and pH.
- Know Your Plant Hardiness Zone
- Choose Your Crops
- Choose the Right Location
- Water and Testing
2. Love Your Plants & Get to Know Them
If you were to pop over to my yard one morning or early evening…besides scaring me, you’d likely find me walking through our veggie garden…checking things out…and even possibly singing to my vegetative lovelies. The point has nothing to do with my vocal prowess…but everything to do with keeping an eye on how things are progressing…loving your plants, some might say.
You can’t expect your plants to care for themselves, nor can you expect to know everything about them if you’re just starting out. So make it a point to spend time in your garden every day…watching your veggies grow, making sure nothing’s wrong, and getting to know what seems to be working and what doesn’t.
And if something doesn’t seem right, consider it an opportunity to do a little research to determine if it is or isn’t. Then as time goes by your gardening expertise will increase right along with your experience.
Tower Garden® Tip – Hug Your Tower…Love Your Plants: Become a detective, you don’t need all the answers at first, just start looking and becoming familiar. Learn as you grow, one season at a time.
- Become A Detective
- Look for Changes and Clues
- Experience = Expertise
3. Be Responsive
Timing is everything when growing your own food…which is why Tip #2, loving your plants, is so important. You need to stay on top of everything.
If you’re not checking on things your veggie garden can go downhill quickly. What starts as a small deal will become a big deal in no time (e.g., an infestation of some sort)…and if you don’t do something right away…all your previous efforts could be for not. So be on the lookout…be responsive…act now!
And to be as responsive as you should be, you’d be wise to plan ahead and have what you’ll likely need on-hand vs. having to make a trip to the store to get what you need – by that time it may be too late! (In his Tower Garden® Tip below, Bret provides a list of just 4 items that will take care of most of your pest issues.)
Similarly, know when it’s time to harvest…and eat it then. Doing so will not only give you tastier veggies, it will also likely help produce more veggies and a healthier plant. I don’t know how many squash or zucchinis we had to toss our first year of growing veggies…simply because we waited too long to pick them. In a matter of just a few days what seemed to be smallish zuccs turned into ginormous almost watermelon-sized zuccs…and not the kind you want to eat…or at least we didn’t.
Tower Garden® Tip – Be Responsive: Eat Faster! Timely harvest keeps crops healthier. Check the basics…water level, pump, timer. Determine the source of an issue…then respond! You only need four basic products to take care of 90% of all issues…Horticultural oil, soap, contact spray, and Bt (for caterpillars).
- Harvest – Eat Faster
- Troubleshoot – Process of Elimination
- Treat – Attack the problem areas
- Read – Gain knowledge through research
4. Plan Your Next Move
Veggie gardening is a year-round deal. There’s always something to do or to prepare for. So don’t wait to plan your next move until after your current garden is completely spent…plan ahead.
Based on what you’ve recently learned, what season you’re in, and what new veggies you want to try out plan your next garden before you’re finished with the current one. One way to help you plan and to expand your veggie horizons is to connect with fellow gardeners…sharing ideas, war-stories, and your vita-packed bounty as well.
Tower Garden® Tip – Plan Your Next Move: You’re gaining momentum and experience. You’ve learned the basics, now start refining your Tower Garden® experience.
- Consider the Season
- Plan a Crop
- Join a Community
- Share with Friends
Alright…there you have it, 4 really basic veggie garden tips that will surely help you improve both your yield and level of enjoyment.
Take care all,