In the last two years my husband Doug, my two daughters, and I have embraced growing as much of our own food as possible. This is the story of how we went from having difficulty growing many crops because of limited space, and a short Pacific Northwest growing season, to harvesting a large variety of plants year round.
Our impression at Jan’s farm
Mitra: In the early spring of 2011, a group of us took a trip with Jay Martin to the Living Towers Farm in Eustis, Florida. The first thing I noticed was the sign that said, “Beyond Organic”. Of course I wanted to know what that meant! When you walk into your first aeroponic commercial farm, it appears a little sci-fi, futuristic, and cool. Dr. Jan’s Young’s farm was all that and more. What brought it all down to Earth was the taste of the herbs. I am a foodie and I love to cook. I am way into the science of plant-based nutrition. After tasting the basil, I was intrigued. Next was cilantro, and I was sold. The herbs were bursting with flavor – a sign of nutrient-dense foliage.
I was extremely impressed by this technology, but I did wonder about the plastic. Why plastic? Why not ceramic or something more earthy for the container? Tim explained that the Tower was like a kitchen appliance, which means that plastic allows for precision parts. He too was concerned about the containers used in typical hydroponic growing – particularly Styrofoam, which is the most prevalent vertical material. The Tower Gardens® are made of food-grade, UV-protected plastic that will last many decades. During the exercise of assembling the Tower Gardens®, I realized that something earthy and fragile like ceramic would just not do the trick.
Next, we had lunch with all Tower Garden®-grown produce. All I can say is, yum! For dessert, I walked over to the strawberry Tower and decided right then and there that I would own at least one tower dedicated exclusively to strawberries. How fun is that?! And I began to realize what the term “Beyond Organic” really tasted like. We ordered three Tower Gardens® after that amazing urban farm tour.
Our Initial Experience with Tower Gardens
Doug: Spring weather in the Pacific Northwest can be challenging when it comes to gardening, so the opportunity to experiment with the Tower Garden® created a whole new passion for gardening in me. Before Tower Gardens®, our home had limited opportunities for food production. It’s on a steep hill facing south/southwest. We don’t receive direct sunlight until midday, and there are very few flat spaces that get enough sun to nourish a garden. The Tower Garden® provided a perfect solution to our particular gardening challenges. Since our deck is the place that receives the earliest direct sunlight during the day, the Tower Garden® also provided a wonderful opportunity to grow food in a small space on our deck.
Mitra: We live on a steep hill with very little land for growing food. It is beautiful, but there is not much gardening space. The only flat piece of land was at the bottom of a 120-step staircase. A few years prior, Doug had managed to drag enough gardening material down to the beach to create a nice waterfront garden. But maintenance required long hours. When the Tower Gardens® arrived, we had to make space for seedlings in the house, so we set the Towers right out on the patio. This was in April in the Pacific Northwest. Within a month, we were eating salads from the Tower Gardens®.Every morning, we make a green drink with dark leafy greens, seasonal fruits and seeds (flax, chia, and sunflower). In the past, we got our local, organic greens from our co-op. I never imagined that I would like our Tower Garden®-grown greens so much better! There is nothing like picking your greens the same day as eating them. Every gardener knows that. But these greens are especially good. I asked Tim about the term, “aeroponics” again. In fact, by this time I had spent several hours on the phone learning from Tim about aeroponics. During a business trip to Seattle in 2011, Tim had a chance to visit our home and give us some pointers. Through our sharing, we decided to do a webinar together on this information, which you can listen to here:
The more we learned, the more excited we got. I honestly have lost count as to how many Tower Gardens we’ve bought, as we are also lending some to our daughters’ school and to local grow shops. We were having too much fun. We built a terraced garden and made incredible use of the little space we had up near the house. I love to sit outside on the balcony, eat lunch with our own produce, and listen to the running water from the Tower Gardens®. The first summer, we grew peppers, cauliflower, tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, all kinds of salad greens, and dark leafy greens. We all felt like we had taken our already healthy lifestyle to another level with fresh produce at our fingertips. And of course, we all ate from the strawberry Tower.
Next month: how we transitioned to year-round growing with the Tower Gardens®, and how growing your own food in a Tower Garden® is less expensive than buying your produce.