I had the opportunity to speak with Tim Blank (whose bio is available here) in an epic call, on June 8, 2011. You can listen to the call, but I’m planning to share parts of it with you over the next few newsletters so that you can read about the amazing Tower Garden™, and some of the reasons why it’s fun, affordable, and worthwhile to begin to grow your own produce. In this issue, I’ve summarized some of Tim’s key points about why hydroponic growing in your own yard is “beyond organic”, and you can’t get much more local.
Tower Garden™ has teamed up with Juice Plus®, and NSA anticipates that distributors will be able to order Tower Gardens in early 2012. In the meantime, my goal is to share as much as I can with you all about the delights of growing your own food. One important thing to remember is that, as people take Juice Plus®, they literally develop a greater desire for fresh fruit and vegetables, especially children. The reason that the Tower Garden™ and Juice Plus®, are such an amazing pairing is that people can get all of the benefits of taking Juice Plus®, and then turn around and eat the healthy and delicious food that they’ve grown themselves. You can grow the produce you want to eat in your Tower Garden™ and you can take the rest in a produce supplement — Juice Plus®.
In a nutshell, the Tower Garden™ is an aeroponic/hydroponic system that allows you to grow vertically, so that you can grow a tremendous amount of produce in a small space (such as a patio or deck), but without all of the hassle of regular hydroponics. Not only that, the food grown in a Tower Garden™ is more nutritious than almost any conventional or organic produce commercially available. You can grow in your backyard, year round, and “there is no weeding, tilling, kneeling, or getting dirty! The Tower Garden™ is a plug and play vertical garden. There is no need to have a green thumb.” So far we have not needed to protect against bugs, and our greens aren’t full of holes where bugs have been munching, as was typical for our traditional garden!
As part of a test market, my family already has several Tower Gardens™, and some of the crops we’re growing include many varieties of lettuce and kale, beans, basil, nasturtiums, cilantro, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, dill, strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, and peppers.
Question: Hydroponic growing isn’t necessarily “organic”. I thought that organic was the most important thing when it came to food. And what about organic fertilizers?
Answer: In organic growing, the fertilizers used must come from a plant or animal base. In hydroponic systems, we use earth minerals, otherwise you’d have dead plant-or-animal matter floating around, and it would rot and stink. The thing is, plants have 16 major macro and trace elements that they require. Whether those come from earth minerals, or from minerals in organic matter is irrelevant. [Note: minerals are, by definition, inorganic. The word organic actually means carbon-based, or living, which refers specifically to plants and animals. Hence, an earth mineral cannot be organic.] The key difference between field organics and hydroponics is that we utilize earth minerals refined in their purest form so that we know exactly what’s going into the plants in the right formulation to get what we want to get out of the plant.
NASA worked to develop mineral solutions that would put more nutrients into plants so that they could grow a healthier plant (for astronauts in space, because their food sources are so very limited). The question must be asked: if we’re raising nutrient dense, healthier plants for astronauts, why aren’t we doing the same thing in agriculture? And the answer is, invariably, we’ve never done it because we don’t have to. Agriculture is very price-point based; whether it’s organic or conventional, farming isn’t a high profit venture, so farmers put the least amount that they can into producing a crop.
One of our key goals with the Tower Gardens™ was to develop a system that you could open up and, without having a bunch of expensive electronic equipment (which you’d typically need to do with conventional hydroponics), anyone out there could set up in 30 minutes. And the one nutrient solution they’d use (as opposed to the dozens they’d need for different crops with conventional hydroponics) would work well for tomatoes, for flowers, for lettuces, for cucumbers – whatever crop they want to grow.
And that’s really what we did with the Tower Tonic™: rich, abundant, ionic earth minerals that are important for plant growth. And those minerals would be nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulpher, and trace minerals, like boron, chlorine, manganese, zinc – these are all essential for good, healthy plant growth. But in addition to that, we have a wide range of trace minerals that are also important to human health, and they’re in that nutrient solution in very small amounts, and basically the plant may or may not need to use those minerals but they are available for take-up to help aid in the nutrition, and the health of the plant.
Also, one of the key differences in the Tower Tonic™ compared to any organic or conventional fertilizer that’s used in agriculture today is that we stay away from ammoniacal nitrogen. Instead, we use nitrate nitrogen. A good comparison to human nutrition is the difference between white table sugar and a complex carbohydrate found in a grain or vegetable. Ammoniacal nitrogen used with plants force quick, explosive growth, which is why modern farmers use it. The problem is that with that kind of explosive growth, you get a weak cell structure; the most important component to every plant and cell wall is calcium, and when a plant is forced to grow quickly like that, it becomes more susceptible to insect damage and pest damage. Just like if we were to eat lots of table sugar: we get quick energy, and we crash later – our immune system is weakened, we feel tired, etc. But eating a complex carbohydrate gives our bodies longer-lasting energy that doesn’t take a toll on our health. The same is true for plants that are grown with nitrate nitrogen.
There are several dozen differences between the Tower Tonic™ and conventional hydroponic solutions and systems, but how we feed our plants is just one of the key differences: it’s rich in calcium, and rich in trace minerals that are important to people. Balanced plant health and wellness, along with human health and nutrition, is at the center of what we’re about.
Read more about organic farming and The Tower Garden™ in our next newsletter