This week we got our greens up and growing! We have a Juice+ Tower Garden, a hydroponic garden, that is going to be our source of leafy greens. The tower garden is ideal for growing greens here in AZ. It is up off the ground and protected from hungry chicken beaks, and lettuce and other leafies grow easily out of the rock wool cups, watered from the inside hydroponic system. We have found that in Arizona, the Tower Garden is perfect for growing 2/3s of the year, and it uses far less water than traditional growing techniques. Only in the summer do we need to take a break because it gets too hot for the plants and the evaporation out of the tower requires it to be filled every couple of days. We have also tried growing tomatoes and squash out of them, but we will stick to leafies like lettuce and herbs in the future because we found the big fruiting plants are too heavy and didn’t grow very well from the tower.
We started the garden indoors by planting seeds in rock wool cubes a couple of weeks before we wanted to plant.
This season things got away from us with all the work on the backyard, so the plants ended up with a couple weeks extra in the cubes before getting transferred into the garden. They were a bit lanky, but most eventually perked up and grew normally.
On planting day, we first cleaned out the tower with a power washer (Phoenix’s hard water likes to build up, but an hour of power washing takes care of it each season). Then we reattached the water pump in the base of the tank, making sure we could plug it in, and put the baskets in the slots as we were assembling the tower. No, I lied. We put it together first, then realized the power cord had to get out of the base, so we took it all the way apart to fix that first issue. When we were done putting it together again we realized we couldn’t put the rock wool cubes in without the baskets, so of course we had to take it most of the way apart again to get the baskets set between each of the layers! So a planting task that should have taken 20 minutes if the tower had been put together correctly ended up taking an hour! Finally we set the rock wool cubes in each slot and filled the base with water, adding the nutrients and adjusting the pH down to 5.5 (it always seems to hover closer to 8 when we fill it from the hose).
Planting done, all we have to do is wait a few weeks, refilling the water tank with water and nutrients and adjusting the pH again every 2 weeks or so when the water evaporates, and we will have beautiful greens and herbs that the chickens can’t touch! Though when we harvest from the tower, of course they all come around expecting treats. One of the great things about growing lettuce and other leafy plants this way is that you can harvest leaves off the plants and many will grow more leaves for more harvests, so you only need to completely replant and start the tower over 2-4 times per year.