Traditional soil gardening is becoming a thing of the past, as hydroponic and aeroponic gardening is increasing in popularity among urban and rural dwellers alike, becoming more commonplace in homes and even public places like schools, restaurants and airports.
HER Magazine met with aeroponic gardener Teresa Withers this month to get the scoop on modern-day gardening.
Withers bought her Tower Garden through Juice Plus+, an international health and wellness company for which she is a distributor. She describes the Tower Garden as “an aeroponic/hydroponic system that allows you to grow vertically so that you can grow a tremendous amount of produce in a small place,
such as a patio or deck. The Tower Garden allows you to grow up to 20 vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers in less than 3 square feet — indoors or out.”
Withers’ father was a Master Gardener who always had massive gardens at his home, Withers said, which inspired her to start her own. But with the lack of outdoor space at her own home and her outdoor dogs, a soil garden just wasn’t in the cards.
“When I found the Tower Garden I knew it was perfect for us,” she said, adding that she and her two granddaughters, Maddi and Myla, took over her husband Michael’s man cave and turned it into their garden room.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.
Aeroponics, an advanced form of hydroponics, is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil.
“Aeroponics is the latest development in hydroponic growing as the roots are not constantly submerged in water,” Withers said. “A timed water-drip system allows for the roots to be periodically exposed to water and then air. This increases the rate of growth.”
A pump pushes a nutrient solution up the column from the 20-gallon reservoir at the base of the tower. The nutrient solution then drips down the inside of the tower, showering the plants’ roots. This process is continually repeated, providing fresh oxygen, water and nutrients to the roots of the plants.
The nutrient solution is made up of all-natural earth minerals and is resistant to pests and disease.
Withers said this type of gardening uses about 10 percent of the water that is usually needed for traditional soil gardening.
The Tower Garden pretty much takes care of itself, aside from these minor maintenance tasks:
• Check water levels weekly.
• Check PH balance twice per week.
• Keep shower cap clean.
• Trim roots.
• Clean pump filter monthly.
• Ensure water temperature stays at 85 degrees or lower.
“Seeds are started in rockwool, which is a type of mineral wool made from molten rock spun into cotton candy fibers. Rockwoll is a registered trademark of the Danish company Rockwoll International,” Withers said. “After a couple of weeks they are ready to be ‘planted’ in the tower garden.”
This type of gardening is versatile enough to grow almost any fruit, herb, vegetable or flower that doesn’t grow on a tree (such as apples) or in soil (such as carrots, potatoes, grapevines, bushes and trees).
Withers said the top 10 crops grown with this type of gardening are basil, chard, cucumbers, egg plant, kale, lettuce, peppers, squash, strawberries and tomato.
Among the many benefits of aeroponic gardening versus outdoor soil gardening is that you can control the temperature and water, especially if you choose to have your garden indoors.
“Outside, you have to worry about pests, you have to worry about dirt, you have to test the soil — sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Withers said. “When it rains, it’s going to get that extra water and then you have to test the water more often.”
Withers said some of the public places that have implemented their own indoor gardens are Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Bell Book & Candle Restaurant and John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School in New York.
“In New York City they’ve actually got them inside a school and it’s helping the inner city kids learn about nutrition,” she added. “In restaurants — there’s one in Manhattan called the Bell Book & Candle; it’s a six-floor building and he’s got it up on his rooftop. Libraries, churches, nursing homes, assistant living places. I’ve got a teacher at Lake Hamilton and we’re trying to get one in there. There’s lesson plans online through the tower garden.”
Because of its versatility, a Tower Garden can be installed virtually anywhere, as the grow lights allow year-round gardening. And because it doesn’t use soil there is less cleanup and plants are grown in less time with fewer resources. This type of gardening is also more eco-friendly than traditional soil gardening; it requires less than 10 percent of the space and water and plants grow 30 percent faster.
Visit http://www.teresawithers.towergarden.com for more information or to purchase your own Tower Garden.