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Here in Florida you need way more than just a green thumb (or two, or green hands and feet) to grow much of anything very successfully. Even the weeds have a hard time in the summer when it’s 95+ degrees, rains absolutely every day, and even when it’s not raining the humidity is still 100%. The average person who wants to subsidize the family groceries with homegrown vegetables, herbs and salads needs a little help to be successful here. If you don’t live in Florida you probably still have your own challenges. That’s why using one or more of these three ideas will most likely give you a much better chance to be able to grow super-fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs for your family.
After 5 years of in-ground gardening Ralph and Gail were tired of battling the sandy soil in their Orlando-area backyard. Frustrated with the minimal results even with maximum effort they decided to look into buying a Tower Garden. Their first one was purchased second-hand from a friend and they decided to do a side-by-side test – Tower Garden vs. Square Foot Garden. After that growing season they were convinced to buy several more Tower Gardens! In fact they were so successful they decided to start a small home business growing herbs and leafy greens to sell to one of our local farm food delivery services!
Ralph does details and so he learned all there is to learn about it. He explained that with 2 to 3 Tower Gardens you could grow enough food for a family of four for a year with about 1-2 hours per week of maintenance. One nice thing about the work with a Tower Garden is it doesn’t include weeding or tilling. Ralph also said that within 15 months of use you can make back your purchase price in the savings you’ll get from not having to buy organic produce at the store.
Tower Garden uses state-of-the-art NASA technology to grow plants without soil. The technique, called aeroponics, is a variation of hydroponics. A 20-gallon reservoir at the bottom of the tower holds water and nutrient solution that is circulated throughout giving the roots of the plants a nutrient-water-oxygen bath. Tower Garden research says the plants grow 30% faster this way so you get bigger plants and a faster harvest. The only thing you can’t grow in a Tower Garden are root vegetables or extremely large plants like trees. Even vining plants can be supported with a trellis that hooks onto the tower. Total cost for a Tower Garden System is $525 (wheels additional) and the Nutrient Mineral Blend is $40.
Do you know how to turn 600 lbs of garbage into 120 lbs of rich, fertile soil perfect for any plant? According to Bernie Moro, one of the owners of Our Vital Earth, the answer is vermicomposting! In fact since they’ve started keeping track on their own farm they have kept 776 tons of waste out of the landfills and converted it into useful products that increase soil productivity.
Vermicomposting uses a special species of earthworm (Eisendia Fetida) to transform vegetable and fruit scraps, newspaper, junk mail and even dryer lint into worm castings which make the perfect growing medium for plants of all kinds. Just one pound of worms can eat five pounds of garbage every week. They increase and multiply allowing you to reduce your household landfill contribution while at the same time increasing the fertility and health of any plant growing in soil. Use the worm castings with potted houseplants, outdoor containers, garden beds, flower beds, and around trees and shrubs. Add a handful to each new planting hole in the garden. Our Vital Earth also supplements with a volcanic grit (worms need grit for their gizzards just like chickens) that adds 77 trace minerals and elements to the finished soil. But fertile soil isn’t the only by-product of vermicomposting. You can make a liquid fertilizer called “worm tea” by watering your worm beds with non-chlorinated water and collecting the liquid that filters through. This worm tea is way cool because it’s not only full of nutrients for the plants it is also probiotic (not for people, for plants!) so it helps naturally control fungus, insects and plant diseases. It also repopulates soil that has been depleted with over use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
To vermicompost at home you need worms and a place for them to live. Our Vital Earth sells these all-in-one Worm Cafes that allow you to keep your worms safe and happy, gives them room to grow, and also make it simple to collect the worm tea to use each week when you water your plants. Having composting worms allows you to garden in less-than-ideal soil and still grow healthy food without chemicals, insecticides and fungicides. What a great way to clean up your trash, and build your soil! Total cost for a Worm Cafe is $130 with a pound of worms an additional $35.
3. Two Techniques in One System
I think this idea is brilliant – the vertical design and small footprint of a tower combined with the composting and fertilizing capabilities of vermicomposting all in one system – that’s what you get with the Garden Tower2 Project. This system allows you to plant up to 50 individual plants (or add two additional layers for 70 plants) including slimmer root vegetables like turnips, carrots and radishes, in just 4 square feet of space. The kitchen scraps go into the central compost tube in the top of the tower. This feeds the worms and then when you water the tower the nutrients from the worms flow into the surrounding soil within the tower. Water collected at the bottom includes the valuable worm tea. When the compost tube gets full you empty the newly produced garden soil from the tube and use it to plant more vegetables into the sides of the tower.
Just like the Tower Garden above, the Garden Tower2 Project is compact in design and can be used in smaller spaces where a traditional garden wouldn’t fit. Garden Tower2 has a built-in ball bearing system that allows you to rotate the planting tower to take advantage of the available sun. It also comes with the ability to add caster wheels or permanently secure the base to a rooftop for added stability. Total cost for a Garden Tower 2 planting tower is $359, but Well Fed Family readers can get $10 off with the coupon code: WFFGT at checkout.
What are your garden plans for this year? Do you want to grow more of your own food? Tell us about it in the comment section or share a picture of your garden with us on our Facebook page!