5 Tips for a Successful Summer Tower Garden

5 Tips for a Successful Summer Tower Garden

Planning Your Successful Summer Tower Garden

It is heating up in Florida and summer is well on its way. If your Tower Garden isn’t growing just yet, we’ll give you some tips on planning and growing a successful Summer Tower Garden all summer long! Growing a Tower Garden in the Summer can be easy with a little planning and some minor tweaks.

1. Clean Your Tower Garden

If you’re starting a new with your Summer Tower Garden, it’s best to start with a clean Tower Garden. If your Tower Garden has been growing for 6 months take it apart and clean it. We wrote an in-depth post here on cleaning your Tower with one magic ingredient that involved little to no scrubbing!

Cleaning Your Tower

2. Decide on a Location

When deciding on a location for your Summer Tower Garden there are a few things you need to consider. The temperature, number of hours of sunlight, and surface.

Temperature

Let’s start with temperature. If your summertime highs are usually under around 105° you should be fine growing outside, providing you follow our suggestions below. If you’re in an area where temperatures are around 105° and above, you may want to consider growing inside with LED Grow Lights.

We also only recommend your Summer Tower Garden is a Tower Garden FLEX when growing outside in the hot summer months. Think 80s and above. A Tower Garden HOME reservoir (13 gallons) is 35% smaller than the Tower Garden FLEX reservoir (20 gallons) while growing 60% more crops. Smaller amounts of water will also heat up and evaporate faster.

Sunlight

There’s a common misconception that you a) cannot grow Lettuce in the Tower Garden in the Summer in Florida or b) you cannot grow a Tower Garden at all in the Summer in Florida (or other equally warm places), and it simply isn’t true.

So a little back story. Some may remember when Living Towers was a large 100+ Tower Farm in Central Florida. We had a 4,400 sq ft greenhouse and boy did it get hot in there! We recorded temperatures of over 110° in there in the summer, but we still grew lettuce and many other crops all summer long. There was no cooling or chilling of the water either.

A common mistake new Tower Gardeners make is putting their Tower Garden in a shady area, not realizing they are creating a problem that doesn’t need to exist. You see, vegetable plants NEED direct sunlight, and lots of it. Leafy greens, lettuces, herbs, and other non-fruiting crops will do just fine with about 5 hours of direct sunlight, but fruiting crops will need at least 8. In a nutshell, Photosynthesis is a process in which plants convert light energy (from the sun or grow lights), water and carbon dioxide into chemical energy to grow and without enough sunlight, it isn’t going to happen.

Nature is pretty incredible and when plants are not getting enough light you’ll see them stretch in search of more light, especially when they are a seedling. If your plants look like this, they are telling you they need more light.

Weak Tower Garden Seedlings

So with that said, find a location that gets at least 5 hours of sun for non-fruiting crops and at least 8 hours for fruiting crops.

Shade Cloth

Do you need a shade cloth?

If your temperatures are under 100°, I wouldn’t bother with a shade cloth. However, if your temperatures are over 100° you can use a shade cloth like this. One important thing to consider here though. If your Tower is getting 12 hours of sunlight, but you add 30% shade you’ve effectively reduced the number of hours of light to around 8 and a half hours, which is still plenty for fruiting crops. On the other hand, if the Tower was only getting around 6 hours and you added 30% shade, you’ve effectively reduced it to around 4 hours. Fruiting crops won’t fruit and non-fruiting crops will grow much slower and may be “leggy”.

Surface

What surface will the Tower Garden be placed on? Pavers, driveway, wooden deck, grass or something else? If the reservoir is going to be placed directly on a surface that burns your bare feet, you’re going to need to use a Dolly or Rubber Mat to reduce the heat transfer.

So let’s wrap up the important points when deciding on the location.

  • Only grow a Tower Garden FLEX outside in temperatures in the 80s and above.
  • Under 105° grow outside, over 105° grow inside with lights.
  • 5+ hours of direct sunlight for non-fruiting crops, 8+ hours of direct sunlight for fruiting crops. If using a shade cloth you will need to factor that in.
  • Use a Dolly or Rubber Mat if the reservoir is directly on a surface that burns your bare feet.

Now we’ve got location out of the way, let’s move on to crop selection!

3. Crop Selection

The usual suggestions apply here, with limiting large vining crops to 6 or fewer, being the most important. Those large vining crops are going to suck up a lot of water in the summer! If you grow too many you are going to be filling that Tower Garden reservoir multiple times a week (do you see now why we don’t recommend growing the Tower Garden HOME outside in the summer?) An overgrown Tower Garden is also a recipe for fungus and disease. If this is your first time growing you may want to check out our more detailed post here Selecting Seedlings for Your Tower Garden to help with crop selection.

When selecting crops to grow in the summer you are going to want to grow heat-tolerant crops. Those are crops that grow well in the heat. We have a bunch of lettuce varieties that grow better in the heat than others.

Some crops that are good summer crops include squash, peppers, eggplant, celery, basil, and more. You can find the 70+ heat-tolerant seedlings we offer here.

Specialist in Tower Gardens, Farms and Seedlings

4. Nutrients

This is another area that causes Tower Gardeners to struggle.

Let’s go over the basics.

When adding minerals to your Tower Garden reservoir, the regular dose is 20ml of each A and B for every gallon of water you are adding to the reservoir. We call this “Full-strength”. There are a few scenarios when you add just 10ml of each A and B to the reservoir for each gallon of water you’ve added. We call this “Half-strength”. Half-strength minerals are used when starting a Tower full of seedlings. They just don’t need the extra minerals. In cooler weather, you probably won’t have any issues, but if you are having seedlings shipped in the summer and you’re using full-strength it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak.

In the summer, plants need more water, but not more minerals, so we make sure the nutrient solution in the reservoir is a little less concentrated. Evaporation also plays a part here too. The water will evaporate over time too, making the solution more concentrated.

We also use half-strength minerals when the temperatures are over around 85°. Now there is no set temperature here. At home, if we have a single day in the upper 80s, and then it drops back to the low 80s I would continue adding at full strength. But if we’re consistently in the upper 80s I would drop it back to half strength. If your temperatures are in the mid-90s and above you can drop it further to “quarter-strength” at 5ml of each A and B for every gallon of water you are adding to the reservoir.

Less is always best when it comes to the minerals.

So to summarize

Adding Nutrients to Tower Garden

5. Water

Water is necessary for life and the success of your Summer Tower Garden, but not all water sources are created equally!

Well Water

Well water is just fine to use as it is. Just be sure you are filling the Tower with water that has not passed through a water softener. Water softened with sodium is a big no-no! Now I have heard of some customers using water softened with potassium and having no issues. Just be aware that the heat adds a new layer of stress to the crops and any of these things we’ve mentioned here could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Rain

Rain is generally fine to use too. The pH tends to be lower than other sources so you may find you are having to raise it a bit more compared to other sources.

RO

Reverse Osmosis water is ok too.

City

City water can be another straw for the camel, but it doesn’t have to be. Cities add chlorine or chloramine to the water supply to kill bacteria. Chlorine dissipates over time but chloramine, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, does not dissipate. Both of these can be easily removed with an inexpensive filter like this. Simply attach it to your outside tap and attach the hose to the end. They’re going to last around 1 year per Tower.

So let’s wrap this up

  • Pick a location with plenty of sun
  • Use a shade cloth and dolly or rubber mat if necessary
  • Grow heat-tolerant crops
  • Add the right amount of minerals, which is usually half or quarter-strength
  • Filter city water and don’t use softened water.

By making these minor changes you’ll have a garden that flourishes all summer long!

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