Building Resilience One Vertical Garden at a Time

At FoodCon I met two of the people behind the innovative Bloomington-based Garden Tower Project. Check out their garden-in-a-barrel design with built-in worm composting. Up to 50 plants can be planted in this unique vertical garden.

Garden Tower on Planting Day

Garden Tower on Planting Day

The center tube is perforated down the entire length, allowing red wiggler worms to travel between the compost tube and the soil. Kitchen waste goes into the center tube and turns into compost and worm castings. Bonus: The protection of the soil in the barrel means the worms can survive through the winter.

How genius is that–worm composting right in your container garden?
Finished compost, with happy worms

Finished compost, with happy worms

From the website:

“In an era of rapidly rising food prices and industrial farming practices that strip our food of nutrients essential for good health, we believe the Garden Tower is one small step in empowering people towards their own food security.”
The company hopes to nurture a community of growers. They’ll soon launch GrowingCircles.org as a space for networking and collaboration among those with an interest in the Garden Tower Project’s mission. The goal is expanding food self-sufficiency, promoting homegrown vegetables and herbs that are:
  • organic
  • non-GMO
  • low-input
  • ecologically sustainable

Tom Tlusty tells me that the Garden Tower’s unique design capitalizes on “evaporative cooling and a large thermal mass”–making it possible to plant in hot temperatures normally prohibitive in a traditional garden plot.

So… it’s not too late to start gardening this season!

Top view of the Garden Tower.

Top view of the Garden Tower.

I’m so excited about this design that I ordered my own Garden Tower, and I’m picking it up from the Good Earth later today. I’m psyched to sow some crops I didn’t have room for, like beans and carrots. I’ll also scour local garden centers for leftover seedlings (probably quite sad and stressed by now, but maybe a little TLC would bring them along).

It’s nearly time to start fall crops, like kale, lettuce, peas, and spinach. That’s something I always intend to do and never seem to manage in the thick of late summer. But this is the year, with my sweet new protected microclimate as incentive.

Plus I’ll finally have livestock on my homestead, if only in the form of worms. I’m in heaven!

Time to harvest from the Garden Tower

Time to harvest from the Garden Tower

The only drawback I can see is the need for potting soil to ensure that the growing medium is not compacted in the barrel. I hate buying bagged soil for so many reasons. I’ve seen recipes for homemade potting soil. But being eager to jump in, I probably will break down and purchase. (If you’ve found a good peat-free variety available on the market, please leave it in the comments.)

The inventors believe their design will allow people of all abilities to garden in any clime. According to Garden Tower users in the arid Grand Canyon region, this model results in immense water savings. Tom says they used ten times less water with the Garden Tower than their traditional plot or raised bed.

Really can’t wait to dig in!

All photos courtesy of The Garden Tower Project.

5 thoughts on “Building Resilience One Vertical Garden at a Time

  1. I went to a green house business and bought soil that was from left over plants that get dumped into a big pile out back. It was great soil and had all the white stuff that keeps it lite. I was able to fill 3 gardens with it. They charged me $20.00 for a truck load! I added food beads and pulled out any dead plants and big roots. So much cheaper then buying the bags of potting soil. At the end of summer I will empty all dirt onto a tarp and pull out the roots and reuse, re feed the soil, for next year. I will leave it out all winter so the soil can break down the leaves and compost I add. Then just refill next year.

  2. Pingback: My Garden Tower, One Month Later | Shawndra Miller

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