Tag Archives: hydroponics

Growing Lettuce Hydroponically

Whether it’s on a sandwich or in a salad, the refreshing crunch of lettuce is unmistakable. And there’s nothing quite like walking over to your Tower Garden and harvesting a crisp leaf to munch on.

Lettuce is a great starter plant for those new to gardening because it’s:

  • Fast-growing, and can be ready to harvest in as little as 3 weeks.
  • One of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, offering vitamins A, K and other nutrients.
  • Easy to grow—a perfect choice for new gardeners.

But first, before we dive in… it’s important to know WHY we need to grow our own lettuce. So many consumers blindly are trusting the food system and don’t realize that our current mass-produced lettuce is picked before it’s prime, often travels many food miles to the consumer, and the lettuce food system has had 46 outbreaks nationally between the years of 2006-2019 (and most of those cases have happened in recent years!)

Dangers of Store-Bought Lettuce

Let’s first look at if organic lettuce can really be trusted… According to Consumer Reports, 72 percent of Americans try to avoid GMOs when they shop. And more than half seek out the “organic” label. But is organic lettuce really pesticide-free? Just because it’s organic, doesn’t mean it’s pesticide free… Despite being natural, spinosad, pyrethrin, azadirachtin, and other approved ingredients can still be harmful. (They are toxic pesticides, after all.) And in some cases, farmers must spray greater volumes of natural solutions because they aren’t as effective as their non-organic counterparts. In fact, up to 20 percent of organic lettuce may contain pesticide residue. And as though that weren’t enough, one study found that organic produce is more likely to play host to pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella. This is likely because it’s grown with organic fertilizers (e.g., manure and compost).

And that doesn’t even account for what is used as irrigation to grow the lettuce. Recent outbreaks were said to occur because of feed lots up stream tainting the irrigation supply. Hmmm….

Did you know that from 2006 to 2019, leafy greens like Romaine, Spinach and bags of Spring Mix from Salinas, CA and Phoenix, AZ accounted for at least 46 national outbreaks of E. coli. Check out this article and news report. (You may be more at risk of you’re purchasing a salad kit? The last outbreak sickened 11 people in Washington State. As of December 2019, there were two simutaneous outbreaks. “The FDA is investigating two other E. coli outbreaks, each caused by strains that are different from each other and different from the larger outbreak.” See report here.)

“Fresh-picked salad greens can have a higher nutritional value than store-bought greens. The flavor of homegrown salad greens is also noticeably better, as most kitchen gardeners will affirm. This is due to the extreme freshness of your salad, when you can use the instant “pick and plate” approach to preparation. Once you taste salad greens straight from the garden, you’ll be spoiled for life.

But arguably the greatest benefit is that of human health. In recent decades, there has been an increase in the percentage of foodborne illnesses related to produce, and greens have been one of the biggest culprits. This is mainly due to the soft leaves of the greens, which retain any germs they come in contact with. The CDC estimates that roughly 22 percent of all foodborne illness is caused by leafy greens. This has grown from less than one percent 40 years ago. This may be the best reason to grow your own leafy greens: while store-bought produce must be thoroughly washed to reduce the risk of illness, you can be sure that greens grown at home are much safer.” — Fix.com

The seriousness of these E. coli outbreaks have not only health impacts, but financial ones as well. According to Marler Clark, a law firm reprenting 28 victims from just one ecoli incident, said “Illness typically lasts from 1 to 12 days; however, E. coli patients who develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli infection, can remain hospitalized for months. They often require kidney dialysis and extensive supportive care. The cost of hospitalization for an E. coli case can range from several hundred dollars to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Foodborne Illness | Growing Your Own Salad Greens
Source: Fix.com Blog

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Store Bought Lettuce Food Miles and Nutritional Value

The other factor to consider is how far your lettuce has had to travel to get to your plate. Food miles are the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is ultimately purchased or consumed by the end user. The term, “food miles” was originally penned from a study in Iowa that focused on how far food had to travel.In 2011, lettuce was grown on 206,000 acres in California (most coming from Salinas, CA), which represented 73% of the total U.S. acreage (Source: Lettuce_Production_CA). If trucks were to drive a straight line (which in reality they don’t — they make pit-stops at processing centers and go to distribution centers before traveling to our local grocery store), lettuce harvested in Salinas, CA must travel a minimum of 3,000 miles to Atlanta, GA and is at least 4-5 days old by the time it reaches our grocery store. It’s estimated that it take an average of 10 days to go from farm to our plate! Are you even getting any nutritional value from eating it at this point? We’ll explore that in a minute…

One thing to note, since the 2019 E Coli outbreaks, the lettuce industry has incorporated a standard of placing labels on packages of romaine to indicate where the lettuce originated from so that the CDC can better track down the source of contamination. (Yes, I’m trying to shake you out of denial — it’s really that bad.)

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The other factor at play with store-bought lettuce is the depletion of nutrients from the time the lettuce is harvested to the time it reaches our plate. Like mentioned earlier, it takes upwards of 10 days from farm to plate in our traditional food system. Did you know that the nutritional value found in the plant actually starts to deteriorate within the first day or two of harvesting? University of California studies show that vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C, for instance, within a week. And some spinach, for example, can lose 90 percent within the first 24 hours after harvest!

Here are our tips for growing lettuce with the hydroponic Tower Garden system.

Best Growing Conditions for Lettuce

Of the many varieties of leaf and head lettuce, most prefer full sun and temperatures between 45–80˚, making lettuce a good cool season crop. Lettuce can withstand light frosts. But in hot weather, it will easily bolt (i.e., quickly grow vertically, flower and produce seeds)—and this process typically makes lettuce bitter. So if you grow lettuce in warmer conditions, plant it in partial shade or grow heat-tolerant varieties, like these:

Heat Tolerant Lettuce | Growing Your Own Salad Greens
Source: Fix.com

There are five distinct types of lettuce: Loose-Leaf (45-60 days), 
Cos or Romaine (~70 days), Crisphead (75+ days), French (50-75 days), 
and Butterhead (55-75 days). With a variety of colors, shapes and flavors available, plant several types of lettuce for tasty and interesting salads. Keep in mind, all varieties of lettuce grow very well indoors with grow lights.

Here is a good starting point of specific seeds to get if you are just starting out:
Click here to view seed recommendations for a hydroponic Tower Garden

How much will I need to grow?

If you want fresh lettuce every day for salads or other dishes, we suggest growing approximately 2-3 heads of lettuce per person. The cool thing about the Tower Garden system is you can grow in up to 28 ports (base Tower Garden with one extension) in less than a 2.5′ x 2.5′ space. That means in the corner of your kitchen or dining room or on your back deck, you can have instant access to your greens any time and harvest Tower to table within a matter if minutes — not hours — not days — MINUTES! This means you and your family will get optimal nutritional value from each plant because it is being harvested at it’s peak and consumed right away.

Tower Tip:
To learn when you should grow lettuce in your area, try
this planting scheduler.

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Starting Lettuce Seeds

For leaf lettuces, plant 2–4 seeds per rock wool cube. And for head lettuces, plant only 1 seed per cube. Lettuce seeds need light to germinate and usually germinate within 1–2 weeks.
       
Keep under bright lights and use a warming pad (we like this one). Can’t stress enough how much a warming pad and a good full-spectrum LED grow light will help your success rate.

Seedlings should be ready to transplant to your Tower Garden 10–14 days after sprouting, or whenever they have at least 2–3 leaves and a visible root structure. When transplanting, keep in mind that lettuce is a good crop to plant near the top of your Tower Garden.

Lettuce Seed Starting Guide

Once you’ve transplanted lettuce into your Tower Garden, keep the pH between 5.6-6.2 as this will help the plant uptake available nutrients in your water promoting growth. Using the Tower Garden Nutrient Solution, keep the PPM range between 560-840 or an EC of 0.8-1.2 for ideal continuous growth. Ten to twelve hours of light will be sufficient.  Check the back of your seed packet for maturation as it varies by lettuce type and variety (typically between 30-85 days).  Also, some lettuces can be cut and come again meaning if you cut about 2″ from the base of the plant, it will regrow new leaves and thereby extending your harvest.

Hydroponic Lettuce Growing Guide

Download our lettuce cheat sheet that can be sliced down and put into a standard ziplock sandwich bag and used for seed storage and/or as a growing journal for what happened with your crop (we put ours on a clipboard. | download PDF |

Front view of seed storage ideaBack view of .jpeg

Tower Tip: For step-by-step instructions on starting seeds and transplanting seedlings, reference page 7 of the Tower Garden Growing Guide (PDF).

Common Lettuce Pests and Disease

Growing lettuce with Tower Garden decreases the chance of pests and plant diseases. But just in case, here are some potential problems:

  • Aphids are small insects that typically feed on young plant growth, causing it to appear puckered or deformed.
  • Cabbage loopers are green caterpillars that feed on the underside of lower leaves and in the center of the head of lettuce.
  • Cucumber beetles are yellow-orange beetles with black markings that sometimes feed on lettuce seedlings. Take care not to confuse these with ladybugs.
  • Botrytis, a gray-brown fuzzy growth, thrives in cool environments and can appear on plant debris that has fallen from the plant.
  • Downy mildew looks like fine white cotton or frosting and often infects lower plant leaves first. It can spread rapidly and kill plants in cool conditions.
  • Powdery mildew forms a white-gray powdery growth, usually on the upper surfaces of leaves. You’re most likely to see this common disease in late summer.

Tower Tip: Lettuce doesn’t typically suffer with aphids, especially if you’re interplanting basil at the same time (it is a deterrent to aphids.) Learn how you can naturally beat bad bugs and prevent plant diseases.

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How to Harvest Lettuce

Since they grow so quickly, lettuces will be ready to harvest within a few weeks after planting. You can harvest lettuce in 2 ways:

Whole head. Remove the entire plant and net pot from your Tower Garden, or cut all the leaves off at the base of the plant. If you choose this method, be sure to have replacement seedlings ready.

Individual leaf. This technique keeps the plant alive and encourages continued production. When there are plenty of mature leaves present:

  • Harvest only a few leaves at a time, from the bottom of the plant upward.
  • Allow 2–3 leaves to remain so the plant may keep growing.
  • Repeat every 2–3 days until the plant bolts, or begins flowering.
  • After bolting, replace the plant with a fresh seedling.

For more help with harvesting, watch this instructional video:

You’ll want to eat lettuce within a few days of harvesting. Need ideas for how to use it?
Browse recipes shared by other Tower Gardeners »

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More Tips for Growing Lettuce

If you’re hungry for more lettuce growing advice, we have a comprehensive guide available in the Resource Center.

Download lettuce growing guide »

We also have a handy resource that you can print off and cut down and slide into any sandwich-size Ziplock bag and use to store your seeds (limits oxygen and moisture which can be harmful to seed saving.  We also print an extra sheet for our garden journal to keep records of how our crop performed so we can learn and remember what worked for the following year.

Seed Organizer – Lettuce »

Front view of seed storage idea

Happy Growing!

Erin

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When Your Harvest Feeds Your Family

Frozen heirloom tomatoesIt’s on cold wintery days like this that homemade tomato soup hits the spot. These heirloom tomatoes were from our 2019 season. I was short on time the day this bag (and another bag like this) came off the hydroponic Bato Bucket system and so I just threw it in a gallon size freezer bag for the Instapot this winter. Feels great knowing it’s pure unadulterated good food for my family.

I have four sons and a daughter and we like to watch the History Channel television show called Alone. Today we rewatched the last episode of season one. As we paused to thank the Lord for His provisions, my 10-year-old blessed the meal and I had to grin when he referenced the last episode of Alone saying, “…and thank you, Lord, that we didn’t have to struggle to find food or eat any bugs or slugs today.” Indeed. We are so blessed to be able to grow our own food. And every year we do it, we get better at it and more efficient.

Learning to grow food started when I was a little girl, helping my grandma to pick beans and bring in what would be served at supper to the farm hands and our family. I remember snapping peas into threes and dropping them kerplunk-kerplunk-kerplunk into a metal bucket. It was in Grandma’s kitchen standing for hours canning cherries harvested from her pie cherry tree for her yummy homemade pies.

And my parents had a garden for a few years. I can remember planting long rows of strawberries and we would put a fish head in the hole, fill it with water, and then plant the strawberry plant in the middle of the hole gathering the earth around it and gently pressing the earth down. But they got so busy with both working that it was difficult to keep up with the garden. I remember on Saturdays I got stuck with the inside cleaning jobs while my brothers got to go out and weed the garden and mow the lawn. Eventually the garden became grass and the grass got covered when Dad’s garage was built.

In both situations, gardening was disguised as “work” to me as a child, but now, looking back, I see how it was instilling the value of self-reliance, the importance of growing food — at least until our family got caught up with eating out and running from event to event. Beware of the busyness of life…

Fast forward almost 17 years … It wasn’t until my children were being homeschooled that I realized I had taken my experiences and what knowledge I had in gardening for granted and that we all needed to be better at knowing how to grow food. I was curious about hydroponics because I was tired of fighting the Georgia clay, so we dove into learning about hydroponics together as a family while also covering biology of plants / botany. I learned so much about hydroponics that I wanted to keep going even after the kids had moved on to other subjects. And year after year, we continue to learn and grow. (Hence the name “Grow Your Health Gardening”.)  I’m proud that one of my sons has become the youngest Master Gardener in our county. He was my one child that watched me save a seed and began saving his own seeds. I love his passion!

So remember, it may look like work and seem like work, but it’s good work. And when you enjoy a meal eating the very fruit of your effort, well, it’s a great feeling.

Planning a garden does take some time and financial resources to get going, but just start with what you can manage and every year try one new thing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just start with what you already like to eat and

Tomorrow, I’ll post my heirloom line up for 2020 and more on why I chose them for those still planning their tomato 2020 season. 🍴👍

That’s all for tonight –

Erin

Seed Inventory | Seeds to Order Now to Start Soon

The key to tasty salads is incorporating a mix of lettuce varieties. The vertical hydroponic Tower Garden is perfect for packing in 28 plants within a 2.5′ square footprint. This article focuses on spring planting, but you could grow any of these plants year-round if you have purchased the light attachment for your Tower Garden keeping the indoor environment around 70ºF.

There are certain greens that do really well in colder weather and can grow in early spring after the danger of frost has passed. Here is zone 7b, we will be starting greens the first week of March to be ready to go outside the last week of March. (Will use a Weather Protection Blanket each night until Frost Date of April 12.) It’s better to not have to store seeds for longer than a year or two, so we tend to purchase from this seed provider (Seeds Now), because of the smaller quantities and lower prices. The lower cost of seeds also enables us to try more varieties to see what we like the best.

Salad Tower Garden Tower Planting Schematic

Here is a list of greens to inspire…  consider starting from seed soon!

  • Arugula – Classic Roquette Arugula by Seeds Now
    Arugula can usually be harvested as early as one month after planting. Arugula is an easy-to-grow green using any hydroponic setup you have.  The leaves of the Arugula plant add a tangy/peppery flavor to any meal. We recommend picking the outer leaves when plant is still young (leaves about 3″ long) and it will continue to grow throughout the season.
    Approx. 150 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds |

     


  • Chives – GarlicGarlic Chives by Seed Now
    Also known as Garlic Chives.  A perennial plant that grows narrow, grass-like leaves that have a mild onion-like flavor. Chives are rich in vitamins A and C, contain trace amounts of sulfur, and are rich in calcium and iron. Used for many culinary creations. The plant will grow to about 12″ tall and is best suited for the top row of the Tower Garden. Once established, you can trim the entire bunch to about 3″ and the chives will regrow (cut and come again).
    Approx. 115 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds |

     


  • Endive – Green CurledEndive by Seeds Now
    Endive is a healthy and delicious leafy green and produces dark green curly leaves with large tender crisp ribs. Excellent on salads and sandwiches. Rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially in folate and vitamins A and K, and is high in fiber. Extremely easy to grow using any hydroponic setup you have. Plant this variety all-year-round using hydroponics and grow lights.
    Approx. 100 seeds for $0.99
    | order seeds |

     


  • Kale – LacinatoKale-Lacinato-SN
    Old Italian heirloom, rather primitive open kale with blue-green strap leaves that are 3″ wide by 10-18″ long. Perfect for making Kale Chips! Extremely easy to grow using any hydroponic setup you have. The leaves of this extremely winter-hardy variety become sweeter after a hard frost or harvest leaves when young and tender. Delicious and tender when stir-fried or steamed.
    Approx. 55 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds |

     


  • Kale – Red Russian Kale-Red-Russian-SN
    Stems are purple with deep gray-green leaves.   The plants mature medium-tall and leaves are tender compared to other kale varieties. Ideal for salads and light cooking.  Extremely easy to grow using any hydroponic setup you have.
    Approx. 50 seeds for $0.99
    | order seeds |

 


 

  • Lettuce – All Year Round All Year Round Variety of Lettuce
    As its name suggests, this is a lettuce that can be gown throughout the year. In even some of the the coldest areas across the country, this variety can be grown with some protection with a cloche or cold frame in the cooler months.
    Approx. 200 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds |

     


  • Lettuce – Gourmet/Mesclun MixGourmet Mesclun Mix Lettuce
    A mixture of favorite lettuce seed varieties from across the spectrum of lettuce types.  Plant heavy and start harvest early for young for baby greens then allow some to grow on for plenty of variety for salads.  A great way to get a lot out of little space.  Perfect for container gardening.
    Approx. 200 seeds for $1.99
    order seeds |

     


  • Lettuce – Romaine, ClassicLettuce-Romaine-Classic-SN
    Large, upright, full-bodied heads with dark-green, slightly savoyed leaves that are mild and sweet. Plant reaches about 10 inches tall. Midribs are crunchy and juicy.  Because of their higher chlorophyll content, romaine lettuces are among the most nutritious of all lettuces.
    Approx. 135 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds |

     


  • Lettuce – Salad Bowl, GreenLettuce-Salad-Bowl-Green-SN
    The Green Salad Bowl Mix is a really easy-to-grow lettuce variety. Extremely flavorful green leafs. Continues to grow as picked. As outer leaves are picked, inner leaves keep growing. Excellent addition for salads and garnishes. A great variety for many gourmet chefs around the world.
    Approx. 150 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds |


  • Lettuce – Salad Bowl, RedLettuce-Salad-Bowl-Red-SN
    The Red Salad Bowl Mix is a really easy-to-grow lettuce variety. Extremely flavorful red leafs. Continues to grow as picked. As outer leaves are picked, inner leaves keep growing. Excellent addition for salads and garnishes. A great variety for many gourmet chefs around the world.
    Approx. 150 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds |


  • Lettuce – Little Gem Lettuce-Little-Gem-SN
    Crisp & refreshing lettuce variety.  Sweet and crunchy. The leaves of this particular lettuce makes it idea for use in wraps and hors d’oeuvres. Easy to grow in compact spaces and smaller containers. A great variety for many gourmet chefs around the world.
    Approx. 200 seeds for $0.99
    order seeds |

     


  • Corn Salad (Mache), DutchCorn Salad Mache Dutch
    Corn Salad has a delicate flavor, similar to a butterhead lettuce. It is quite hardy and requires very little care while remaining practically free of pests & disease. Corn salad is also known for growing vigorously in almost any soil!  We think Corn Salad tastes best right out of the garden with a light drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Once you try this cold-hardy green, you’ll be sure to make it a staple in your fall/winter gardens every year.
    Approx. 200 seeds for $0.99
    order seeds |


  • Swiss Chard – Hot Pink Swiss-Chard-Hot-Pink-seed-SN
    The Pink Swiss Chard produces excellent yields of dark green shiny leaves with magenta/hot pink stalks and veins. Excellent for salads, juicing, and/or steamed with others greens. Extremely healthy and easy to grow.
    Approx. 25 seeds for $0.99
    | order seeds |

     


  • Swiss Chard – Gourmet RainbowSwiss-Chard-Rainbow-Mix-SN
    A heirloom variety from Australia. The Rainbow Swiss Chard is a popular plant that  produces some of the most amazing looking swiss chard leaves in shades of red, orange, purple, yellow, and white. Perfect for salads or steamed greens. One of this years most popular varieties to grow. Extremely healthy.
    Approx. 25 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds |

     


  • Purslane, Green (herb)Purslane Herb for Salads
    Used in salads and can be cooked like spinach, purslane has a lemony-twang. Remove leaves from stalk and toss into your salad. Purslane contains more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant source in the solar system, and an extraordinary amount for a plant, some 8.5 mg for every gram of weight.  It has vitamin A, B, C and E. In fact, it has six times more E than spinach! It also has seven times of beta carotene than carrots as well as contains magnesium, calcium, potassium, folate, lithium, iron and is 2.5% protein. You should grow this plant and toss it into your salads! Some even sauté it with onion and chili (green) and scrambled eggs.
    Approx. 100 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds|

     


  • Radicchio, Red ClassicRadicchio Red Endive
    Used in salads radicchio grows from orange to grapefruit size and easy to peel, the smooth, crisp leaves to offer a bitter flavor with a hint of spice. 

    Approx. 100 seeds for $1.99
    | order seeds|

     


     

  • Don’t forget to have plant markers/labels on hand as well!
    Pack of 10 for $0.99
    Pack of 100 for $8.99
    Use drop down option on ordering page to select quantity desired.
    | order labels/markers |

 

Happy planning and be sure to show us your yummy salad creations in 4-6 weeks when you’re enjoying them by tagging us at #GYHG!

— Erin

 

New to ordering from Seeds Now?
Click to get an exclusive
Grow Your Health Gardening
discount code!

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February Tower To-Dos | 10 things you need to be checking inventory on right now

February Things to Be Doing with your Tower Garden

Now is the time to take inventory of what you will need for the outdoor growing season ahead using the hydroponic (technically aeroponic) Tower Garden by JuicePlus+. Below are 10 things you need to take inventory of before you start seeds for your spring crop outdoors. Feel free to reach out in the comments below if you have any questions! Happy Planning!

— Erin



Tower Garden Mineral Blend A and B
Tower Garden Mineral Blend

Specially designed for Tower Garden’s soilless, aeroponic system, Tower Garden Mineral Blend supports superior plant growth and enhanced nutrition from your homegrown vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers. We ship Mineral Blend with each Tower Garden Growing System. But we offer more for whenever your initial supply runs out. Ships quick leaving JuicePlus+ warehouse in 1 biz day.

order now >

 



pH up and pH down kit for Tower Garden

pH Up/Down

Ensuring proper balance of your Tower Garden nutrient solution is simple with this easy-to-use pH kit. A pH kit comes with your Tower Garden Growing System. But there are replacement kits, should you need one including purchasing pH up and pH down separately. Ships quick leaving JuicePlus+ warehouse in 1 biz day.

order now >



pH and Temperature Meter

PPM (Parts Per Million) Meter


rockwool-juiceplus

 

Rock Wool

Made from eco-friendly rock fiber, these soilless seed starter cubes provide plant roots with oxygen and consistent moisture, encouraging rapid, healthy growth. Ships quick leaving JuicePlus+ warehouse in 1 biz day.

order now >


net-pots-tower-garden

Net Pots

Net pots hold rockwool cubes in Tower Garden’s growing ports. Though we ship net pots with every Tower Garden Growing System and can be cleaned and reused multiple times, you may need to purchase more after multiple growing seasons. Ideal for plants with larger roots. Ships quick leaving JuicePlus+ warehouse in 1 biz day.

order now >



Tower Garden Clip for Easy Removal of Plants
Tower Garden Growing Clips

Plant and harvest your Tower Garden quickly and easily with these reusable Net Pot alternatives. Just like Net Pots, Growing Clips hold plants in place while allowing their roots to grow freely inside your Tower Garden. The difference is that Growing Clips (and the plants they hold) may be removed with less effort. You would use these instead of Net Pots. Works fantastic on microgreen extension. Ships quick leaving JuicePlus+ warehouse in typically 1 biz day.

Note: Tower Garden Growing Clips are designed for leafy greens and herbs. They are not suitable for flowering plants with large root systems, such as tomatoes and squash. For these plants, you should use Net Pots instead.

order now >


 

Seed

Some of our favorite seed providers for you to consider:

Order now >


TowerGarden by JuicePlus Weather Protection Blanket
Weather Protection Blanket

Extend your growing season (jumpstart it be 2-3 weeks in the spring and extend it 2-3 weeks in the fall) and protect your plants from overnight frosts in cooler months and midday heat stress in warmer months with this recyclable UV-resistant Weather Protection Blanket made from metalized HDPE. Has grommets for securing it to your Tower Garden. Ships quick leaving JuicePlus+ warehouse in typically 1 biz day.

order now >


Tower Garden FLEX Rolling Base
Tower Garden FLEX Rolling Dolly Base

Didn’t order a rolling base when you first purchased your Tower Garden and realize now that it would more convenient to have one, you can purchase any time. Tower Garden FLEX on a dolly is also an effective way to reduce the heat transferred from the ground in hot weather. Ships quick leaving JuicePlus+ warehouse in typically 1 biz day.

1 rolling Tower Garden FLEX Dolly Base: $90 (price includes shipping) 

order now >


 

365/7 Indoor Hydroponic Gardening Means Fresh Bok Choy to start the New Year!

I never used to eat Bok Choy. Never.

I didn’t even know for sure how to pronounce it, let alone how to eat it. It can be even confusing in how you spell it’s name. If you see two main references: Pak choi and bok choy — don’t be alarmed… they are the one and same plant and considered part of the mustard family. Normally these plants are a bit smaller Chinese cabbage with leafy, green leaves and white stalks that have a bit of a crunch but not as stiff as celery — sort of the texture of water cress. Pak choi or bok choy, mostly grows in Asian regions like the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

Have you seen it in the grocery store? That’s where I first noticed it and also the very reason I never tried it. Whenever I would see it in the grocery store it would be floppy limp — ewe. Gross.

But every year, I commit myself to learning how to grow at least one new plant and a couple of years ago, Bok Choy was the one that I determined to tackle growing in my vertical garden Tower Garden hydroponic growing system (what is this?). When I actually tasted this plant straight off of the Tower Garden at it’s peak… well I fell in love with it as my new green go-to. This plant wasn’t meant to travel for days and days and sit on a grocery store shelf — it’s meant to be eaten freshly harvested.

Why I love to grow these cute little plants…

  • They grow fast. I’m a girl that likes to see some success from my efforts and these little bundles of green goodness are ready to start harvesting in 4-6 weeks.
  • You don’t harvest them like they harvest Bok Choy for feeding the masses. You’re missing out on this prolific little plant that produces leave after leaf from the center. All you have to do is continue to harvest the outer leaves and maintain the center three leaves for continual growth (about a 6-8 week continual growth with multiple harvests from the same plant). When the plant grows a bloom you know your harvest period has ended and you can swap out the plant for a new seedling waiting in the wings to go into your hydroponic growing system.
  • Did you know that Bok Choy ranks sixth on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) for fruits and vegetables and is considered one of the world’s healthiest foods? I especially like that it is full of beneficial antioxidants and fights inflammation in the body.  DRI/DV from this plant include: vitamin K (64% DRI/DV), vitamin C (59% DRI/DV), vitamin A (40%),  folate (17%), calcium (16%), vitamin B6 (16%), and potassium (13%).
  • And I love how the leaves curl down and out a bit — sort of reminds me of a little bridal bouquet.

hydroponic-bok-choy-tower-garden

Varieties to try:

  • Purple Lady Bok Choy from RareSeeds.com is a beautiful plant and chock-full of antioxidants with it’s purple leaves and my new favorite Bok Choy to grow. (Remember half the fun of growing your own food is trying new vegetables you can’t find at your local supermarket!)
  • White Stem Bok Choy from SeedsNow are a great starting point. If you want to try it without committing to a lot of seed to save, this is a great option (plant shown above).

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Things to know as you grow Bok Choy / Pak Choi…

  • SEED STARTING: I typically see seeds germinate within 48-72 hours if using seeds from the previous growing season. I plant into rock wool and here are the conditions I recommend:

Seed Starting Guidelines for Bok Choy or Pak Choy

  • PLANTING TIMING: Transplant Bok Choy / Pak Choi starts outdoors into your Tower Garden hydroponic growing system as close to your freeze date as possible. You may want to add a water heater like this one for any freeze warnings and have a lightweight weather protection blanket specifically designed to fit a Tower Garden with one extension and have it on the ready to put over the seedlings should you get an unforeseen late freeze warning.  To find the local last frost date for your area, I like this resource (less ads than the Farmer’s Almanac web site.)

Ideal Tower Garden Hydroponic Growing Conditions for Bok Choy:

Tower Garden Hydroponic Growing Conditions for Bok Choy Pak Choy

Hydroponic Growing Conditions:

  • TEMP: Like cabbage, this plant likes to grow at 55ºF-76ºF temperature meaning it’s a spring or fall plant or grow indoors. Avoid the hot summers.
  • LIGHT: They tend to like 7-10 hours of light, so if you’re growing them indoors, don’t push them with extra light hours, it may actually end up slowing their growth.
  • PPM/EC: 1050-1400 ppm and 1.5-2.0 EC.  I recommend using Tower Tonic for a well-rounded supply of minerals that will benefit you nutritionally when the plant is harvested. I use this meter and keep it in the PPM range of around 1200.
  • pH: Keep plants in a pH range of 5.5-6.5. I use this pH meter and this pH up and pH down to maintain the range. (Remember, plants need to be in ideal pH range for uptake of nutrients / minerals to occur.)
  • Air movement is always a good idea with any plants you are growing, but we are not looking for windy air circulation, just a slight breeze or moving air in the room.
  • Final Tip: When growing hydroponically indoors, your timer will need to be set to 15 min on and 30 minutes off. If you want to keep this plant happy, add an aerator to your reservoir. It likes to have oxygenated water—a little more than just the aeroponic benefits that typically the Tower Garden provides on most occasions. (If you’re running your Tower Garden continuously outdoors during the day, you can skip the aerator.)

Pests and Diseases to be on the lookout for while growing Pak Choi:

  • PESTS: Aphids like this plant as well, so plant marigolds and petunias in the area (may even put some pots at the base of your Tower Garden) and do spot checks periodically on the stems and under those bodaciously beautiful green leaves. If you see aphids moving in, rub your thumb across the plant henceforth squashing them. You can follow-up with a spray treatment of Neem Oil. Once you get aphids, if you don’t eradicate them quickly, they will multiply every three days and may take your entire crop so heed my warning and spot check every day or so under those leaves and towards the base of the plant.

How I incorporate Bok Choy / Pak Choi into my meals for nutritional benefit…

  • Dice up quinoa and add it to your cooked quinoa
  • I love it in the wonderful Coconut Chicken Bok Choy Soup that warms your tummy and satisfies — my husband claims it’s better than the one he eats at the local Thai place in Atlanta! (Whoop whoop!)
  • Instead of going for traditional lettuce, put on top of your next homemade burger to add some crunch and nutritional benefit
  • Dice and throw it on top of chickpea salad for added “crunch”
  • Add to any super-food smoothie for a power-packed nutritional drink on the go

hydroponic-bok-choy-garden-fresh

Our Exclusive Bok Choy / Pak Choi Cheat Sheet and Seed Organizer
(Great for your seed stash organization and quick reference)

Get Bok Choy Recipes

 

Sources:
World’s Healthiest Foods
Late Start? Grow these fast plants
• 13 Greens That Will Forever Change the Way You Think About Salads
Purchase White Stem Bok Choi Seeds

How to process your Hydroponic Jalapeños Harvest (say that fast 7 times) & more importantly… How to Fix a Jalapeño Pepper Burn!

The jalapeños are coming on strong with the harvest right now on the hydroponic Tower Garden by JuicePlus+, so naturally I’m finding ways to take advantage of this bounty with three recipes in mind: jalapeño jelly, candied jalapeños, and good ol’ pickled jalapeños. (Spoiler alert: fav’ recipe links at the end of this post.)

You should be eating Jalapeño Peppers — home grown Jalapeños… 

Jalapeños are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin B6 and common consumption of jalapeños may reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and platelet aggregation and partially improved liver damage due to the properties of capsaicin (the spicy part of the jalapeño). (You can read more about the study here.)

Be forewarned….

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As I went to slice and dice my jalapeños, the thought crossed my mind to put on some gloves, but since I didn’t feel anything as I was cutting the jalapeños, I ignored the thought and kept right on processing my crop — processing it without gloves on. I rinsed the cuttings in a sieve and proceeded to wash my hands and that’s when I began to feel the heat on my finger tips. Within 15 minutes my fingers felt like little flames had been lit. You guessed it — I had a jalapeño pepper burn on my left hand. Over the course of the evening I tried seemingly everything… scrubbing with soap and hot water, soaking in cold greek yogurt (which did feel soothing at first believe it or not), Biofreeze, pain meds, lavender essential oil, coconut oil, more scrubbing with hot water and soap followed by my black salve… no relief.

So at the stroke of midnight, as I’m laying in bed with my hand in the air hoping to catch a bit of breeze from the ceiling fan and contemplating my options in how to endure pain, my husband and I decide to do one more internet search for ideas to remove the oil from the recesses of my skin cells. I clumsily type one-handed into my phone’s internet search, “How long will jalapeño burns last?” Answer seemingly comes back in article after article that I could be suffering for several weeks if not a month! Aaaccckkk! And then I found Kendra’s post from newlifeonahomestead.com and sharing how she treated her jalapeño pepper burn. Her story seemed to match mine in trying everything the internet threw her way, but she found a solution that worked. And I shrugged my shoulders, looked at my husband and said, “Why not? Let’s try it.” So he went to the fridge and brought me… yellow mustard.

What I found to end all Jalapeño Pepper burn misery...

That’s right. Yellow mustard. We lathered it on like my fingers were hot dogs celebrating the Fourth of July. And the cold condiment felt amazing! Immediate relief! Like ice water hitting hot burning coals. I left the lather of yellow goodness on there (with a few more squirts of reapplication) for a good 35 minutes and then rinsed off with cold water. Were my fingers a little yellow? Yes. Was I in excruciating pain? Praise God, no. So I trotted off to bed.

How to treat jalapeño pepper burn on hand

Lesson #1: Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever cut jalapeños without wearing protective food grade gloves. Gloves should be worn while handling hot peppers and make sure you definitely don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth areas with your hands if they’ve come into contact with the Capsicum oil from Jalapeño Peppers.

Lesson #2: If by chance you do encounter jalapeño’s Capsicum oil — reach for your handy-dandy yellow mustard.

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And my jalapeños that I grew on my Tower Garden? They taste AMAZING! A million times better than anything I’ve found in the grocery store.

Remember, if you eat a pepper that is too hot, don’t drink water or milk to try to extinguish the spicy flames. Liquid only spreads the heat around. Instead, it is recommended to eat some sugar or honey and/or something starchy, such as bread, crackers or potatoes.

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How to grow Jalapeño Peppers hydroponically…

Here’s what jalapeño peppers need to succeed in the Tower Garden or similar hydroponic system (like a bato bucket).

EC/PPM: 3.0-3.5 EC / 2100-2450 PPM

pH: 6.0 – 6.5

Temperature: Hot peppers grow best in daytime air temperatures 65° to 80°F (18-26°C) and night temperatures above 55°F /13°C (nighttime temperatures between 60° and 70° are best). In addition, daytime temperatures above 90º F inhibits fruit formation, but fruiting will happen once temperatures drop back below 90º. If growing into the Fall, be sure to have a weather protection blanket on hand for evenings that have freeze warnings.

Light: 10 – 12 hours daily (outdoors). If growing indoors, the grow lights should be for flowering plants and placed 6 to 8 inches over the pepper plants. Any closer could cause scorching, any further away and the plants will not get the full benefit of the light. As the plants mature, adjust the height of the lights to maintain the 6-8 inch distance. (It is important to note that the Tower Garden lights are not rated for growing flowering plants according to the Tower Garden Juice Plus+ website, so if growing Jalapeño Peppers on the Tower Garden, grow them outside in full sun.)

Days to Harvest: Transplants will begin to bear ripe fruit in 70 to 85 days, depending on cultivar. 70 days Green; 93 days Red Ripe.

Other helpful tips to note:

  • Jalapeño Pepper plants will need support. The Tower Garden‘s support cage will work perfectly for holding up these plants. Plant them on the lower three tiers of your hydroponic vertical Tower Garden as they will grow to about 3′ in height (remember, things grow faster and typically bigger in a hydroponic system because you’re giving the plant everything it needs to thrive.)
  • Peppers don’t continue to ripen well off the plant (like tomatoes), so harvest when they are ready and process immediately if possible.
  • Peppers can be kept in the refrigerator, but avoid moisture. Avoid washing the peppers before refrigerating them, and dry them if they have dew or water from the irrigation system. Store them in a paper towel towards the top of the refrigerator.
  • Bacterial Spot: Bacterial spot can be seed borne. Purchase seed from a reputable source like Johnny’s Seeds or Seeds Now (100% Heirloom/Non-Hybrid/Non-GMO). Johnny’s pepper seed lots are tested for bacterial spot.
  • If planting for a fall crop in the Atlanta, Georgia (zone 7) region, the following are average freeze dates:
    Earliest Occurrence Latest Occurrence Average
    October 11, 1906 December 18, 1998 November 13

    Plant between the dates of August 1 and August 15 to ensure a fall harvest. Cover your Tower Garden with a weather protection blanket should there be a freeze warning.

  • Growing in soil? Here are some additional tips.

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Even with a thick stalk like this, they still need support.

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In summary…

Grow jalapeños for their health benefits, but be prepared when it comes to processing these little gems of nutrition as they can cause serious jalapeño pepper burns on your hands if you don’t wear gloves.

Here are a few recipes I’ve personally tried. Maybe you and your family will enjoy them as well:

Enjoy!

— Erin

 

 

Plant Bok Choy Now in your Indoor Tower Garden to use Thanksgiving

When should you plant Bok Choy to have ready in time for Thanksgiving?  Now!  Starting today, October 8th through October 12th is the time to plant Bok Choy in your indoor Tower Garden (with Tower Garden lights) to use in Thanksgiving meal sides and dishes. You can also plant it outdoors or place in a greenhouse — if putting outdoors, be sure to cover if there are any frost warnings and monitor your water temp keeping the water temperature between 40 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plant your Bok Choy Seeds Now for Thanksgiving Meals

To learn more on how to use Bok Choy, visit this page to learn about nutritional benefits and a list of recipes to try.

Bok Choy is listed as the sixth most nutrient-dense vegetable on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). You should eat this!

Dr. Fuhrman's Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI)

 

Why you should eat Bok Choy and How to Grow it Tower-to-Table

Nutritional Benefits of Bok Choy and Why You Should Grow it + Eat It

Bok Choy (Brassica chinensis L.) belongs to a genus in the mustard family called the brassicas. Members of brassica include kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and many other similar important food crops.

Bok choy also contains vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. These nutrientshave powerful antioxidant properties that help protect cells against damage by free radicals. Nutritionally, bok choy is loaded with cancer-fighting properties as well as a multitude of other health benefits, some of which are still being discovered.  Bok choy contains folate. Folate plays a role in the production and repair of DNA, so it may prevent cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA.

Bok-Choy-Nutrition-Facts-Why-You-Should-Eat

Bok Choy Fun Facts

The name “bok choy” originated from the Chinese word for “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves.

Bok choy ranks sixth on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) for fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Fuhrman's Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI)

What Vitamin A does for your body…
Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly. In fact, a single cup of bok choy contains the entire RDA of beta carotene, which has been shownto prevent night blindness and possibly reduce the risk of cataract and macular degeneration (source). It is always best to get your vitamin and minerals from a natural food source primarily and important to understand proper levels of Vitamin A intake — please refer to the source listed in the following link to learn more: Department of Health and Human Services.

What Vitamin C does for your body… Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters; vitamin C is also involved in protein metabolism [1,2]. Collagen is an essential component of connective tissue, which plays a vital role in wound healing. Vitamin C is also an important physiological antioxidant [3] and has been shown to regenerate other antioxidants within the body, including alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). It is always best to get your vitamin and minerals from a natural source primarily and important to understand proper levels of Vitamin A intake — please refer to the source listed in the following link to learn more: Department of Health and Human Services.

What Calcium does for your body… Calcium is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion, though less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support these critical metabolic functions — the body uses bone tissue as a reservoir for, and source of calcium, to maintain constant concentrations of calcium in blood, muscle, and intercellular fluids. It is always best to get your vitamin and minerals from a natural food source primarily and important to understand proper levels of Vitamin A intake — please refer to the source listed in the following link to learn more: Department of Health and Human Services.

What Iron does for your body… Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, an erythrocyte protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues [1]. As a component of myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles, iron supports metabolism [2]. Iron is also necessary for growth, development, normal cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones and connective tissue [2,3]. It is always best to get your vitamin and minerals from a natural food source primarily and important to understand proper levels of Vitamin A intake — please refer to the source listed in the following link to learn more: Department of Health and Human Services.

While green vegetables such as bok choy provide your body with many essential vitamins and nutrients, even healthy foods should be eaten in moderation. Too much raw bok choy can have a serious and potentially life-threatening effect on your thyroid gland, and medical professionals advise against overindulging in the raw version of this tasty vegetable. (source)

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How to Grow Bok Choy in a Hydroponic System like a Tower Garden:

You can purchase Bok Choy seeds (50 pack) here.
Bok Choy Seeds Now Preview

For planting Bok Choy seeds, you’ll want to plant two seeds per 1.5″ rock wool cube, placing the seed about 1/4″ down into the hole of a rock wool cube. Cover with wetted micah. It will typically germinate in 4-7 days. Transplant into your Tower Garden when your starts are approximately 2″ high and as soon as there are true leaves on the plant; this will typically occur in about four weeks from your seed start date.

JuicePlus+ Tower Garden

Ideally, grow Bok Choy indoors with a light source. This will reduce any aphid pressure common from exterior elements. Bok Choy thrives in a temperature range of 55°-75° F with a pH of 6.0-7.5 range and a EC value of 1.5-2.5 (or PPM value of 1120 – 1750).

Be sure to write down your seed starting date as you’ll want to wait to harvest Bok Choy until 8-11 weeks.

Check out the difference between Tower-to-Table Bok Choy vs. Grocery Store Bok Choy Produce offerings.

Tower Garden vs. Store Bought Bok Choy

While checking out the produce section at our local grocery store, I peeked over at the Bok Choy and it was limp and lame — you could tell it had been sitting there for days.  One of the key benefits of Bok Choy is its dark green leaves chalk-full of vitamins and minerals. The store Bok Choy begins to lose it’s nutritional benefits the longer it sits on the shelf, that is one of the benefits of having a Tower Garden where you can simply walk over to your indoor garden / garden on your deck and snip off what you need. The Bok Choy on the Tower Garden is similar to Kale — it will continue to regrow if you only take the outer lower leaves so you can get multiple harvests off of the same plant!

When I looked at cost, the store wanted $2.49 per Bok Choy in our neck of the woods (at the time of publishing this article in October of 2018). I plant two Bok Choy plants per rock wool and have four on the same level in my Tower Garden growing — that’s approximately $20 worth of fresh Bok Choy at my finger tips!

 

Grow your own food on a hydroponic Tower Garden

 

When Should I Plant My Hydroponic Tower Garden Bok Choy to Enjoy Fresh For the Holidays?

The advantage of growing in the Tower Garden hydroponic / aeroponic growing system is you can grow all year round with indoor lights! The following are key planting dates if you want to use Bok Choy in holiday sides and dishes (if planting in indoor Tower Garden with lights):

  • Thanksgiving Planting-Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds September 30th – October 6th to have in time for Thanksgiving dinner sides/dishes.
    Google_CalendarAdd Planting Reminder to Google Calendar
  • Christmas Planting-Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds October 4th – October 10th to have in time for optimal Tower-to-Table freshness for Christmas sides/dishes.
    Google_CalendarAdd Planting Reminder to Google Calendar
  • New Years Planting Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds November 16th – November 23rd to have in time for optimal Tower-to-Table freshness for New Year sides/dishes.
    Google_CalendarAdd Planting Reminder to Google Calendar
  • Valentine’s Day Planting Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds December 6th – December 20th to have in time for optimal Tower-to-Table freshness for Valentine’s Day dinner sides/dishes.
  • Easter Dinner Planting Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds February 10th – February 24th to have in time for optimal Tower-to-Table freshness for 2019 Easter Day dinner sides/dishes.
    Google_Calendar Add Planting Reminder to Google Calendar

How to Use Bok Choy in the Kitchen to Cook and Eat What You Grow

The BEST part of the plant are the green leaves… you can eat the whole plant, but focus on eating whatever is green especially!

      • Try it in an immune-boosting soup like this one (recipe) or this soup recipe featured by “Plated” that incorporates mushrooms which also have health benefits (recipe). Remember, cooking vegetables reduces the number of nutrients they contain. Add your Bok Choy right at the end of the cooking process before you serve your soup. Tip: Try to find a protein-based gluten free noodle if possible.
      • Try it in as an element mixed in to stir-fried veggies with chicken like The Mind Full Mom’s idea here (recipe).
      • Enjoy it simply sauteed. This Baby Bok Choy recipe by Sam Sifton has a high rating online and worth the try or this recipe on Chow Hound — just a note to be careful with the soy sauce and vegetable broth as these can be high in sodium. The American Heart Association recommends not exceed 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

 

How to Read Your Plants and Reduce Problems in your Hydroponic Garden

Do you understand what your plants are trying to tell you?

Just like a newborn baby cries for what he/she needs — a plant will exhibit signs of distress, but they do so silently, communicating with visual cues, such as altered leaf colors and shapes.

Just like a new parent, if you learn to read these signs, you’ll be able to catch minor issues before they become big problems, thereby maximizing the productivity of your garden.

So here’s a lesson in plant language 101.

Quick Reference Guide to Secret Plant Signs

If you notice a problem in your garden use the following chart to help determine what your plants need.

Tower Garden Tip: Nutrient deficiencies, plant diseases, and other common growing problems can occur at the same time and look similar, so identification may be tricky. If you need help, take a sample of the affected leaf to your local cooperative extension office. If you live in the state of Georgia, here is a quick link: http://extension.uga.edu/county-offices.html


(View a larger version)

by Logan Nickleson

Want to learn more about what your plants are trying to tell you? Let’s dive a little deeper…

Yellow Leaves and Nutrient Deficiencies

“Why are my plant’s leaves yellow?”

If you’re like most gardeners, you’ve faced this befuddling question before. Leaf yellowing — known as “chlorosis” in the world of science — has many potential causes. But one of the most common is undernourishment.

For healthy development, plants require 16 different micronutrients and macronutrients. And if they don’t get them or if proportions are imbalanced, leaves may start to look strange, become more susceptible to disease, and slow (or even stop) their growth — decreasing yields.

Symptoms of Plant Nutrient Deficiencies

Before you can address a deficiency, you’ve got to be able to figure out which nutrient your plant needs. So here are a few ways a plant may show you it’s missing something important:

  • Boron – Young leaves turn light green and may be disfigured.
  • Calcium – Leaves are disfigured and may wilt or show signs of necrosis (i.e., death of plant tissue).
  • Copper – Leaves may be limp and/or curled.
  • Iron – New leaves turn a pale, yellow color between green leaf veins (this is known as interveinal chlorosis).
  • Magnesium – Leaves show spotting and yellowing between green leaf veins. Outer edges of leaves may pucker or curl.
  • Manganese – Younger leaves turn yellow between veins (giving them a net-like look) and may develop dead spots.
  • Molybdenum – Older leaves yellow. Remaining leaves turn light green. All leaves may become distorted and narrow.
  • Nitrogen – Older leaves and veins turn a pale, yellow color. Other leaves turn light green and stay smaller than normal.
  • Phosphorus – Leaves looks stunted and turn dark green or even a deep purple color (almost black for some plants). Leaf tips may look burnt.
  • Potassium – Older, lower leaves show marginal necrosis, even looking scorched around the edges. Leaves also yellow on edges and between veins.
  • Sulfur – New leaves yellow and leaf veins lighten while older leaves remain green. (May be confused for a nitrogen deficiency.)
  • Zinc – New leaves yellow and may develop necrosis between veins.

For further help with identification, check out this visual representation of deficiency symptoms.

How to Fix Nutrient Deficiencies

The best way to solve deficiencies is to avoid them in the first place by giving your plants the nutrients they need.

For soil-based gardeners, that means using fertilizers, rich compost, and other amendments. But if you’re growing with Tower Garden, all you really need is Mineral Blend — a simple, balanced mix of all the key nutrients.

Tower Tip: Even if you’re providing the essentials, a high or low pH may keep plants from absorbing or processing them. Most plants access nutrients best when pH is around 6.5. So measure your levels every few weeks and adjust as necessary.

Other Causes of Discoloration and Disfigurement

Nutrition isn’t the only reason a plant’s leaves may look unusual. Here are a few other common causes.

Pests and Plant Diseases

It’s wise to watch for garden pests. Because bad bugs not only damage and stress plants — they also often introduce the following types of plant diseases, which bring additional harm:

  • Bacteria – Bacterial diseases can cause wilting and spotting.
  • Fungi – Some leaf fungi mimic certain symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, including yellowing and necrosis.
  • Virus – If you see blotchy or patchy yellowing on your leaves, a virus may be the responsible (especially if the discoloration is accompanied by disfigured growth).

Learn how to prevent and control these diseases »

Over (or Under) Watering

One of the most common, non-nutrient-related causes of yellow leaves is over or under watering. It’s a common cause, that is, for soil-grown plants.

Since Tower Garden automates the watering cycle, plants always receive the optimal amount of water. But if you’re growing in soil, here are a couple of ways to determine whether you should adjust your watering schedule:

  • Check the soil. (I know — it’s basic. But it’s never a bad idea.) If it’s drenched, it may be waterlogged, robbing plant roots of the oxygen they need to survive. In this case, water less.
  • Look for dropped leaves. Plants that don’t receive enough water drop leaves to prevent transpiration (i.e., the evaporation of water from plant leaves). So if you see leaves on the ground, water more.

Environmental Factors

Your growing environment can impact how your plants grow. Here are a few elements to consider.

Light
When accompanied by thin, reaching stems, pale leaves usually suggest a plant isn’t receiving enough light. (Most plants need at least six hours of direct sun or, if growing indoors, 14 hours under grow lights.)

On the other hand, newly transplanted crops may develop bleached spots on their leaves after too much sun exposure. To avoid this, harden seedlings by gradually introducing them to the outdoors over the course of a few weeks.

Similarly, when growing inside, leaves that get too close to grow lights may become spotted or scorched due to over-transpiration, which is followed by yellowing, spotting, and, eventually, leaf death. The solution? Harvest more often!

Nutrients
To prevent wilting in a Tower Garden full of small seedlings (e.g., plants that are three inches tall or shorter), it’s best to use a half-strength nutrient solution: 10mL of Mineral Blend A + 10mL of Mineral Blend B per gallon of water.

You can safely increase nutrients to the full amount once seedlings have grown taller than three inches and developed a robust root structure. This usually takes less than a month.

Note: Even for mature plants, overly concentrated nutrients can also cause fertilizer burn. So make sure you’re always feeding your plants the proper amount.

Temperature
Extreme heat often causes plants to wilt. But they usually bounce back once temperatures cool. That being said, these precautions can help protect your plants from hot weather.

If you notice black spots on leaves or plants after a cold snap, frost damage is likely the cause. Some plants — particularly kale, collards, and other hardy greens — can survive light frosts. More sensitive crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, however, usually die after freezing weather.

Wind
If leaves look dry around the edges and/or curl upward, they may be suffering from windburn. Consider setting up a wind barrier to protect them.

Time
It’s completely normal for older, more mature leaves of a plant to yellow and die over time (as long as new, green leaves are replacing them). Just remove these old timers as you see them to prevent leaf fungi.

What Are Your Plants Saying?

Now that you know how to decode your garden’s secret language, diagnosing and rectifying problems should be a little more straightforward.

Have any questions or tips of your own? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.

Want to learn more about growing your own food in a Tower Garden? Click here!