Limited space? Try a Garden Tower

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Mon, May 27, 2013 - 11:07am

Here are the specs to make this very productive garden tower. Note the blue and white section on top, where you add kitchen scraps, shredded paper, and worms. Nutrient enriched water drains into a bowl underneath; you add this compost tea back through the top.

Here are video instructions, too.

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5 Comments

Grover's picture
Grover
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2011
Posts: 843
$249 + $40 Shipping

Wow! That's a lot of money. Here's a system that I've used for the last 4 years for strawberries, beans, peas, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, and herbs. Keep plants with similar watering needs together. I got some of the buckets for free (just ask your local burger joint if they have any empty 5 gallon pickle buckets.) I bought some at Home Depot (these became too brittle after a couple of years.) I also bought some food grade buckets at a local dairy for $1 - they originally contained ice cream flavorings.

Although the commercial system is nice, you don't need to spend a fortune. I haven't tried composting in any of my buckets (just use 1 or more parts vermicompost to 5 parts regular compost and you've got an optimal mixture of compost for the plants. I also add 1 part perlite and 3 parts mineral sand for my particular mixture along with a dash of gypsum to add sulfate and calcium.) I compost and vermicompost elsewhere ... under more optimum conditions.

After I made the first half dozen buckets, it takes 30 minutes to make a bucket and plant it with a dozen seedlings from my greenhouse. Best of all ... the out-of-pocket monetary investment is minimal.

Send me a PM and I'll walk you through the steps to make one of these. It isn't hard if you've got a drill with a 1/4" bit and a jig saw with a metal cutting (fine) blade. Jig saw cutting on a curved surface is tricky until you get some experience. My first few buckets looked horrid. They still grew the plants well.

Grover

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
But one could easily

Yes, Grover, pre-made it's expensive. But one could easily make this yourself from a barrel, a bit of PVC pipe, and a cap, a bowl and some bricks (or whatever) for feet.

maceves's picture
maceves
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 23 2010
Posts: 281
worms

Now you know I love the worms.....but setting up a DIY system like this that would work for both the worms and the plants is way above my engineering ability.  It would be much less complex to make the worm compost elsewhere and use it in Grover's system.

It is so easy for beginners to kill their worms the first time--maybe the tower owner should have a simple system first to learn how to work with the little guys.  It does look like the soil around the plants would work as insulation to keep the core temperature stable.  It would be interesting to see what people's experiences with this have been.

Note--you could only use plants with shallow roots---lettuce, strawberries and such.

Also note--that core is not very big, so you won't have too many worms or be able to compost a lot of scraps.  A token feeding every few days would be enough.

 Pulling the compost off the bottom is what the professionals do.  That would not upset the worms too much, and the material should be pretty much done if you waited long enough.

I know some people who would easliy slap down that kind of money if they thought the system would really work.  They would put it outside near the kitchen, maybe out on a deck, and call that their garden.

I did read about making earthworm windrows right along the row of tomato plants and letting the plant roots grow towards the compost if that was what they wanted to do.  Apparently the extra water from the decaying compost was attractive to the tomatoes, so they did grow that way.  In that case, the worms were fed all along the row and food and bedding was added to build it up all season,.....That was from Bentley the Compost Guy who also does worms.

Grover's picture
Grover
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2011
Posts: 843
Good Idea with Caveats

Wendy,

I like the concept (with caveats) and agree that it could be made without too much difficulty. Once made and filled with soil mixture, it probably would take a couple of strong men to move it. (Make sure it is where you want it.) My 5 gallon buckets weigh about 50 lbs when full. They even come with a convenient carrying handle. If an unseasonable frost is expected, the buckets can be moved to a sheltered location easily. They can then be relocated after immediate danger has past.

I've had problems in the past with overloading my compost pile with too much green stuff. I'm remembering one occasion with fresh cut, wet grass placed on top of a small compost pile. The bacteria greedily consumed the sugars in the grass and all available oxygen. The wet grass capped the pile and retarded oxygen flow. The pile went anaerobic. When I checked it a few days later, I was greeted with the strong stench of a pile gone bad. The worms and desirable bacteria died. Turning and aerating restored the balance, but it was a lesson for me.

Someone who knows how to compost wouldn't overload the central chamber. All it takes is one person trying to stuff the last bit of grass clippings in the tube to destroy the environment that you've nurtured. In this enclosed area, it may be difficult to rectify.

Thanks for taking the time to post your interesting findings (like this one.) You've stimulated my mind quite a few times.

Grover

maceves's picture
maceves
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 23 2010
Posts: 281
looking at it again

Looking at it again'...that girl plunges out the whole core of the tower and pushes it all out------it has a lot of plant roots in it.  Maybe I don't like that so much.  The plants do look healthy though.  I wonder how many times it has been plunged.

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