By: Michelle Gwaltney
Tower gardening is possible in the heat with just a few adjustments to assist Mother Nature.
- Keep your reservoir full. Twenty gallons of water will heat up slower than five gallons of water. Keeping your reservoir full will keep the water cooler which, in turn, will mean you lose less water through evaporation.
- Run the hot water out of the hose before filling the reservoir. We’ve all felt how hot the water inside the house can be when we first turn on the tap. When filling your reservoir, ensure you allow the water to run until the hot water is expelled and the water cools.
- Lower the nutrients to half or quarter strength. During the heat of summer, we perspire more in the same way plants transpire (water movement and evaporation) so they need more water. However, they don’t need more nutrients. When replenishing your Tower Garden add 10ml (half strength) of each A and B for every gallon of water you add when your air temperatures are over 85 to 90 degrees. If your temperatures are over 100 degrees, you can drop it further and add just 5ml (quarter strength) of each A and B for every gallon.
- Place your Tower on a dolly or thick rubber anti-fatigue mat. Have you ever stepped barefoot on the road, pavers, or concrete in the heat of the afternoon sun? It’s Hot! If your Tower Garden is directly on the ground (grass, decks, and wood mulch are usually ok) consider raising it up and getting some airflow underneath it. You can use a Tower Garden dolly or a thick rubber mat.
- Place your Tower on the east side of a building. Our Towers are in full sun, year-round, in the heat of Southwest Florida sun, and we are still able to grow beautiful produce. If you are experiencing issues in the heat of summer, you may want to consider moving your Tower Garden to the east side of a structure for some shade. Delicate crops may be happier there. Tower Garden technology allows us to grow lettuce successfully in a Tower Garden throughout the summer. By controlling sun exposure, you may be able to grow some traditionally cooler weather plants like kale or cilantro with success.
- Grow heat resistant crops. Crops like beans, peppers, eggplant, squash, melons, and cucumbers that thrive in the summer heat. Also, look for heat resistant varieties of lettuce, herbs, and greens. We have experienced great success with Muir, Cherokee, and Magenta lettuce varieties in the summer these varieties can be found at Johnny’s Seeds.
- Harvest lettuce sooner rather than later. Lettuce generally like cooler weather. Due to the way the Tower Garden works we can grow many crops throughout the heat of the summer. We would be unable to grow using traditional farming methods. It is important to harvest lettuce earlier during the heat of summer. By harvesting baby leaves rather than full size we stop the bolting process which lead to bitter lettuce. More lettuce seedlings will be used during the summer months, but it’s worth it to have nutrient dense local or homegrown lettuce all year.
- Run your pump continuously throughout the hottest part of the day. If you have done everything above and your plants are still struggling in the afternoon, run the pump continuously during the hottest part of the day. You can either set the timer to run continuously or plug the pump directly into the outlet and bypass the timer altogether. Follow in the instructions on your timer and ensure the time is set correctly before setting it for the few hours that the pump runs continuously. (This has not been necessary for us in Southwest Florida).
- Chill the water. Use frozen bottles of water to chill the reservoir. Use the largest bottle possible but ensure it is small enough to fit in the access hole. Fill the bottle to ½ inch from the top to allow for the water to expand when it freezes. Have a few on hand so that you can rotate and refreeze. Ice will dilute the nutrient solution, so this should only be done in extreme conditions where the temperature is over 100 degrees.