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Garden Towers are worm-composting, space-saving gardening systems that conserve water and recycle nutrients.

You can grow 50 plants in one unit with easy access and very low maintenance.

They are round and stand 4 feet tall and 2 feet across.

Great for patios and decks, as well as out in the yard.

You’ll be amazed at the amount of food you can grow in this wonderful invention.

It’s a modern Cornucopia.

(Order information at end of post)

I’ve been distributing Garden Towers in the Austin area since September 2012.  There are now more than 50 GT owners growing super nutritious food, from Boerne to Austin to Georgetown.   We also have 7 highly productive GT’s planted here at home.  Some local projects can be viewed at:

http://tinyurl.com/pztqae6

Here I am drenching soil with molasses and water to feed and stimulate soil micro-organisms to reproduce exponentially.

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Garden Towers of Austin has displayed at the Energy Round-Up in Fredericksberg, Farm & Food Conference in Bastrop,  Rainwater Revival in Boerne, Hope Farmers Market in Austin, and recently installed one at Inspiration Garden in Boerne.

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A good location to see one in action is Gordon Wybo’s Sustainability Center in Kyle, at the corner of Center & Sledge.

Gordon is a master at raising red-wiggler worms.  He supplies a number of stores in Austin and sells them in Kyle.

SustainacycleKyle.com

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Here’s one we planted on the deck of a retired friend.  She loves being near her plants again and spoils her red-wiggler worms with fresh fruit and vegetables in addition to regular kitchen scraps.  They’re happy campers, no doubt about it.

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The composting worm tube is what makes this unique invention so productive.  Red-wigglers feed there and then go out into the soil to do all of the beneficial things they’re noted for – transporting microbes, fertilizing soil with their castings, aerating soil, interacting with roots. Here’s a view down the worm tube located down the center of a Garden Tower.  It’s easy to lift the cap and drop in food scraps.  The worms turn it into rich compost in short order.  There’s an ergonomic, industrial-quality plug at the bottom for harvesting worm compost when the time comes.

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Garden Towers are custom-built in Bloomington, Indiana by the founders of Garden Tower Project.

http://www.gardentowerproject.com/about-us

They’re now able to ship Garden Towers to individual customers anywhere in the country.

(see order info at bottom)

I’ll be keeping some in stock for folks who’d prefer to stop by the house in Driftwood to pick one up and view our fully planted GT’s.

E-mail me at john@gardentowerproject.com if you’d like to do it that way.

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Here’s one we planted all from spinach seed.  We’ve been harvesting every other day since early May.

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We really enjoy fresh cooked greens from our Garden Towers.

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Here’s some cilantro that bolted.

The little green seeds are coriander spice.

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GT’s are very easy to set-up.  It only takes an hour.

I like to use a variety of soil products that I mix on a big tarp before filling the GT.

Each has different characteristics and components.

It takes 5 bags of soil and there will be some left over to use as things settle.

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I like adding a few handfuls of Azomite to provide a rich source of minerals.

Some soil products already have Azomite in them, but I add it anyway.

A rich and lofty soil blend is the goal.

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I like to soak a block of coarse crushed coconut shell and add that to the 5-bag soil mix.

It provides moisture retention and loftiness.

I also fill the bottom of the worm tube with 12 inches of it for bedding, prior to installing the worms.

They compost it over time as well.

Squeeze it out so it’s barely wet, like a damp sponge, before putting it in the worm tube.

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2 ounces of molasses per gallon of water makes for a good microbial food source.

I drench the GT’s with this solution, very slowly until they start to drip from the bottom drain holes.

The soil mix will settle a few inches so just add more soil up to the bottom of the worm-tube cap.

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After the soil is in and the molasses soak is done you can start planting from seeds or starts.

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2-inch plant starts go in very easily.

4-inch starts take a bit of finesse, but are not difficult.

I’ve seen almost zero root-shock as a result of transplanting.

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One thing I like to do prior to planting the starts is to line each pocket with half a handful of soaked SoilMoist beads.

These are inert polymer crystals that swell when soaked in water.

I put a small amount of fish emulsion in the soak water so they absorb that too.

This is kind of a jump-start, as well as a future moisture and nutrient buffer.

The beads will give up moisture when needed and re-swell when water is available.

A little bit goes a long way.  I always end up making too much.

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Garden Towers provide a simple way to incorporate the many synergies of truly fertile soil, micro-organisms, worms, minerals, etc.

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E-mail – john@gardentowerproject.com – for a Garden Tower set-up guide.

Garden Towers do everything in a small area with optimal accessibility and convenience.

Right out the kitchen door if so desired.

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Garden Towers are a great educational tool.  My friend Marie owns a pre-school in Wimberley, TX where we collaborated on a three-day project with 15 children.  They had fun filling the GT with a bucket-brigade.  Then we installed the worms on day two.  And finally, each child planted their own GT pocket and labeled it with their name on masking tape.

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They sent an appreciation card two months later, filled with sparkles and stars, drawings and comments.  Marie has taught them about saving food scraps and feeding the worms, drying culinary herbs to take home to their parents, watering and tending their plants, and saving seeds.

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I enjoy doing GT set-ups and am available for a small fee plus some mileage.

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Kathleen wanted her Garden Tower close to where she hangs out during the day.

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From start to finish in an hour and a half.

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And in go the red-wiggler worms.

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Another fun GT planting.

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Water conservation is a significant benefit of using Garden Towers.

Drain holes in the bottom allow for the collection of rich run-off water into a pail.

This run-off is full of essential soil nutrients, minerals, micro-organisms and such.

This is recycled by pouring it back into the soil at the top of the GT.

Garden Tower soil just gets richer as time goes on.

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Prolific summer squash.

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Cherry tomato jungle.

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Our spinach is starting to bolt due to the increased heat lately.

We’ll save the seeds for the next round of planting.

Notice the mylar mirror on the north side.

It really works to reflect light onto the backside plants.

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This one was planted 3 weeks ago from seed.

I’ll figure out a way to trellis the cucumbers.

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It’s easy to protect GT’s from hail or frost or baking sun with a simple tripod frame plus tarps or garden cloth.

Drill a hole in the upper ends of three 2×4’s.

Loop string through the holes to connect them.

Spread the 3 legs.  Attach tarp or cloth with screws, staples or tacks.

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Deer protection ideas that are quick and simple to build.

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Save $10 when ordering Garden Towers at:

http://gardentowerproject.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=50&tracking=AustinGT

Use order code – AustinGT – (case sensitive)

What’s improved on the newest Garden Tower? (pictured above)
Changes include many fine details such as 1) heavier and straighter legs thanks to the new supportive bottom design, 2) a 50% increase in compost tube perforations for increased aeration and performance, 3) virtually no sharp edges (a nicely formed top edge with a rolled lip), 4) vertical sides allowing a more uniform soil column and better use of root space, 5) 1.5 inches more clearance under the tower for compost access and tea collection, 6) an 8% decrease in overall volume for a slightly shorter and easier to access compost tube, and 7) a deep convexly-formed bottom thanks to a new manufacturing process which helps keep the lowest portion of the compost tube drier during heavy watering.

There’s a really good short video that the Garden Tower Project guys put together before the new improved version came out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1C9zP5uJrE

HEY ALL YOU GARDENERS AND COMPOSTERS OUT THERE – I want to let you know about an amazing product that I use in Garden Towers and my other composting systems here at home.  It’s called BioZome and is available at biozome.com

It is based on Archaea micro-organisms and if you do a Wiki on Archaea you’ll get a sense of how amazing they are and how much research is going on related to their beneficial action on planet Earth.  They’re used in bio-remediation including oil spills and will speed up composting as well as enhance plant growth.  A little bit goes a long way and it’s pretty inexpensive.  A very good thing to add to your soil.

ON ANOTHER SUBJECT

You might run across Black Soldier Fly larvae in your worm tube.  I just harvested castings from a few of mine and there were a bunch of BSF grubs in there along with the worms.  They are voracious composters and I have raised them separately in their own bins for years.  They make excellent chicken food.  Something like 40% protein and 30% fat.  They’ll eat anything.  I’m still thinking about the ramifications of them being in the worm tubes. It is said that worms love BSF castings, so that’s not a problem.  It’s the part where they want to pupate somewhere that I’m thinking about.  They can pupate in a compost pile, but that is not optimal.

Normally, mature BSF grubs leave the compost pile they are feeding in and go off somewhere dry to pupate.  They emerge from their shell as a beautiful fly that looks like a wasp.  They only live for a week or so and rarely even land on you, although they’ll buzz around and check you out.  They don’t have any biting parts.  They live long enough to mate and for the female to lay her 500 plus eggs.  The early larvae are so small you need a magnifying glass to see them and in about 3 weeks they have eaten enough to be fully mature.  They turn from white to cream to brown color.

If they do pupate in the worm tube, once the fly emerges from the shell, it will be able to crawl up the inside and get out of the holes.  I’m just wondering about whether pupation will be impeded by a constant flow of food scraps on top of them, and the related difficulty of a newly hatched fly to climb up out of there if there’s too much stuff in the way.  I’ll be figuring this out and reporting back.  In the meantime, you might like to see a couple pictures of these critters.  These were taken in a couple of bins I have going to raise them for chicken food.  The first one is me lifting a section of watermelon that has been laying face down for a few days.

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I raised 100 pounds of them a few years ago and had to freeze half of them in baggies.  I fed those over the winter months to our chickens.  A small baggie holds about one pound of mature grubs.  The grubs are so active that you can actually hear them feeding.  It sounds like soft rain.  A bin might have 50,000 or more of them when it really gets going.  The next picture will show a female preparing to lay her eggs after she’s decided that the food source in the bin is where she wants those babies to fall into.  I have little wood strips along the top edge of the bin and little holes drilled that they seem to like to lay eggs inside.

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A great place to find out more about Black Soldier Flies is blacksoldierflyblog.com

I’ve spent many a wonderful hour there reading and viewing projects that folks have come up with.

The blog host, Jerry, was my original mentor and I recommend him highly.

BACK TO GARDEN TOWERS

I recently got interested in brewing compost tea and discovered a guy up in the Pacific Northwest who makes these simple vortex brewers that hold 12 gallons of water, into which you put some worm castings and molasses and the air pump moves the whole mixture in a vortex fashion for 36 hours and then you use it as a foliar spray and for watering the soil.  What happens is that all of the aerobic micro-organisms in the worm castings multiply like crazy with the oxygen and molasses and it is a potent brew to charge up your soil and protect your plants.  Here are a couple of pictures of that.

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I was convinced about using compost tea after viewing a few YouTube’s about world-record vegetables grown by people who use lots of tea in their operations.  I figured it was worth it to see how productive Garden Towers could really be.  I’ve only brewed a few batches so far, so I don’t have any quantitative data, but everything is going gang-busters regarding GT output here.  When you think about the mass of material coming out of the soil in the form of plants and their fruits it’s obvious that more has to be put back in at some point.  This compost tea is part of that equation – nutrient and microbe wise.  The castings from the worm tube is also a part of it and I’m planning to top-dress the towers with the castings generated in our Black Soldier Fly bins as well, and let that all leach into the soil on each watering.

I’m planning a couple of other experiments now that I’ve cleared out some worm tubes.  My buddy Gordon carries a product called BioBoost Supreme that is a multi-purpose biological fertilizer and soil builder.  I also have a bag of Perfect Blend which was designed to feed soil micro-organisms in a slow-release manner.  I want to try mixing each of these with coconut coir and installing those mixes into a couple of empty worm tubes and then watering down the worm tube and letting the nutrients and microbes leach out into the soil.  I’ll update after that has had a few weeks to reveal it’s efficacy.  One thought is that I’m sure there are some folks who would rather not mess with the worm part of the equation, even though they are very beneficial.  But, since there are other ways to get similar effects, it makes sense to explore them in the interest of variety.

One thought on “Welcome To Garden Towers of Austin

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