A new company in Bloomington, Indiana calling itself the Garden Tower Project has created a revolutionary vertical container garden called the Garden Tower. Unlike any other container garden, the Garden Tower generates its own organic fertilizer with kitchen scraps thrown into a central “vermicomposting” tube, and grows fifty-plus plants in a four square food area.
With their Garden Tower they hope to open up gardening possibilities--and thus increased food security--for urban gardeners, community food programs, people living in “food deserts,” and anyone who wishes to boost their own gardening output easily and affordably. A socially responsible company with a mission, the Garden Tower Project is committed to locally-grown, sustainable, and organic food production.
The Garden Tower’s great innovation is the central vermicomposting tube. Vermicomposting, the creation of organic, nutrient-rich worm compost, occurs within this tube continuously as the gardener throws in plant material kitchen scraps (worms are added to the Tower when it is first planted). The tube runs the length of the 3 foot body and has 40 holes that allow the worms to travel freely throughout the Tower, distributing castings and aerating the soil.
According to Garden Tower inventor Colin Cudmore, this feature, along with several other design features, allows for rapid, healthy, and abundant growth. Vegetables, flowers, and herbs grow readily in the Tower, with little maintenance and no external inputs such as electricity or special nutrient solutions, such as are typically found in hydroponic systems.
Cudmore, Master Gardeners, and novice gardeners in the Bloomington area have been testing the Garden Tower prototype for two years, with impressive results. Says Advanced Master Gardener Michael Simmons, "I planted a fall garden in 2011 in two prototypes of the Garden Tower. Crops included kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, arugula, leaf lettuces, chives, garlic chives, sage, marjoram, and parsley. The results were astounding. In March, I still have kale, collards, and herbs that overwintered in the units and continue to flourish.
The Garden Tower Project’s next step is to raise the considerable sum needed to make injection molds for mass production of the Tower. Hoping to bypass the Wall St./big bank nexus, they have gone on Kickstarter to present their project directly to those who will be most interested in the Garden Tower and who will want to support them financially. According to Cudmore, this will allow the company to maintain the greatest control of its business practices and remain committed to its mission of bringing the Tower to as many people who need it, as affordably as possible.
The terracotta-colored, next-generation model is a big improvement on a prototype that already works wonderfully, says co-founder Joel Grant. It will be rotatable to allow equal access to light on all sides, and will have an easy-to-use removable catch basin that allows the gardener to collect run-off “compost tea” and worm castings to return to the system. The Tower’s simplicity, ease-of-use, and self-replenishing design are distinctive qualities of the Tower, says Grant. “Anybody can use this--beginning gardeners, seniors, children, those with physical restrictions—it’s really that easy. Once you have the soil, worms, and plants in there, you just water and watch it grow.”
The Garden Tower Project is currently on Kickstarter until June 18. Patrons can pledge any amount, but to receive a new generation Tower later this summer the pledge rate is $245, which includes shipping. Cudmore says he is talking to several Indiana plastics manufacturing plants to be sure that production is up and running as soon as possible. He also stresses that the plastic used is food-grade, and that he is looking at plant-based plastics to minimize the Tower’s carbon footprint.
In all, it’s an impressive product with an already impressive track record. The next generation model will be a fine addition to porches, balconies, and rooftops everywhere, and, more importantly, could really make a difference to the diets of those in gardening-challenged areas. The website, www.gardentowerproject, also does an impressive job of presenting the product, the mission, and the story of the Garden Tower Project.
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