Garden Tower: Grow Your Own Food Year Round
by Frank Tecklenburg
What happened to digging in the soil, planting a garden, and growing your own food?
It seems that the age of each family having a garden and sharing best practices for crops in their area was lost to the last generation. During the second world war, “Victory Gardens” sprouted up everywhere across Canada and the United States encouraging people to grow vegetables for themselves and others in their community. During the sixties and early seventies, “modern lifestyles” emerged encouraging the use of packaged foods to save time, from frozen TV dinners to canned vegetables. Commercials showed the ease of the products, as well as the perceived status of buying such items. During the eighties the ability to source vegetables and fruits year round in your local grocery stores, which were previously seasonal, created a new way of shopping that removed the need for home canning and preserving, as well as making root cellars almost obsolete.
Thankfully, today’s consumers are realizing the value of local and organic food. There are currently over one million acres of land in Saskatchewan that are certified organic and government data shows that the number of acres of certified organic crops planted are continuing to increase year after year.
Consumers who want to have certified organic options on grocery store shelves, as well as the resurgence of farmers’ markets and the more recent urban agricultural movement are driving the change to bring food, and thus gardening, home. This includes community gardens, rooftop gardens, spin farming, school gardens, community shared agriculture (CSA), container gardens, and most recently vertical growing gardens. As our population ages and more and more seniors are leaving the rural areas and taking up residence in urban condos, they still want to garden and share their knowledge of working in harmony with the land. The later-born Gen X, as well as young families and Millennials, are wanting to source and grow healthy foods free from chemicals and at the same time reduce the cost of sourcing these items in a retail environment. The blend of the older and younger are again bringing back the once-taken-for-granted garden plot. It truly is wonderful to see this resurgence happening.
Local seed libraries are popping up, allowing people to withdraw seeds that are local to the areas where they live and return seeds to the library at the end of the year.
We live on an acreage just outside Saskatoon and, although we love the rural life in this area, our land is made up of 89 per cent sand. It is not exactly a perfect growing medium for vegetables. We chose the land as it was part of the ever-dwindling natural prairie grasslands. We built a passive solar post-and-beam flax-bale home and have created raised beds, static piles, and last year experimented with straw bale gardens. This past year, we began construction on our Wallipini, an underground greenhouse, which we hope will allow us to grow certain types of vegetables and greens year round.
Our goal has always been to be self-sufficient and in February 2015, while researching possible vertical growing systems, a member of our community came across the Garden Tower Project on Kickstarter. The Garden Tower 2 was created to allow for the best of all worlds. A self-contained, soil-based, vertical growing tower that also combines vermicomposting, uses 80 per cent less water, needs virtually no weeding, rotates 360 degrees, requires no electricity, takes up only 4.5 square feet and has space to grow 50 plants. Best of all, it can be used outdoors and indoors for year-round growing.
We were very excited and ordered three units that arrived in April 2015. We set them up inside, germinated our seeds, and planted them when ready into the Garden Tower. Within five weeks we were harvesting fresh lettuce, kale, basil, cilantro, parsley, and more. Throughout the summer we had tomatoes as well as other fresh veggies from the tower.
As a group, we decided to contact the Garden Tower Project creators in Indiana and see if we could become a Canadian distributor for the product. By mid-June 2015, the deal was done and we set up our company, Earth Connections Garden Centre Ltd, with the purpose of working with communities, educational groups, and individuals.
In November 2015, we were honoured to be a presenter at the Indigenous Agricultural Summit, as part of Agribition in Regina. Since then, we have worked with First Nations in Saskatchewan, as well as having towers being trialled at the Regina Food Bank and Learning Centre. More recently, we were exhibitors at Seedy Sunday and Gardenscape.
We are currently working on completing organic certification for our land and what we grow. Starting May 7th this year and every Saturday until October 1st, we will be a part of a street stall outside the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. We will offer a large variety of non-GMO, heirloom, certified organic vegetables, and edible flower seeds from West Coast Seeds, as well as OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certified soils, soil augmentation, and of course, The Garden Tower 2. We will also have our own produce and products available as the season progresses.
We have discovered how rewarding it is to grow food for ourselves and would encourage anyone to give it a try!
For more information: www.earthconnectionscorner.com, facebook: Earth Connections Garden Centre Ltd, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.