What I Learned After 3 Frustrating Years of Growing in the Dirt

If you’ve been following the blog, you may know I’m a big advocate of using Tower Garden to grow indoors. But I haven’t always been the dining room aeroponic farmer I am today. It took me some time to come around to the idea.

Three years, in fact.

A case study of the advantages of aeroponics, my Tower Garden tale is one of stubbornness. And today, I’m going to share my story with the hope you might learn something from it—without having to experience the frustrations I did.

Discovering My Passion for Growing Food

Having grown up in what you could call a “brown thumb” household, I’ve spent most of my life with little exposure to gardening.

But in 2011, I received a small herb growing kit as a gift. I followed the included instructions and successfully grew happy little basil and marjoram plants. (The chives and parsley were busts.) After a few weeks, I harvested and—for the first time—ate something I grew myself.

And I was hooked.

As I learned about the benefits of growing your own fresh produce—such as control over quality, superior flavor, greater variety and so on—I became even more consumed with the idea.

So in 2012, I decided to make a serious attempt at gardening. And I did what I bet most new gardeners do: simply tilled a small plot in my backyard and planted a few seeds. After all, growing a few vegetables can’t be that hard, right?

She’s plotting—just one more reason growing in the dirt didn’t work out.

Attempting a Traditional, Soil-Based Garden

In that first season of growing in the dirt, I quickly learned:

  • The soil contained too much clay and too few nutrients to grow healthy plants. But, somehow, weeds loved these conditions!
  • My backyard didn’t get enough sun for fruiting crops to be very productive. So I ended the season with only a handful of peppers and zucchini to show for it.
  • Consistently watering was consistently difficult to manage. And it took too much time. Meanwhile, I was a feast for mosquitoes.
  • Pests and plant diseases flourished in my garden, thanks to poor plant health caused by the aforementioned problems. Cabbage loopers… c’mon, give me a break!

After a season of wimpy returns, I was disheartened. But, determined to grow my own food, I refused defeat.

The next growing season, I invested more in my little gardening project. I worked compost into my soil, built a drip irrigation system, stocked up on organic pest sprays, and vowed to diligently weed my plot (which, frankly, didn’t happen).

But I saw little improvement.

OK—2014 would be different! (I thought.) This time around, I built raised garden beds that I filled with premium soil and compost, improved my irrigation system design, and planted insectary plants to attract good bugs (for help controlling the bad ones).

Though I still struggled to an extent with weeds, watering and pests, these changes finally resulted in a more successful garden. But they also cost me a lot of time and a few hundred dollars—money that I could have spent more wisely.

Just weeks after planting, my indoor Tower Garden was harvest-ready.

Transitioning to Tower Garden

As the 2014 season drew to a close, I got a Tower Garden with grow lights and moved the growing inside. In that first winter, the yield of greens and herbs from my indoor Tower Garden eclipsed what I’d gotten out of my soil garden over the course of three years. Those plants grow so quickly!

I was so thrilled with the results that I bought another Tower Garden this past summer to grow outdoors.

Here’s my point: I spent a significant amount of time, effort and money trying to grow food using traditional methods. And the results were pretty disappointing.

But when I planted an indoor Tower Garden, I was soon harvesting weekly—and continued to harvest from the same plants for more than six months. And the whole process has required little time or effort.

Now it’s hard to imagine not harvesting my own fresh food daily. I don’t think I’ll be giving up Tower Gardening anytime soon.

That said, I still maintain my outdoor dirt garden—in addition to my two Tower Gardens—to grow root crops (which I can’t grow with Tower Garden). I also use it for growing perennial herbs, which are tolerant of my shady backyard.

Because who’s to say you can’t do both? (Besides, after all I invested in my traditional garden, I might as well put it to use!)

What’s Your Tower Garden Story?

Do you Tower Garden? I’m sure there’s an interesting story behind why you do or how you started. And I, along with the rest of the Tower Garden team, would love to hear it. If you’re willing to share your story with us, we may feature it here on the Tower Garden website.

Interested? Simply complete this short form:

Share Your Tower Garden Story

Leave a comment

Want to leave a comment? We'd love to hear it. Please note that all comments are moderated. Anything resembling spam will be deleted. Try to make this a meaningful conversation for all involved.