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Friday, December 24, 2021

Seed Starting Indoors 101: How to Grow Herbs, Flowers, Vegetables and Fruit Garden Transplants

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

I will be doing at 2022 video series called Seed Starting 101. This series will teach you how to start seeds indoors, with the goal of having inexpensive transplants for your gardens. Transplants can easily cost $3-$5 a plant when purchased at stores.  Growing your own transplants, taking in all the start up costs, will cost you about .25 cents a plant or less. The lights, seed starting supplies, and seeds will last for years, further bringing down the cost of growing your own garden transplants. You can find seeds and seed starting supplies at my seed and garden shop.

There are 4 basic areas you need to learn about (first) to have success starting seeds indoors and to set up your own basic grow light station.  Consider this video the prerequisite courses to Seed Starting Indoors 101.

You don't need to buy expensive grow lights. Basic and inexpensive 4 foot white LED shop lights are perfect for starting seeds and growing transplants. Remember this... you are not growing them indoors to flower and fruit. You want to look at 2 ratings when buying shop lights.  Lumens is brightness and you want lights that have 5000 or more lumens. You can grow with as little as 3000L but it is worth the time to look for 5000L or more. The next rating is light color and you want daylight as it mimics the sun. The Kelvin rating you want is 6500K but anything between 4100K and 6500K will work. Sometimes the Kelvin rating is not present so look for the word 'Daylight' on the box. The basic shelf, for your setup, should be 48 inch to hold the lights and wide enough to hold a basic seed flat. A width of 18 inches is perfect.

Seed starting mixes are typically made with peat moss. Peat moss has a very good chance of having fungus gnat eggs. They sit dormant until moisture and temperature are met for hatching. And that is found under your grow lights. Fungus gnats will infest your seed starts and cause problems. The best defense is sterilizing any starting mix with boiling water. You do not need soil life for growing seed starts. They will benefit from microbiology, wonderfully, once outdoors.  Boiling water will kill fungus gnats eggs and all life. That is good for seed starts.  Pour boiling water into the seed starting mix to hydrate it, to the point the mix will drip if squeezed. It is better to use more water than you need and let the mix dry for several days, if needed.  Not sterilizing starting mix is the biggest mistake all gardeners make.

You can really use any kind of containers you wish but make sure they have holes on the bottom. Holes typically allow excess water to drain out. With seed starts, I recommend watering from the bottom for two reasons. It is easier and cleaner. Watering seeds starts from the top takes a lot of time, it splashes starting mix around, disturbs newly germinated seedlings, and it can spread fungus and diseases. Along with your container you will need a seed flat or, basically, a watering tray. A foil baking pan works. If you want to purchase a collection of flats, cells and transplant pots, please check out my seed shop. All your containers go in the tray. Simply fill the bottom of the tray/pan with water and wait 20 minutes. What ever is not absorb dump out.  Your seeds starts will wick water up from the tray through the container holes.

You will notice seed starting mix is al light brown color before it is saturated.  That light color is the clue that your seed starts need to be watered. Once your seed starts are bottom watered, the mix turns a dark brown. Seed starting mix always dries from the top surface down. The surface top of your seed starts will turn from a dark brown to a light brown and that is they can be watered.  I recommend waiting 1 or 2 days after the top turns light brown. There is plenty of moisture below the surface. Allowing the surface to dry helps manage potential fungus and mold problems.  You water your starts and transplants when they need it. Fertilizing should be done with any water soluble fertilizer at 1/4 the recommend strength for outdoor use. Your plant are growing in an artificial environment and over fertilizing can be an issue. The goal is to get the N, P and K numbers close to 1,1,1 for reference. Begin fertilizing your plants about 10-14 days after they germinate. You can feed them 1 or 2 times a month based on their size.

The above video will cover these prerequisite topics and prepare you for growing you own transplants. Remember transplants at stores can easily cost $3. Realistically, after buying all your supplies, you will save money or break even the first year. The more transplants you need the more you save.  After the first year, because you already purchased the lights, containers and shelving, the continuing costs are really additional seeds and seed starting mix. Each Seed Starting Indoor 101 class will be presented in a video at my YT Channel The Rusted Garden Homestead and also presented here on this blog. Good luck!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel The Rusted Garden Homestead
Nearly 500,000 Subscribers and Over 1250 Garden Videos Designed to Quickly Present Information!

Visit The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop for your Seeds, Starting Supplies, Fabric Pots, Neem Oil,
Peppermint and Other Oils, Calcium Nitrate and More.
The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

Monday, December 20, 2021

25 Common Garden Mistake Both New and Seasoned Gardeners Make & Some Solutions

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

The biggest barrier to having a successful garden is not getting started out of fear, in thinking, you have to know it all. You can't have success if you are not planting and growing. I still don't know 'it all' after 30 years. Realizing you will make mistakes and that it is ok to make mistakes, will make for a better experience in your garden.  Mistakes will always be made.  You will learn from them and correct them as you learn and gain experience.  There is no perfection in gardening. 

Here are some common mistakes I made, and most gardeners make, at some point in our gardening careers.

1 Over Watering Seed Starts or Under Watering Seed Starts

Seed starting mix will be a dark brown when fully saturated and it will always dry from the top down. That means moisture will be below the dry surface. When the top of the seed starting mix becomes a light brown, water the seed starts 1 or 2 days later.  This brief period of dried starting mix surface and less moisture is good for the plants. The dry top helps keep fungus and molds at bay and many root systems don't like being continually soaked in fully saturated starting mix.

2 Don’t Save Seeds in a Sealed Container and Buy New Seeds Yearly

A $2 pack of seeds often comes with a date stamped on the back. That date is irrelevant. People mistake that date as 'a use by date'. Seeds can easy last 3 years and often much longer, if stored properly. Keep your seeds indoors, in a sealed bag or container. If you want to refrigerate them, you can, but it is not needed. You don't need to buy new seeds every year. Just use up what you already purchased.

3 Don’t Sterilize the Seed Starting Mix

Soil microbiology is not needed for starting seeds and growing transplants. However, you can always add it in later if you wish. Most seed starting mixes are peat moss based, and generally speaking, often contains fungus gnat eggs. Start your seeds in a sterile mix. You can best achieve this by saturating you starting mix with boiling water before planting. If fungus gnats hatch, they will quickly infest all your seed starts. You don't want to experience that if you can avoid it.

4 Try and start seeds on a windowsill

There is just not enough light on a windowsill 99/100 times. Germinating seeds need a minimum 10-12 hours of direct sunlight through a window. You seeds starts will germinate (anywhere) but they will continue to put all their energy into stem growth, trying to reach intense light that just isn't there. They become tall, skinny, and fall over. This is know as plant legginess. Transplants should be started in a greenhouse or under grow lights to prevent this.

5 Over Spend on Grow Lights for Transplants

I've grown transplants indoors for over 20 years using basic shop lights. You don't need to buy specialized lights for growing transplants. Any shop light with white LEDs will be effective if these 2 ratings are met. The shop light should provide 5000+ lumens of light intensity and the color of light should be 4100 - 6500 Kelvin.  These numbers are often on the box. If the Kelvin rating is not there, it should say daylight.  

6 Start Seeds Way too Early or Way too Late

Generally speaking, plants should grow indoors for 3-12 weeks after germination. This period will vary based on the plant variety. You have to plan to get your transplants outdoors when the soil and air temperatures are appropriate. You can estimate this time period by finding out when the right planting conditions are met in your garden and then count backwards. For instance, tomatoes like no chance of frost, 60 degree soil and 70 degree days. That is typically May 15th in my area. Tomatoes are best grown 6-8 weeks indoors. Counting 8 weeks backwards, I would start them on March 15th. 

7 Put Tomatoes and Peppers in the Ground too Early as Transplants

Tomatoes and peppers are warm weather crops. Putting them into the ground when the soil temperature is 40-50 degrees and the days struggle to get into the 60's, just gets you plants that sit and wait. They won't grow, may turn purple, and just struggle. They should get out doors when the soil temperature is averaging 60 degrees and the days are reaching the 70's. 

8 Don’t Buy My Book The Modern Homestead Garden

I have a new book call The Modern Homestead Garden. It is perfect for helping you start your first vegetable garden in any sized backyard. It will teach you the skills you need to become a better gardener.

9 Don’t Stratify Seeds that need to be Stratified

Many seeds need to go through a cold period to break the seed's dormancy. Lavender is one of them. Many perennial plants drop seeds in the fall.  Nature created 'protection' for them so they don't get tricked by unseasonly warm fall/winter days and germinate, only to be killed off by a freeze. They need to sit in the cold and in most cases need freezing temperatures to break dormancy.  Once this period occurs, they wait to germinate, come the warmth of spring. Stratification helps increase the germination rate of seeds and decreases the length of time needed to germinate Not all seeds need this period of cold but when in doubt refrigerate your seeds for 4-8 weeks. Here is a link to my blog article on 35 seed varieties the benefit from stratification.

10 Don’t Keep Lights on Long Enough or Close Enough to Seed Starts

When seeds first germinate and break the surface, they are still in breaking the surface mode and are working on growing their stem. When they feel they hit enough intense light, they slow stem growth and move into leaf growth. Keep your light on 16  hours as your seeds germinate. Once they break the surface, continue with this amount of light for 5-7 days. You can cut the light back to 12-14 hours as they grow, if you wish, after that. Use these number as a guideline.

11 Too Worried About Making a Mistake or Worried About Perfection

You are going to make mistakes and perfection is a goal, we all eventually learn, is just not achievable.  The fear of making a mistake and feeling you need to know everything to be perfect, is self imposed, and an unrealistic barrier to fully enjoying your garden.  We learn from mistakes and we manage down problems as gardeners. The goal is to enjoy your garden and help it along. No matter how poorly thing go, you'll get better and the garden will produce.

12 Don’t Keep a Journal of When Diseases and Pests Show Up & The Treatments

We remember that day and then we forget. It is important to write down notes, in a journal like, the date and conditions when a disease or insect showed up. It is also important to write down what you used to manage the issue and how you went about using it. These notes should be used over the winter or during a down time to build a prevention plan

13 Don’t Test Spray Sprays on Plants

Any spray you get has the potential to damage plants. This is mostly true for homemade spray recipes. It is good practice to spray any new spray on a few plant leaves and wait 24-48 hours for damage. If there are not noted concerns, spray the whole plant. It is also important to use this process on all plant varieties. Kale leaves are stronger than tomato leaves. Each plant should be test sprayed. 

14 Actually Don’t Get Started Due to Feeling They Need to Prepare More

It is easy to feel you need to read a lot and watch a lot of videos to prepare yourself for your first garden. That is helpful to start but we often feel anxious and overwhelmed and fear we will do something wrong when starting anything new. This feeling won't go away with extra readings or more videos.  Just get started with a small bed or a containers and the anxiety will slip away.

15 Start too Big, Over Plant, and Get Overwhelmed

A garden grows and plants take off, come summer. You have to imagine what the garden will be like come mid summer. Those 12 inch tomatoes can become 8 foot giants. And the cucumbers and squash plants can quickly take over a space. Start with a couple of beds and a few plants. Imagine what they will look like at full maturity as you put in your transplants and seeds. We tend to over pack our gardening beds at first planting because everything is small and tiny but... they will grow!

16 Pick the Wrong Sized Container for Tomatoes and Peppers

This is another mistake that requires you to think about the size of the mature plant and a mature root system. A tomato transplant will look fine in a 3 gallon pot but it will become a 6 foot plant with a root system that demands water. An indeterminate tomato plant needs to be grown in a 10-20 gallon container to mange the plant's needs at maturity. This mistake is true for all plants but most often happens with tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. They grow large and demand a lot from a container.

17 Under Water and Under Fertilize Container Plants as the Season Progresses

As plants grow and temperatures warm, more water and fertilizers are needed. A lot of people stick with watering as if it were still spring and the plants were small. When the summer heat comes and plants get to mature size, they may need to be watered 2 and even 3 times a day.  Small plants don't need much in the way of fertilizer but when they begin to flower and produce, they need more. Basically, mature plants suck water and fertilizer out of the soil quickly. You really have to increase the frequency of both as the season progresses.  

18 Under Water Earth and Raised Bed Gardens

Watering is always a challenge but more is better. Plants can survive with 1 inch of water per week. However, you want your garden plants to thrive. In my experience you want to water well at least 2x's a week with a deep soaking into the soil. In addition to the 2 deep waterings, another shallow watering of the top 6 inches really makes a difference. Garden plants set deep roots and shallow roots. They collect a lot of moister from the surface. Water 3 or 4x's a week is a better rule of thumb as summer heat rolls in. 

19 Panic and Spray All Plants When They See a Problem

Spraying is something you will have to do for pests or diseases at some point. Only spray the plant variety that has the problem and fight the urge to spray all plants. For instance if your cucumbers, have a problem, spray all the cucumber plants but don't spray peppers, tomatoes, squash and other plants as 'prevention'. Many pests and diseases only effect on plant type and not others. Spraying an entire garden is bad practice. It can harm healthy plants and kill beneficial insects. Only spray problems and the plants associated with the concern.

20 Panic and Spray Every Type of Spray and Use all Dusts on a Plant with Issues

When you notice a problem take notes and pick a spray or dust. Apply the remedy and wait several days  and look for change. It may take take 7-10 days to fully notice improvement. Often, we want immediate results and begin to think more is better. We spray more frequently then recommended. We apply multiple sprays on top of each other and use dusts after the sprays dry. The more sprays and dusts that pile on a leaf, the greater the chance there is for leaf damage. Don't cover you plants with everything you have in the shed.

21 Plant Cool Weather Crops too Late and Don’t Plant Again in the Summer for Fall

Cool weather crops enjoy soil temperatures around 50 degrees and ambient temperature in the 60's, generally speaking. When soil temperatures rise, cool weather crops, tend to want to bolt and flower and they won't produce as we wish. It is important for them to be planted when they have several months of the right temperatures. In many garden, these temperature are present in the spring and fall. Don't forget to plant your cool crops a second time in the fall. 

22 Pay Way too Much for Bagged Soils

Bagged soils are all basically the same and they are the most expensive way to fill your gardens. They (99/100) are all peat moss based and have some fertilizer.  Bagged soil increase in price as more peat moss is added.  You can make your own, by buying a bale of peat moss, which is much less expensive and simply mixing it with your native earth. A good basic mix is 50% peat moss and 50% your earth.  I also recommend checking out local landscape companies and see what products they offer. A truck load of amended soil is much cheaper than bagged products.

23 Pay Way too Much for Bagged Fertilizers and Give Plants too Much TLC

Many granular fertilizers are made from the same basic ingredients which include bone meal, blood meal, chicken manure, feather meal and other animal wastes. Fancy bags of fertilizer make it sound like there is amazing stuff in their bag. Don't be fooled. Read the ingredients and remember that plants just need nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in great quantity than other nutrients. I recommend paying $1- $1.50 per pound for bagged fertilizer. Anything more is just a waste of money. We can get fooled into over loving our plants and thinking we need to do more.  With experience, you will realize compost does it all and you don't really need to buy anything. Since we can't all make compost, just buy products wisely and don't over spend.

24 Don’t Fully Understand Cautions and Warning like Chemical Fertilizers and Turning Soil 

There are lots of partial truths related to gardening. Like chemical fertilizer are toxic to soil life. They are, if over used and abused on mass scale. They won't harm anything if used lightly 1 or 2 times a month or occasionaly for emergencies. You may not need them at all or choose not to use, but don't fear them.  Our budgets vary and our access to products vary, so you many need a chemical feretilzier. Remember all things on the planted are chemicals. 

Learn about and don't fear gardening cautions and warnings. You will hear turning soil with shovel kills soil life and worms. It may harm a few but it won't kill out life to any degree of concern. You will hear pressure treated lumber leaches toxins. Well 20 years ago they were pressure treated with arsenic and now they are treated with copper. Yes, some copper can leach but not to a degree that would harm us. In fact, the amount of copper a plant would have to absorb from leaching, to harm us, would have long killed off the plant at lower absorption levels. Plants are more sensitive to copper than we are.  So while there is truth to every one these examples, learn about them and don't fear them.

25 Don’t Start Composting Soon Enough and Don’t Collect Leaves

Not everyone can compost but when you have space and yard resources, get started. Often gardeners over think the process of composting and want to get it right. All you need to do is pile organic matter and let it decompose. Putting leaves in a basic pen is a great way to get started. Leaves breakdown wonderfully. Continue this process year after year and you will have more compost than you can use. Don't wait on starting composting and making piles. Just start them.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel The Rusted Garden Homestead
Nearly 500,000 Subscribers and Over 1250 Garden Videos Designed to Quickly Present Information!

Visit The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop for your Seeds, Starting Supplies, Fabric Pots, Neem Oil,
Peppermint and Other Oils, Calcium Nitrate and More.
The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Seed Starting Mix Should Be Sterile for Growing Transplants: Boiling Water to Prevent Fungus Gnats

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop 
Get all your seeds and seed starting supplies at my shop.

Soil microbiology is not needed for growing transplants. There is plenty of time for the benefits of soil microbes to help your plants, once they are planted into the garden and growing. A starting mix should be sterilized with boiling water to kill off any insects eggs, especially fungus gnat eggs. Boiling water will also kill most soil life. However, there isn't a diversity of soil life, like in the earth, present in starting mixes generally speaking.

The reason for sterilizing starting mix is to make sure you don't get an infestation of insects that will quickly spread through your plant growing station. With moisture, food, temperature, and no natural enemies, fungus gnats multiply extremely fast and will feed off the roots of your seedlings. Sterilizing does help with potential harmful fungi and other potential insects but fungus gnats are a major, if not the major problem when starting seeds indoors.


Microbes are just not needed for the growth of healthy garden transplants. Seed starts should be fed with water soluble fertilizer which is already in a form seedlings can uptake and use immediately. Microbes are needed to break down granular organic fertilizers or organic matter in the earth. This process in not needed in starting mix.

If you are concerned about microbes when growing transplants, I recommend starting with a sterile seed starting mix and adding microbes back to the mix. You can do this with worm castings, fish emulsion or add a very small amount of organic granular fertilizes that boast having microbes. I personally have used a sterile mix for well over 10 years and have always had wonderful transplants to grow in my garden.

Most starting mix is quite dry and peat moss based. Fungus gnat eggs are often carried in the peat moss. It needs to be hydrated before being used. If you use  boiling water to fully saturate you seed starting mix, you will sterilize it. Make sure you full saturate it to the point it would drip water if squeezed. It can be used once cool.  If you over saturate it, simply let it dry over several days before using it.

If you are interested in learning more about Starting Seeds and Growing Transplants Indoors please subscribe and watch my playlist.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel The Rusted Garden Homestead
Nearly 500,000 Subscribers and Over 1250 Garden Videos Designed to Quickly Present Information!

Visit The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop for your Seeds, Starting Supplies, Fabric Pots, Neem Oil,
Peppermint and Other Oils, Calcium Nitrate and More.
The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

Friday, December 10, 2021

35 Seed Varieties that Need Stratification and How & Why It Improves Germination for Seeds Like Lavender

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

Have you ever wondered why certain seeds, like lavender, germinate poorly and can take 4 weeks or longer to sprout?  If they even germinate at all. It is because they need to go through stratification. 

Stratification is the natural process of seeds needing a prolonged period of 'cold' to prepare them for germination come warming spring temperatures. The need for stratification is a survival mechanism certain plants developed so fallen seeds stay dormant until the cold of winter passes. Seed are produced when it is warmer, fall to the ground, but won't germinate until the are chilled over a long period. Once chilled, they sit waiting for the warmth of spring. The need for a long period of cold prevents them from germinating early as winter approaches and during periods of overly warm winter days.

Place Your Seeds in the Refrigerator - Stratification

If you don't stratify purchased or collected seeds, they can still germinate but the rate is often much lower and they can actually take 2 or 3 times longer to germinate. A refrigerator is all you need. Most seeds don't need to be stratified. Generally speaking many perennials, that are native to areas with a freezing a winter, benefit from a chilling period. I prepared a list of 35 plants that can benefit from being stratified. These are plants I often seed start indoors.  

There are two ways to stratify seeds. One is called wet and the other is dry. Dry is the only process I do because it is what is most practical when starting seeds indoors. Wet stratification is no more than planting your seeds in a moistened (wet) starting mix and exposing the whole set up to a cold period. That is perfect for greenhouses, cold frames, and places where you can get the right temperatures for the required period of time. I find the dry method to be effective with less work. I just toss them into my refrigerator.

Anise (Hyssop)
Asclepias (Butterfly Weed)
Bachelor Buttons
Beebalm (Bergamont)
Cantaberry Bells
Coneflower (Echinacea)
Delphinium (Larkspar)
False Indigo
Joe Pie Weed
Poppy (Perennial)
St Johns Wort
Strawberry (Wild)
Sunflowers (Perennial Type)
Vervain (Verbena)

We can artificially create the needed cold period by using a refrigerator. Seed packs or hand collected seed should be placed in the refrigerator for 4-8 weeks. There is no clear information on exactly how long different plant varieties need the cold periods to last for their seeds. The above range seems to be fine. The temperature should be near 32 Fahrenheit or 0 Celsius in theory but most refrigerators are several degrees above freezing and that works. I recommend buying your seeds, that need stratification, several months early, and simply toss the seed packs into the refrigerator. Take them out about 5-7 days before planting them into your seed trays and let them feel the warmth of your home. This process will increase the rate of germination and decrease the time needed for seeds to sprout.

This stratification process can be done on all seeds, in theory. So when in doubt, stratify them in a refrigerator. Check out my seed shop The Rusted Garden Seed & Garden Shop for seeds and all seed starting supplies. And follow me on YT under The Rusted Garden Homestead as I will doing a video series on starting seeds indoors for 2022. I also have plenty of other seed starting videos availble now for viewing.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel The Rusted Garden Homestead
Nearly 500,000 Subscribers and Over 1250 Garden Videos Designed to Quickly Present Information!

Visit The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop for your Seeds, Starting Supplies, Fabric Pots, Neem Oil,
Peppermint and Other Oils, Calcium Nitrate and More.
The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Keys to Buying & Growing Herbs, Flowers, and Vegetables in Vertical Towers: Join Me for My 2022 Vertical Gardening Series

 Ultraviolet Protection:

Vertical towers are made from plastic and sit outdoors. Any vertical tower you purchase must be able to manage the ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. The sun will degrade plastic that can't resist UV damage in 1-2 years. Plastic will become brittle and the tower will actually crack and crumble. I have had some of my GreenStalk Garden vertical towers outdoors 24/7 for over 6 seasons. They have not shown any degradation, damage, or cracking from UV rays. They stand behind their towers with a 5 year warranty. You are making an investment and want your towers to last and not need replacement every year or two. Ultraviolet resistance, is key 1, as you want to protect your investment. 

Limited Quantity - Free Shipping Lower 48

6+ Gallons of Material Per Tier:

The tiers need to hold a lot of container/potting mix.  Some of the less expensive vertical towers, that you can find, often only hold a few gallons of material in each tier and don't have UV protection. They appear to work fine in the early spring and when plants are small. However, I recommend each tier being able to hold a minimum of 6 gallons of growing medium. The GreenStalk Garden 5 tier vertical tower has 10 inch pockets and it holds 8 gallons of material. I grew 30 peppers in a 5 tier tower very successfully. This amount of soil volume supports the plant's root growth, nutritional needs, and greatly cuts down on the frequency of watering which is always a challenge for towers come the midsummer heat and mature plants. Key number 2 is a minimum of 6 gallons of growing medium for each tier or compartment.



Budget Friendly & Effective Growing Medium:

The need for more frequent watering becomes an issue as the heat of summer rolls in and plants mature. Having 6 gallons or more of growing medium really helps with this, but key 3 is selecting or making the right soil blend for your vertical towers. Any premium bagged container/potting mix will work but it is expensive and they are basically the same. They contain at least 50% peat moss and some basic fertilizer.  Don't pay more for fancy packaging and misleading words. You can make something as good and even better. You can save a lot of money by purchasing a compressed bag of peat moss and a bag of organic granular fertilizer.  Simply use 50% peat moss and 50% earth from the ground. This makes a wonderful basic blend that holds water.  I, in general, use this base mix to fill 75% of each level of the tower. To that, I add several handfuls of organic granular fertilizer, compost, or other organic matter. If you don't have additional amendments, just add some extra peat moss and level off the fill. You can also add additional amendments as you wish, like worm castings. I often change my mixes, as noted in the videos, but they always have a lot of peat moss. Key 3 is retaining moisture and that is what peat moss does.




Watering will vary greatly depending on the plant sizes and temperatures. I recommend a vertical system, like GreenStalk's tower that has at top tier water reservoir that you can fill and it will gravity feed water down to each lower tier of the tower. It is also a great way to move water soluble fertilizer throughout the entire tower. The watering system uses drip trays on each lower tower tier that catches water from the main reservoir, and it slowly drips water into to soil to maximize distribution. This is the best watering system I have seen but even with that, in mid summer with producing plants, I water each pockets of the tower. Container gardening is always a challenge, come midsummer, because mature plants really pull the water out of the soil. A watering system and watering schedule are the 4th key. You will have to adapt the frequency of watering, come mid summer, no matter what type of tower you purchase. Never let your towers or any container dry out completely as it will damage the plant and production.



Water Soluble Fertilizing:

No matter what type of vertical tower you invest in, you will typically have 3-6 pockets for plants in a single tier. That means watering and feeding will become ongoing concerns over time. There are a lot of plants growing and their demands will increase. When plants are small, they can do quite well, using the fertilizers you mixed into the soil to initially set up your growing medium. When plants begin to flower and produce, they can quickly use up the nutrients in the soil. The best way to replace nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium is with a water soluble fertilizer. Water soluble fertilizers are in a form that is immediately available to your plants. I recommend using fish emulsion which is typically higher in nitrogen than in phosphorous and potassium. Nitrogen is the most used macro-nutrient by plants and it really needs to be replaced regularly in containers. I recommend feeding your tower plants, with a water soluble fertilizer, 1x in May, 2x's in June, 3x's July, 2x's in August, and 1x September. It is a 12321 method you can apply, based on your growing season, spring through fall.  Water soluble fertilizers vary, so follow the mixing instructions and make sure each tier of the tower is well saturated during each feeding.

I am affiliated with GreenStalk Garden. The Rusted Garden Red 5 Tier Tower is on sale now and shipping is free in the lower 48 States. There is a limited production to TRG Red. I have worked with them for over 5 years and fully support their product. You can see how I use them in my garden if you watch the linked videos.

If I had to pick the two things most important in purchasing a vertical tower... I would go with UV resistance and deep pockets. You want your investment to last and you want plenty of soil for your plants to grow in and the extra weight of soil and water also helps them do well in the wind. I get 40 mile an hour wind gusts at times and haven't lost a tower yet.

Have a great season!




The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel The Rusted Garden Homestead
Nearly 500,000 Subscribers and Over 1250 Garden Videos Designed to Quickly Present Information!

Visit The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop for your Seeds, Starting Supplies, Fabric Pots, Neem Oil,
Peppermint and Other Oils, Calcium Nitrate and More.
The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop