How to Grow Like a Pro in the Heat of the Summer
Growing in the Summer can be a bit of a challenge, but not if you are doing these nine things.
- Keep your reservoir full. 20 gallons of water will heat up slower than 5 gallons of water. Keeping your reservoir full will keep the water a little cooler, which in turn will mean you lose less water through evaporation.
- Run the hot water out of the hose before filling the reservoir. We’ve all felt how hot the water inside the hose can be when we first turn the tap on. When filling your reservoir ensure you allow the water to run on the ground (or other in ground garden) until it is cold (or as cool as it gets).
- Lower the nutrients to half or quarter strength. During the hot summer days your plants transpire more and, just like us, they need more water. However they don’t need more nutrients. When replenishing your Tower Garden add 10ml (half strength) of each A and B for every gallon of water you add when your air temperatures are over about 85 or 90 degrees. If your temperatures are over 100 degrees you can drop it further and add just 5ml (quarter strength) of each A and B for every gallon. The manual suggests adding every other time. Read our post here to see why I prefer adding half or quarter every time.
- Place your Tower on a dolly or thick rubber mat. Have you ever stepped barefoot on the road, paving stone or concrete in the heat of the afternoon sun? Ouch! It is HOT. If your Tower Garden is directly on the ground (grass, mulch and wooden decks are usually ok) you will want to consider raising it up and getting some airflow underneath it. Simply use the Tower Garden Dolly or a thick rubber mat like this one.
- Place your Tower on the East Side of a Building. My Towers have always been in full sun, year round, in the heat of the Central Florida or South Florida sun. However, if your temperatures are above 100 degrees you may want to consider moving your Tower Garden to the East side of a building. Delicate crops may be happier there. Tower Garden technology allows us to grow lettuce successfully in a Tower Garden throughout the summer. You certainly do not find anyone growing lettuce in the ground in Florida in the Summer, but you will find it in many Tower Gardens. The same can be said for Kale and Cilantro.
- Grow Heat Resistance Crops. Grow crops like beans, peppers, eggplant, squash, melons and cucumbers, that thrive in the summer heat. Also look for heat resistant varieties of lettuce, herbs and greens. Muir, Cherokee and Magenta are our best heat tolerating lettuces.
- Harvest Lettuce Sooner Rather than Later. Lettuce is generally a cool weather crop and you will rarely find anyone growing it in the ground in Florida, or many other parts of the country, in the summer as it is simply too hot! Due to the way the Tower Garden works we are able to grow many crops throughout the heat of the summer we would otherwise be unable to grow. However, harvest them sooner rather than later. By this I mean harvest the lettuce as baby leaves rather than a full size head. Over time the lettuce will start to bolt and begin to taste bitter. At that point it is all about timing. Getting your timing right and having another lettuce seedling ready to go into the Tower to take it’s place.
- Run Your Pump Continuously Throughout the Hottest Part of the Day. If you have doing all the tips above and your plants are still struggling a little in the afternoon, run the pump continuously during the hottest part of the day. You can either set the timer to run the continuously or plug the pump directly into the outlet and bypass the timer altogether. Follow the instructions on your timer and ensure the time is set correctly on the timer before setting it for the few hours that the it will run the pump continuously.Personally, I have never done this in Central or South Florida. If you are doing the things above it simply isn’t necessary, unless your air temperatures (not real feel) are well over 100 degrees.
- Chill the water. Use frozen bottles of water to chill the reservoir. Use the largest bottle possible but ensure it is small enough to fit in the access hole. 32oz Gatorade bottles work particularly well. Fill them to about 1/2 an inch from the top to allow for the water to expand when it freezes. Have a few on hand so that you can rotate and refreeze. Ice will dilute the nutrient solution so it is not recommended.
Again, this is something I have never done in ten years growing Towers in Florida either.
- Use the Tower Garden Weather Protection Blanket. While I have not personally used this blanket, I’ve heard from many who have and they have had good result.
Most of all, keep it simple! In the greenhouse at Living Towers in Eustis (Central Florida) the temperatures have reached well over 110 degrees in the summer. The water is not chilled and the pumps do not run continuously.