Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spinach Chia Tower

I dream of gardening. Not in an idyllic I'm outside planting while butterflies flit and birds chirp kind of way, but in an I-have-to-grow-a-lot-of-food-on-a-quarter-acre kind of way, and so during Maine's long winter months, I often find myself gazing out of my windows and imagining what will go where and how I will manage to grow more the next growing season than I've ever grown before.

I'm limited in how far I can spread out - by the shape of our lot, by our animals (including the dog who has to be tethered out and needs some yard space), by the need to have places to stack our wood supply, and by other lot features, like our septic system.

The next best option is to have portable garden beds - i.e. container gardens, which, in my case, usually take the form of buckets, but sometimes we use other things to hold soil and grow food.

For a few years, I've tried growing potatoes in a tower. I used hardware cloth to hold the growing medium, and I had mixed results. The big problem - for me, being the lazy farmer that I am - was that the soil in the towers dries out pretty fast. Potatoes don't do well in drought conditions, and so I didn't have as large a yield with the potatoes as I do in buckets - which don't dry out as fast.

Still, I like the idea of using the towers as a planting bed, and so over this past winter or sometime into spring I decided I'd try growing my early, cold-hardy greens in the tower.

Introducing, what I have dubbed, the Spinach Chia Tower!

In the top, we planted broccoli and carrot seeds. Then, we poked spinach seeds all over the sides through the holes of the hardware cloth. I was thrilled to see that some of the spinach seeds have actually germinated and are growing, just as I hoped they would, through the wire. It will be fun to see this later in the season with a huge broccoli plant (or two) sticking out of the top, and little spinach plants growing out of the sides.

Since I have nothing to lose but a few seeds, we'll probably reseed the sides throughout the summer and into the fall - and, maybe, this will be my banner spinach year.


  1. What about wrapping the wire mesh in clear plastic to hold in the moisture for future potato growing? OR if your spinach starts to dry out a hot summer day!

  2. Great idea! It would work really well for the potatoes, but with the plants growing out of the sides, I don't know that I could wrap it in plastic for the spinach. Plus, it might get too hot, and the spinach would bolt more quickly.

  3. I see your tower is only 1/2 full of dirt--is that on purpose? Would you ever consider filling it all the way, or would it get too top heavy?
    I have mixed results with my taters every year too. But in the grand scheme of things, I'm honing a skill that others may not have when the zombie apocalypse is upon us!

  4. @ Kaye - when we originally filled the tower it was to the top, but we layered leaves with compost. Over the last few weeks everything has settled a bit ;).

    I think, this fall, I'm going to try filling the tower with leaves and pack them really right, and then, add a bit of compost to the top in the spring. I'm thinking this might give us a more full tower.

  5. Hey Lady,
    I directly sew my potatoes in rows and then cover them with straw....hence the not drying out pattern I've observed. But having space concerns myself...I looked into other options, one great one to share was the ever present garbage can. You can plant potatoes in an old can (that might have a bottom falling off) cut out the bottom and set that on the ground. Fill with compost, soil etc and plant your sets mid way down. Fill up with more compost and top with straw. Voila no weeding and the potatoes slowly drop to the bottom of the 'can.' So that you get a bumper crop in a small space! Thought I'd pass that one along. Trying some new things myself this year...will keep you posted.

  6. Looks good! I bet chives and other herbs would appreciate such a set-up as well! Cut-and-go chives could just be cut back whenever you wanted to add some to your food.

  7. If you were to use a larger gauge chicken wire you could make a strawberry tower.

  8. I have read about two great ideas, which I haven't tried yet. I have limited space as well. 1) use an old wood palate, cover the back with landscape cloth, fill with solid and plant in through the front slats.; or 2) Using chicken wire create a fence that has two sides, fill with soil and yard waste, eventually planting it with seeds of the good stuff you want.