TOWER GARDENS BLOOM IN VACAVILLE
Vacaville Boys and Girls Club member, Chris Island, 11, of Vacaville talks about the new garden towers that he helped build and maintain at the Trower Center. The unique state-of-the-art vertical aeroponic growing system will allow the kids of the club the ability to grow vegetables and use them both there, and maybe sell them at the farmer’s market.
When it comes to gardening, one Vacaville group is no longer kicking it old school.
Though it still has a traditional bed behind its Trower Center headquarters, the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club has embraced growing upwards and outwards.
With the aid of technologically advanced Tower Gardens, volunteer garden guru Susan Schwartz and her merry team of youths will soon see the fruits of their labor. And veggies and herbs, too, of myriad varieties.
“We’ve got tomatoes, lettuce, basil, cilantro, Swiss chard, spinach, cucumbers, green beans and peppers,” said Schwartz, ticking off the list on her fingers. “In the future, I’d like to dedicate one tower to strawberries, another to tomatoes, and we still have the garden out back, where I can focus on planting more pumpkins.”
Pondering how to get more produce out of the small square footage used in previous years, Schwartz happened to meet up with a Tower Garden distributor. Sold on the 5-foot-tall dynamos that can hold 20 plants, she rushed to tell Anna Eaton, the club’s executive director. A short time later, a grant from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center came through and three towers were purchased. Ultimately the goal is to own nine while gaining community buy in to have Tower Gardens all over the city.
“Wouldn’t that be something?” she mused, imagining full-grown structures that could feed anyone and everyone.
The space-saving gardens use no soil and just 10 percent of the water a classic garden setup would. The towers do use energy, though, to pump the water from bottom to top, where it showers back down and restarts the cycle. A liquid growth tonic boosts health and the towers’ PH balance is checked daily.
The plants grow three times as fast and produce abundantly. The club crew looks forward to the latter, slated to benefit them and the community as a whole.
“When kids plant their own vegetables they want to eat it,” explained Chris Island, 11, who helped put the towers together. “Here, we can just grow them and they’re fresh and juicy and really good. … It hasn’t even been a week and we’ve got bushes growing.”
Kids can just pluck the produce and eat it, confirmed Schwartz, adding that it promotes healthy eating not just among club members, but their families.
“It’s all organic,” she pointed out. “It’s all healthy.”
Eltroy Dennis, 11, vouched for the tasty, fresh goodness of the club-produced fruits, vegetables and herbs.
“When she makes salsa, it’s really good,” the youth enthused.
The crew knows that, come harvest season, they’re likely to be overloaded with bounty. Some produce will be used by the club in its healthy cooking classes, still more will be enjoyed fresh off the towers. The rest will also go to good use.
“We want to go to the farmer’s market,” Schwartz advised. “And the teens want to go over to Opportunity House and make meals for them there.”
The project, she continued, has so much potential, especially if others in the community begin using Tower Gardens as well.
“Helping the community eat healthier, that’s my whole program,” Schwartz said.
Chris Island assured that anyone working with the towers would love them.
“It’s not that much work. It’s more fun than work,” he said. “And kids like to have fun. You get to feed it, nurture it and eat it (the produce).”
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