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Garden Tower 2 Update – Gorgeous Lettuce Outgrowing my No-Dig!

Hey there Rural Sprout Readers; I wanted to check in with another update on my Garden Tower project. For those unfamiliar with it, the Garden Tower 2 is a vertical planter and vermicomposting system in one. It has pockets to grow around 50+ plants and has a footprint of about 24”x24”.

You can read my initial thoughts on the purchasing process and setting it up by clicking here – Trying Out the Garden Tower 2.

I also gave an update in April when I added the worms to the vermicomposting tower and began planting, which you can read here – A Dirty Update, My Tower Got Worms!

Now that some of my initial plantings have started coming in, I thought it was time for another update.

Assorted cut and come again lettuces growing in the top ring of a Garden Tower 2.
I’ve never grown lettuce that looked (and tasted) this good.

For those of you that don’t know, I moved into an apartment in 2020 in the second story of an old newspaper building. It’s located in the historic district of a lovely Victorian town in Pennsylvania. As charming as my flat is, it’s problematic for someone who has had a garden every year since they were a kid.  

After many mornings spent looking at the sunny rooftop outside my window, I got the crazy idea of trying to grow a few vegetables in containers out there last year. I started small – three tomato plants and an eggplant. As my plants started to grow and produce fruit, I decided to add a jalapeno plant, radishes, and lettuce.

By the end of the summer, I was already making plans to expand my little rooftop garden into a big rooftop garden.

So, when I saw the opportunity to try out a Garden Tower 2 and give my brutally honest opinion, I was on board 99%. (I’ll get to the 1% hesitation in a bit.)

And I have to say, so far, this thing has seriously impressed me – from the super-speedy shipping to the easy setup to getting it planted.

But something interesting and kind of personal has happened as I’ve been tending to my Garden Tower 2, something a little odd.

Let’s head on out to my rooftop garden and check it out.

First, I want to show you some of the seeds I direct sowed. It’s been an especially rainy and cold spring this year, with nighttime temperatures dipping into the 30s consistently. This has made planting even cold-hardy vegetables challenging.

My boyfriend and I are doing a no-dig garden out at his place. We’ve planted seeds in the no-dig garden, and I’ve come home and planted the same seeds on the same day in my garden tower. Unfortunately, due to all the rain and the cold nights, we had to replant many of the seeds we sowed in the no-dig garden.

However, with the Garden Tower 2, any excess rain gets filtered through the vermicomposting tower and ends up in the bottom compost release gate. My garden tower is never overwatered. And all of the seeds I sowed in my tower have germinated and look great. I haven’t had to resow any of them!

Spinach seedlings growing in the pocket of a Garden Tower 2.

My spinach already has secondary leaves, and I’ve planted them far enough apart, so there’s room for two plants per pocket. I’m ready to enjoy a strawberry and spinach salad with fresh poppy seed dressing.

Yod Fah, or Chinese broccoli seedlings growing in the pocket of a Garden Tower 2.

Look at my tiny Yod Fah, Chinese broccoli that’s a little bit broccoli, a little bit kale and a little bit asparagus. I can’t wait to be munching green stalks of yod fah stir-fried with lots of butter or pickled in a salty brine. Mmm!

Dazzling Blue kale seedlings growing in a pocket of a Garden Tower 2.

I’m beyond excited about adding freshly-picked handfuls of my Dazzling Blue kale to my morning smoothie. And my redbor kale is certainly enjoying this cool, wet spring. I imagine it will only be another week or two until I’m enjoying salty homemade redbor kale chips.

A healthy redbor kale plant is growing from the side pocket of a Garden Tower 2.

But the real winner here so far is my lettuces.

I planted nursery starts of several different varieties – red sail, buttercrunch, summertime and green ice. Again, I planted these the same day as the ones my sweetie and I planted in the no-dig garden. The Garden Tower lettuces are twice the size as the no-dig ones.

Red sails lettuce and buttercrunch lettuce growing in the topmost ring of my Garden Tower 2.

Last week was my first harvest for lettuces. I was having lunch with a dear friend and decided to bring her some fresh lettuce as she’s a self-proclaimed salad fiend. As you can see over the shoulder of this buttercrunch, the lettuces I cut from last week are already producing again and filling in nicely.

A large buttercrunch lettuce growing from the side pocket of my Garden Tower 2. Another lettuce above it has already been harvested and is growing back.

This tower continues to impress me with how easy it is to take care of, and more importantly, how well everything is growing.

But the strangest part about growing with it is how it’s changed my feelings about worms.

I am not a fan of worms. Not even a little bit.

The fact that this tower has a vermicomposting tube was the only part about trying it out that gave me hesitation – about 1%.

Me and Worms

There was an ill-fated fishing trip to Canada as a child, in which my mother insisted I bate my own hook. (I have an idea she didn’t want to touch the slimy worms anymore than I did.) She kept saying they weren’t going to hurt me. I kept telling her I could feel the tiny little bristles against my fingers as I dug the hook into the poor thing.

My mother insisted I was crazy. “Worms don’t have bristles; just put the stupid thing on the hook!”

A year later, we learned about earthworms in science class in school. This included cutting one in half to watch it regrow itself. (Blech and barbaric.) For homework, we had to label the anatomy of an earthworm and color in the picture.

I proudly showed my mother my finished homework. Oh, look, earthworms do, in fact, have bristles on their body called ‘setae’ which help move them through the soil.


To this day, my relationship with worms has been one of sheer loathing and disgust. Even taking the pictures of my new tenants’ initial move into the tower gave me the heebie-jeebies.

But that’s slowly changing.

I am one of those folks who go out to the garden every morning just to check on things and say hello to all of my plants. (What? You don’t talk to your plants?) I head out to the rooftop, coffee in hand and make my rounds.

This always includes checking the compost release gate for tenants who have crawled out of the tower. The ‘getting started’ material provided by the Garden Tower Project mentioned that occasionally a worm or two would make their way past the screen and down into this little bin, especially after a good rain.

The first time I slid the bin out and found a couple of water-logged worms in it, I yelped.

Out loud.

Yup, I sure did.

And then I dumped them back into the top of the vermicomposting tower with a shiver, and they quickly disappeared into my kitchen scraps.

These days one of the first things I do when I check the garden is to carefully and quietly pop off the top of the vermicomposting tube and peek down inside to look for my little wiggly friends. I whisper, “Good morning, worms,” which often sends little worm butts pulling themselves back into the safety of the dark.

I check the bin for any worms who have left the safety of their dirt fortress, no more yelping. Although sometimes I politely remind them of where the food is, and how that’s where they need to be, eating and pooping and making my plants look fabulous.

Thanks to my Garden Tower 2, I’m getting over my thing with worms. Am I ready to pick one up without a gloved hand yet? No, so much no. But they don’t give me the heebie-jeebies anymore.

If you need a childhood-worm-trauma-healing Garden Tower too, you can pick one up here.

My Escape Artists

It’s always two worms in the bin. No more, no less. And it’s always the nightcrawlers, rather than the red wigglers.

I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t the same two worms. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my escape artists, returned home. Maybe I should name them.

Stay tuned for further updates. I planted beans, zinnias, poblano peppers and a couple of eggplants in my tower today. Let’s see how quickly they grow.

Take a look at the rest of my updates on my Garden Tower here.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,