Instructions and Growing Tips for Owners
If you’re reading this section then then you are probably one of our lovely customers already, so thank-you!
This is our guide to get you growing!
What's in the bucket:
1 tower with support legs, reservoir bucket with lid, water delivery pipe and spray nozzle, pump and filter, top cap, net cups, foam cloning collars, bag of pebbles, 80ml nutrients, Vertical Horizon canvas bag.
Thanks so much for choosing your Vertical Horizon hydroponic grow tower! We hope you are excited to get started and see it in action. We are excited for you and have put together these instructions to get you growing as fast as possible. Before you get started, one word of caution: Please, don't connect power to the tower when the pump is not in water, never let the reservoir and pump run dry and never allow water near the power plug. Although the output of the power supply is only 5V or 12 volts, depending on the model chosen, the input is mains voltage and therefore must be kept protected from weather and water spills. You may want to purchase a USB or 12v extension lead to keep the power away from the water, or if it helps get the tower in your location of choice.
Next, you need to decide if you have plants ready to fill the tower. If you have no plants, we suggest that you follow the setup instructions to check your tower, but skip adding the nutrients for now. The tower can then be unplugged, drained and aired, to be ready when you are ready to plant. We know that no-one likes to wait, so you may want to get started right away with a few small established plants. Our cheat's tip for this is to buy some small plug plants such as lettuce or tomatoes, and wash the soil off the roots in a bucket of water, and finally under a flowing tap. Chives from the supermarket are also a very cheap and fast option! (You can always do it properly next time, we understand and won't tell anyone that you couldn't wait to turn your new tower into a living sculpture!) The seed-starter kit with propagator available on our site is the ideal way to start off your hydroponic journey and to keep the tower fed.
If you have purchased our seed propagating set, it's really simple and now is the time to get this going. Fill the water tray with 1cm of water and lower the cell tray into the water. Push the rockwool cube gently down into each cell to ensure they are at the bottom of each cell to ensure they don't dry out. (Rockwool is spun stone and not nasty glass fibre.) Your plant will stay in this cube and will be transferred to the tower later, staying in this cube. It is an excellent media that supports the first roots and holds the correct mix of water and air that the roots need. There are no nutrients in the Rockwool, and you should not add nutrients to the water. Seeds contain all the nutrients they need to push out their first true leaves. The rockwool turns dark green when it is wet. This is how you can ensure that the propagator has not dried out during use. For non-clumping plants, such as lettuce and tomatoes, place just one seed on the top of each cube and ensure that it is lying on its side to give maximum water-to-seed contact. (Sprinkle seeds liberally for clumping plants such as chives or coriander.) There is no need to push the seed into the wool. With most seeds, doing this will increase the chance of seed rot. Once all cells have a seed on them, place the clear lid on the propagator, close the vent and place on a warm, south-facing windowsill. First true leaves will appear in less than a week. Once there are leaves, open the vent to keep humidity up, but allow enough air to prevent rot. after a couple more days you may want to change the water and add just a couple of drops of nutrient solution to the tray. Once plants are getting close to lid, they can be transferred to the tower.
Setting Up the Tower:
Unpeel reservoir lid around rim and lid and lift with tower as one piece, stand carefully to one side. Site reservoir on level ground in chosen location and fill to 5cm from top with water. Add the supplied nutrients as per the instructions on the bottles supplied. Carefully lower tower in to solution, ensuring that pump and filter lower into the bottom of reservoir but do not sit under legs. Do not reattach lid yet.
Ensure that spray nozzle is seated at top of tower that it rests on three sides and is level. It may be necessary to reach through a lower hole and pull gently down on water delivery pipe to help achieve this. Check pump has remained well under water and connect power supply to pump and switch on. Within a few seconds water should start to emerge from nozzle. Nozzle may take a few moments to achieve an even spray pattern. On our 1m tower, due to the very low power consumption, very occasionally the pump may not successfully start for first time when it has been out of water. This is because an air bubble may be trapped in the pump and a pump of this low power consumption can't always push out the air bubble. If this happens, it can often be fixed by switching off the power supply and turning it back on again. If this does not work then you should next reach into water and gently shake the pump, ensuring that it remains below the surface of the water. The pump is working properly if water is coming out of nozzle and the pump is near silent. Trapped air can be identified as the pump will make a gurgling sound. During normal operation, if a timer plug is fitted, or the pump is switched off at the power supply, the pump should always successfully restart. Trapped air is only a possible issue when the pump has been removed from water, and doesn't happen very often. In the most extreme cases, it may be necessary to detach the pump from the supply pipe that runs up the tower and shake the pump while it is still under water.
Once the pump is running normally, the reservoir lid can be clipped into place. There could sometimes be small amounts of water that may escape the tower from either the top or some of the planting holes. This is normal and the tower is designed to handle this water itself. Whenever the lid is replaced or the tower is moved, you should place both thumbs and first fingers on the reservoir lid around the base of the tower and press the lid firmly downwards. This will ensure that any escaped water will return to the reservoir through the small gap between lid and tower. Once you are happy that everything is running properly, place the cap on the top of the tower. If the hessian skirt was ordered, this can now be lowered into place over the top of tower. (Once tower is planted, up the hessian can be lowered around sides of reservoir next time access is required to reservoir.
Now is a good time to take a few moments to place a hand on the side of the tower and gently push sideways to slowly and carefully rock the tower and reservoir to one side. The purpose of this action is to help you to learn the weight of your tower with a full reservoir. This will be the quickest and easiest way to determine when your reservoir needs topping up in future.
Planting up your tower:
Smaller plants, such as grown in Rockwool from a propagator, can be placed straight in a net cup with a foam cloning collar around the base of the stem. You may want to use a few pebbles in the base of the net cup to help wick the falling solution to the little root structure. Less is more here, as more pebbles means less space for the roots to grow into. Around 20mg of pebbles per net cup is about right with one rockwool cube. If you are using washed-off soil-raised plants, with larger root structures, then we would suggest you may want to cut the base out of the net cup with scissors and gently feed the roots through. this will allow the roots to stay spread out, which will give greater access to oxygen and minimise any risk of root rot as the plant matures. Here's some pictures of seedlings being transferred to a tower, together with their rockwool cube, and some clay pebbles.
The height of the tower does not have to limit it's potential! The grills in the cap are designed to allow the attachment of lines to support taller plants such as vine tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, raspberries.....you can grow as high as you can reach to harvest!
You may want to plant less vigorous plants, such as herbs on the shadier side of your tower, as they will be more satisfied with the lower light levels.
Trailing plants, such as tumbling tom tomatoes and strawberries should be planted in the lower rows of the tower, so their crops may hang around the sides of the bucket.
We have taken our time and talked to many suppliers before offering hydroponic nutrients for sale. After testing many solutions, we are confident that we have sourced the best possible feed for our towers, and we think you will agree. Our priorities were:
- High quality, organically-derived plant-material base and fully natural minerals
- UK-made, with UK-sourced ingredients
- No artificial additives, everything food-grade and pharmaceutical grade
- Nothing nasty, no guano, no dung, no fish scales, as usually found in organic-based feeds
- All compounds fully dissolved, so as not to clog or gloop up the system
- Long history of supply to commercial food growers of UK supermarkets
- The most stable composition, to minimise frequency of water changes, reduce maintenance and minimise risk of disease
There is no shortage of nutrients options available, but after extensive research we have found no other suppliers offering all of the above, particularly the combination of organic/natural/vegan. We will always offer these at a really good price and have tried to make getting great results as easy as possible with our nutrient chart that is the simplest to be found!
Refilling your tower:
We recommend changing the water in your tower once per month. You can check the weight of the tower as described in the set up during the month as it may well need topping up, especially with lots of foliage and fruit present. The tower can be topped up through the top by removing the cap, or simply presenting a watering-can to one of the openings in the grill. Always dilute nutrients into water before pouring down the tower to avoid burning the roots. The general rule with topping up, is that once you feel you have topped the reservoir up an amount equal to the volume of the reservoir, then the solution should be replaced. Higher temperatures and high volumes of leaf and fruit will increase the possible need for topping up between water changes. To change the water, open and lower the hessian skirt if fitted, and unpeel the reservoir lid. Lift the tower and lid and place it to one side on level ground, so that it doesn't fall over and damage the plants that are still in the tower. The used water can then be an excellent treat for you other favourite plants as it will still be nutrient-rich. Give the bucket a quick wipe out and rinse, wash off the pump filter, and then you are ready to re-fill. Replace the tower, taking care to ensure the pump returns to the depths and carefully reattach the lid. Be careful doing this, strawberries in particular love to try and get themselves trapped in the bucket, which can be heart-breaking!
Timers: We recommend using a mechanical timer plug to cycle the pump. This will also reduce the risk of root rot by letting the roots breathe between showers. We have had good success running at 30 minutes of each hour, only during daylight hours. Commercial growers mostly run full-time without cycling, but they have very strict monitoring and cleaning cycles to support this. Cycling the pump will also save energy (even if the pump is only 1 watt) and this helps keep the cost of that lettuce head down to 1-2p! We have one available in the accessories section of our shop, but any mechanical timer will do.
If you have any comments or suggestions for this section (or anything else with the product) then please get in touch using the contact form. We love your feedback as it really helps us with our mission, thanks and have fun!