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Seed Catalogs & Garden Planning to the Rescue!

Seed Catalogs & Garden Planning to the Rescue!

Woman lying in bed, snow outside window

If you live somewhere between Hardiness Zones 1-7, you may be lolling and snoring along to winter’s hibernation song right about now. The colors outside are drab, the daylight hours are short, and the “nothing-like-it” taste of crisp sugar snap peas and sweet cherry tomatoes picked fresh from the garden linger someplace off in the distance. 


Winter doldrums have you down? 

Here's a quick and easy way to snap out of the winter blah blues.  Put the kettle on for a cup of mint, lemon verbena, or ginger-turmeric tea. Sweeten it with local honey, and grab a stack of next year’s seed catalogs!  


My friend Kristi, an extraordinary cook who prepares nearly all her meals from local, pasture-raised meats and homegrown produce, is also an absolute connoisseur of seed catalogs!  She can’t wait for her selected catalogs to arrive in the mail. This time of year, her collection is scattered across her coffee table, dog-eared and littered with sticky notes marking her wish list for the garden.  Kristi told me, “It’s the vibrant pictures, unique colors, shapes and patterns of the seeds, flowers and vegetables that inspire me on these gray winter days. I also love discovering the newest heirloom and container varieties. I want to try them all!”


Request Free Seed Catalogs 


Baker Creek LinkBurpee Link 

Johnny's Selected Seeds LinkKristi also hinted that seeing pictures of fully mature plants in the catalog is important. This helps her visually plan how she will arrange her community of plants.  After marking the pages of the seeds she’d like to purchase, she draws a map of her garden and plays matchmaker with companion plants. Planning tools found in Johnny’s Selected Seeds Grower’s Library and Garden Tower’s Planting Design Guide are helpful when designing your garden. 


Planting season is closer than you think. Before you know, you'll be starting seeds and watching the world wake from its slumber.  Until then, enjoy getting lost in Spring and Summer daydreams and planning.  What will your garden grow? 


Cautionary note!! 

Looking at magazine

The enthusiasm induced by looking through seed catalogs can lead to ambitious plans and a bountiful garden with more produce than you can manage to eat.  This, of course, is a wonderful problem to have! Apply to sell at your local farmers’ market, start a food stand, or share with co-workers and neighbors. Your local food bank will also be happy to receive your extra harvest. Check out for a place nearby to donate. 


Joel Grant

Garden Tower Project Partners With NAVA On Traditional Healing Village

Garden Tower Project Partners With NAVA On Traditional Healing Village

For immediate release

Contact: Amy Rhodes



Garden Tower Project Partners With NAVA On Traditional Healing Village

Bloomington, Ind. ---During a recent visit to Southern California, Garden Tower Project was contacted by NAVA about discussing a sustainable food and farming project for their community. Ted Tenorio, a decorated Vietnam Veteran and President of Native American Veteran’s Association (NAVA), shared his dream and inspiration with two partners of GTP, Joel Grant and Thomas Tlusty, at a Veteran’s Day Memorial Pow-Wow in South Gate, CA.


Army photograph by David Vergun

The GTP team learned of NAVA’s goal to create a Native American Healing Village and Community Urban Orchard where learning, planning and healthy living can take place. The village will serve Veteran[AR1]  women and children who were victims of domestic violence and abuse, along with Veteran’s suffering from PTSD, whether Native American or not. The healing center will offer alternative methods for treating PTSD by assisting Vets dealing with the effects of trauma, war, resultant PTSD and re-integration, through more traditional methods. NAVA’s project will be set up to teach farming, native crafts and business skills through volunteer efforts as a way to address the indigenous population’s need for skilled employment training.


NAVA has been granted 47 acres by Mayor W.H. “Bill” DeWitt, of South Gate CA, for a historically accurate educational and healing village on the banks of the Los Angeles River. The facility will be a re-creation of a traditional Tongva village complete with longhouse, roundhouse, sweat lodges and talking circles. The Tongva Nation was nearly obliterated during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Only seven families remain. Ted himself, hails from New Mexico and is a part of the Tiwa (pronounced Teg-wan) Nation. The village re-creation is being built out of respect and in memory of the Tongva Nation.


Native Americans have the highest representation of any ethnicity in all branches of the military since the founding of the United States. In the LA area, urban Indians outnumber reservation Indians. As of 2003, over 7,000 Native American Veterans were registered in West LA. Unemployment was 7.1 percent, higher than for any other ethnic group.


There will be no admission fee to the facility, as all NAVA events are free and staffed by volunteers. For the past 15 years NAVA has never charged a fee or accepted any government grants or funds, relying solely on donations and personal contributions.  Ted refers to the operation of NAVA as an “Urban Sovereign Nation” who “takes care of themselves”.  Until 2003, NAVA 501(c)19, was a military order. On Nov 10th, 2015, they gained approval to transition to a 501(c)3 which will allow them to pursue public grants and funding.


Ted revealed to the Garden Tower Project partners that he sees the Garden Tower 2 playing a pivotal role in the farming, education and healing aspects of the Native American Indian Healing Village.  Tlusty, who couldn’t agree more, stated, “This is right in line with our concept of distributed agriculture and education being key for local health and economic resilience.” Grant added, “The efficiency, elegance, simplicity and productivity of the GT2 system, will lend itself well to the success of this program.”


The Garden Tower 2, is a patented, compact planter and vermicomposter that enables gardeners to grow up to 50 plants vertically and compactly inside a footprint of just 4 square feet. The new design easily rotates 360 degrees for optimal lighting and convenient watering. At the heart of each Garden Tower 2 is a perforated compost column that, with the simple addition of redworms, converts ordinary kitchen scraps to nourishing organic fertilizer.


In combining gardening with vermicomposting, the Garden Tower returns nutrients to the closed system, making it self-fertilizing. Vegetables thrive as the potting blend grows richer naturally over time. A nutrient collection drawer also allows the gardener to harvest compost “tea”, finished compost and worm castings, for easy recycling to the top of the Garden Tower to increase soil fertility. The Garden Tower can also support a much wider variety of large vegetables that cannot be grown in any other container type garden, including cabbages, broccoli, squash, zucchini, cucumber and melons. With supplemental lighting, the Garden Tower 2 can even be used indoors.    


Learn more about NAVA or the Tongva Healing Village Project -


Army photograph by David VergunArmy photograph by David Vergun


Learn more about GTP and follow on @TheGardenTower and Facebook


About Garden Tower Project LLC: A socially responsible business concept based in Bloomington, Ind. Garden Tower Project strives to ensure easy availability of fresh, organic food, particularly for people who lack access to growing space. Garden Tower Project has been recognized by the International Design Awards for excellence in Sustainable Living/Environmental Preservation. Garden Towers are now being used to grow food in all 50 states, throughout Canada and has distribution in Australia, UK, Japan & Germany.



Joel Grant

Garden Tower 2 Achieves First Ever Living Product Certification

Garden Tower 2 Achieves First Ever Living Product Certification

PITTSBURGH, September 15, 2016 /3BL Media/ - Humanscale, Bureo, Owens Corning and Garden Tower Project have received Living Product certification for new and redesigned products that meet the high bar of the Living Product Challenge, that is, to design and manufacture products that function as elegantly and efficiently as anything found in the natural world. Turning inspiration into action, these forward-thinking companies were awarded new certifications at the second annual Living Product Expo, hosted by the International Living Future Institute September 13-15, 2016, in Pittsburgh. For more information, visit the website.


“These leading companies are writing a new chapter in industrial design and challenging the status quo when it comes to how products are designed, sourced and manufactured.” said James Connelly, Director of the Living Product Challenge for the Institute. “And, they are at the Living Product Expo to share and discover disruptive new ideas and technologies that are reshaping the materials landscape, accelerating the pace of transformation and making Living Products possible today.”


The full list of newly certified Living Products includes:

Garden Tower Project's Garden Tower 2 – Living Product Petal Certification for Water and Materials

Garden Tower is committed to socially-responsible practices at every level, and has a mission to help transform the face of gardening and food sustainability.  The uniquely designed composting Garden Tower allows for the growing of a large variety of food in a very small space.  The product has achieved Petal Certification for Water and Materials, and the company is currently implementing a new low-carbon, bio-based plastic, a first for its product category.


Garden Tower 2 Living Product Certification Label

“Garden Tower’s social mission is just as critical to the company’s certification as is their material health and regenerative manufacturing innovations,” said James Connelly. “It is a great example of a new product that has the power to transform traditional industries.”


Humanscale Diffrient® Smart Chair -- Full Living Product certification

The Humanscale Smart® Chair is an ergonomically designed commercial desk chair that required a significant redesign on the path to Living Product Certification. Often, commercial office chairs are covered with fabrics that contain perfluorinated compounds. These chemicals, according to the National Institutes of Health, contribute to the body burden of toxicity and have a several year half-life, which means that the time it takes for the chemicals to leave the body can be several years. Humanscale has eliminated perfluorinated compounds from the redesigned Smart® Chair, which is manufactured in a solar powered facility with a newly installed rainwater collection system that offsets the water used in production.


Humanscale Float™ Table -- Full Living Product certification

The Float Table is an innovative sit/stand desk that 'floats' effortlessly when you push a small lever, contributing to an ergonomically superior sit/stand work experience. Humanscale removed PVC from the product—a material with significant lifecycle health concerns—and is working to ensure the remaining product ingredients are fully optimized and safe for humans and the environment.  The product is manufactured in a process powered by 100% renewable energy onsite. “The lifecycle health benefits of using this product versus traditional tables is massively positive when compared to the potential health consequences of tradition design and production,” said Connelly.

“Both newly-certified Humanscale products are not only Net Positive for Water and Energy onsite – but we have conducted a rigorous LCA on each product and are now working to create Energy, Water and Carbon Handprints greater than the footprint of each product,” said Jane Abernethy, Humanscale’s sustainability officer. “We are increasing our handprint by switching to recycled nylon made from fishing nets from Bureo, teaming up with Kohler and an NGO to supply Clarity water filters, and providing water heater blankets to school children.” The practice of Handprinting refers to the measurement of positive impacts that a company makes compared to business as usual in addition to reducing their environmental footprint. More on the Humanscale achievement here.


Bureo – Net+Positiva Plastic -- Petal Certified for Water and Materials

Bureo is a unique company designed around the concept of net positive, and its first product was a skateboard made of recycled fishing nets from coastal artisanal fishing communities, which has been widely recognized for ingenuity in design and sourcing, with investors including the Patagonia $20 Million and Change Fund. Bureo has achieved Living Product Petal Certification for Water and Materials for its Net+Positiva Plastic, recycled plastic resin and pellets which they source from fishing nets, and which they intend to sell to other consumer goods companies to scale up their business.

“Bureo recently installed low flow shower heads in their production facility and is planning to distribute them in communities in which they work, which contributed to the Water Petal certification,” said Connelly. “Bureo is also investing in a solar array for a nearby community school for disadvantaged youth, which will contribute to the company’s full Living Product Certification.”


Owens Corning® EcoTouch® PINK® Fiberglas™ Insulation – Unfaced – Living Product Imperative Certification

With EcoTouch® unfaced fiberglass insulation, Owens Corning achieves its second Living Product Imperative Certification for a product that reflects the company’s long-term commitment to sustainability. EcoTouch® is a residential and commercial insulation product that is certified to include a minimum of 65% total recycled content, and is GREENGUARD validated to be formaldehyde free.

“Owens Corning’s commitment to sustainability is embedded in the foundation of its product stewardship process,” said Connelly. “A core value of the company is developing products that make the world a better place.”


About the Living Product Challenge

The Living Product Challenge re-imagines the design and construction of products to function as elegantly and efficiently as anything found in the natural world. The creation of this program kicked off a groundbreaking new event that brought together leading minds in the product industry to inspire a revolution in the way materials are designed, manufactured and delivered: the Living Product Expo.

At the first event in 2015 sustainability directors from the world’s leading design firms, prominent manufacturers and sustainability consultants learned about and shared game-changing innovations in product design.

This second annual event moves from inspiration to action. The Expo is an opportunity for participants to share and discover disruptive new ideas and technologies that are reshaping the materials landscape, accelerating the pace of innovation and making Living Products possible today. Join us, and together we will craft the future of materials.


About the International Living Future Institute

The International Living Future Institute is an inspiring hub for visionary programs. Our mission is to lead and support the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative. Com­posed of leading green building experts and thought-leaders, the Institute is premised on the belief that providing a compelling vision for the future is a fundamental requirement for reconciling humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The Institute runs the Living Building Challenge, Living Community Challenge, Living Product Challenge, Net Zero Energy Certification, the Cascadia Green Building Coun­cil, Ecotone Publishing, Declare, JUST and other leading-edge programs. A global network of more than 450 volunteers across nearly 42 countries drive the local adoption of restorative principles in their com­munities.



Lisa Lilienthal
International Living Future Institute
Joel Grant

Salad Tower Planting Plan & Design

Salad Tower Planting Plan & Design

Just in time for spring, here's a visual guide to designing your Garden Tower with a focus on salad veggies & herbs! 


Due to many requests from gardeners, we've completed a Garden Tower planting design template and created an example "Salad Tower" using easy to grow, gourmet salad-appropriate plants that can be started from seed mid-spring.  We paid attention to companion planting relationships in this design as well; however, most everything in this "Salad Tower" can be re-arranged without worry.  Throughout the year we will post numerous requested garden designs from the brain-food garden to the perennial culinary herb special.  We're having fun with this!


(click image to enlarge) (printable pdf: landscape) (printable pdf: portrait)

Salad Garden Layout for a Garden Tower


Tower Designer: Print the empty layout below and plan your garden!

(click image to enlarge) (printable pdf: landscape) (printable pdf: portrait)

Customizable Garden Design Layout for Garden Tower Gardening


When designing your garden, pay attention to veggie scheduling and companion planting info!


Subscribe to this blog for new themed tower designs!


Happy Gardening -- Garden Tower Project

Joel Grant

Organic Pest Control Guide for your Garden

Organic Pest Control Guide for your Garden

A visual guide to proven organic, integrated pest management in your Garden 


This fantastic infographic will help you identify common garden pests, proactively plan to prevent infestations, and naturally control insects, fungus, and other garden critters out to harm your veggies!  Here at Garden Tower Project, we use a combination of water, neem oil, and natural liquid soap as our go-to all purpose insect control on herbs, veggies, and flowers. 


(click the graphic below to enlarge!)

Organic Pest Control Guide for your Garden



For more information on insect pest management of your Garden or Garden Tower, visit our earlier article: Integrating Pest Management


What to Put in a Garden Journal

What to Put in a Garden Journal

Keeping a garden journal is a beautiful blend of art and science. It is a testament to your garden and a notebook of learning accomplished throughout your growing year. What you put into a journal makes it incredibly useful for years to come—creating a kind of almanac specific to your location. Tracking changes in your garden—bloom times and harvest, seeding times, and so on also contributes to the study of local phenology. Phenology is “Phenology refers to key seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year – such as flowering, emergence of insects and migration of birds – especially their timing and relationship with weather and climate.” (read more). Below are some of the things that can be most helpful for your journal, an explanation of why, as well as an example of how to create a journal custom-tailored to your needs.


b2ap3_thumbnail_journal-planting-plan.jpgPlanting Plan: In the beginning of your journal creating a diagram or map of what you intend to plant where is helpful. As you plant perennials, you might mark them on a base map and copy it each year – creating new plans for annuals. Pasting this into the front of your garden journal will help to keep you straight. It might even help a spouse not remove the wrong thing (I speak from experience) or point a temporary caretaker in the right direction while you are gone. I like to use a map and numbers to keep things straight, but you can also use a narrative description in your records to keep things clear. 

Notes on major projects for the year: Do you want to put in a new compost system or fencing or chickens this year? Arbors, trellis, pathways, water collection, irrigation systems, greenhouses…. Using a Future Log on a couple of pages can help you figure out how to stage improvement efforts between planting and harvesting—or when you typically have good weather.

Plant information: Seed catalogs, gardening books from the library, apps and websites can all help you fill in the missing information over time. Knowing the varieties you have; how they perform in your garden; and whether you like them or not are all important things to keep track of. I like to put in how the kids respond to something (“We love cheese squash!” or “Alpine strawberries are the best!”)b2ap3_thumbnail_journal-planting-dates.jpg

            Variety: This you might research before you order your seeds—or keep track of as you save seeds from your own garden. Paying attention to varieties is crucial because they help you know which niche in the garden to put them in, how long it will take (on average) for them to fruit, color, resistance to disease and many other characteristics.

            Source: This can be a brief notation, but it helps to know which seed companies you like—or whether the seeds came from your own garden or a friend’s garden.

            Date Seeds Started: Again, this is important because it helps you track performance—and have a sense of when to begin your garden and how things are changing from year to year.

            Germination Date: The date you see the seeds emerge from the soil surface is notable because it will help you understand more about your garden and will help you to track the growth of the plants over time.


            Transplant source: If you don’t plant your own seeds, germination won’t matter, but tracking where the plants came from and how they are doing will help you make decisions about plants in the future.

            Flowering: This isn’t critical (except for fruit trees and shrubs), but it is nice to have a written record of what flowers when and how that changes from year to year. You might use it to help plan to have flowers throughout the year—whether for beauty or to feed and support pollinators in your garden.

            Fruiting or Harvest: This is what you’ve been waiting for!  The date you harvested, the quantity by number or weight, and the quality of the harvest are all items to consider recording. Does it look good, taste good, produce well, and resist pests? Does one variety tolerate the humidity or drought better? You might find you want to repeat some things and not others. Or you may find you want to save some seeds for next year. And a record is evidence when bragging to the neighbors!

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2035_20151231-174906_1.JPGWeather information: This might be kept on one sheet in your journal or noted amongst your daily observations. Having it in one place to compare months and years is often helpful. You’ll want to make notes on the high and low temperatures for the day, precipitation, cloud cover, and prevailing or significant winds. Some gardeners like to track and plant by moon phases.

Daily observations: It’s the little things that bring us joy. The most beautiful purple in a flower or seeing the swelling bud that will bring us the first berry in spring. Making a note or including a drawing let’s us track and relive these phenomena in our lives. The coming of insects in the spring to pollinate or the first pests can be valuable to know as our garden grows and adapts from year to year. Whether you can draw or not, this is a great way to record information.

How to do it:  How to keep track and organize all of this? Spreadsheets and apps might work on your computer. I like to physically write down my observations—either right in the garden or at a station set up near my door.

b2ap3_thumbnail_journal-future-log.jpgThis year I’m adapting something I like. The Bullet Journal method of setting up a journal might be a great option for you, too. The ideas from a regular journal organization can be modified to include the above categories. An index at the beginning helps you to organize and find information for the whole journal. A future log allows you to plan each month ahead. The month pages can be places to record weather information and tasks in the garden. Other pages can be dedicated to seed source information, seed starting pages, and pest management plans. With the index in front of the journal, you can cross-reference related items and easily find things from year to year—making your journal truly a reference item.


Whether you go all in and like to record every little detail or keep a notebook with a few jotted notes; whether you like to draw out your journal or keep a spreadsheet, journaling can deepen your connection to your garden and ensure more success from year to year. Here’s to a great year ahead! 

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