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This Blog Series will highlight ways that people can grow a 'themed' Garden Tower designed to grow foods or plants for one specific purpose or focus.

Aiyo A. Jones

The Protein Salad Diet

The Protein Salad Diet

As a fitness trainer, part of my job is to help people lose weight. People are generally good at exercising, but when it comes to diet many people fail. In order to lose weight, you need the right combination of exercise and good nutrition.

One type of diet I recommend to my clients is what I call the Protein Salad Diet. Instead of a wimpy, rabbit-food salad with nothing but iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and low-fat dressing, the Protein Salad is a heavy salad consisting of greens, protein and fat. This salad is so heavy (literally) you'll struggle to eat the whole thing. It has a good combination of leafy greens, fruit, and protein. You can eat this salad all day and get some great nutrition! It's a great meal for bodybuilders and those trying to lose weight.

The best part is, you can easily grow many of the ingredients yourself!

Easy plants to grow for your salads are highlighted in sections below.



Leafy Base

To start, you'll need a leafy base. Growing leafy vegetables are perhaps the easiest vegetables to grow. They sprout quickly and, depending on the variety, can produce a harvest in a matter of weeks. If you plan ahead and stagger start these leafy vegetables, you could have at least one salad a day for a week.

Leafy vegetables are best grown in the Spring and Fall as they are cool-weather plants. Growing leafy greens during the summer is possible, as long as they have plenty of water and a bit of shade. Since leafy greens have high water content, be sure to water them at least once a day.


Leafy Greens: Lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, leaves of beets.


Peppers Growing in GT2


Salads often have leafy greens and fruit, typically tomatoes and the non-sweet fruits like peppers and cucumber. If you want to eat these Protein Salads on a regular basis, I recommend growing indeterminate grape tomatoes. I once grew more than 70 grape tomatoes on one plant! If you do grow cherry or grape tomatoes, you’ll need to keep them trimmed so they don't get out of control.

If you want to make Mexican-based salads, grow some hot peppers. I've had a lot of success with growing Hungarian wax peppers in my Garden Tower 2. I planted my hot peppers on the top of the GT2 so I could stake them. Hungarian wax peppers taste mild when green, but hot when red. You could use them to make a Tex-Mex Protein Salad (Recipe below).


Fruits: Apples, avocados, berries, cucumbers, peppers, oranges, pumpkins, summer squash, tomatoes


Basil growing on top of GT2



What better way to reduce high calorie dressings and flavor up your salad than to grow and add your own herbs?

Basil has been among my most successful herbs to grow. It grows fast and abundantly. It’s an ideal thing to add to a salad if you have a taste for something Italian. We've grown so much basil in our Garden Tower we’ve had to give it away!


Another herb that I've successfully grown is cilantro. If you have a taste for something Greek, Italian, or Persian, use cilantro to make a Mediterranean Protein Salad or Persian Salad (Recipe below).


Herbs: Arugula, basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano





If a salad has left you miserably hungry, it's because it had no fat. Fat will give your salad some substance and, believe it or not, fat actually signals your brain to make you feel full when a hormone called "leptin" is released.

Now, you're thinking, "But it’s fat!" But it’s not the fat that makes you fat, it's excessive carbs. I lost 12 lbs. in 8 days by reducing carbs and increasing fat and protein content in my diet. I didn't even need to lose any weight! This Protein Salad, depending on how you make it, will be naturally low in carbs. It’s perfect for you diabetics out there.

Fat Sources: Cheese, sour cream, whole-fat yogurt, olive/avocado/flaxseed/coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados


Unlike fat, protein doesn't really make you full. Instead, it is used to maintain and build muscle in your body. In fact, protein is the building block of your body. If you were to strip away all the cells in your body, you'd be left with connective blocks called protein. Yes, you are simply a statue made out of protein.

Protein Sources: Red meat (yes, red meat!), chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, quinoa



How To Construct A Protein Salad

This salad is ideal for those who want to lose weight and for those who want to build muscle. The fat and protein will make you full for a lengthy period and also supply you with important vitamins and minerals. 

1. Start with a base of 1 cup chopped leafy greens - lettuce, kale, chard, bok choy, etc.
2. Add protein - 1/2 cup meat, chicken, fish, egg, beans, nuts, or seeds
3. Add fruit - 1/2 cup chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
4. Add fat - 1/2 cup oil (olive/avocado/coconut)
5. Add toppings such as herbs, sour cream, cheese, etc.

Mix everything together. If the amounts I've given are too low, just increase them, especially if you're a hungry lion!



Protein Salad Examples

These are general guidelines. Play up the ingredients however you like!

Tex-Mex Protein Salad

2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce

1 cup meat, chicken, shrimp or black beans (if vegan)

1 cup chopped tomatoes and hot peppers 
Alternative: 1 cup of salsa (grow your own salsa garden)

1/2 cup sour cream or guacamole (if vegan)

1/2 cup shredded cheese or rice (if vegan)

1 handful of crushed tortilla chips

Photo Credit:


Persian Protein Salad (no leafy base)

2 cups chopped cucumbers

1 cup meat, chicken, or chickpeas (if vegan)

1 cup chopped tomatoes and peppers (hot or mild)

1 cup feta cheese or olive oil (if vegan)

1/2 cup parsley or cilantro

1/4 cup onions or garlic

1 teaspoon of black pepper




Asian Stir-Fry Protein Salad

2 cups chopped bok choy

1 cup steak, chicken, shrimp, or edamame (if vegan)

1 cup chopped broccoli

1/2 cup chopped mild or hot peppers

1/2 cup rice or quinoa

1 minced clove of garlic

Pinch of salt

2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (to sauté)

2 to 3 tablespoons of additional olive oil to use as a dressing

1 or 2 tablespoons Asian sauce of your choice



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


Make a Sweet Deal with the Honeybees

Make a Sweet Deal with the Honeybees

Honeybees face a lot of challenges today! A small garden plot or container garden managed to suit them is a great opportunity to support your community's native pollinators while bolstering your harvests. What you will find is that your bees like many of the same things you do!


What is going on with the bees?

We do not understand the many factors that seem to contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The sudden die-off of entire colonies of bees was first remarked upon in 2006. When the colony collapses, the only bees left in the hive are the queen and immature bees (1). Scientists began to conclude that neonicotinoids (or neonics) were causing the problems. They still might be part of the problem. Thanks to further study and scientific methods, people continue to research the problems. There is some recognition now that the die off of adult workers forces young bees to become workers in a collapsing colony. (2) Why would that happen? It seems that there isn’t as much out there for the bees to forage on. (3) Also, bees, like everyone else, have to deal with more toxins in their environment. We can recognize that the problems contributing to CCD reflect the interconnected nature of life on the planet.


Here is an excerpt from the USDA site on Colony Collapse Disorder (1):

Scientists are looking in four general categories for the cause/causes of CCD:

Pathogens: Among others, scientists are considering Nosema (a pathogenic gut fungi), Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, and possibly unknown pathogens as possible culprits in CCD. ARS research has indicated that no one pathogen of any class directly correlates with the majority of CCD incidents. Rather, a higher total pathogen load of viruses and bacteria correlates more directly with CCD than any one specific pathogen.

Parasites: Varroa mites are often found in honey bee colonies that are affected by CCD. It is not known if the Varroa mites are directly involved or if the viruses that Varroa mites transmit (similar to the way mosquitoes transmit the malaria virus) are a factor in causing CCD. 

Management stressors: Among the management stressors that are possible contributors to CCD are poor nutrition due to apiary overcrowding and increased migratory stress brought on by the honey bees being transported to multiple locations across the country.

Environmental stressors: Such stressors include the impact of pollen/nectar scarcity, lack of diversity in nectar/pollen, availability of only pollen/nectar with low nutritional value, and limited access to water or access only to contaminated water. Stressors also include accidental or intentional exposure to pesticides at lethal or sub-lethal levels. (1)

 Top Bar Hive, Racine, WI. Photo by Rhonda Baird

How to suit the bee’s needs: 

This information seems to be consistent across the debates. It seems there are some things we can do to help a local colony!


1.   Plant so there is something flowering throughout the season. Bees feed on pollen from flowers.  Attract bees to your garden by having flowering plants at all times. Dedicate some space in your garden (or Garden Tower) just to annual flowers. When they begin to fade, replace them with something that will bloom through the next part of the season. We like flowers, too, so this strategy agrees with most gardeners.

Here are a few popular flowers you can put in your garden to feed the bees and keep them healthy (4):  Sweet Alyssum, Salvia, Yarrow, Lavender, Borage


2.   Plant herbs for bee health. Many of our herbs for cooking also contain substances that are good for bee health. Many people recognize the mind family for its benefits to bees—and there are more than 4,000 plants in the mint family!  Some of our favorite cooking herbs—like thyme and oregano are good for bees—and tasty in our kitchen dishes, too. These plants provide immune support to both you and the bees.

Here is a list of herbs you might like to try in your garden (or Garden Tower) for Bees:  Oregano, Thyme (there are many varieties), Mints: try chocolate mint!  Because mints can be expansive in a garden, it is a good idea to put them in a container to limit their spread. 

3.   Other things to do:

Make water available to bees.  The water should be in shallow containers so the bees can approach it safely.


Plant other areas of your garden to support bees. You can use the same patterns of planting from your Garden Towers to apply to you landscape. What if you don’t own land for more garden? Borrow someone else’s land! Ask the building owner or neighbors—or the city—to include some of these trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants in the landscape. Bees often do not have adequate forage in the late summer and fall. Include some unusual plants that bloom late in your garden design. A strip of perennial prairie plants could be just the thing! Here are a few to get you started: Coneflower (Echinacea), Asters, Goldenrod, Pincushion Flowers, Strawflowers, milkweeds (and they will help the monarch butterflies, too.)



With even a little space, you could plant a forest garden/orchard to provide even more forage for the bees—and fruit for you!


If you live near areas that have problems with pesticide drift consider putting up screening. This could be a thickly planted windbreak or a trellis with plants that help filter and clean the air. This can be healthier for you and create a sanctuary for the bees. 


Consider keeping bees.  Bees thrive in surprising spaces. Rooftops and other edge spaces are often perfect for beehives. Always check your local laws and best practices recommendations. (6) Also, take a class on bee keeping! There are often schools for bee keeping in late winter to help out new people. Beekeepers tend to be generous with their time and advice.


Bees are an important part of our world and critical to our cultivated food systems. Your efforts might make the difference for a hive. It could mean more fruit and more honey for you. All around it is a sweet deal!


Resources and notes

  2. Rapid behavioral maturation accelerates failure of stressed honey bee colonies Clint J. Perry, Eirik Søvik, Mary R. Myerscough, and Andrew B. Barron

Tower of Love

Tower of Love

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! We wanted to honor this occasion to start a series of blog posts on ‘themed towers’. Last week someone threw out the idea of an Aphrodisiac Tower, and the timing couldn’t have been better. So, we pulled together some information about various plants that are easily grown in the Garden Tower, which may also help your love life ;)


Most of this info came from, where you can find an even more extensive list than what we have here! We’d love comments from anyone who’s tried growing some of these in their Garden Tower, and/or thoughts and ideas for more:

Arugula:  Arugula or ‘rocket’ as the saucy Brits call it, was a popular aphrodisiac among the ancient Romans and ancient Egyptians. It was quite often associated with Priapus, a minor Roman god of fertility.

Today most proponents of arugula downplay its natural aphrodisiac properties, but it should be noted that Arugula is rich in vitamins A and C as well as many of the minerals that are essential for putting the body in its sexual prime.  Arugula is also said to help clear the mind, and we all know that getting distracted during intimacy just isn't sexy.


Although neither of these curative properties specifically raises sexual energy, they are both attributes that promote the right mood for romance. Stay focused people!

Basil:  Although it might come as a surprise to most pesto lovers, basil’s leaves contain a variety of libido-lifting nutrients. It is considered a good source of Vitamin A. It also provides beta carotene, magnesium, potassium and C.

There are over 50 varieties of basil grown around the world. In flavor, varieties vary from subtle and anise-like to faintly spicy to a tinge of lemon. Their shapes vary from long-leafed with pointy tips to broad with blunt edges. 

Beets:  At a glance or a nibble, this red root vegetable may not seem to be the most evocative of foods, evidence of beetroot’s power can be found as far back as the suggestive murals on the ruins of Pompeii. 

More recently, the British Government has bought into the potency of beets so far that in 2003 it awarded a 126,000-pound grant to a farmer to market beetroot as the new secret to vitality. The root’s potency is in its high boron content, a mineral thought to influence the production of sexual hormones as well as improve the immune system.

Chili Pepper:  Historically, chili peppers were used by multiple cultures not only as an aphrodisiac but as an anesthetic. With a power to raise body temperature and make lips swell to a kissable plump pout, the effects of eating red hot chili peppers can telegraph the visual cues of a sexual flush.


It is believed that this sexy physical attribute can put a lover’s mind in the mood with as little as one delicious glance. Most famously, chili pepper was used to fortify the chocolate drink that the great ruler Montezuma consumed to make his tongue dance and his pulse quicken in preparation for his daily visit to his beautiful concubines. 

A mouthful of garlic can make you say ick,

but use just a pinch that’ll do the trick. But enough about herbs,

we could go on for hours, what about all the sweet smelling flowers?

Give your girl Jasmine, Blue Lotus, or Rose

she’ll never forget how you tickled her nose.

Pungu, Kumari sound ever exotic, dip into these for a night that’s erotic.

And so there you are a door to some flare,

to ensure a great day for a Valentine pair!


Cucumber:  Nutritionally, cucumbers provide several nutrients essential to maintaining sexual health, including Vitamin C and manganese. The silica in cucumbers supports connective tissue heath which will not only keep us limber and primed for action but can also help maintain young, vibrant skin.

Most interestingly to those looking to use food in seduction, a study by Dr. Alan Hirsch found that the scent of cucumbers, in combination with black licorice, is extremely arousing to women. 

Garlic:  Unlike most aphrodisiac foods, garlic is one that both lovers must eat for its magical properties to manifest powers of romance. It’s no mystery of science or magic but one of common sense: a whiff of garlic breath is about as arousing as the smell of a zoo on a hot, summer day. The only antidote is to partake in the feast of sweet stink, numbing the senses to any unappealing odor.

Beyond its reputation as an aphrodisiac food, garlic is one of those mysterious foods touted to inspire extraordinary stamina and unbridled energy. The ancient Greeks fed garlic to top athletes prior to Olympic competition to encourage peak performance ;)

Lavender:  Lavender is one of the most deliciously abused scents in the aromatherapy world. A lusciously aromatic herb, the scent of lavender arouses men more than almost any other aroma in the world, besides hot pizza and cookies in the oven, of course. 



Add a few fresh-cut sprigs to a wildflower bouquet, since the scent alone is enough to drive men wild. And for pretty much any woman who receives a surprise bouquet, well… that’s a given! Do your duties, Men! 

Mint:  The great Aristotle advised Alexander the Great not to let his warriors partake of any mint while on crusade because of the herb’s potent, aphrodisiac effects. 

The herb is named after a mythical beauty Minthe, who Hades found irresistible. When Hades wife Persephone learned of her husband’s attraction, she turned the irritable beauty into the aromatic plant we use today. In her honor, Greek brides often include mint in their bridal head wreaths.






Mint comes in enough varieties to suit whatever your style of seduction. If you like a strong come-on, try peppermint. Or consider apple mint for something gentle and sweet. Mint also contains a number of vitamins and minerals that are essential for maintaining sexual health, including A and C as well as a trace of B2, Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium.

Best of all, the aromatic impression it leaves on the breath has been shown in case studies to inspire moments of passionate kissing.  

Mustard:  In European history, mustard has long been considered a potent aphrodisiac. Throughout much of recorded time, monks were not permitted to ingest mustard for it was believed to lead the men of God down the path to temptation.

It was the Greeks who were the first to document mustard’s ability to increase circulation – good circulation leads to good sex! And that may be why mustard was regarded as a sexual aid throughout most of European history – however in China, mustard seed was thought aphrodisiac for its heat in the mouth and ability (when ingested in large enough doses) to warm the body as well.

Mustard’s pungency is part of what earns the seed its aphrodisiac classification. Its intense, spicy flavor is credited with causing a rise in adrenalin. According to the research of Australia’s Dr. Max Lake, mustard causes “maximal stimulation of the pain fraction of taste.” It is this balance of pain and pleasure that brings eaters to gastronomic climax.

Referencing the Worlds Healthiest Foods website, we discovered that part of mustard’s aphrodisiac power probably lies in the nutrients it supplies to the body. Mustard is considered a respectable source of selenium, magnesium and omega 3’s, all essential for maintaining sexual health!

Rosemary:  Rosemary is noted for its powers to increase circulation. Bathing in a tub scented by a few drops of rosemary essential oil promises to circulation to the skin and sensitivity to touch. 


Folkloric legend associated rosemary with the Virgin Mary, for whom many originally thought the herb was named. But it was actually named for Aphrodite/Venus and, in many early depictions the goddess of love was portrayed clutching or wearing a sprig of the fragrant herb.

Placed under your pillow, rosemary is thought to promote pleasant dreams. Steeped as a tea, it can calm nerves. In ancient Rome, the herb was considered an aid to empowerment. And perhaps, used at the right time and for the right person, rosemary may find you love.

Strawberry:  A perfect little red heart, the strawberry is an edible Valentine! Touted as an aphrodisiac fruit since the times of ancient Rome, the strawberry was a symbol of Venus. In the French countryside, there was once a tradition of serving newlyweds cold strawberry soup to help promote the aphrodisiac of honeymoon romance.

The perfect shape and size for dipping in chocolate, strawberries can be used this way as a simple tool of seduction. Try taking a premium chocolate and melt it gently to a delicious, sweet cream. Strawberry shortcake offers a more complex treat using this aphrodisiac fruit. Serve with ample whipped cream behind a locked bedroom door ;)





For more more information and a complete guide to aphrodisiac foods, visit


We hope you enjoyed a bit of our jesting, and will leave you all with one of our favorite quotes that's appropriate today, and everyday:


"It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love." - John Lennon


The Garden Tower Project