THE DOWNINGS DID IT — Makenna, 12, dad Rich and Noah, 11, grow their own delicious vegetables using Tower Gardens, a space-saving and soil-free system. Village Life photo by Noel Stack


Veggies grow up, literally

By From page A3 | July 23, 2014

When a member of the Downing family needs an extra tomato or two for their salad, they just reach over and pick one.

That’s not too uncommon when families dine outside but this scenario can happen inside thanks to a Tower Garden in the corner of the dining room.

Rich and Gina Downing, representatives for Juice Plus, have several of the company’s do-it-yourself gardens at their El Dorado Hills home, inside and out, growing everything from watermelons to eggplants to jalapeños — no green thumb required. The vertical towers hold 20 to 28 plants (start from seed or young plant) and because there’s no soil, there’s no chance of cross-contamination; gardeners can grow strawberries next to jalapeños without risk.

Wait, no soil? Rich said that’s a great selling point for Tower Gardens, which use a vertical aeroponic growing system that cycles every 15 minutes, misting the plants’ roots wrapped in rock wool with nutrient-rich water held in a 20-gallon tank on the tower’s base.

“No bending over for weeds because there are no weeds; no pests because pests live in dirt,” he explained.

The efficient system designed by a NASA researcher uses little energy (about $1.50-worth each month), significantly less water than a traditional garden — perfect in times of drought — and out-performs plants put in the ground. A University of Mississippi study found that Tower Garden plants grew two times faster using 95 percent less water than those in a traditional garden, Rich said.

The concept has gained popularity. The San Francisco Giants new garden area features Tower Gardens and Downing said schools and homes all over the country have embraced the space-saving idea. Teachers especially love it because the trickling water has a calming effect on students, he added.

Tower Gardens also help people take control of their health, Rich noted. The towers are made from food-grade plastic so there’s no risk of chemical contamination and the gardens require no herbicides or pesticides. Tower gardeners always have easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables and, Rich said, will notice a healthy boost in their wallets as well. The Downings estimate that they grew nearly $1,200 in fresh fruits and vegetables from the two Tower Gardens they had last summer. This summer they have six.

Want to check one out? Rich usually brings a Tower Garden to the Sunday Farmers Market at El Dorado Hills Town Center. Stop by and pick a  salad while you’re there. For more information call (916) 939-6856 or visit

Noel Stack


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