GARDEN TOWER TEACHER GUIDE
Smart as Poop has extensive experience working with and supporting teachers along their in-class/school Garden Tower journey. Smart as Poop's Teacher Guide will facilitate your Garden Tower start up and operation needs. While your Garden Tower came with a user guide and instructions, we recommend that you also consult our suggestions (below) as they have been developed specifically with indoor use of the Garden Tower in mind.
We suggest that you take a few minutes to watch the following video. This video provides a quick overview of how the Garden Tower 2 works, once fully assembled and operational.
Yay!! Your Garden Tower 2 has been delivered and you are ready to get started!
1. This video will walk you through inventorying and organizing your Garden Tower 2 components in preparation for tower assembly.
You are now ready to assemble your Garden Tower 2!
NOTE 1 : IF a Caster Kit has been supplied with your Garden Tower 2 … It is MUCH easier to install the caster kit BEFORE assembling the entire tower! As such, we suggest the following:
1. Begin viewing the "How to Assemble the Garden Tower 2" video (above).
2. Pause the “How to Assemble the Garden Tower 2” video once the three legs have been installed.
3. Install your Caster Kit by following the steps outlined in the "Garden Tower 2 Caster Kit Installation" video (above).
4. Resume watching the “How to Assemble the Garden Tower 2” video and finish assembling your Garden Tower (add the collection drawer, etc).
NOTE 2: It is MUCH easier to add soil as-you-go rather that waiting until the entire tower has been assembled. So, we suggest that you …
a) Add one ring followed by one section of the compost column.
b) Cover the compost column with its lid.
c) Add enough soil to fill this ring/layer.
d) Water to moisten the newly added soil. Be sure to check the collection drawer at the base of the tower frequently to avoid over-flow.
e) Remove the compost column lid and repeat steps a – d until all rings/layers have been incorporated and your tower is full of fresh moist soil.
Note 3 :
We suggest that you keep the soil in your tower moist even if it is not yet planted. It is MUCH easier to keep potting soil moist than to rehydrate if after it has dried out. (We make this suggestion after failing to do this ourselves. Live and learn right?!)
Adding red wiggler composting worms to your class/school’s Garden Tower 2 is what makes the GardenTower 2 such a phenomenal gardening and teaching tool! Composting your class’ fruit and vegetable waste in the central vermicomposting tube of the Garden Tower 2 will not only produce nutrient rich compost that will nourish your class’ growing garden, but, will eliminate the need for you to concern yourself with adding soil amendment(s).
Common misconceptions about indoor composting:
- It will smell
- It will attract flies.
- It will take up too much of my time.
- I’m just really not sure that I want to try this.
Have no fear! Doreen (Smart as Poop’s founder/owner/operator/go-to-girl extraordinaire) has extensive experience in supporting teacher’s learning curve with the Garden Tower 2. Her Step-By-Step instructions are tried and true. You are in good hands! Follow our very simple steps and rules and NONE of the misconceptions listed above will be a concern.
Your red wigglers require 2 types of food :
Nitrogen rich food (source: your class’s fruit and vegetable waste)
Carbon rich food (source: bedding material)
What is bedding material?
Bedding material is a carbon rich mixture (see instructions below) that you will add to the GardenTower’s central vermicomposting tube EVERY time you feed your worms. It serves as both an important food source (the worm’s primary source of carbon) as well as the physical environment in which your worms will live.
Preparing the Bedding Material :
- 1 Brick coconut coir
- Approximately 6 litres of room temperature water
- Dried, crushed eggshells (optional) - shredded newsprint
- 1 Bin for mixing (approximately 21” long x 15 “ wide x 8” deep)
- 1-5 Gallon pail with lid
1) Place one brick of coconut coir into the bin.
2) Add approximately 6L of tap water to the bin.
3) Allow the brick of coconut coir to rehydrate undisturbed for approximately 1 hour.
4) Using your hands, break up the rehydrated coconut coir until the mixture is uniformly moist and loose.
5) Add crushed eggshells. Mix.
6) Add 2 large adult handfuls of shredded newsprint to the bin. Mix.
7) Add 2 more large adult handfuls of shredded newsprint to the bin. Mix.
8) The resulting bedding mixture should be damp, not wet. To test the moisture level of your newly prepared bedding material …take a handful of bedding material and squeeze.
- IF droplets of water escape, your bedding material is perfect.
- IF water streams from your bedding material, it is too moist. Adjust by adding additional shredded newsprint until the desired moisture level (droplets escape) is reached.
- IF no water escapes, your bedding material is too dry. Adjust moisture level by adding water until the desired moisture level (droplets escape) is reached.
9) Transfer the bedding material to a 5-gallon pail. Cover loosely. Set aside.
We suggest storing your bedding material next to your Garden Tower 2. This way you will have it readily on hand at feeding times.
What can you feed your red wiggler composting worms?
FRUIT and VEGETABLE WASTE generated from your students’ snacks and lunches
STARCHES in moderation (crackers, muffins, etc)
DO NOT ADD ANIMAL BASED PROTEIN (meat, cheese, dairy etc)
Worm Food Preparation :
The fruit and vegetable waste generated by your class should be broken down mechanically somewhat before being added to the vermicomposting tube. Doing so will accelerate the decomposition process. The faster the food decomposes the faster the worms will process it into nutrient rich odourless compost and the less likely you are to have problems with unwanted odours & flies.
Food Prep Instructions :
Use scissors to cut the fruit and vegetable scraps down into smaller pieces. Your students can help with this step.
Feeding your Red Wiggler worms :
DO NOT follow the manufacturer's instructions on How to Feed Your Worms!
The manufacturer's instructions instruct the user to put at least 6-8 inches of food scraps into the vermicomposting tube of the Garden Tower and to then add your worms. If you do this indoors, the result will almost certainly be a stinky & fly infested situation.
It is important to note that these instructions are intended for the Garden Tower's outdoor use. Using and enjoying the fruits of your labour indoors requires a little more "restraint" when feeding your worms. It is truly a case of "less is more" when using the Garden Tower indoors. We recommend that you follow the instructions and steps below.
You Will Need :
- Bedding material (prepared in Step 4 above)
- Potting soil
- ½ Pound of red wiggler composting worms (using less is NOT recommended)
- Chopped up food scraps (see instructions above)
Feeding Instructions :
On the day your red wiggler worms arrive, follow steps 1-8.
1) Remove the lid of the central vermicomposting tube.
2) Add 1 large adult handful of bedding material to the vermicomposting tube.
3) Add two liters of potting soil to the vermicomposting tube.
4) Add 1 pound of chopped up worm food (prepared following the instructions above) to the vermicomposting tube.
5) Add a sprinkle of dried crushed eggshells on top of the food scraps.
6) Add 1 generous adult handful of bedding material to the vermicomposting tube.
7) Gently add the red wiggler worms to the central vermicomposting tube.
8) Replace the lid of the central vermicomposting tube.
Feed your worms 2 times per week in the following manner (steps 9-13 below).
9) Remove the lid of the central vermicomposting tube.
10) Add 1 pound of chopped up worm food (prepared following instructions above) to the vermicomposting tube.
11) Add a sprinkle of dried crushed eggshells.
12) Add 1 generous handful of bedding material to the vermicomposting tube.
13) Replace the lid of the vermicomposting tube. .
It is VERY important to feed your worms in the order indicated in steps 9-13 above. Food should NEVER be added to the composting tube without being covered by a couple of inches of bedding material. This is odour & fly prevention 101!!
Worm Feeding Tips :
1. Cut food scraps into smaller pieces.
2. DO NOT overfeed.
3. ALWAYS feed in the following order:
- FIRST- food scraps
- SECOND – bedding material
4. Add crushed eggshells at least weekly.
5. DO NOT “save” food scraps, instead collect on feeding day only. If your class does not generate enough, then partner with a neighbouring class.
6. Establish a set feeding schedule (Tuesday & Thursday works well). Students will quickly become accustomed to this routine and look forward to it. You may even notice that they make healthier food choices on feeding days!
7. Get students involved in the whole process. Assign tower maintenance and feeding as part of your Weekly Student Roles and Responsibilities.
Jiffy Peat Pellets are easy to use. Watch this short video to learn how to use Jiffy Peat Pellets to startseedlings in your classroom.
Choosing a location for your Garden Tower 2 (GT2)
- Choose a sunny location with a flat, firm surface.
- Choose a location with wipeable surface … because spills and soil overflows may happen.
- For best results, use grow lights. Use of properly positioned grow lights will encourage strong healthy plant growth and development.
What type of soil should I use?
Use a high-quality potting soil or light-weight grower’s mix that is intended for container growing. Consult your local nursery for help in choosing a suitable product.
To Add or Not to Add Soil Amendment?
Remember, the GT2 is designed to produce its own organic fertilizer with the help of the addition of compost worms in the central vermicomposting tube! If you choose to add additional plant food to the soil in your GT2, we recommend you consult the professionals at your local nursery when choosing a product.
Some points to consider:
- Use a non-manure-based plant food.
- Liquid plant foods work well, providing readily available nutrients for plants. Seek advice from your local garden centre professional and use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Granular plant foods are typically “time released” formulas. Seek advice from your local garden centre professional and use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Which plants are best suited to the GT2?
- If growing outdoors, select varieties that are suitable for your planting zone.
- Bush/Container/Compact varieties work well.
- Growing Outdoors? You can either start your plants from seed or transplant purchased seedlings.
- Growing Indoors? We recommend starting plants from seed. This minimizes the risk of introducing “hitchhiker” pests from greenhouses or nurseries. This is particularly important when growing indoors because there are no “helper organisms” indoors (eg- lady bugs that feed on aphids and thus control their presence/population).
What to plant where in your GT2.
- Place those plants, that at maturity, will be the most compact and bushiest at the bottom of the tower. Add additional plants to the tower, working from bottom to top reserving the tallest mature varieties for the top layer(s).
- Plant plants that require less space between those that need a lot of space.
Maintaining your GT2.
- Establish a regular watering schedule.
- Test the soil for dryness – Insert a finger into the soil of one of the pockets in the lowest level. If soil feels dry – heavier watering is required (for rehydration). If soil is moist, water lightly (for maintenance).
- Remove dead or damaged growth, prune and replace spent plants as you would in a “regular”garden.
- Plants not thriving? Consider:
- too much or too little water
- insufficient light
- lack of available plant food- temperatures not suited to plant type (too hot / too cold).
Growing during the winter with your GT2.
Do you live in an area where the ground freezes in winter? Do not despair, your GT2 can be used indoors during the sub-zero winter months.
Things to consider: You will need good quality indoor grow lights.If you have been using your GT2 outdoors, it will need to be emptied and cleaned thoroughly before beginning your growing season indoors. Why? Any residual soil used for growing outdoors can carry nuisance pests to your indoor garden (eg. aphids).Once thoroughly cleaned, the GT2 will need to be filled with new, fresh potting soil.
Storing your GT2 during the winter months.
Ideally your GT2 should be stored indoors during the winter months. Any water in the tower will freeze and cause damage to the tower.
Soil can be recycled/reused form year to year, however, the soil must be allowed to dry out completely and remain moisture free throughout the winter season. Any moisture/water in the tower will freeze and you risk damaging your tower as a result.
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