Planting a ZipGrow Tower

Posted by Chris Michael on November 29, 2016

New to ZipGrowing? Start here!

Welcome to the ZipGrowing community! As you use your ZipGrow Towers you'll find that they're extremely versatile. In fact, growers all over the world keep coming up with new ways to use them. (Join the ZipGrower's Facebook Community to see what others are up to.) 

Every grower starts at the same place however: planting!  

If you know the basics, planting a ZipGrow Tower can be very fast. This makes gardening and farming with towers easier and saves farmers money on labor.

Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to make your planting go faster and easier every time. Sean will walk you through how to plant a ZipGrow Tower, with a written guide and infographic below!

Planting tools & materials

To make your planting a swift process, use the right table or planting bench. What makes a great planting table? Here are our top traits of a good table:

  • A few feet longer than the towers
    Give yourself space to set a flat of seedlings, extra media inserts, some gloves, etc. Crowded workspaces slow things down!

  • Has a hook to hold the tower
    The back hook on the tower exists to make your life easier. Use it! Use a screw or nail to hook onto the back hole while you pull the towers. 

  • Is weighed or bolted down
    You should be able to pull on the table without it moving. We weigh our planting table down with about 200-300 lbs of sand bags, but if you can use cement bolts, that's even better.

  • Has "guides" to keep media in place (PVC ends or dowels)Tabletop-spacing.png
    Glue two sets of  PVC ends or dowels 5-6 inches apart at the mouth of the tower. This way you can line up your Matrix Media before pulling it into the tower and still use both hands to handle seedlings. 

The sturdier your table, the less bracing and rearranging you'll have to do.

Being able to manhandle the towers and the table will make your job easy! (And don't worry about breaking the towers - they're tough.)

Seedling rules

Growers can use almost any type of seedling in their towers. We prefer polymer bound plugs because they're easy to plant and move around, but other growers use their own soilless seedling mix or just plain old potting soil for seedlings. 

basil_seedling_GIF.gif

Other options for seedlings are using clones (for example, mint clones grow much faster than from seed) or bare root seedlings. Some growers have tried planting ZipGrow Towers with seeds, but this method hasn't had great germination rates.

While the type of plug and the crops you grow are variable, there are a few rules that you should always follow!

  • Wait for the seedlings to mature.
    We know it's ridiculously hard to curb your excitement and wait to plant, but you can do it. Seedlings with true leaves are old enough to transplant. The true leaves will have different characteristics than the embryonic leaves, which are rounded and small. 

    healthy-vs-unhealthy-seedlings.gif
  • Use only the healthiest seedlings.
    If a seedling looks sick or weak, don't use it. It could be diseased or too weak to survive - this means you could end up with bald spots in your towers where the seedlings have died. Use only the healthiest seedlings. (If you're having trouble with leggy seedlings, here's why.)

  • If you're doing aquaponics, don't use perlite or rock wool.
    Fish gulls are very sensitive to abrasive materials. Both perlite and rock wool particles wreak havoc to fish gills, causing discomfort and stress and potentially killing the fish. 

Once you have some nice seedlings to use, it's time to actually plant the ZipGrow Tower. 

Steps to plant a ZipGrow TowerPlanting-A-ZipGrow-Tower-Click.png

Got all your materials ready? Time to plant!

We put together this infographic to help you visualize it! Click on it to enlarge. >>

Step 1: Place the wicking strip 1/2 inch from the face of the Tower.

The wicking strip keeps roots of delicate seedlings moist while they grow root systems. Set the wicking strip 1/2 inch back from the front of the media (away from the crown of the plant). From the front of the tower, you shouldn't be able to see the wicking strip. This is important! If you wick water all the way to the crown of the plant, it could cause disease problems.

As the roots grow out and into the media, they will be able to wick water from the back of the tower all by themselves.

When you pull the old plants out of the tower at the end of their lifecycle, some of the root mass (not the root ball) will stay behind. Those leftover roots will serve as a natural wicking strip for future crops. After a crop or two has been grown in your towers, you won't need to use the wicking strip any more - you can plant seedlings directly into the Matrix Media.

Leaving a 1-inch flap at the top of the tower can help catch water from the dripper above.

Step 2: Plant seedlings at a slight angle

Folding the Matrix Media, sandwhich the seedlings between the media. Place the bottom of the plug in contact with the wicking strip, but the crown of the plant flush with the front of the media.

Plant the seedlings at a slight upward angle. This way when water hits the plug, it will divert to the back of the tower rather than the front.

planting a zipgrow towers - angle seedlings

Psst... have dripping problems? Find out why here.

Plant spacing will largely depend on the crop you're growing. Check the seedling packet to see the recommended spacing. (With common crops like lettuce, you'll shoot for 6-8 inches or about 8 plants per 5' ZipGrow Tower.)

Step 3: Pull the media

There are a couple ways to do this, depending mostly on whether you're a one-man or a two-man team.

One-man team: Place the seedlings all in the media first, then sandwhich the media and slide it into the tower. (This is what Sean did in the video above.)

Two-man team: Fold the unplanted media and line it up with the tower opening. As one person pulls, the other person wedges seedlings in the media.

Experiment and find which method you prefer! You can get very fast at this with a little practice.

Planting-Gif.gif

Repeat this process for the next media insert (for a 5' tower) and you've successfully planted your ZipGrow tower!

We hope this helps you better understand just how quick and easy it is to plant a ZipGrow Tower. Ready to choose some crops? See what other ZipGrow'ers are growing in their towers here: 25 Crops You Can Grow In ZipGrow Towers

Find out which crops are right for you

The Best Crops for Hydroponics introduces the best crops for hydroponics so that growers can be experts on their produce. 

Start learning:

  • Ideal conditions (EC, pH, temp., and more)
  • Plant lifecycle from seed to harvest
  • Common pests and diseases
  • Typical pricing  
  • Unique considerations

Start growing with this complete guide to recommended crops, yields, and common problems.

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