Why I Dislike Tower Gardens

by Madhatter

I have a slew of friends and family members that are pretty into these things, so I apologize in advance that I am finally going to tell it as I really see it.  I truly hope I don’t hurt any feelings.

I understand that the Tower Garden is has a great many advantages, especially for people living in apartments or whatever where they don’t have a lot of access to space to grow their own food, but want to.  Okay so jolly joy!  But I still dislike them very much and I think they stink of civilization, excess, detachment, disconnection and excuses.

1.  Tower Gardens perpetuate the disconnection from nature that is inherent in civilization, cities, and eating food from a grocery store. 

Today in my garden I watched the most adorable new wolf spider walk by with a giant fly.  He was definitely a smaller, teenager sized wolf spider.  I had seen him about an hour before, and we had stared at each other for a few minutes.  He looked up at me with his many eyes, which I checked out because it is always interesting to see an animal with that many eyes and imagine what you must look like.  I decided he was pretty adorable then.  But then later seeing that he had caught himself a giant fly, it was just too cute.

Birds are also a huge part of my yard.  I have a heated bird bath that turns on when the weather gets below freezing, and I have a couple of bird feeders.  They know I am their friend and have gotten to know me, so they aren’t afraid to hang out pretty close by me.  Today, they were making a nest.  I never figured out where, but two of them kept hopping by with sticks and straw hanging out of their beaks.

Then of course there are the squirrels.  I’m not so much a fan of them.  But they love to hang about my yard too.  And there’s my bees.  Bees are pretty cool.  You can hang out and watch them work very up close and they really don’t bother you.  Yesterday I saw a bee fight.  Two of them just went at it, wrestling around while buzzing in circles.  They both flew away at the end.  Which is nice because the last bee fight I saw left one bee struggling on the ground.

Then of course there are all sorts of creepy crawly things that are just amazing to see.  Some you can touch and check out, like worms, others you should probably leave alone.

They are all a part of this amazing network, the most amazing thing I have ever read about, witnessed, or been a part of.  They are all an integral part of an ecosystem.  They are all there for a reason.  They all have a job to do and a part to play.

But gardening, and nature, also has it’s down sides.  I have been stung by a bee before.  It hurt.  I’ve had an invasion of some kind of beetles on my tomatoes before, and it sucked.  I have had to figure out how to handle (organically of course) all sorts of bugs, powdery mildew, weeds, etc.  That is part of gardening.  It’s figuring out how to plant an ecosystem of plants that will have the healthiest relationships with each other and the bugs and animals in your yard.  Gardening should not be about trying to grow food for you and that’s it.  It’s about the kind of ecosystem you are creating.

When you are a part of something like that, it’s joyous.  You start to understand, in the tiniest way, how important ecosystems are, how beautiful it is to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and how beautiful it is to have relationships with nonhuman beings.  With things like spiders and worms and birds and bees.  Native children were known to play with baby wolves.  They had relationships with wild animals like that.

Tower gardens keep you from having a relationship to the land and the creatures that make your plants grow.  They are sterilized, having nothing to do with nature at all.  Why would I want that?

We, the civilized, on the other hand, are terrified of nature.  From wolves to worms to spiders are you kidding me?  Civilized white men would rather murder these creatures than have a relationship with them.  Some would do it out of fear, some would do it out of a hunger for power.  I don’t want to kill off the ecosystems that are a part of our life support, because I have a relationship with them.  I see these ecosystems as being a lot more important than tar sands, than even our stupid economy.  Because if the economy goes down, and we’re all poor as dirt, we’ll at least still have places where the water is clean and we are able to grow food if we do not destroy all of these important places.  But if we do destroy them for money, for the economy, well, here we’ll sit with a lot of money while we feed ourselves toxic food and poisoned water.  You should be terrified of the civilized.  Look what they did to the Native Americans.  Look at what Monsanto is doing to our own ability to grow food, to our own soil.  The civilized do not give a damn about your well being or your health.  Tower gardens represent this perfectly.  Now you can have food that grows without all of the pesky nature that normally goes with it!

2.  I hate plastic

Plastic is, like most man-made substances, toxic.  I’m not going to grow my food in a giant plastic container, are you kidding me?  I’m not worried about the toxic of the plastic seeping into my vegetables, I’m worried about the breakdown of that giant tube of plastic in thousands of years.  I can’t stand the idea of my trash existing past me.  How horrible.  When we die, our trash should die with us.  But instead, when we die we leave behind this giant, oozing toxic waste site.  I am not about to add something as giant as a tower garden to that!

3.  Why not join a community garden?

You know what I did when I lived in the city and couldn’t garden in my house?  I got a plot at a community garden.  It was great fun.  We got together to weed as a group once a month, everyone brought something fun to eat, and I met some really cool people.  Community – yet another giant thing that our culture is completely lacking that Tower Gardens are also completely lacking.

4.  They say that Tower Gardens use ‘less than 10% of the water and land needed for conventional farming’.  Sounds like a giant marketing excuse to me.  First off, I am not gardening as a conventional farmer.  That isn’t what we’re doing here, when we go to purchase a Tower Garden.  Secondly, I understand that the use of the tower garden might use less water and land, but how about when you figure in the industrialized manufacture of both the tower itself and the fertilizers they are selling you to put in it?  How much water, energy and land went into that?  I want to see the figures for that.

And besides that, it has to depend upon how you use it right?  I know people who have these things hooked up to tons of grow lights.  So how much more energy is it taking for them to grow their lettuce than it does for me to grow mine?  And as far as water goes, how much water was used in the creation of that energy you are using?  We all talk about solar power this or that, but honestly the best way to harness solar power is through growing your own plants!  why warp that into needing more energy?

5.  Tower Gardens do not protect the earth or make it more sustainable, but gardens do.

I like the feel of the earth and I like supporting it.  I want to help the worms and the spiders survive and enjoy their lives, and I avoid consumerism and industrialism as much as I can.  Because Tower Gardens are a product of industry, because someone makes money off of them, and because they need a convenient-to-their-producers constant supply of fertilizer that itself is probably helping to kill the environment, I just don’t buy this argument.  The only thing they do is eliminate some of the carbon dioxide emissions of food transportation.  But I still wonder how much emissions are created in the making of that damn fertilizer?

Tower gardens do nothing to promote the health of our soil, our oceans and rivers, nor do they protect endangered species, endangered ecosystems, or endangered land from the capitalists that are destroying them for profit.  It looks to me like instead these things are promoted and sold by capitalists who wan the same thing – profit.

6.  I have an idea!  Get rid of your grass!

If you have a yard at all you have no reason to purchase one of these things at all.  Why not spend all the time and energy that goes into maintaining and watering your lawn into a garden instead?  That, in my opinion, would be the best way to save money on vegetables (and carbon emissions on transporting them).  Plus you’d actually get to be outside, you might actually get to have a real relationship with your yard, some birds and some worms.

BTW – a note to anyone who really does want to garden to make a difference: don’t give up.  Nature is very very slow.  And we, by nature, are also slow.  You have to give yourself time.  Don’t expect your first year to be amazing.  Expect some bugs, some weeds, some failing plants, and don’t worry about it.  Be happy with what you do get.  Look into companion planting, permacultuer, and a great book called Gaia’s Garden!

7.  Tower Gardens don’t give back.  To me, nature is a give and take, cyclical sort of wonder.  At the end of a season many plants give back to earth in their death.  Trees add an amazing layer of mulch to my garden in the fall, and all the excess I produce goes into compost.  You take, but you are meant to give back.  Civilization, by its very nature, takes without ever giving back.  Because of this unnatural way of being it cannot persist forever, it simply can’t.

I understand that for some, a Tower Garden is gratifying.  I just could never feel that way myself.  I try to avoid plastic as much as possible, I love the earth with all of its creatures, and I avoid being the dollar signs in someone else’s eyes whenever I can.  Tower Gardens embody all of these things I do not aspire to.

I see gardening as more than just a narcissistic way to feed myself.  If you like to live in skyscrapers, drive everywhere, eat tomatoes in winter, walk on cement every day, and are afraid of bees or spiders… if you believe that all of nature should only serve you, the human being, then the tower garden is for you.  In my book it is simply another function of the industrialized, consumerist, human-narcissistic system.

Get a real garden, and get your hands dirty.