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  • Urban vertical gardening on balcony

  • Edible blossoms - nasturtium

  • Kohlrabi in hydroponics

  • Hydroculture tower planter with herbs

  • Pak Choi in hydroponic tower planter

  • The rotatable tower planter

  • Lemon balm in net pot - access to the roots

  • Hydroponic test field - everthing is tested

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2018 Herbs and vegetables on the balcony

Soil-less vertical tower planters for terraces or balconies

Our goal is to grow crops such as salads, herbs and vegetables on balconies and terraces. Everything you need to cook with freshly harvested products. Since we are often travelling, we wanted to create an urban garden that could survive for at least 1-2 weeks without taking action. This is how we came up with soil-free, hydroponic cultivation of plants.

Automatically watered tower planters with up to 40 plants

n the USA we bought these tower planters to test them. The columns are available 

  • as an automatically irrigated hydroponic vertical garden with clay balls
  • as hydroponics deep water vertical garden

We will discuss the difference later.

The assembly instructions were understandable and the construction proved to be quite simple. The impression was that these were mature and well-processed planting systems. In the USA they have been sold for several years.

This is how simply the tower planter is

The consists of 3-4 planters and a nutrient reservoir as well as an irrigation pump. The pump supplies the planters with nutrient solution (water and fertilizer). Excess nutrient solution flows back into the nutrient container, creating a closed circuit.

The nutrient solution is adjusted in the nutrient reservoir. This means that the EC value, pH value and temperature are monitored by means of a measuring instrument. The nutrient solution consists of water and fertilizer.


  • automatic watering, little effort
  • closed system, less water consumption
  • you can use organic or mineral fertilizer
  • fast growth
  • no snails or other crawlers
  • reasonable working height due to vertical mounting
  • low space requirement, low footprint
  • unproblematic on terrace or balcony
  • there is no fresher way to harvest


  • Electricity for pump is needed, alternatively a solar system
  • Cultivation of cuttings or seedlings partly more complex / different from in soil
  • If the pump fails for a longer period of time, the harvest may be lost

The result is really awesome!

As shown in the picture above, the plants grow sensationally in both vertical gardens. The plants grow very fast - the plants shown in the picture are all between 4 and 6 weeks old. We had cultivated the following plants.

  • basil
  • watercress
  • dill
  • tarragon
  • catmint
  • chervil
  • coriander 
  • lavender
  • lovage
  • marjoram
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • salad burnet
  • peppermint
  • rocket
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • celery
  • thyme
  • Thai basil
  • wormwood
  • lemon balm
  • Asia salad
  • endive salad
  • cucumbers
  • kohlrabi
  • chard
  • pak choi
  • rocket
  • salad
  • sorrel
  • spinach

Automatically watered tower planter with clay pebbles

This is a hydroculture vertical gardens with automated  with automatic irrigation.

The planters filled with clay ball substrate are supplied with nutrient solution by an irrigation pump. The plants are placed directly into the substrate or with growing substrate in net pots. Slots are in the bottom of the planters so that the water can drip from above into the planters below. This enriches the nutrient solution with oxygen. The nutrient reservoir serves as a reservoir for the nutrient solution. It contains the water pump, which is controlled by a timer.

Deep water system - Hydroponical tower planter

This is a deep water system.

Via an irrigation pump the plant containers are filled with nutrient solution The nutrient solution, which moves between the min- and max-level, supplies the roots of the plants with nutrients and oxygen. Due to the special irrigation system, the nutrient solution is automatically enriched with oxygen.The plants are used with growing substrate in net pots. The nutrient reservoir serves as a reservoir for the nutrient solution. It contains the water pump, which is controlled by a timer.


We placed the two vertical gardens next to each other on our balcony. The hydroculture vertical garden works very well. According to the supplier, this version should function better under hot climatic conditions, as the clay balls help to keep the roots wet. This means that the pump has to run less often than with the hydroponical ebb and flood system. This we can confirm. It even worked to water the planters with a solar-powered pump that only runs when the sun was shining. So there was never any watering at night.

The locations of the vertical gardens were very, very sunny, as it was the summer of 2018 (summer of the century). This summer there was no significant rainfall and continuous temperatures between 25°-35° Celsius for 4-5 months. The columns stood 10 -12 hours in the sun.

The hydroponical vertical garden has worked just as well despite the high temperatures. Growth was even better in comparison. However, the pump was in operation more often than in the hydroculture column. There is no general statement on the duration of the watering time. You need to observes the plants then you can see very fast, when and how often watering is needed.

The advantage of the hydroponical vertical garden is that no or only very few clay balls are needed for the net pots that hold the plants. You can also access the roots at any time by simply removing the net pots from the planters. The roots can perhaps be used in the future, who knows. This does not work so well in soil cultivation. Thanks to the removable net pots, the hydroponical Foody can easily be removed from the planters. The roots can perhaps still be used in the future, who knows. This does not work so well in soil cultivation. Thanks to the removable net pots, the hydroponical Foody van be easier planted, is easier to care for and to load with new plants after harvesting. With the hydroculture system the roots are more difficult to remove because they have grown together with the clay balls.

Personal conclusion

In general, our expectations have been exceeded because we could harvest a lot greens with little space and little watering effort. Because those who cultivated conventionally in soil this summer had to spill an enormous amount of water. We only had to top up water in our columns every 5-8 days. This naturally also depended on the temperature and the size of the plants - as with conventional soil cultivation.