Alternative Nutrient Solution for Tower Garden

happy_fl_gardenerJuly 19, 2013

I am an avid ground gardener but I wanted a Tower Garden for my porch. One of the main reasons why I bought this tower is that I was told that I could grow some vegetables "out of season". In my location Swiss chard is a winter vegetable but it is growing well in the tower. As for other veggies, I'm not so impressed.

Now that I have this Tower Garden, I'm realizing that the nutrient solutions, A & B that the TowerGarden website sells is quite expensive. There must be a better way.

My question is - How do I learn about using a different "brand" of nutrient solutions? And where is the best place to purchase them? As for water, I have access to both city water and well water. Which is better? City water, pH is 7.6 and well water, pH is 7.8. (I only use city water after it has sat in buckets for a couple of days.)

Hydroponics is a new way of gardening for me and I would like to learn more about it.


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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Christine,

You're probably right about the well water being much better. I'm also in FL 9a and after investigating all the toxins and quality failures, I don't want to use our municipal water. Plus municipal water commonly can have a certain disinfectant that isn't optimal and persists in solution. But the only way you can know is to see the data for yours, both well and municipal. You will need to buy something like the EC-3 conductivity meter and learn to use it. It's about $23 and tells you how strong your nutrient solution is. You could just mix up a fresh batch of Tonic and measure it, and then make the equal one with your new fertilizer to keep it simple. You need the meter more to get an idea of what's in your well.

If you want to mix your own nutrient solution, instead of the Tower Tonics, you can use any hydroponic fertilizer whether it be Advanced NutrientsBloom Grow Micro which will take care of the pH for you since they seem to have a buffer going for them. But it will cost around the same as the Tower Tonic, or even more.

The Tower Tonic would be comparable to the Jungle Juice which is around half the price, but depends a lot on shipping.

Nothing special about AN though, they are just a good benchmark for what's out there.

If you want to only do only one Tower Garden, the cost ends up being around $60-80 a year shipped to your doorstep, using their A&B product. You can buy a hydroponic powder fertilizer, but will spend around $100 up front. To that you will mix some saltpeter and epsom salt, both of the latter you can probably get at a good garden center real cheap, or eBay. Plus you will need to figure out a formula you like. That's not hard, but does require probably that you learn about micro nutrients and NPK and soluble fertilizers. Nothing that a days worth of Wikipedia couldn't fix, if it is the sort of thing you like.

So try Master Blend, Jack's Hydroponic, SouthernAg Special, Morgan County MO & or Hydro-Gardens CO's Chem Gro formulas, they are all 5-11-26 I believe and there are others I'm sure. Usually you have to buy 25 lbs. bags of the hydroponic special fertilizers and it's about $2/lb and one bag makes thousands of gallons of solution.

Don't hold me to this suggestion, but if a gun was on my head I would bet Miracle-Gro plus Calcium Nitrate (a type of saltpeter, i.e. a nutrient salt) plus the epsom salt is likely doable too. If you want to try that for the heck of it I'd be glad to give you the best mixture, but you will need the two other cheap chemicals, or maybe just CalMag if you have a soluble bag of that on hand. So let me know if you would buy them and if someone else doesn't I'll let you know the best Miracle Gro hydro based mix. Don't bother with Miracle Gro if you aren't willing to amend it with these others, though, it will fail (unless your water is so hard that it already has about 300 ppm and is hard as heck. Don't laugh, I bet Silver Springs comes close ;-)

The Tower Tonic - from what I can tell is a very basic A-B hydro-formulation but likely uses Calcium Nitrate Tetrahydrate in place of the soluble "Calcium Nitrate" that's cheap and useful for hydro. Really that's no big deal at all. But liquid fertilizers are undeniably convenient and let you spend your time on other areas, just like the Tower Garden itself. So you sort of have to be willing to start a new hobby and make room for sacks and mixing cups ...

As for that rip-off pdf, I think we are being commercially spammed, so hopefully the moderator will check on that. The guy signed up today and three messages have been recommendations to buy that file.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 9:39PM
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PupillaCharites - First off I would like to thank you so very much to help me in my quest to learn about hydroponics for my Tower Garden. I am an avid gardener with all of the basic knowledge, complete with a large shed full of tools and various fertilizers.

Years ago I bought an expensive Twin Cond conductivity meter B-173. Not knowing what to do with it. It is still in the original box. Is this comparable to the conductivity meter that you recommend?

What about rain water? I'm going to a rain barrel workshop at the Deltona library next Saturday. Should I consider using rainwater instead of the well water? Do you use rainwater?

As for well water, the guy that installed my irrigation well said that my area has good water. Assuming that he meant that it is not as hard as most areas. I get no iron staining on plants and concrete.

As for Miracle Gro, I have many different formulations. Plus, I even have a nearly full 50 lb bag of calcium nitrate. Something I bought years ago to balance my garden soil after getting a soil test. I checked the bag this morning but the paper label is disintegrated. I was warned about that so I put the bag in a heavy duty plastic bag. It's a pale yellow powder, right?

In my Tower, right now, I'm growing greens. In the fall I want to switch it out to all strawberries since my greens will be in my large vegetable garden for the winter. My concern about the Tower Tonic is that it doesn't offer fertilizer variations for greens or fruiting plants.

When I do the Tower water changes, I use the spent fertilizer on my potted and garden plants. It is working better than Miracle Gro alone, as you mentioned. I have a 2 acre yard full of edibles as well as ornamentals so I would like to use this hydroponic fertilizer knowledge to do a better job at fertilizing all of my plants.

You can get scientific - so don't hold back. I'm loving it.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 9:33AM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Glad I can try to help; from what you say you saddled yourself a long time ago with that extra pile of old sacks and mixing cups and like to be your plants' chef.

Well you have lots of homework then because your casual question really is that quest you mention. I'm sort of in a difficult situation timewise or I'd do a bit more learning myself since really these are general hydroponics questions and useful to know.

Rainwater, that's the easy question - no plant every complained about rainwater in the forum, but people are wrestling with municipal and well sources all the time. If you can collect it that's super; water effect solved,. and you can concentrate on the fertilizers without confusion.

Your conductivity meter, according to the manufacturer is a precision piece and does covers the range of measurements we use (plus a real lot more), usually around 0.8 to 2.0 milliSiemens/cm is interesting here. Just make sure you are using mS and not µS. Lettuce is off on the low end and tomato is off on the high end.

Calcium nitrate comes in a few varieties and is more a generic name for a powder that has calcium and nitrate in hydroponics. The key here is that yours is water soluble. Calcium nitrate itself is water soluble, but sometimes it gets coated with waxes and things because it is being sold to delay release and avoid salt-pressure damage to seeds as would occur if you just salted the garden dirt with a readily soluble salt. I wouldn't want to guess what your bag is, but it is quite possible, as Calcium nitrate usually picks up water and fertilizer grade can be imure which is fine, so probably it could get a few different hues. Are you sure it's not plaster of Paris ;-)

If you want to go the Miracle Gro route, probably the best is the soluble formula MG for Tomato, because it already contains if memory serves 0.5% magnesium. That's not going to be enough for hydroponic use but it's a start.

The reason to go the miracle gro route is to avoid having another $50-75 sack of fertilizer in the cool, dark, dry, shed with that will take up space for 20 years... I can look into that over the next few days if some else doesn't and you promise you are serious about doing it if it works. It won't be the best route but it would be interesting to see how close we can get with a cheap, soluble amendment or two and perhaps be pleasantly surprised. Alternately you might get a small quantity of hydroponic fertilizer from someone, but I don't usually go for something packed into a baggie unless I know the person. Check into, as they may have a Chem-Gro "Hydroponic Hobby Formula" in 5 pounds or so (not their Hydroponic Special which they sell to growers). I never got anything from them so I can't say if it is a good deal or not, but other posters in other forums said decent things about it once or twice.

When you look at hydroponic fertilizers, many people get confused thinking they are somehow different. Yes and No. Using a hydroponic fertilizer itself is not better by magic, it had more to do with the difficiencies and excesses your plants have and that's left to chance - varies around the country in the soil.

They (Hydro-fertilizers) generally have low nitrogen, medium phosphorus and very high potassium. But that is deceptive - when you add Calcium nitrate & epsom salts, the Nitrogen gets bumped up where it needs to be like regular fertilizer and the potassium gets cut in half, so really the mix looks closer to 20-8-20 (winging it at 100,000 ft, not being precise) when you consider the total nutrient weight. So the NPK you buy is not the NPK after mixing. It is just the counterpart of the "A" liquid and the Calcium the counterpart of the "B" liquid.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 4:01PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

OK, just in case you wanted to hit the ground running, I should mention I am using a 5-11-26 "hydroponic special" fertilizer. For all practical purposes, your Tower Garden nutrient solution will be:

(1) 45 g 5-11-26 fertilizer (already should include micros)
(2) 45 g Calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0, soluble!!!)
(3) 12 g Magnesium sulfate (the common epsom salt)

EDIT comment: ****
the formula used to be ~10% less nutrient, 40/40/10, sorry about that, I'm used to working with solids and didn't adjust that the density is a lot more than pure water for these 'concentrated liquid' fertilizers. No big deal as it is adjusted now. All I did was estimate the nutrients as adding 10% additional density (probably very close) which means the 400 milliliters is actually about 440 grams, not 400 g. This is not a huge correction but better to have this baseline in case the other was a bit too weak.

You would dilute this into the 20 gallons, being retentively careful to not crud things up by putting the highly concentrated ingredients together before getting a good dilution on the ingredients (a five gallon bucket for each premix, dissolve & mix well-- is perfect).

Your EC will be on the low end, but this is good and should be the baseline for replacing the Tower Tonic A+B. That's because they likely dump massive quantities of sulfur-based salts but it will put you right on the money pretty much for the ppm NPK.

This way, a 20 gallon nutrient batch will cost around $0.35 for all the fertilizer at the best deals and sacks, if you are willing to buy the sacks.

TG Tonics are clearly lower in Calcium than our hydro mixing. That's OK for lettuce within reason, but not very good for juicy tomatos...

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Sat, Jul 20, 13 at 22:55

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 6:43PM
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PupillaCharites - Once again, thank you for your time and very good explanations.

I didn't think of myself as my plants' chef, but you are so right. For a while I was even "brewing" homemade plant tea for foliar feeding. At that time I was testing BRIX (sugar) levels in the veggie leaves, then I was going to progress to learning how to test the nutrients in the leaves with the conductivity meter. I bought it but I didn't follow up learning how to use the meter or what the readings meant. That was a few years ago.

The calcium nitrate powder that I have is water soluble. Surely, not plaster of Paris. :)

As for Miracle Gro, if that's not the best way to go with hydroponics, then let's not go that route. But, it would be nice to know how to spruce it up to be a better fertilizer for my garden plants. I like the fertilizer recipe that you give in your last post. I have the calcium nitrate and epsom salts. I even have a kitchen scale that weighs grams. I just need to get some 5-11-26. Yes, I am ready to hit the ground running!

So, what pH level do you keep your fertilizer solution? And, what do you use to make adjustments. With my Miracle Gro solutions I use cider vinegar but I'm sure that's not the proper way in hydroponics to lower the pH.

One last question (for now), how often do you change your solutions? TG recommends once a month but I had read a post that said every 2 weeks.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 11:30PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Plaster of Paris LOL Don't knock the stuff! It is water soluble in nutrient amounts and the continuation of the War of 1812 was fought with the British till 1820's because American farmers considered it the Mother of all fertilizer tonics at the time...

pH, Go with the Tower Garden recommendation of 6.0. The best deal for a commercially available pH acid/base up/down is General Hydroponics set which includes a liter of each and bonus of an ounce of bromothymol blue indicator for $15 shipped if you buy well. I personally have nitric acid and potassium hydroxide. I like keeping things clean, and not adding organic materials to my minerals. But a phosphate/citrate acidic buffer would be fine and I think that is the 'down' in the kit.

Each plant has a different pH, so check, by googling up a good chart, what your plants are. No sense in copying them all here ... I'm not using the recipe I gave you because I'm just doing peas indoors so my info won't apply. Also my pea solution is actually stronger/different than your recommendation, but that's because a tower in Florida is warm, and Tower Garden is physics wise more evaporative. That is why you have a weaker solution formula, not to mention that it has quite near the same ppm for NPK as the TG branded mix instructions which makes it a baseline in all ways.

You can work it up somewhat if you want to experiment, but really if you grow stuff that increases mass more quickly, basically all the Solanaceae veggies then it might need to be increased.

As to when to change, I'm a chemist by profession, and I lack the the practical expertise of other forum members who have invested more time and effort in hydro. My inclination is the answer is the same as "When do you change baby". Not trying to be sharped tongued about anything but I think the answer is when baby gets dirty. Little veggies/low appetite babies (the plants now) probably have no problem with the month. Big babies need more attention and tend to make bigger messes when in their own element, call it two weeks. If it is windy and dirt gets into the rez, etc., then adjust as necessary. Don't forget with Kratky no one changes the water or stirs it for more than a month. Due to the evaporative nature of TG, I see no problem with even longer than a month for leafy light stuff, just from a nutrient use point of view, but the plants will tell you quickly if there is a problem. Other options exist, like alternating changing half of the solution with all of the solution. That's 30 gallons instead of 40 or 20.

A nice TG rep thought I was negative about Tower Garden, but that is far from the truth. Actually I've marveled over its clever design. There is a heck of a lot of cool things going on that an engineer can appreciate. Just, I'm not in the habit of paying Ferrari prices for a Corvette when I really need a station wagon.

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Sun, Jul 21, 13 at 2:47

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 1:44AM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Christine, just a note since you were excited to try strawberries. The TG tonics really look poor for strawberries. Strawberry fruits are potassium hounds, even more so than the famous bananas.

I gave you the formula above in the thread just as a baseline which you will need since you are no longer limiting yourself to the TG Tonics. But if you check strawberries you'll see they prefer a rather gentle pH, so 6.0-6.5 is a good number for them. Also they are a relatively low demand until they start fruiting so this will be really your never-ending quest for the perfect strawberry.

If it were me interested in exclusively TG strawberries, I would probably use around 2/3 the strength of the baseline for starters to start out gently. Then I would switch to my bloom formula at flowering, which would be the full baseline AND sprinkle in together with the baseline's recipe of 45 grams of 5-11-26, about 5 grams of potassium nitrate additional which I'd call collectively the "Strawberry Riot" formula if it proved good, just so my stuff wasn't left out from the tonics, gorilla and jungle juices of the world...

The problem with this is first things first ... you need a good baseline to compare to your TG A+B first, and then to track improvement, or else your can never really know! I don't know what experience others have had with the Tonics for strawberries, so preferably you would have this, and your baseline to compare, all assuming that TG Tonic is a worthwhile formula for strawberries in the first place, which is what I'm wondering about. Got to be careful about distinguishing between how good the TG Tonics are for them and how good the TG itself is, which I suspect is great...

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Sun, Jul 21, 13 at 18:40

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 6:23PM
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This post was edited by happy_fl_gardener on Tue, Sep 17, 13 at 19:39

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 12:10AM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Those are nice strawberries in the picture...

Christine the way my comments have gone, the first solution was to get something close to TG Tonic A+B that was at the right strength. That would be the one size fits all, using the basic hydro fertilizer formula that I started with.

Then I made a slight adjustment to get closer to Strawberries and that was the second grow/bloom recommendation. It was made with the idea you will be growing everything as normal including strawberries as one thing (You actually asked two questions - how to replace TG Tonic & how to grow strawberries best). For that reason, it's just tweaked in a simple way which looks pretty good to me, with the only concern perhaps a bit low in sulfur in bloom.

If we change the subject emphatically to "The best strawberry nutrient recipe", we could likely do a better recipe. For one, that 10-8-22 Hobby formula I mentioned might be a better point to begin.

So, let's hold this discussion as part three and in the next day or two see what 10-8-22 base looks like specifically for strawberries in the Tower Garden type setup.

Regarding flavor, a lot of that is variety related, and to a lesser degree, it's probably not a good idea to short change on the sulfur according to the literature. The compromise for formula 2 was a little light on sulfur.

So get yourself "Sweet Charlie" or some other good commercially available variety if you can. A lot of the commercial varieties really are optimized for shelf and shipping mistreatment and not flavor as we all know. Don't blame innocent hydro on the bad strawberries you picked from the hydro place :-) probably it was some variety optimized to ship like a piece of wood.

Stay tuned before you get any new chemicals, In a day or two, let's review the benefit we might get from you running with the 10-8-22 instead and how that recipe would be. You can buy as little as just 5 pounds of that.

Or, check this out: there is a 25 lb. sack of specifically 'strawberry formula' available from Chem-Gro/hydro-gardens, that is an 8-12-32 base before addition.

It really depends on you - pick the one you want and then lets discuss the correct strength and mix for the one that sounds best suited for your stuff, since the general formulas have more application to other crops.

Your conductivity kicks butt from what I saw, I was jealous. Don't you dare trade it in for the $23 EC-3 one, they similarly user friendly.

What you record is also EC of course. But if you change fairly frequently and are using low solute water like from rain, EC won't be much trouble especially if you are changing a the baby a lot and get the hang of it. Do be sure to keep the system topped off reasonably. Using the EC meter as backup, under some circumstances, you might decide to let the level drop a little as you get to changing time since that will automatically compensate use & raise the remaining nutrient strength vs. diluting it back with water always or dealing with adding more nutrient just before changes.

On my peas, nope. They are good old Thomas Laxton Rondos, sweet and delicios but only germinated a week ago. Everything is coming along fine but Grizzman, a member here, gave me a helping hand with more tyhan one nice idea. I'm actually working on that problem right now. he suggested mounting the bulbs vertically which never ocurred to me, but it is still quite a challenge and I don't have much time to put in the still theoretical "Vertically- lighted Pea Jungle Jim."

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 2:21AM
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This post was edited by happy_fl_gardener on Tue, Sep 17, 13 at 19:36

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 9:34AM
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PupillaCharites - Today I did do the TG water change. At this time of year it is recommended to use half strength tonics but I did add full strength for a baseline.

Tower: 6.42 pH
2.0 mS/cm - EC
.10% salinity

I used water from my irrigation well to fill the TG.

Well water: 7.89 pH
.23 mS/cm - EC
0% salinity (nice to know that there is no salt intrusion from the ocean.)

I also tested a small bucket of rain water from rain the other day. The pH was 6.83. I was expecting a lower reading, not one nearly neutral.

Okay, I'll let you analyze this data and you can let me know exactly what the implications are. Is an EC reading of 2.0 a good thing? Thanks.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:22PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

"any product that you recommend that will be the best for my two types of crops. I"

Now I'm starting to feel responsible so please call me Pupilla LOL

I'll answer later on the strawberry specific formula which I've got but mulling over, mainly by learning more about strawberries.

It isn't going to make you buy a big sack of strawberry special if you really do want to listen to what I think. You just have one little TG and we'll stick to a basic hydro mix that gives you more flexibility to do more fun things. We can always add things easily, but we can't take them out. If at some point the new and improved Strawberry Riot I recommend isn't quite doing it for you, you can always buy a big sack of commercial Strawberry Special for $75, but these chemicals really add up in the hundreds even when you are careful, and some take up space forever picking up water like the calcium nitrate dissolved label of that sack you had in the shed half forgotten... and there are so many other salts you can buy ...and it looks good

Your EC (mS/cm) reading are quite reasonable. If you would like to compare to me:

0.021 mS/cm rainwater
0.411 Silver Springs bottled water from Winn Dixie
0.640 municipal tap in my city

You will find many people talking about "ppm". There are other EC meters that measure ppm instead of mS/cm. PPM numbers are give or take related to EC, but the ppm meters are really measuring like ours and then guessing at the ppm - the real measure of the meter is conductivity, so IMO that's better to stick with although some people don't like the standard international system (based on the metric system). If you want ppm from your numbers in hydro, just multiply what you get by 500. That's what most of the cheap meters do.

If I do that to mine:

Rainwater est 0.021x500 =10.5 ppm
Silver Springs bottled water est 206 ppm
Municipal tap in my city est 320 ppm

ppm, like percent which is one in a hundred, is just parts per million are convenient when talking about individual nutrients, but when it comes to a single measure EC is more accurate since it is like adding apples, oranges and kiwi into a fruit salad, then having someone pig out on the grapes and it gets all messed up, so if ever you want to imagine the approximate ppms of your nutrients just multiply mS/cm X 500.

The EC's are additive, so if you used well water you would expect:

1.77 = TG's basic EC plus
0.23 = well water EC
Total 2.0

I think your nutrient solution is slightly more concentrated or some other residue got in. I was figuring it is around 1.4 to 1.5, before adding in the water content. The thing to know is there is some calcium and magnesium in your well water, but we really can't say how much is available to the plants. But that is good information: the short of it is, seems a tiny bit high, but nothing that will cause any problem with the formulas we've been looking at. Also, I worry there is a relatively high level of chloride in TG Tonics, something I really don't like. The salinity measure may or may not reflect that, I really don't know how to interpret it since it gave your well zero.

The only thing to wonder is if your EC meter is still calibrated, but don't worry about that for now. Even if yours is off, it will be consistent and that's mostly what is important.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 11:40PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

This is "Strawberry Riot 2014"

This is made for using your good FL well water, which is slightly hard at est. 0.23 mS/cm.

20 gallons on TG:

45.0 g ... 5-11-26 hydro special
37.5 g ... Calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0)
16.0 g ... Magnesium sulfate epsom salt
1.0 tsp ... StrawberryMan Party Juice

pH = keep as close to 6.0 as you can, try not to exceed 6.2 for the sake of the nutrients, nor go below 5.8 for the sake of the plants.

How to make StrawberryMan Party Juice (subject to modification until I remove this comment in parenthesis):

1. Get a clean 500 mL water bottle, wash and drain all the residue from wash you can, leaving as little inside as possible.
2. Buy some De-ionized or Reverse Osmosis water that has all the minerals removed. Try a big supermarket in the gallon water jugs' section. Not Drinking water, Not Spring Water, maybe "Purified Water" you need to check the label carefully.
3. Carefully measure exactly 9 grams of Manganese (II) Sulfate Monohydrate into the empty bottle.
4. Next, carefully put exactly 300 grams of room temp or warmer DI/RO water *carefully all* into the bottle with the powder on the bottom.
5. Seal cap tightly and shake like heck and let it sit till the next day and shake like heck again. Label it StrawberryMan Party Juice. Done. *Never* use more than the one teaspoon per rez, starting with a half tsp or less until fruiting *picks up*.

Buy this particular fertilizer to use above:

FYI, Mixing powders by hand without a vibration mixing machine is likely not to distribute it uniformly (this is the general problem with buying baggies from other people you don't know who mix fertilizers)

For strawberry bloom in TG, full strength Riot would be a good to put a stake in the ground. Watch for nitrogen burn in TG in warmer months (not so bad in winter when you grow from what we've discussed). If so the range between 2/3 to full would be my guess, but I don't think it'll be necessary.

Comments Christine? (or Anyone?)

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Thu, Jul 25, 13 at 2:09

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 12:29AM
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Pupilla - "feel responsible"...Well, you are tuning out to be a helpful teacher. :)

Very interesting about the ppm conversion. I had come accross ppm in my hydro readings.

I didn't think to check the EC of my city water. I will the next time I'm taking readings from the conductivity meter. Your city water readings were comparatively much higher. I guess city isn't so pure!

So, if I understand what you are saying about the EC of my TG, my number will change if I start collecting rain water and use that for the 20 gallons during a water change. That means that I should take the EC reading of the rain water too? What is better to use the well water or rain water?

You say that the EC reading is a little high. When I did the water change, the pH was around 6.4 so I added 2 tablespoons of pH down. Then the pH went down to 5.3 so I added 1 tablespoon of pH up. After rechecking I found that I was back to 6.4. If the EC is a little too high, should I remove some of the nutrient solution and replace it with plain water? And, since the pH is a little too high too, should I try to lower it again?

When I used my EC meter, it was for the first time. I used the conditioning solution for 10 minutes as per the instructions then I used the calibrating solution before taking readings from the meter. Maybe I didn't to it right. There is a hold button on it that I don't understand when it is needed. The directions about that feature are poor.

As for mixing the powders, I wonder if a blender would work?

With all this strawberry talk, I'm getting anxious for the fall so I can get the strawberry plants growing!


    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 9:36PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Christine, No rain ... you'll be using your well water. We're using the hardness of it and it might have a natural little bonus of some delicious inorganic Florida natural phosphate in it ;-)

As for the pH, not much use to do that, remember EC is total nutrients, that would only remove good chemicals and you'd have to throw out 80% to make a huge difference. If your pH up and down double as nutrients, then those are slightly stronger. Just be sure to keep the rez topped off, since you are in summer and you don't want it concentrating more. If it is hot, though you might want to cut everything 20% or so anyway, but you know what your Chard eats better than me. Be frugal with pH adjustments. To measure in tablespoons sounds huge to me, but I use concentrated inorganic up/down.

There really never is a need to mix powders in what you're doing. Nothing beats the Missouri (Show-Me) style. Weigh in exactly what you want and the pumped water will do a better job than we ever could at mixing.

For the Nutrient recipe now called "Strawberry Riot 2014", I have made several edits, but they are being made to the post containing the recipe to keep everything straight. Be sure to check there since if you count on the post emails, they would be outdated.

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Wed, Jul 24, 13 at 0:55

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 12:41AM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Christine, Let me know which if any of the following you might happen to have in the "fertilizer shed", if so, exactly what formula/brand?:

Any iron addition nutrient/fertilizer product
Boric acid powder or solution

thanks Pupilla ;-)

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Wed, Jul 24, 13 at 14:05

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 2:03PM
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Pupilla - I took note of your Strawberry Riot 2014 formula changes. If I can't find any deionized water, I know someone who has a de-ionizing water filter system.

The pH up and down that I used came with the TG when new. They are added nutrients. I think that I will take your suggestion and remove 20% of solution from the rez to bring the EC down. I'll use it as a foliar feed for other plants so it won't go to waste.

Borax - I have 20 Mule Team Borax

Borax powder - I have a 6 oz jar, brand Humco. Household and farm grade.

Iron - I have nearly a 50 lb bag of ferrous sulfate powder, no brand. Bought from a farm fertilizer supply store. I thought that I had a pint of chelated liquid iron, but I guess I used it up. I can get more if needed.

I had some errands to do in Daytona Beach today so I checked out a small hydroponics store there. The guy had never heard of the hydro special that you recommend. They don't sell the calcium nitrate either. Their solutions are premixed. We did have an interesting talk about strawberries. The attendant starts his own seeds every year. He said that he likes a variety called 'migonette' because it is a bushy type, not like the varieties that multiply by runners. He says that it is better for hydroponic growing. Sounds worth checking out. Perhaps I can find some 'Sweet Charlie' seeds too.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 7:51PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

HI Christine,
Sorry about the hydro store, unfortunately hydroponic fertilizers in bulk powders aren't doing much to support the local economy. You can get the 5-11-26 25 lb. sack from SouthernAg (which I based the formula on) which is basically a clone of Jack's which I gave you ordering info. I got my sack from a SouthernAg distributor who shipped it Priority Mail (25 lbs.) and shipped was the same price as I mentioned for Jack's. The people at Jack's really are light years ahead of many Mom and Pop's shops. Anyway, your Strawberry formula is optimized for strawberries, like you wanted. An off the shelf hydro mix won't be because strawberries profile is sufficiently special.
The variety you got recommended sounds French, so it is probably a small size berry that is fun for ornamental and if you turn around the birds might mistake it for birdfeed and it'll be gone ;-)
We're out of my specialty which is chemistry now which was your original need I could really help to get you a super strawberry solution ... so I'd talk to someone who really knows their strawberries from a grower perspective. My reaction is that the little wild treasures are more of a delicious more tart curiosity but not going to fill many plastic clamshells. Really, then the nutrient load is not near what real production of luscious berries requires, so you could probably grow that variety successfully with any hobby hydro solution.
Your formula is set to grow big berries, let's say two clamshells per plant if all goes well. Getting good info is very hard. If you want my contact for the SouthernAg product, PM me and I'll give you the delightful distributor contact, in the industry for many years and loving it, who gave me a great deal right here in FL.
So I don't know anything about growing strawberries from seeds except that my first time I would definitely buy plant bare roots and be done with it. All of the productive varieties are probably only available that way. It is not to say there aren't some delicious heavenly wild (alpine) berries, but would just grow those in a garden bed if I wanted since hydro is going to be quite costly for what you get (I think).
That said, I googled Sweet Charlie, it's a licensed variety and famous in FL, bred & patented in Florida, big, one of the sweetest, even its plants sold by Burpee under license for $11 ea. (!), but not available from them at the moment. It has fallen out of favor from commercial growers because it doesn't ship well - because all that extra sweetness get bruised too easily, so if you thought strawberries were better 10 years ago ...
You can get 25 of Sweet Charlie shipped on time from these Tennessee guys at less than $1 per plant root shipped, if you can't find a FL nursery:
Honestly that sounds like a deal to pounce on (get on their member email list before ordering and save around 15% on then, and additionally don't forget to get your 10% incentive off on top of the member price, for the first order with them...) and I for me the way inventories and productions can be at the last minute, plus for me, germinating strawberries would be a pain to work out my first year when I wanted to concentrate on growing techniques and come back to the rest once I had a good one under my belt.
If you get that chelated iron, the other iron stuff won't be of use; let me know, but unless you buy chelated Fe for something else, I don't think it will be worth it this time around. I'll modify the Riot 2014 formula with boric acid if it is worth it, but we really aren't hurting for Boron, but there are other considerations.

Finally, ask some experienced growers about growing strawberries in general. You've said that you want results in one season since that's what the outdoor weather permits, and from seed on top of that. What I'm reading says strawberries produce 3-5 years and many growers pinch of the first year flowers as an investment since then the second time comes in like gangbusters. But Your conditions are covered here:

other great info is in this great presentation including Farmer John in front of his hydroponic farm:

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Thu, Jul 25, 13 at 3:23

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 1:51AM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Some more very links,

And, this is what I have in mind (I believe Sweet Charlie or Treasure variety):

"Migonette" miniatures (looks well suited to pots by the window or on the porch protected from creatures with a sweet tooth):

Let me know what brand/formula of iron chelate booster you can get, and I'll put the final adjustments on Riot '14 recipe including it which I'd gladly bet would grow a bounty of award winning of short day Florida strawberries in TG. Maybe I'll make a little vertigro type setup after seeing all these incredibly juicy strawberries. Strawberries share a lot in common with my peas. You can buy organic sweet English peas for $2.50 a pound, but it is nothing compared to freshly picked shelled peas if they survive the trip from picking to pot. Strawberries arrest development the moment they are picked. So a $2.50 pound special after 4-6 days in distribution picked early to stand shipping is nothing compared to picking clean (pesticide free) berries off the plant, the biggest challenge again being their survival from hydro-gardner pick to make it into the hands of hydro-gardner's loved ones and friends.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 4:19PM
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After my last post I spent some time researching that migonette strawberry. Surprisingly, it turns out, to be an alpine type which was disappointing. I guess you saw the photos too of a plant with little tiny fruits. Not what I'm looking for. My research also shows that I DO want the running type of strawberries. Thanks for the info about Sweet Charlie. I hadn't found that website. There are two "local" sources of bare root strawberries that I know of and they will both be selling "festival". The info that I found on them sounds good. Actually, that is the variety of strawberry in the previous photo posted in this thread.

"Your SouthernAg contact" you have a personal contact or a particular website that you recommend? I'll order the hydro ingredients when you say that you are finished tweaking the formula.

Let me know what type of iron that is best for your formula and I will get it. I plan on growing strawberries every winter from now on, so I would like to use the optimal formula.

I used to have a strawberry bed, long ago, when I lived in Massachusetts. The plants did reach their full potential at three years, then the plants were removed to be replaced by the runners that the mother plant produced. I think that the varieties best suited for down here are ones that must produce best in only one year. Also, we have a much longer growing season which helps to mature the plants sooner.

I'm planning on making a trip to Lowes today. I'll see if they have some chelated iron. I do have other uses for it.

You have my interest about the English peas. This winter I may skip the snowpeas and use the space for real peas in the garden. :)


    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 12:05PM
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Pupilla - Went to Lowes this afternoon. They only had iron sulfate, no chelated iron. I must have gotten it from Home Depot in the past.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 7:49PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Christine,
Right, when I hear runners I don'ty think yikes, I think free plants (or is that illegal, if you're not selling them? ;-)

dang, I've spent more time looking at the strawberry formula I am going to have to scream, not for for the formula but because what am I supposed to do, forget about now that it's looking great (as is now), or now get stuck with a new project I really wasn't looking for!!! I'm like a gambler watching other's rake in the chips and since they are fragrant strawberry chips I'll have to join in...Well, let's not get any fertilizer, chelate, etc., like you said until the nutrient formula is set, which it may already be, but IMO it's good to sleep on these things and learn about the crop as much as possible.

I'm still not sure about the iron and have thought about this product blend called Sprint for golf course greenways. It has a zing that if properly weighted in could be a strawberry delight. Wish I had a buddy doing golf course maintenance ;-) Nothing we can't do another way, but maybe that product is just a few bucks a fistful which makes this more fun ;-)

I'll finalize the regimen over the weekend, got some other stuff cooking at the moment.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 12:38AM
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Hi Pupilla,

That's fine about the formula. No rush. I don't even have the strawberry plants yet. plants, yes!


    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 7:13AM
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Pupilla - I've been seeing the term "TDS" in reference to nutrient solutions. Can you explain what the difference is between that and the reading from a conductivity meter? Thanks.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 8:00PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Christine

Good, I've been swamped and want to make some calls Monday anyway about some compounds.

Meanwhile to tide you over, TDS is in post #12 of this thread. You can find #12 easly by mousing over where it says "email this post" and reading the label, or just counting down from the top.

I just didn't call it TDS, I called it PPM. That's where I said just multiply EC by 500 or so to estimate PPM (TDS). TDS = Total dissolved Solids = Total dietary salad ;-) for the plants.

I don't like calling that Total Dissolved Solids, because even though it is called that, it is misleading. There is tons of confusion because it means different things to different people.

Do you like coffee? I'm a coffee addict. So to make this more fun I'm going to explain it better so it feels more familiar, and then mention the use of ppm and generally why it is pretty useless.

In coffee, TDS means something. Give me TDS = 13,500 ppm coffee and life is great. Give me 11,000 ppm coffee and I'll discretely spit it out. Since PPM is parts per million we are talking about 1.35% coffee. If I had 100 milliliters of coffee (less than half a cup) and evaporated the water and was left with the dissolved solids there would be 1.35 grams (call it ~1.35%). I am not happy with less than 1.1% and I can tell immediately if it is below 1.25%.

That's how plants are. They know their brew!

Now here's the problem. No one has an atomic analyzer built into their eyeballs so no one knows what's in the nutrient solution after the plants have been chowing down without major analytical chemistry backup. That's a problem because we want to keep the plants happy with their favorite brew strength without having to pay a lab every day to check on our babies.

This is where our conductivity meter comes into play in hydroponics. It basically can stick two wires into the liquid and measures how much electricity it conducts. The soluble fertilizer salts conduct electricity and more of them conduct more, even though different ones do it to different extents. So the meter measure how much electricity is conducted and the rest is guess work, or lab. Then someone acts like they were actually measuring the ppm. It gets them in the ballpark, but not much more than that. Some people multiply out EC by 500, and others multiply it by 700 and others use other multiple factors, and by magic we guestimate TDS which is measured in PPM.

You would think if I put 1 gram of fertilizer into 1 liter of water, I'd get 0.1% TDS ( the same thing as 1000 ppm). That's how it works with coffee. Unfortunately with fertilizers, they frequently contain a hefty percent water, so what you see is not what you get, you get less because the water disappears into the water. Next, e.g., nitrate, which to a plant is almost like calories for us doesn't usually get reported as nitrate, but rather elemental nitrogen (same with fertilizer label NPK system for N), and so on for other chemical moities. So if you put the purest dry calcium nitrate (which we don't have), instead of 1000 ppm, you get only 170 ppm nitrogen and 240 ppm of calcium.

To make a very long story short, ppm is useful to make a formula because you know exactly what you are putting in and how much and can express it as you please. When I drink my coffee, I don't cherry pick the flavors in the cup so the TDS is the same delicious combo to the last drop. But the plants cherry pick what they can and the total dietary salad becomes just a big mess after a while, yet some people will just look at the TDS meter and if it reads PPM say it although it was a serious number. Really all we can record is the conductivity. So we can keep maintenance simple by consistently applying the conductivity without introducing all kinds of fudge factors and getting used to them so much we start to believe they mean more than they really do....what's left in the used fruit salad is anybody's guess to a certain extent unless you give it to a lab for analysis. The lab can tell you ppm of each and every analyte you want to know and those are real ppm's (which are part of the total TDS).

Hope this helps more than confuses. The subject simply isn't worth it at this point, when the goal is to simply maintain the nutrient strength at an approximately constant level by using EC...

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 3:25AM
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Hi Pupilla,

Your TDS explanation was very good and helpful. I will never think of coffee the same again. :)


    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 7:40PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

I thought you might like it ;->

I have to add to it, that TDS has also been the coffee world's most misunderstood measurement. The main coffee association of the US defined all the standards and tasting panels everywhere on how much goes into a premium US coffee cup. The main coffee control charts they publish for years have the ppm scale on them, but when it should be 10,000, it only says 1,000 ppm, everything is divided by 10. It is a simple mistake, which started innocently enough with a TDS meter. Roughly 10% of coffee dissolved weight are apparently ionic (salts). The percents TDS are correct, just the ppm is wrong and doesn't match the percents. All this because of misinterpreting a conductivity meter!

I'm taking my tiome on the strawberry formula as you suggested. The current one is the basic successful formula. The problem you could run into is if you let the pH creep up, it could go short on iron. Also, I just wanted to comment that when working with hydroponic fertilizers, I would strongly suggest you did it in an area where the powder doesn't blow in your face, or especially where kids could breathe it in. Use a nose/mouth strap on felt elastic band cover. Not to be frightened about, this, just respectful of what we have. All the liquids contain the same but they don't blow away and I'm sure you have handled other household chemicals at some point that are similarly toxic in concentrated form. For example 9 grams of manganese sulfate has the same amount of manganese as 250 people do in their bodies' total compositions. They are necessary in trace amounts, but can be dangerous if used irresponsibly in concentrated forms and should be kept far from any young children. I'm sure many crusty farmers might dismiss this as being protective, but they are basing it on personal anecdotal experience and aquired comfort and familiarity levels.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 11:40PM
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Pupilla - Thanks for the warning about mixing the hydroponic powders. I'll be sure to be extra careful. :-)

In order to learn more about hydroponics I have been checking out some YouTube videos. One TG video briefly mentioned that he uses a packet of Zyme Alive in his rez. Do you feel that adding anything like this has a benefit?


    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 6:54AM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Christine

Depends. Generally I view cute names as marketing gimmicks. You really have two questions to ask.

(1) If the nutrient solution is the right one, why do yo want to turn it into a teaming ecosystem and change the nutrient balance - it can't do anything but get out of whack, assuming it is on target to start with. Flavor is based on the nutrient uptake, not directly on what other symbiotes and parasites are on the roots. Sugar is made by sunlight and carbon dioxide and giving the good nutrients to have healthy leaves and the enzymes the plant grows itself.

(2) Do I have a bad microbial problem. Does my res stink, foam, or other yuck factor. If so, a microbial injection of symbiotic (good) microbes may out compete the bad ones and act as protection. Or be preventitive.

Have you had problems like (2) before? TG seems much more resistent to me at first glance since the roots spend a good amount of time in the air without irrigation. This usually takes care of the infections all by itself.

So it is a personal choice. If you asked me an opinion or what I will do, considering I don't see commercial growers usings this gimmick product, I would want my res clean if I could get away with it rather that play with the nutrient balance. All of the chemical salts in the fertilizers are available to the plants. I wouold avoid turning my TG into any compost at all, even if beneficial and definitely I would initially get a baseline on the basic setup without throwing in any curves or I could never figure out what I was doing right or wrong. One good point though is to be sure wherever you get your roots, that they are healthy as can be and from a reliable / good feedback source that won't give you something already infected with bad bacterial. I haven't thought about it yet, but I might even treat them with a good cleaning including a hydrogen peroxide washup before planting.

Don't forget, there is no hokus pokus (except New and Improved, Super StrawberryMan Juice LOL). The objective is to control every aspect of your plants in a favorable way, anda big part of that to me is keeping it simple. Plants are producers from minerals and if done right in hydro, only need their proper nutrition, sunlight, temperature and pH.

On the other hand, if something is missing from the strategy that is important, we should identify exactly what it is and add it specifically, which is why the shotgun approach with secret weapons is not my cup of coffee ;-)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 10:21AM
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Hi Pupilla,

So, what I'm getting from your explanation is...if it's not broke, don't fix it. My TG is only a few months old and it is running fine. Glad to hear that you consider the zyme alive a gimmick. I was just curious. you are going to grow some too! Why am I not surprised? I went to a farmers market today and I bought 10 young potted strawberry plants, suckers. The original mother plant came from Lowes last fall. I would have bought more plants but the seller didn't know the variety name. The original tag only said "mounding". She said that the mother plant produced well and the berries were good.

I had four spaces in my TG available so I washed off the roots and put them in the tower this afternoon. At this point I'm going to have to grow them in the basic TG tonic until we work out the strawberry fertilizer details.

The calcium nitrate that I have is very old and it is field grade, not greenhouse grade. So, I will need some newer calcium nitrate.

The email that you send me said that I can't answer you. I need for you to give me more details about the strawberry fertilizer ingredients. Please include how much they cost. It'll be nice that we both will be growing the strawberries this fall and we can compare notes. :)


    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 7:16PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Gimmicks aren't all bad all the time, but if you throw the kitchen sink at something the likelihood of understanding the basics diminishes and with that, our ability to improve our success. I'm sure you'll set the standard since I can get lax about my plants when things back up. I've sent you an email hopefully this time the spam filter won't block it, and we can work out what to put into box without having to buy the farm. A little bit of fertilizers goes a long way. For example, around 90% or so of your Tower Tonics are water and the residue is the soluble nute powders. Look at that micro, manganese sulfate, 9 grams is more than enough for 60 twenty-gallon res changes...

Let's dig up this thread to show off some nice strawberrys come Spring!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 11:17PM
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Kale grown in Texas up on a deck with the A and B tonic last September.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 1:05AM
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Chefs Garden fabulous photo and healthy looking Kale congratulations and thanks for sharing the photo.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 3:37AM
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I am also wanting to save money on "Tower Tonic" but after looking up liquid hydroponic nutrient solution on Google I see that the cost of A&B, $40 + $20 shipping for 2 gallons seems to be fair. I still want to save money so I went to my local hydroponics store and brought part A&B with me. Part A is 2-0-0 and Part B is 0-1-3. The owner of "530 Hydro" told me after about 30 min. of chatting that I should just stick with what I have until I understand more about what I want the plants to do...? I'm guessing since I live in the mountains of Northern CA. in a town called "Grass Valley" I'm not his normal customer type. He did tell me however that when making my own solution from powders I would have to be selective on what brands/types to use because they can be very dirty and cause pump issues.
I also learned that leafy greens like chard, kale and lettuce might grow better in their own tower because veggies like broccoli or squash have an extra growing stage before you eat them and I can add something like "FoxFarm Big Bloom Liquid Concentrate" to produce more. He also told me to adjust the PH before adding nutrients not after like the TG book tells us to do.
OK so knowing that my water starts at 7.0 and my solution will drop it by 3.5 I need to raise it to 9.0 to get a 5.5 PH in the end? much to learn. Does any of this sound right?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:33PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Scott, Tower Garden is the biggest rip-off on the market at the moment, you will stop posting about it as soon as you realize you won't be selling any here. I heard Juice Plus hooked you in with their rip-off dessicated veggie pills mixed with vitamins which cost over $160 per month using the MLM marketing strategy where once you become a distributor for JP and TG you now get 40% off as long as you can sucker in an increasing number of people in by taking advantage of your friendships pushing wild and unsupported claims of health. You'll soon learn that only 5% of the people actually make any money doing that. This is meant to help you find something better to do!

The specific questions, the TG recommendation to adjust pH afterwards is fine. Most people do it that way anyway in other systems. This is because in your particular design the plants are not in contact with the reservoir, so you won't hurt them. Just mix it up good, it's already liquid, and your natural water pH you mention is not going to harm the nutrients, do sprinkle it rather then dump it in though, while mixing at the same time. You can put the acid in beforehand if you want; but keep in mind, careful, your reasoning on how to do it is completely false, regarding pH behavior which is a non-linear measurement and further affected by chemical equilibria, so I agree, you do have more to learn than most, DO NOT VIEW pH AS SOMETHING TO ADD AND SUBTRACT LIKE YOU ARE THINKING when you say:

"my water starts at 7.0 and my solution will drop it by 3.5 I need to raise it to 9.0 to get a 5.5 PH in the end?"

As a matter of fact if you broght the water to 6.5 before mixing, you'd probably be just right. But TG is designed to be idiot-proof, so a final adjustment at the end works well as there is less intervention and possibility to pour extra, unneeded chemicals in the reservoir to compensate for errors. Here's a tip, just for fun if you want to do it different without risk. Add half or 2/3 the acid you normally do to the water first. Note you will not be using pH up base at all and you should never be adjusting your pH above the initial 7 of your water.

As for the TG nutrients, they are real cheap salts. Don't buy into that phoney "earth mineral" propaganda Juice Plus is spewing out, they are the same Non-renewable salts we all use for pennies on the dollar you spend. The Fox Farm stuff you heard about, is different IMO, as though it will give the hydro store guy a nice profit, at least it is a more fascinating product and I would think it is a no-brainer for you to use it since you are willing to pay generously for perceived health considerations, and some FF products if I recall have some excellent rather organic based recipes which is just up your alley!

I personally use powdered fertilizers and anything that is sold as a soluble or hydroponic fertilizer that you didn't buy from some guy moonlighting in his garage trying to make a quick buck of unsuspecting beginners, and used according to directions is fine, so I would disregard the comment about "bad brands". Now, don't go buy some insoluble, incomplete, controlled release urea fertilizer made for something else and expect it to work; buying a hydro fertilizer and there is no worry about crudding up and I've tried a bunch.

Your tower simply is not a good system for growing anything but light feeders which include herbs, greens and at most cherry tomatoes.

While TG is a neat product I like, for people who have no time or inclination to build systems, I would recommend the Verti-Gro system which is also a tower with 20 plants. This system will allow you to grow heavier plants, and is also self contained. It was also featured at Epcot/Disney and costs half. The reservoir is around 10 gallons which makes it so much more portable, and the plants can be rotated easier. Did I mention the nutes were less than 1/3 the price (they are powder), no MLM scheme to support, shipped to your door for $260 shipping included. Don't be scammed by smooth talking companies trying to take advantage of your relationships with your friends by pushing a gimmick, get a more flexible system with somewhat less gimmicky appeal!

The Verti-Gro VG-1 automatic garden tower with 20 plant spaces and enough fertilizer for nearly 500 gallons (you won't be reording right away like JP's tiny initial amount)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 5:48PM
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What the heck was that Pupilla? Why so much hate? I'm not selling anything here, your way off base and completely out of line. Please don't be rude. You implied a lot about me and what I do, like you know me. I'm sure these forum are not the place for your misplaced hate.

To quote you,
"As for the TG nutrients, they are real cheap salts. Don't buy into that phoney "earth mineral" propaganda Juice Plus is spewing out, they are the same Non-renewable salts we all use for pennies on the dollar you spend."

Where are you getting the info on what is in Parts A&B? I can find nothing about what is in it.

To quote you again,
"Your tower simply is not a good system for growing anything but light feeders which include herbs, greens and at most cherry tomatoes."

Please go to YouTube and see what can and is being grown in the TG.

And yet another,

"Scott, Tower Garden is the biggest rip-off on the market at the moment, you will stop posting about it as soon as you realize you won't be selling any here."

Wow dude...just wow.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:10PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)


Don't deny you are a Juice Plus Dealer (the same corporate multilevel marketing machine of Tower Garden)!!!

Dude, just incredibly wow to you too! I love you Scott, so hugs and love to you too! I thought you liked rude after the way you dissed and put down project gardner's great free tower system which can be built on a shoestring. Remember your original question about lower priced fertilizers and more organic fertilization, Read on, man you are absolutely gonna love this, and I mean it, I am so stoked about these super products!!!

One correction, the new Verti-Gro system which is such a better value than that Tower Gimmick, actually, the Vertigro, that is, has an extra level free now due to the bad ecomony they actually offer more for the same price, and is now for 24 plant spaces, not 20 any more!!! and they throw in ther extra 4 spaces are free!!! Free shipping too!!! Not like Tower Garden, which charges you $70 for two extras !!! Highway robbery!!! probably plus shipping, too!!!

Check out the link I provided above. People need a good option that is affordable.

Dude, did you ever watch youtube videos from John, the growyourgreens great California guru Dude? He has no financial interests and thinks people who want to grow with towers out to check out this system (He seems to say he really doesn't think much of the Juice Plus Tower Garden, either, in the video!!!). But this 50 plant Garden Tower is soooooooo... cool, and grows over 50 plants in its own ecosystem!

Check it out, a really neat option that assembles in a flash and allows you to garden organically!!! Get one of these!!! And they are trying to do a MLM too. But this one makes it's own fertilizer free from a cool composting design running up the center. The media could be soilless too ;-)

Clean, bright, UV stabilized virgin HDPE white plastic 50-space Garden Tower with organic/vermiculture ability to produce its own fertilizer in 4 square feet I highly recommend these dude, because if you want high quality nutes for lower price --your original question--- this is an awesome product for a fraction of the price of that JP one, and the MLM scheme is small, you can get in on it sooner!!!

And be sure to check out the awesome growyourgreens video from our buddy John!

growyourgreens HDPE Cool 50-Garden Tower ($270) that makes its own organic fertilizer"

I'm so excited about these options and there are more great options accessable pricewise to home gardeners, hobbiests and enthusiasts of soil-less gardening, green thumbbed or not, I'll post more of them if I have an opportunity!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:11PM
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That is a soil system that when full of dirt and watered could really weigh a lot, I considered them, found how to build it for about $25 and still bought the TG. I do not want soil. I want to learn about hydroponics not soil.
This post is about the Tower Garden and what alternative nutrients can be used. Stay on topic please.

You may email me if you like and I will try and talk you through it, this kind of hatred can cause all kinds of problems that even Juice Plus+ can't fix (wink wink) . I tried to email you but got no response. If you want to rip on NSA fine but find the place to do it because this is not it. This is for people that want to learn about good ways to grow, OK man?


Here is a link that might be useful: DIY Garden Tower

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:12PM
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This is today, tower on the right I just planted at half strength A&B, the one on the left I bumped up to full last week. I started the seeds for the 3rd tower 5 days ago.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:08PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

It's cool Scott, really! I actually agree with you about the Garden Tower Project's being overpriced at $270 and if you can build one that suits your interest for $25 that would be really cool. I'm doing one out of HDPE, just like so if you have a link for the $25 version please post it, because I've priced it higher.

It doesn't need to be filled with soil; it can be filled with an inert hydroponic medium, too and is a sort of hybrid system. We talk a lot about aquaponics in this forum, the Garden Tower with a little green thumb can be adapted to Vermiponics which is pure delicious home grown free organic nutrients. It is a bull’s-eye on target because customers for Juice Plus's tower "Tower Garden (TM)" are wanting alternate food grade fertilizers, even though some of us don't care as much, it is really important for that segment of the population to know what they eat and to decide what is acceptable or not. That's an American right!!!

In this case a Vermiponics system (using natural worms to created free organic fertilizer from kitchen scraps) is a really cool option, built right into the tower. You do know that Tower Tonics are not food grade, and NOT ORGANIC, right, that they are inorganic? For example you know that the single greatest amount of "EARTH MINERALS" in Tower Tonic is the chemical compound POTASSIUM NITRATE, right? Because it is the cheapest stuff available for a hydroponic product and works... But it is also responsible for poisoning cattle from eating plants that take up too much of it, Blue Baby syndrome in people and is in the doubtful to risky range in your Tower Tonic? Not to mention it is a food preservative that is considered potentially harmful? And the principle ingredient in gunpowder (blackpowder).
Here's what the USDA has to say: USDA on Potassium Nitrate

Don't forget your government at work, that wonderfully bureaucratic agency prompted by Rachel Carson's work: The EPA on Potassium Nitrate It also has a negative effect on fertility in humans but I really don't want to go there, because you see I use potassium nitrate despite these toxic effects. It doesn't make it safe and I can understand why someone else would prefer organic and I think it is their right to find an alternate fertilizer to avoid such inorganic chemicals as potassium nitrate that are agricultural grade and produced from salts using acids and ammonia from industrial chemical factories.

This thread deals with an alternate option to that and the vermiculture Garden Tower can fit in the same space, do more plants, etc., etc. and is half the price!!! It's for some people who really are obsessive about eating healthy, and don't mind paying more, but, and it makes free fertilizer AND allows you to compost your nutritious kitchen scraps in a bright and really attractive system without resorting to salts, and can deliver them through hydro media. It really works, too!!!

Yes, it has a drawback in that you have to fill it with more media than the awesome Verti-Gro system or TG netpots. That media can be an inert hydroponic type media. For anyone serious, this is a super product, but consider in your calculations the volume is 8 cubic feet you will need in soilless media. That will cost but will last a long time and serves as a conduit to deliver nutrients between the worms and plants as it is constantly being cleaned and the worms are your fertilizer injectors, doing the work of the pumps - they are why no pump is necessary, this runs on worm power, man!!! 100% naturally ;-) The worms go into the root balls and clean the roots for you and then go back in their central tube when more food is there. Once it gets going it is like having an aquaponcs setup, no filters necessary, and using worms instead of fish and pumps, and kitchen scraps instead of buying fish food and chemical based fertilizers. If that isn't awesome!!!!!!

Have you seen the Hydro Stacker? If anyone wants to grow strawberries, this is a great tower and has automatic nutrient feed and is less expensive, plus HDPE, not Tower Garden's polycarbonate (PC: that's according to what ScottBerry posted from Dr. Ray's webpage in another thread) which is not readily recyclable and is made from BPA or similarly toxic BPA as the PRINCIPAL raw material. You know fickle Californian consumers hate BPA!!!

You can buy far cheaper nutrients for the overpriced ones from JP Tower Garden direct from Verti-Gro or use Hydro Stacker "Special Sauce", 20 lbs concentrate makes 2,000 gallons (suitable for all vertical towers, too), but although both of these are much less expensive an alternate to Juice Plus' low quality non-organic, non-renewable Tower Tonics (TM), I posted in this thread on July 20, 2013 (#4) how to make a fine, inexpensive alternative to all three of these, same toxic earth mineral base which actually is fine for me, using typical products commonly used by members in this forum at the strength needed for TG.

Your have the greatest questions Scott, I just want to thank you for your comments! I love them!!!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:49PM
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Hey man start a new post for this stuff, do you not know what trolling is?...Better yet I'm going to let you run me off. I spent 1500 bucks on a nice system that will last me 10 years or more and I plan on buying the 30k farm from Tim Blanks once I understand what the heck I am doing. I will feed the hungry, I will teach the willing and I will help the planet before I leave it....I do not need to hear about plastic tubs'm going to do this and do it right, that is why I'm here, to learn not to Go back and read everything I have posted.'s not much. Maybe you will see I have never once asked anyone to buy anything...I'm anti PVC because of 1st hand knowledge and people very close to me still at Shintech, in LA. This is why I say the TG is worth the money. PVC is cheap to buy but costs everyone far more in the long run. The more we use alternatives to PVC the cheaper they will become. I know we can do better.

As far as the nutes go...

Here is a quote from "Future Growing LLC".

"We feed the vertical aeroponic plants a water-based ionic mineral solution called “Aeroponic Power-Gro®”. To achieve our mission of producing healthy food for people, we had to develop an all-natural, stable, water-based ionic mineral solution to support the patented vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® technology.
It took support from leading world experts in plant and human nutrition to develop the proprietary Aeroponic Power-Gro® plant food we use today.
Aeroponic Power-Gro® contains a wide range of specially formulated ionic minerals and plant nutrients. Aeroponic Power-Gro® is the world’s first high performance ionic mineral solution specifically designed for all types of food and flowering crops. The pH balanced blend of natural plant nutrients help stimulate plant roots, flowers, fruits, and leaves. Unlike conventional hydroponic fertilizers, the amazing Aeroponic Power-Gro® can be used to grow everything from gourmet lettuce and edible flowers to beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes.
Healthy plants packed with nutrition help create healthy people! Aeroponic Power-Gro® is loaded with minerals essential to vibrant human health!"

The name was changed by Juice Plus to "Tower Tonic" to be more brandable. This is the same system just smaller.

Here is a link on our/your forums about what you were tring say up there.

Later guy, this forum is not for me. too much hate man.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic vs Hydro

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 12:09AM
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Why don't you flex your intellectual mussels with people in the "100% Organic Hydroponics" post, I see you have not as of yet given them your 2 cents...and while your there why not bring up apple farming or maybe the Tesla Model S and how over priced it is and hate on them because they share the profits with the people that sell them.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 12:49AM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

That is sooooo sad people can be so gullible to believe this and it is legal to make these sorts of claims still in the USA ... on second thought that IS America ;-)!!! Instead of industrial chemical salt solution, we have ==>A new magical "aeroponic" "earth mineral" solution for a product being marketed via multilevel marketing, for a product that isn't even aeroponic except by in the mind of the marketing folks !!!! LOL!!!!!! After 75 years of rip off hydroponic marketeers and people still fall for this!!!!!

From "The Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening" by William Frederick Gericke, PhD, inventor of hydroponics as we know it, when talking about the formulations you are using:

p. 46. "The public has been victimized by promoters selling mixtures which cost them less than five cents per pound for from three to five dollars per pound. There is no reason why hydroponic salts should be more expensive than the common grades of land fertilizer."

(Actually IMO they should be about 25% more expensive or so, to insure non-solubles are removed, but that's chickenfeed to even mention.)

The author was a true visionary, responsible for choosing “hydroponics" as the name of the field, from my first edition original of his book I so much treasure, which discusses phony claims while it lays out hydroponics. The book was written in 1939!!!

Chill Scott, please don't run away!!! I can definitely understand how putting thousands of dollars into those towers and also into Juice plus desiccated veggie pills you don't want to think about it. But the only way we can learn is by being a little skeptical of these marketing claims, which you are very good at when the shoe is on the other foot, as you entered this forum doing the same thing. I'm open to any true improvement anyone makes, but you need to better than link to talking points of multilevel marketing companies and their benefactors. We must protect our food supply by not allowing aggressively marketed products to bamboozle unsuspecting consumers. This thread in part attempts to find an alternate nutrient mixture rather than continue paying ridiculous pricing like an addict, which is the marketing model of the MLMs.

I'll stop if you've had as much as you can take and I am not pleased you had a negative experience. I honestly thought you'd come around to reason how hypocritical so many of these marketing claims are, but perhaps we just have a disconnect. I've had much too much enthusiasm than I'm entitled to with this and I am sorry, deeply I may have ruffled your feathers. Just rest assured, though, when you are dealing with all these chemicals, whether they be plastics or fertilizer salts, most or many can be toxic and you don't want to be giving free passes to aggressive multilevel markeeters to make claims that frustrate the FDA, USDA and FTC every minute of their regulatory existence by deceptive marketeers.

Each time someone makes a "Mine is better than yours" claim, insist to see peer reviewed, third party scientific verification, if not, dismiss it as simply a way to separate us from our hard earned money. I love hydroponic growing with mineral salts! These ingredients of the Tonics are the cheapest conceivable: Copper Sulfate is a poison, Manganese Sulfate is a poison, Zinc Sulfate is a poison, and they are so cheap in making this product they don't even provide them in chelated form. A good fertilizer will. On the other hand the Iron is chelated but with EDTA, but should use the one in most all premium hydro products DTPA, but EDTA is cheaper and less stable...and what nerve I had to question those claims in the context of getting a better alternative!


Tonic B: Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Boric Acid, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Molybdate, Zinc Sulfate, Phosphoric Acid.

Tonic A: Calcium Nitrate, Iron Sodium EDTA

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Thu, Mar 20, 14 at 12:34

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 2:00AM
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Hi Christine,

I have used this package ofTomato Hydroponic Nutrients for my lettuce, swiss chard, bok choi and kale. It worked great for me, but I did mix it a little less strong for these things, since they are not tomatoes. It is very economical since it is dry and all you need to do is mix it with water. I know other people use similar products, too.

I got the idea from a guy on youtube.. The nice thing about this stuff is it is complete. When I used other stuff, I had to add Epsom salts and Nitrogen in the form of Calcium Nitrate. I hope you have the same results I did!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 1:04PM
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When it comes to tomatoes single box/ bag nutrients always involve some compromise for convenience.
Tomato plants N, Ca and K requirements increase markedly from the 4th true leaf upto the first flowers showing and then decrease again. You`ll see a difference in yield by increasing/decreasing the EC at the appropriate stage using calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate to alter the N,Ca,K ppm`s.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:27AM
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Nice, I have been following this thread and there is some good information to be had here!

@ PupillaCharites
"Then I would switch to my bloom formula at flowering, which would be the full baseline AND sprinkle in together with the baseline's recipe of 45 grams of 5-11-26, about 5 grams of potassium nitrate additional which I'd call collectively the "Strawberry Riot" formula if it proved good,"
The 5 grams of Potassium Nitrate. Was this measurement picked for a 20 gal reservoir tank size? My strawberries (I'm assuming)
are causing my one type of lettuce in my flood table to show signs of Potassium deficiency.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:31PM
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Tonic B: Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Boric Acid, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Molybdate, Zinc Sulfate, Phosphoric Acid.

Tonic A: Calcium Nitrate, Iron Sodium EDTA "

Wouldn't the Potassium Nitrate play nicer if it was mixed into the "A" concentrate with the Calcium Nitrate?
Other formulas, mine included have the Potassium Nitrate in the A


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:45PM
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Its usually split between A and B stocks as its much less soluble than calcium nitrate, 316g/L vs 1290g/L @ 20C

5g of potassium nitrate in a 20gal res would add 9ppm of N and 26ppm of K to the mix. Lettuce and strawberries both like higher levels of P so they`re compatable in that respect

This post was edited by hex2006 on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 16:54

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:15PM
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Thanks Hex!
Yes I found The Potassium Nitrate doesn't dissolve well
in the concentrate water when mixed 200:1 at room temperature. I put it in after adding the Calcium Nitrate. Next time I make up homemade mix, I'll add it to the water first.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 5:39PM
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I am reading but not understanding these responses. I am new to the tower garden (although I've had an in ground garden for years). My traditional garden always thrived when I added azomite to the ground. Is this something that might be water soluble and suitable for a tower garden? What about lowering the PH. It seems to constantly be high in my system. I'd like to avoid buying their replacement bottles - as if they weren't expensive enough, they want another $30 just to ship!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 9:40PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

$30 bucks to ship Ouch!

If it is just pH up and down you want, get it here for $30 total with *free shipping*. (same stuff) Azomite is not generally of greenhouse grade solubility, is it? It will increase the strength of the solution. I know the latter sounds good, but if you trust the Shower Tower designer, the nutrient balance is already optimized for everything (at least for lettuce!), and adding more available nutrients will only increase the strength of the solution beyond which can stress the plants.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 10:20PM
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I was thinking about trying DynaGro one part. It has quite a following in the medical community. Anyone?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:24PM
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@ PupillaCharites & happy_fl_gardener - fascinating thread, thanks!

I was taken by surprise at a Spring Garden show where TG had a booth - I fell for it! But I'm not disappointed as I'm having fun with it. I come to realize that I really have a keen interest in growing plants, ones I can eat especially, and now have a complete fascination with hydroponics as a growing system, so I came here to learn.

Its time I start thinking about buying more Tonic and like others, I'm looking for an alternative b/c Yes, the TG tonic seems expensive and I get the feeling I can find an alternative.

My goal is to build some of my own designed hydroponic units just for fun. But the immediate goal is to find a alternative feed before I head out of town for a few weeks and have to leave my husband with the TG which is currently loaded with veggies.

There's a LOT to look up here - many recommendations so I'm going to check them out today and determine whether or not I have time to get my hands on these and do what I need to over the next few days. If I don't, I'll have to resort to going back to TG for the tonic but I'm pretty sure it will be the last time. NOT at all slamming the system or the company - it was expensive but I am having fun with it. I bought it for fun and not as a way to make money. I'm a boring banker and certainly don't need to get involved in MLM.

Tx again everyone. I'm going to enter my link here. I am NOT actively selling the TG and I can't say I disagree with what some of @ PupillaCharites describes as their marketing program. I agree with you and so what I did was start a blog to track my experience with the TG as well as other crazy challenges I'm having living on a lot full of clay.

As an FYI - I am almost out of the complete hydroponic beginner category at the moment. But what a blast I'm having with all the ideas I'm getting from all the hydroponic literature I've been reading. If I had a HUGE aquarium I could use fish poop as a fertilizer like they do at Epcot!

Tx again all for the great conversations and debate.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Wonky Gardener

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 8:19AM
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I've had a Tower Garden for about 2 years. I use FloraDuo A and B instead of Tower Tonic. You only use half as much and its cheaper. Its made by General Hydroponics and you can get it at your local hydroponics store. Results are great. Also invest in an outdoor water filter for your hose. They make them for RV's and campers. You can buy it at Walmart, they last for a while. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2014 at 7:03PM
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I just picked up a used one to play with and in the course of researching it I met several people who use either Flora or jungle juice and were happy with the results.

(I'm using the tonic for this growing cycle to set the baseline for comparison.)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2014 at 1:32PM
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