Shown is a tower garden that was presented by Steve Koontz, of TGardener, and Justus Lommel, of Winona Lake, Wednesday at the Kosciusko County Fair. Photo by Jacki Gorski
Shown is a tower garden that was presented by Steve Koontz, of TGardener, and Justus Lommel, of Winona Lake, Wednesday at the Kosciusko County Fair. Photo by Jacki Gorski
Fairgoers were able to get a demonstration Wednesday of a new type of gardening that is being used in Kosciusko County school rooms.

Steve Koontz, of TGardener LLC, and Justus Lommel, 9, of Winona Lake, gave a demonstration at the Kosciusko County Fair of how a Tower Garden works.

A tower garden is a general vertical hydroponic growing system that allows 20 different plants to be grown in the center. This type of gardening tool allows people to set it up in their apartment or house and grow fruits, vegetables and herbs, Koontz said.

The reason Koontz got involved in TGardener LLC was due to space.

About 15 years ago, Koontz was in Ace Hardware and came across some free seeds of gords.

He planted them and they just grew. About seven years, he was introduced to Tower Gardens through a friend and was hooked.

“I could garden year-round,” he said.

The base of the tower garden holds water that is pumped into the center that holds the plants, Lommel said.

The one specific thing about these tower gardens is it doesn’t use soil, Lommel said. Instead, it uses another medium to hold the seeds and plants.

“It’s basically sand and rocks ground together until it creates a light fluffy substance,” he said.

People can plant a variety of plants. Peas and strawberries can be grown in the tower garden outside, while leafy greens like lettuce can be grown in the tower inside, Koontz said.

Generally, people can mix and match plants, Koontz said. The tower garden Koontz used during his demonstration included arugula and lettuce.

However, there are some plants that are best to have a tower all its own. The one example Koontz gave was strawberries. The reason he gave was strawberries generally have a higher acidic level than other fruits or vegetables.

The acidic level of the water does have to be checked two or three times a week, Lommel said. The acidic level generally has to be between a 6 and 7 on a scale of 14.

When doing the demonstration, Koontz and Lommel did have acidic and alkaline minerals to adjust the levels of the water as needed.

Attached to the base and center are four LED lights, Koontz said. They do have a timer.

Koontz said he uses the timer on the tower gardens he has.

“They’re on 10 to 14 hours a day,” he said.

There are at least 40 tower gardens in schools across the county, Koontz said.

There are several ways educational professionals can learn about the tower gardens.

Koontz said for the last two years, he has attended the E3 conference, where he’s given demonstrations of the tower garden. He also attended a Christian school conference in South Bend Oct. 24-25, doing a demonstration then.

There are ways teachers use the tower gardens in their teaching.

One kindergarten teacher in North Manchester used the tower garden in her classroom to teach her students how to garden and where plants come from, he said. When the plants matured, her class decided they wanted to sell the vegetables and use the proceeds to buy a gas gift card for a family that was having medical issues.

There are other benefits to the tower garden.

“I’ve learned of students who’ve eaten vegetables from the tower who wouldn’t touch them at home,” Koontz said.