All About Garden Tower® Roots and Root Management

a variety of vegetables and flowers growing in a vertical vegetable gardenWhile general plant care is crucial for your garden’s success, planning and management are just as important. Whether it’s learning about companion planting for better placements or understanding the different types of roots, your vertical vegetable garden will thrive with the proper knowledge and planning. Today, we’re teaching you how to manage the roots in your Garden Tower® system to ensure your plants will be happy AND put healthy herbs and veggies on your plate.

Learn Before You Plant: Perennials vs. Annuals Roots

How Different Plants Affect Your Garden

closeup of new plants in warm sandstone and terracotta Garden Towers®The first step in managing your garden's roots is understanding the different types of plants and how their roots compare to one another. The two main types that you'll have in your Garden Tower® include:

  • Perennials: these types of plants come back every year for three or more seasons. Their roots do not break down from year to year, creating more root mass in your Tower, containers, or raised beds. Because of this, it's important to your garden's success that you remember where perennials are planted so as to not place other herbs or vegetables too closely.
  • Annuals: while these plants only last one season, they usually have a longer bloom time than perennials. Some perennials can be considered annuals when grown out of their winter-hardy zones (such as kale). Additionally, biennials (plants that have a complete lifecycle of two years) are often grown only as annuals as well (such as Swiss chard).

We recommend that beginner gardeners sticker with annuals, however more experienced gardeners can take advantage of the benefits of perennials with proper consideration. If you've planted perennials in your Garden Tower® but do not want them to return for the next season, you must remove these roots, both for root management as well as to keep the plant from blooming again. Once you've chosen the types of greenery you'd like to plant in your Tower, the next step is learning about the different types of roots.

Understand the Difference Between Woody and Fine Roots

How to Manage Root Mass in Compact Growing

closeup of root vegetables being harvested in a vertical vegetable gardenAlong with different types of plants, there are different types of roots, too. The two that we will be focusing on are woody and fine. Woody roots are thicker, bulkier, and have significantly more mass. These are much harder to break down because of their thickness and can cause some issues for optimal container gardening over time. Most types of mint usually have woody roots, meaning that they should only be planted with special consideration in a container growing system such as a Garden Tower®.  Aggressive, fast-spreading woody-rooted perennials (such as mints) can take over a raised bed or container garden quickly and displace other desirable plants.  

Fine roots, on the contrary, are thinner, easier to break down, and pose less of a threat for a rootbound container. Most common vegetables grown in our Tower systems have fine roots, such as lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, and spinach. If you're growing in a Garden Tower®, we recommend little to no woody rooted plans to help further prevent rootbounding. In addition, some woody-rooted plants are even invasive to garden beds, such as peppermint. With proper root research and planning, you'll be on your way to a healthy vertical vegetable garden.

Precautionary Measures and Rootbound Signs in a Garden Tower®

Preventative Actions to Keep Your Plants Healthy

lettuce growing in the top of a Garden Tower®The best way to prevent your vertical vegetable garden from becoming rootbound is by making good choices with the root information above. You may think that having more roots is better for your garden because they can give more nutrients to the plants, however rootbound containers will essentially choke your garden. unless you’re growing woody perennials, and desire them to come back the next year, such as rosemar. Thankfully the Garden Tower® features an enormous amount of space for roots, almost seven times as much capacity as a 5-gallon bucket, so getting root-bound is unlikely. However, these preventative measures will help Tower users and are applicable to raised beds, towers, and smaller containers, too:

  • Removing roots: after each season, taking the time to remove as many roots as possible will help prevent your container from becoming rootbound. Our favorite method is cutting off stems high enough to pull out the base of the plant with the roots attached. If you have woody roots, it's especially important to remove these after the gardening season is over (unless you’re growing woody perennials, and desire them to come back the next year, such as rosemary, tyme, sage, lavender, etc.). While fine roots will break down easily within a few months, breaking down woody roots will strain your soil and deplete nutrients.
  • Making informed purchases: if you're purchasing your plants from the store rather than sowing seeds, it's important to educate yourself before buying. Check to see if the plant is already rootbound in it’s container—if it is, you can either buy a different plant or simply prune the roots after purchase.

It can be difficult to know if a plant is rootbound because you can't just pull it out of the Tower while it’s growing. The easiest way to check for excess root accumulation is during regular seasonal maintenance between final harvests and new plantings.  However, it's important to remember that your Tower shouldn't become rootbound with the proper care and root management. Our Garden Tower is huge and offers ample, luxurious root accommodations for your plants, so get growing!

When you make informed decisions and keep up with the proper maintenance of your Garden Tower®, your plate will be filled with large, nutritionally dense vegetables all season long. Here at Garden Tower Project, we pride ourselves on creating an affordable, sustainable option for gardeners of all abilities and expertise levels. Interested in learning more about how YOU can have the best Tower imaginable? Visit our website today for more vertical gardening tips and tricks.

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