Gardening is fun, but it takes time. Weeding, watering, improving soil, and many other tasks often get neglected when summer comes on full force. Gardening in containers gives the gardener some measure of control over weeds and soil, but watering is still difficult to keep up with in conventional containers.
EarthBox takes the guesswork of how much to water and when, and when to feed your plants, because everything they need is always available. And weeding is virtually eliminated, so an EarthBox is one of the easiest ways to garden, and can produce yields higher that gardening in the soil. The kit comes with everything you need to start growing, except soil, transplants or seeds, and water.
What Soil to Use in an EarthBox
EarthBox works by wicking water from the reservoir in the bottom of the unit, so proper choice for growing media is essential for the system to work. Soil should not be used for the EarthBox system, since the mix needs to be spongy. Soil will compact and will not wick up moisture from the reservoir as the system was designed.
It will take 2 cubic feet of potting mix, or 60 dry quarts to fill each EarthBox. Any commercial mix that has 50 to 80% peat (aka peat moss or sphagnum moss), plus vermiculite and perlite will work. Peat is not a sustainable resource, so coco-fiber is a good substitute.
If you would like to mix your own growing media, measure by volume a ratio of 2 parts peat or coco-fiber: 1 part vermiculite: 1 part perlite. Each EarthBox holds 2 cubic feet of potting mix, but a little extra may be needed after settling occurs.
Because of the acidity of peat moss, if you will be growing tomatoes, squash, peppers, or other seeded vegetables, it will be necessary to raise the pH of the growing mix with hydrated lime. At planting time, add one cup of hydrated lime to the growing media. Dolomite, pickling lime, or hydrated lime raises the pH of the growing media, since peat moss is too acidic for many vegetable plants. Acidic (below a pH of 6.5) growing media make some nutrients unavailable to the plants. If you are growing blueberries or other plants that require acid soil, do not use dolomite or lime.
To supply nutrients, mix 3 cups of granulated organic fertilizer each time you replant your EarthBox. The organic fertilizer should have N-P-K numbers of between 5 and 15. If you are only replanting part of the space, adjust the amount accordingly.
To supply trace minerals, add Azomite™ per label instructions. This supplies your plants with over 70 minerals and trace minerals, and produces the best tasting crops that store longer. Your plants will also be more resistant to diseases and insects. University studies have shown that harmful insects are drawn to undernourished and unhealthy plants.
Each time you replant your EarthBox, lime, organic fertilizer, and Azomite™ should be added to the soil to replace the nutrients used by the previous crops. As with gardening in the soil, it is best to rotate plant families in your boxes to reduce the chances of infecting new plants with soil borne diseases or insects.
How to Water an EarthBox
Watering at the proper time and the in the proper amount is one of the most challenging aspects of gardening, especially for new gardeners or gardeners that must be away from home for many hours at a time. EarthBox takes the guesswork out of when and how much to water with its patented system, and supplies enough water for at least a day, except when your plants get very large and it is hot outside.
Simply fill up the reservoir, and the system takes care of the rest, so there is no need to monitor the moisture level of the potting mix. The reservoir holds 3 gallons of water. There is no need for electricity, and water can be added with a hose or even an old milk jug. When plants are young and small, watering may be necessary only once or twice per week. For large plants with heavy fruit set, such as tomatoes, squash, or watermelon, it may be necessary to water once or even twice a day during hot spells.
What to Do if the EarthBox Dried Out
If you accidentally let the reservoir go dry, you will need to thoroughly saturate the potting mix by watering your plants from the top in order to get the wicking system to work again. Peat moss sheds water when it is dry and it is difficult to get re-wetted, so this may take watering a little at a time and letting the water soak in, and repeating the process several times until you are sure even the bottom part of the soil is moist. If the lowest part of the soil is not moist, it will not be able to wick moisture into the growing media. After the potting mix is saturated, fill the reservoir.
How to Grow Tomatoes in an EarthBox
Tomatoes bear a heavy weight of fruit, so benefit from being staked. See below for two trellising options depending on the eventual height of your tomatoes. Tomatoes will also bear larger fruit if they are pruned by removing suckers, or side shoots, on a weekly basis. Tomato plants will benefit from a weekly or biweekly foliar feeding of diluted fish emulsion and/or sea kelp to sprayed on all leaf surfaces to supply trace minerals.
Tomatoes stay healthier, and produce more and better tasting fruit with better soil nutrients. Each unit comes with Dolomite, which is an organic source of calcium and magnesium that is critical, especially for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and other “seeded” vegetables. One of the most common problems for peppers and tomatoes is blossom end rot (BER), which turns the bottom end of these fruits black, and one of the main causes for this is calcium or magnesium deficiency. The other main cause for blossom end rot is drought conditions.
If your tomatoes or peppers develop BER, mix ¼ cup hydrated lime with one gallon of water and add to the reservoir. Hydrated lime is also called pickling lime, and this will solve the BER problem quickly. You should pick off any affected fruit, and any that develop until the plant gets its nutrient level higher, so that the plant will put its energy into growing new fruit.
If your plant is suffering from a disease, there are usually other tell tale signs, and your cooperative extension agent can help you to identify the problem and suggest a solution. This is a free service. If your plants have a disease, make sure to not use the growing media again, and dispose of the plant and container contents. Diseased plants should never be composted. Wash your EarthBox with soapy water or a bleach solution and allow it to completely dry before reusing it.
The Advantages of EarthBox
EarthBox stands behind its product with a one year satisfaction money back guarantee. All components are made of recyclable, food grade #2, #4, or #5 plastics which is durable and UV-stabilized. Previous customers are pleased with the product, some of whom have been using the EarthBox for 5 years or longer. EarthBox is in the “DavesGarden.com Garden Watchdog” Top 5 for landscaping supplies. The EarthBox:
- takes 5 to 10 minutes to set up
- Simply assemble the unit per included, easy to follow instructions:
- add soil to the depressions for the wicking chambers and pack
- fill halfway with soil and water
- fill remainder of container with soil and water
- assemble casters and/or trellis
- plant seeds or transplants and water from the top to settle the growing mix
- fill the reservoir with water
- is easy for persons with limited mobility to use
- is easy for first time gardeners to use
- makes it convenient to water when it is convenient, simply keep the reservoir from going dry
- is easy to use anywhere, including patios, decks, rooftops, or inside
- automatically feeds and waters, constantly supplying both for the healthiest plants, best tasting vegetables, and the best yields
- eliminates the need to improve garden soil
- makes weeding unnecessary due to the included mulching cover
- is easier to use than hydroponics, and the food tastes better
- pays for itself in one season or less, and lasts for many seasons
- can be 100% organic
- eliminates the need to improve, till, or maintain garden soil
- is more productive than growing food in the soil
The Organic EarthBox Ready to Grow Kit cost about $50, is offered in terra cotta color, and includes:
- EarthBox measuring 29 x 14 x 11 (inches, L x W x H)
- One year warranty
- Instruction booklet
- Aeration screen
- Water tube
- Reversible black/white fitted mulching covers (2), which eliminate the need to weed or use herbicides
- Caster wheels (4)
- Organic Dolomite (1 pound)
- Organic fertilizer (1 pound 7-7-7)
The Original EarthBox Kit includes everything in the Organic Kit, but it is not organic. It is offered in the colors of green or terra cotta.
EarthBox for Gardening with Limited Mobility
When the EarthBox is set on concrete blocks (without the casters), it raises the unit to the comfortable height to garden from a wheelchair or scooter.
To eliminate the need to bend over, the EarthBox Stand optional accessory holds the unit at the correct height to harvest standing up. It is not recommended for plants that get tall or top heavy. The EarthBox Garden Stand is about $45.
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, watermelon, squash, zucchini, beans, peas, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and other tall crops do best when they are staked. After adding soil (and casters if you are using them) assemble your trellis. The trellis system is offered in dark green or terra cotta, costs about $35, and comes with:
- 5 sturdy aluminum tubes
- 2 connectors
- 2 straight aluminum connectors
- 2 outrigger feet
- 2 stainless steel hardware clips
- 1 trellis net
- step-by-step illustrated instructions.
When you are planting a vine or a tall indeterminate tomato, start out with this trellis system in addition to the one above for extra tall plants. If your plant is already out of control, this system can only be put in place if you take the plant off of its existing trellis. The EarthBox Extension Trellis Kit extends the trellis system to about 6 feet tall, costs about $18, and includes:
- 2 aluminum tubes
- 4 aluminum connectors
- 1 trellis net
When filled with soil, water, and plants, the unit weighs about 80 pounds. If you plan on moving your EarthBox often, there is an optional Caster Kit which includes four wheels, two standard and two locking, which fit into the integrated caster socket of your EarthBox. When gardening inside, the caster kit makes it easy to move the unit to clean floors or to follow the sun from window to window during the day. Some EarthBox Kits include casters.
Classic White EarthBox Garden Accessories
White is a good choice if you live in an area where it gets hot in the summer, since white will help to reflect light and keep your plant roots cooler. Garden Veneer transform your EarthBox into a classic style in an elegant, white, no maintenance PVC. Simply insert your EarthBox into the Garden Veneer for a clean, stylish look. This item will not work with casters. The Garden Veneer measures 34 by 17 1/4 by 16-inch and costs about $80. The EarthBox is not included.
The Garden Veneer has an optional accessory, the White EarthBox Garden Trellis. It lets you grow tall plants that need support, and matches the style of the White Garden Veneer EarthBox accessory. The Garden Trellis for the Garden Veneer measures 55 1/2 (H) x 33 1/2 (W) x 2 (D) inches, and costs about $66.