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Earth Box Garden: With Worm Casting
Last year was my test year for my homemade Earth Boxes. This year i am putting everything i figured out into practice with a larger garden.
If you want to see how i make the Earth Boxes it is in this old blog Earth Box - instructions
Notice the addition of the little greenhouse. I picked it up at Christmas as a gift to myself. I was able to sprout all my own seeds in the greenhouse. I started planting starts mid April and had to bring the sprouts into the house a couple times while they were on their second set of leaves. I believe I saved half the cost of the greenhouse by not having to buy starts in town.
My starting mix for plant starts was some potting mix taken out of one of last years growing pots. I mixed in some garden lime, 20% worm castings and a little organic fertilizer. Didn't have to buy a thing.
The last snow this year was mid May so i am a little smug about how well how the starts turned out.
I took apart every container from last year to see how well they held up inside. I found the heaver plastic was the way to go. The original directions said to use plastic disposable picnic cups for the wicking cups. All the plastic thinner than milk cartons got crushed. The heaver plastic i tried like plastic coffee cans were still in good shape. So i reassembled all the pots with the heaver plastic this spring. Yes, i saved all the heavy plastic garbage all year long. By the time i was done making pots i had used it all up and was scrounging for more.
I tossed out all the really small test pots the ones made of 1 1/2 gallon ice cream tubs. They just didn't have enough water storage area. I lost most of the plants that was planted in them in the dog days of summer last year.
With the new heavier wicking pots in the larger containers i should not have to totally disassemble the pots at planting time. I should only have to take off the top 5 to 6 inches of potting soil and mix in more garden lime and castings. Then add a little more organic fertilizer before planting. It should take not much more time than planting an ordinary garden. By then i plan to have built a potting bench so i wont have to do any bending over while planting.
This is the size of pot that is the one used in the demo blog last spring. The cottage cheese container inside held up very well in such a small pot.
This size works great for leaf lettuce or parsley sized plants.
These buckets each have only one leaf lettuce plant in them. I pull the bottom leaves off the plants when picking and they produce more lettuce than I can eat.
The pots the next size up are these old 4 gallon plastic vegetable oil jugs. All the new pots this size and larger have a 4 inch water reservoir in the bottom. Any less water and the plant runs out on hot days. Note the pot in the center of the photo is from last year and it only holds 3 inches of water and it is usually empty each morning.
The next size pot is 5 gallon buckets. This photo isn't a very good example of a good plant. It has two squash plants in it and it's a little stunted. I cut one of the plants out after i took the photo, hoping that it would recover a bit.
The next size pots are the 10 gallon Starlite totes. Compare the size and look of the 2 squash plants in those containers. They are also crooknecks.
The over crowded squash in the bucket was bigger than the squash in the 10 gallon container a couple weeks ago. And they bloomed a week before the larger container too. But now the 10 gallon pots have larger squash than the buckets.
Oh! i should point out that the totes cost less than the new buckets i bought. So i will not be getting any more buckets for planting. The totes slide across the ground just fine. I have had to move them apart several times to have more growing room, works great
The only pot i have that is larger than 10 gallons is this 30 gallon tote. I have cantaloupes and water melons planted in it. It holds a lot more water. Hoping to get some good watermelons and don't want to run out of water.
The pot next to the melon pot above is one of my kohlrabi pots.
I have 6 plants in the pot. Evey time i harvest a kolerabe i transplant a new start into the hole without pulling the old stalk out the hole.
I picked this one right after i took the photo.
In case you are all wondering about the weeds.... My weed-eater died about a month ago. I took a full month to get a new one shipped out. I have just started to chop the weeds down.
A few more plant shots... Red Cabbage also have green cabbage and cauliflower.
And Roma tomatoes over 2 1/2 feet high there are tiny little tomatoes too. I also have Rugers, large Cherry and yellow Jubilee in buckets. That's Brussels sprouts on the end.
I have several more containers I was planning on planting. I was going to do broccoli, corn and beans. But found for some reason i couldn't get any more peat for the planting mix. Normally i can get it year round. But this year there seems to be a shortage. Premixed potting soil is way to expensive so i will just have to wait for the moss to come in.
Store bought Earth Boxes are fairly small they are only about a foot wide and 2 1/2 feet long with a 6 inch deep in potting soil area. The water is only a couple inches deep. I have found that while the smaller pots i tested with this small a area per plant started out well at first even producing some small veggies before the larger pots. They slowed down later in the season. The larger test pots with more potting soil and a large water reservoir far surpassed the plants grown in containers size of the commercial pots. Catching up in plant size and growing more than twice the size in some cases. Producing far more and larger fruits and veggies.
When you consider that the commercial Earth Box costs nearly 60 dollars and i can make a 10 gallon tote container for around 6 dollars including potting mix and supplements, it is well worth the extra work to get the savings and bigger veggies.
Well i have to go sharpen the weed-eater blade so i can chop down some more of those tough weeds.