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Garden - My Homemade Earth Boxes


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 year the smallest pots are the 2 gallon pickle buckets.  They hold enough water that I don't have to water twice a day. 

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. 


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Comment by brenda b on July 18, 2011 at 10:09pm
Thanks for this info we made one tonight and I put one of my pumpkins in it. Maybe this one will do better than my other ones.
Comment by George on July 19, 2011 at 4:25am

Eve, this is a fascinating story and I am scouring around the neighborhood for some 5 gal containers.

I am going to try a lettuce plant and harvest leaves as needed. My lettuce heretofore has been providing a tasty snack to the bugs.

Comment by George on July 19, 2011 at 6:33am

Re the 2 gal buckets with the lettuce, 

" The cottage cheese container inside held up very well in such a small pot."

I followed your instructions on the 5 gallon bucket and was wondering if the 2 gal had a platform inside of it to hold the cottage cheese container ?


Comment by Eve on July 19, 2011 at 1:25pm

Yes it does.   I made the platform out of the lid.  If you follow the link i provided at the top of the blog you will be able to see how i made the pots.   All you need to make one of these containers is the the tools a bucket/tote with its lid a container for the wicking cup and something to add water through. 


If you make some pots out of the larger totes you will need to do some additional support on the long ends of the platform.  I used plastic coffee "cans" as the wicking cups and the leftover plastic rings i had cut off the tops turned on there sides to add support on the ends. 


This year i discovered sticks of white thin walled low pressure pvc to make the watering pipes with.  They are  great the 1" pipe allows me to just drop the hose into the pipe an wait for the pot to fill.  Its less than 3 bucks a stick that makes 6 pots.  Cheapest thing i have found other than plastic pop bottles.

Comment by George on July 19, 2011 at 2:18pm

I just got back from Home Depot with the beginnings of a "Sue" system :=).

And I think I have one more question.

For the platform that rests on the wicking cup, does it have a tendency to tip over or squash the cup ?

Would it maybe need some support, or does it being snug against the sides of the bucket, lend it some strength ?

Thanks again Eve for motivating me.

Comment by Eve on July 19, 2011 at 4:47pm
I make a cardboard template for making the platform. It is a lot easier to play around trimming cardboard than witting down the lids one at a time. I take a sheet of cardboard and use the pot to draw the shape of the pot onto the cardboard. Then trim it a little larger than my mark. When i have the wicking cup made i start trimming the template down until it fits snugly inside the bucket while sitting on top of the cup.

Then i use the template draw the size of the platform onto your lid and trim the lid at the mark. This saves hours of unneeded trimming. Save your template for the next time you decide to make another container. I write the container type on the template before storing it.

The next step draw the outline the shape of the fill tube close to the outside of the platform. Then place the wicking cup that will be used for THAT bucket onto the lid and draw it onto the center of the lid, marking around the outside of the cup ( don't cut on this line ). Then draw a smaller hole inside the area you just marked. You will be cutting out the SMALLER hole. You want the line for the hole to be at least a inch to an inch and a half smaller than the cup so the wicking cop will support the platform.

I then drill the round vent holes in the platform before cutting it out. Keep an inch away from the edges of the platform and the other large holes you will cut out. This year i used a 3/8" bit for all the holes. Even the drain holes, I found smaller holes tended to plug up too much.

Only after you get all the marking done do you start cutting. I use a box knife to trim the lids ( its cleaner ). I score the plastic all the way around then score again repeating until i have gotten all the way through. I use an old breadboard under the lids. If you try to cut all the way through in one go the plastic will break off at an angle or the knife slips with a lot of force.

I tend to pick the cup to match the size of the bucket. As the containers get larger i use heaver plastic. The two gallons i use the cottage cheese container and it balances very well. In a 5 gallon bucket i use the plastic coffee can container. In a 10 gallon tote the coffee cans or laundry soap containers. I save the parts i trim off that are tall enough to use as supports in the totes. Poke some holes in them to allow free water flow throughout the system.

In the buckets and totes i used a Mrs Dash shaker to measure how high to trim the wicking cups. It just turned out to be the right height and was easier that pulling out a measuring tape all the time. All i had to do was place the marker on top of it and turn the container around to get a even mark. When marking the height for the drain holes inside the buckets all i had to do was drop it in and mark the bucket at the height of the bottom of the Mrs. Dash lid. The drain hole should be an inch below the platform. Make sure the drain hole is just above the mark.

Hope i haven't bored you to death with this extra long post. But if you need more advise just ask.


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