That looks really great. And the directions are very nice and clear. It seems to me that if you are in a really hot area, that you could use white vinyl or even a completely white set up to keep from broiling your plants. Does that make sense to you? Dotti
scooterbug, thanks so much for all your hard work with formulating a "homemade", of sorts, Earthbox. From what I have been reading on this forum and others this company needs to have a majour change in their attitude with customers. I was considering purchasing one, but after reading about many of the members of DG that have had problems and issues...FORGET IT!
Did you happen to read the posting of one of our members attempting to secure a bulk order from them? This was from a guy who had already bought quite a few EB's already and was trying to help out our members. These idiots at EB, like our member said, just slapped everyone in the face. As a dentist of over 25 years, I have no time for vendors that "bite the hand that feeds them". What these morons don't understand is that EB's are not rocket science and that they are easily duplicated, if not improved. I applaud you for your dedication and hard work that will allow many of our less fortunate members to secure one of these convenient devices without the hassle and heart ache in dealing with the feckless miscreants at EarthBox.
Having said all of this scooterbug, I have just the two Rubbermaid containers ready for my initial entry into this new realm of gardening. I must tell you that I was not familiar with the "pond strainer/basket" you listed, but found them on the web and have ordered 6 of them. You can see I am expecting great results.
I have read fairly extensively about some of the materials used in the actual EB, like the fertilizers and formulated soils. Do you have any recommendations about these two issues. To me, the Miracle Gro Moisture Control potting mix looks like the one to consider and perhaps Micro-Life/6-2-2 organic fertilizer along with their Green Sand micronutrient product.
Take a look if you have the time. I really like your design much more as it is so simple and straight forward. From all the postings about the EB's they seem to make "miraculous grandios" claims, but seem to fall extremely short. I am looking to using these things during the winter here in Souteast Texas. I already have a 2,700 sq.ft. garden, but managing the likes of these containers in the winter not only to hopefully have winter tomatoes, but to get one heck of jump on next year's crop.
I will let you know when my pond basket/strainers come in and get one put together. This is so exciting because I can start experimenting with my tomatoes virtually any time now. As I need more ersatz EB's they are just a quick drive to the local store for more Rubbermaid boxes and won't have to dread dealing with the likes of some snotty nit wits on the phone over a botched up order.
Thanks for your hard work and support here at DG's,
I'm in Houston and am going to make the Rubbermaid EBs, too. I'm a newbie to growing veggies, and need help in this area determing when to plant what. I'm interested in planting beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, a variety of bell peppers (we use a lot for cooking), some squash (but NOT zuchinni --ugggh!) and maybe some okra. This is just a small start for a newbie. Since you're right up the road in Conroe, please help me with a planting schedule. Someone sent me all sorts of heirloom tomato seeds and I am just totally lost. Should I plant the seeds now and keep them inside to start them transplant them to the EBs when I make them? And when to plant? Where do the boxes need to be? I have an east facing patio that could hold about 5 EBs over the winder. We're probably going to put up a temporary Plastic wall to protect the summer tropicals that are on the patio already. But I can make room for the EBs. The temp walls will be on three sides and should get enough light. I could also put a heater in there to provide some heat, if necessary. Please advise...
And I like your, "don't bite the hand that feeds you," philosophy. Never could understand why merchants don't understand they could die rich and happy, if they just treated their customers fairly and with respect...
Gymgirl, I would hold off on starting those tomato seeds until January for plants next spring. If you started them now, you probably will not get tomatoes before it gets too cold. Just my advice...someone might disagree, but that is my understanding.
You're exactly right. I mentioned it to a co-worker who grows tomatoes every year here and she told me to plant the seeds in January, then transplant them to the EBs the 2nd week of March. This gives me time to make all my EBs! I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited! Please tell me which varieties of bell peppers and yellow squash are good to plant. And where do I get okra seeds/plants? Do I start all these seedlings in January? I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited.
I can't WAIT to pull my first tomato off the bush/tree/vine? tee hee hee.
Just kidding. I know it grows behind the cabbage patch!!!!
Gymgirl, I really enjoy the flavor of good old yellow squash; I've grown them 3 years in a row now, and absolutely love them, especially when they're picked young. I've been using 'Early Prolific Straightneck' because it takes off early in the season, and gives me plenty of veggies (along with some eggplants) to tide me over until tomato and pepper time here in Virginia.
Being relatively new to gardening, squash are a fun plant, not only because the constant growth, but also because you learn alot about plant care from them. Some things I've learned from them:
1. I find them to be the thirstiest plants in the garden, and in your zone I can imagine they will be even thirstier. I water 1-2 times a day during the peak of VA summers (and still get some wiltage), so you if you haven't made your Squash EB's yet, make the reservior big!
2. They like lots of room, especially the early prolific - I can usually only fit 2 to an EB sized container.
3. Since they are almost all water, I have to support them fanatically, I lost an entire crop my first season to a strong downpour. I use a metal cage/frame that is oversized for the EB with large (4 inch square) openings; plenty of room for branches and fruit to rest.
4. Keep an eye on the back of the EB's - every season, it is inevitable that I find a hidden, rock-hard, 4 pound squash behind the darn earthbox. :)
I hope you have great luck with them this year, GymGirl!
P.S. If you find yourself with an abundance of squash flowers, my father swears these are a delicacy in his hometown of Ancona, Italy: http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blv260.htm. I kinda have to agree, and think they're made more special by the fact you only have them once or twice a year. :)
How many gallons of water does your reservoir hold?
Me and my grandfather have been talking about using a 55gallon plastic drum ($5) to make a homemade EB so it can hold more water. Basically using the same technique you have.
The more soil room a mater plant has the bigger they get.
But will a larger water reservoir cut down on the oxygen due to less watering?
The only way to know for sure is to try it. Right?
Probably not, because the plant is still taking in the water it needs. It's not going to drown itself drawing from the reservoir, however, what is all the extra standing water going to do for the mosquito population? Just wondering...
Cricket - I wonder how 'tall' the wick into the reservior can be, before the plant has difficulty accessing the reservior. I would try one or two varieties, one with a deep reservior, and one with a shallower one. Like you said - you won't know for sure until you get a couple prototypes up and running!
Have you already designed them, or can we all do it as a group project? :)
Cricket et al,
Here's a schematic for the rubbermaid containers. Costs about $10/per EB. This is Josho's design and detailed instructions, so give him his props if you do use his plan. I'm gonna build these for planting in March. I'm a newbie, too, so let's compare notes.
I guess we could start a thread on barrel earthboxes for those who have easy access to barrels and would like to put them to use. It would be interesting to hear ideas.
In the long run--I guess the rubbermaid or sterilite containers are easier to do and more practicle for moving around. Tis why i bought two of them today. Meanwhile I have two barrels outside dieing to be used but their lids have be cut off. ( starting new thread) to be continued.
Scooter---I will be using your plan for the diy earthbox.
but I do not have a net basket--------suggestions?
ok oops--i was goin to use the site that scooter gave for the EBs.
But I was greedy and didn't want to use two boxes to make one since i have 150 one gallon pots.
I just cut the lids to fit as my soil base, put 5 one gallon pots in the reservoir to support the lid(soil base).
Thanks scooter for the site information on the EBs.
and thanks Gymgirl.
YOu only fill the center pot with dirt. The other pots are for support to hold the lid in place. YOu cut the lid to fit snug on top of those pots. And I made sure the pots were about half the height of my box so the box will be half water and half soil.
Yes that is a hole in the center of the lid and one gallon put underneath.
That's a great design you have. So many variations on a theme! My DH is a welder, and I'm wondering if you could envision a metal frame or plate that would sit on legs or on top of the pots like your cut out top. Is this overkill, and should I then worry about the frame rusting down inside the reservoir? Just a thought...
it will deffinately rust.
I do not know what rust will do to plants.
personally--i do not want rust in mine.
Think about how heavy it will be too.
This earth box I made only has soil in it right now--no water in reservoir and it is so heavy .
I never used an earth box yet but have two items that would improve on your project. First place a PVC pipe (drilled full of holes) through the bottom of the soil area and through the sides of the box.
The soil and roots must have air and with a plastic cover they may not get enough. Or use weed block so it will breath and let the rain through. Just a thought.
Also tomatoes like a lot of red light. Make the plastic sheet out of a red material for reflecting the red spectrum. Or buy the ones sold to use under the plant.
You make a trench many inches away from the plant and fill it with fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 13-13-13. Normally 2 cups of fertilizer. I did not want to buy a whole bag of lime for calcium cause I already had calcium nitrate, so I just added 2 teaspoons of calcium nitrate to my ferlizer and hoping it will not burn the plant. We shall see.
I received one of those packets you get in the mail full of little index advertising cards. In the packet was a small brochure of the Earthbox. I just read it and made my own. I just couldn't make myself buy an EB for $30 plus shipping when I could make one for $5+.
does that pvc pipe go vertically in the box, like the fill tube, or horizontally through the outer wall and into the soil? Are we simply poking a pvc tube into the dirt to draw air from the outside?
Gymgirl: I think that's just a link to your harddrive, rather than an attachment. I'd love to see it . . . Come to think of it, I don't remember seeing attachments on DG -- maybe it is only possible to link, but not to attach. Does anyone know?
You might be able to put an attachment in dmail but I know it doesn't work here. You either have to upload it to a web page or site and put a link to it. You can't link to your computer unless it is a web server. (at least I think that is right)
The "Tomato Saver" and "The Red Ground Cover" will both help retain moisture around the root zone, and also suppress weeds. Their bright red color has even been proven to boost tomato production by as much as 20%.
Quote taken from a catalog. Key them into a net search and you will get several hits.
I found the link below quite interesting. It is basically all about EB, how-to, functions of its components, planting instructions etc. It is a PDF file, rather long, 37 pages long. The how-to part consists of 5 EB designs: the first one using one box, rather like CricketsGarden's design. The second one using 2 boxes, like "Josho". The third using two 5Gal pails, the 4th is a small system and the 5th is a hybrid.
There is another design,called "Extreme Design", which is up your alley, CricketsGarden. It is using 8' long water storage tank, so it is horizontal, instead of vertical as in your 55Gal drum. Maybe it could help you with your design. Please post your design when you get it done. The nice thing about 55Gal. drums is that they can be used as thermal mass in the greenhouse.
I've been following this thread and want you to know a little something about the EB people. A while back(4 mos.) I had a problem with eleven of my factory bought EBs. This was an additional order that I placed after receiving my first three as they did so well. However after a year or more I noticed the sides of the EBs were bowing out while the original three were fine? I went on the EB forum and e-mailed Steve Lott their very helpful representative and told him my problem. He replied and told me he would get back to me in a couple of days. He did and told me they are sending out eleven of the original EBs to compensate for their mistake. I was very grateful but also told him that I had just planted my summer crop of melons and could not return them for at least three or four months. He sent them out anyway. I returned the old ones last week.
Now after hearing all the complaints he also told me it was a new regime that took over the company and they are trying to make-up for the past ill mannerisms. Keep in mind I had my EBs well over a year possibly two and they replaced them on my word and told me to send the others back whenever! I don't know how many companies would do this after such a long period of time but they did! No! I do not represent them in anyway but just admire them for their new found integrity and will certainly continue to do business with them and encourage you to speak to Steve Lott if you have any gripes as his job is to make you happy.
As far as the homemade earthboxes, which I wish you would refer to as HEB so as not to make it confusing as to which is which, are concerned and using rubbermaid containers and moisture control potting soil DON"T.
The rubbermaid sides are not rigid enough and slowly but surely they will bow and the soil will fall to the bottom absorbing excess water and drown the roots. This will not happen right away but will happen when the roots grow and fruit starts to form and it will cause severe BER. The same goes for the moisture control potting soil. The soil will absorb too much water and the roots will rot. You will have beautiful plants at first but the purpose is to have beautiful tomatos also. I have tried both ways and in the long run paying $30 per box that will last almost indefinetly without problems is well worth my while. There is a reason for the EB to be patented and if the rubbermaid containers worked -- Don't you think they would have adapted a similiar product? There are many years of research involved in EBs and being that I have tried all ways and never, ever, seen or heard of any success of a healthy crop using rubbermaid containers makes me stop and think!! Don't you? We can build them but show me the end results and if successful show me how please??? I'd like to save money also...
Just a quick comment on the different designs... TARogers, you're right about the plant needing air down around its roots, which your drilled pipes definitely provide, but if you look at the other designs you'll see many small holes in the platform that supports the soil. I believe these holes provide the same function, since they provide access to the airspace above the water reservoir, and that air is refreshed via the overflow hole if I understand the design properly.
TPlant, good point about the rigidity of the "real deal" EBs as opposed to the HEBs... I seem to remember some folks having trouble with that this past growing season. I'm also glad to hear they've improved customer service again. All the hype in their little brochures aside, like many things, I'm guessing you get what you pay for. And nobody can argue with the results you've had from your EBs!
Gymgirl, since DH is a welder, you may be able to solve the bowing problem in a way the rest of us can't readily do... what about making a rigid frame to support the sides and prevent them from bowing out? Horizontal elements could run along the sides of the HEB, and be attached to vertical supports at the corners... better yet, the vertical supports could be extended into a trellis "cage" to surround the HEB... when you first mentioned DH in this thread, I thought, ooooh, tomato cage!
I also wonder if you could guard against the effects of minor bowing by sealing around the edge of whatever you're using for a soil platform, maybe with a strip of that tape for repairing pond liners... might stop minor gaps, anyway.
Critter --- I used duct tape when I had the defective EBs. Eleven of them but now that the EB people have replaced them with the proper EBs I am very happy. The new regime are really great people. I honestly never expected this but am quite happy. As a matter of fact I am preparing the last six of them for planting today and will show some pics. Strange but when I first ordered my three EBs they were the proper ones but the next eleven were not? Glad for the replacements. I see by their website that they send the EBs all over the world to poverty stricken areas so they can grow their own food. This is the results of the new regime and I think it is terrific to help those in need instead of destroying the defective ones although they work just as well if you tape them. It's good to know that somewhere in the world some needy people will be using my old EBs as they last forever...
I did wonder if simple strapping with duct tape would help... didn't know if the tape would be enough reinforcement or if it would just bow out with the container. That's a good idea for the HEB's!
I actually appreciate that the EB folks offer a complete kit, and now that they seem to be doing it "right" again I think I'll order one for an older friend (garden buddy who moved to Irving, TX). I guess I'd better check over in the Texas forum to see when people plant tomatoes there!
Critter et al,
Could ya'll put that "tomato cage"concept on paper in a sketch and email it to me or post it here? DH works with steel, so I'm feelin' yah in terms of an all-in-one cage/trellis idea. Just need to visualize it. Thanks!
Sorry, that was just off the top of my head. Your DH can probably design a better one than I can... I was envisioning a rectangle in the dimensions to fit the HEB, welded to 8 foot tall uprights (like a 4 poster bedframe that you could drop the HEB into). You could then weld additional connectors like ladder rungs to the uprights to make the cage.
Basically, you need something to reinforce the sides so they keep their shape, and then something to give your monster tomato plant(s) some support. I think somebody else posted pictures of frames/cages they made from PVC pipes for their EB tomatoes... maybe it was kingedking?
I can see it! The four-poster bed translated. Yep, DH can definitely do that. And, using steel will ensure the maters have sturdy support. It'd take a 'KILLER' MATER to pull down a steel cage!
I don't know if anyone's still reading this thread, but I'm the "josho" who posted the original instructions referred to throughout the thread.
It's true that the sides of most of the rubbermaid-type totes will bow out from the weight of the damp soil. However, since the insert has its SIDES INTACT, forming a double wall, the soil that falls -- if any -- falls into the space between the insert and the outer box, NOT into the water reservoir.
I've made dozens and dozens of these boxes over the years...for myself and for friends. I also own an original Earthbox (which I bought before designing my own). I see no quantitative difference whatsoever in the yields I get from the homemade boxes and the yields I get from the Earthbox. In addition, some of the homemade boxes I use are years and years old and haven't had their soil changed in two or three years (I just do as Earthbox suggests and dig up the old fertilizer strip and replace it). If TPlant's theory was correct about homemade earthboxes, all my plants would die. In fact, I've never had a single one die, or even fail to thrive.
As for TPlant's assertion that (s)he's never had any success with "HEBs", I can only shake my head and wonder. I have hundreds of emails from people who tried my version and report the same success that they have with regulation EBs.
Congratulations Josh! With the exception of a very few individuals that have succeeded in building their own, you and Big_Red are the most successful. As I have stated the sides bow out and the mix falls into the resevoir but you seem to have worked it out? It is a shame that others have profited from your creation. I could never find a base container rigid enough to hold everything in its place especially if I had to move them to catch the sun. The original earthbox was rigid and the later version seems to be even more so!
Yes, if you take a look at my plans, you'll see that the insert that creates the separation between the reservoir and the soil is made from roughly half a tub (bottom and sides). When drilled and placed upside-down into the main tub, this creates a double-wall that is really the only area that soil could conceivably fall into over time due to bowing.
I don't think that sodden soil causing any sort of root rot is an issue. The real Earthbox(TM) has a lot more open space in its insert grid than my design does, and that's just as likely (if not more so) to allow soil to fall into the reservoir as the HEBs. Additionally, the two wicks at diagonal ends of the real EB insert are not "enclosed" like my wick, making my design actually LESS likely to allow additional dirt to get into the reservoir than the EB's design. If sodden soil were a root issue, then any plants near the wicks on a real EB would be suffering
From what I've observed, the reason EBs bow out less than the HEBs is that the EBs are much smaller capacity. I don't think it's due to the EBs using some more rigid structure or stronger plastic. They're just smaller overall; additionally, their ratio of depth to width is different. One could certainly use smaller-capacity totes OR use shallower, wider totes to more closely approximate the real EBs. I find the 18-gallon ones most common (especially factoring in price) and therefore it's what I tend to use, and I have a very open yard so I don't have need to move them around during the growing season (the HEBs I make ARE much, much heavier).
Don't get me wrong, I *love* Earthboxes. I just think they're insanely overpriced for what they are -- a few pieces of plastic -- and I don't think there's anything particularly magical about them. In fact, this year, my HEB tomatoes are beating my EB tomatoes by a mile, even though they were planted from the same flat of seedlings, with the same soil and fertilizer, side-by-side, within minutes of each other.
Well, it's nearly the end of July, and I could not be happier with my "HEBs"!! Lots of tomatoes (I planted two determinate tomatoes in each box, and they are loaded!), and the cukes are going great guns. I planted one box with some little wizened up cucumber seedlings about a month ago, and they are now producing fruit. The other box has become overwhelmed...I ran to get a little wire table for them, and a couple of old lawn chairs for the tomatoes. Not pretty, but doing the job of holding everything up! I have bell peppers in a commercial EB, and they are loaded. I think everything is doing well in our unusual heat, and with being watered every day. Love my HEBs!!
I had heard about them but never really looked into it. I did go so far as to visit their web site once but decided they were too expensive. I have to budget and watch my pennies. Thank you so much for all of the ideas. I will have to make some of these!
I used Josho's plans to make it.
I just thought round instead of square.
Things I did different.
Install a round tomato cage through the bottom floor for support and then added the dirt.
So every thing is round. Equal pressure in all directions.
Used a square PVC tube that I had left over from the fence. LOL
Walmart only has blue. Went to target and found some black ones. Have four of them make and all ore doing great.
That's a great way to use those big buckets! I've bought a couple of them ($5 I think at Family Dollar Stores) to use as big tomato planters, but I just drilled drainage holes, didn't make them into HEBs.
I finally laid eyes on a real EB at my local nursery... and I was startled by how small they seemed! I think I was expecting something more the size of those 25 gallon storage box/tubs. It's amazing to me that 2 tomato plants will flourish in what seems like relatively little potting mix... and yet, I sure can't argue with the results people have had!
Your big round HEB looks like it has more root room for your tomato plant than the real EB does.