Containers forum: Earthbox, self-watering tomato garden (a photo tutorial)

Page 1 of 3 • 1 2 3
Views: 2477, Replies: 42 » Jump to the end
Name: David Reaves
Austin, TX (Zone 8b)
Vegetable Grower Region: Texas Canning and food preservation Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
david_reaves
Feb 28, 2014 8:13 PM CST
Injured myself earlier this winter, so I will be confined to a wheelchair this spring and possibly summer. That means I won't be able to work the full garden-- no tilling, no raking, no hoeing, nothing. Sad

I decided that I wasn't going to give up growing entirely, though. I'll be planting a few different tomatoes in Earthbox self-watering containers. They'll be placed on my driveway and I'll be able to manage them from the wheelchair.

Seedlings have been going since early February. I'm hardening them off now to get ready to plant next week. (I have more surgery scheduled, so I want to have them in containers, so I don't have to worry about the seedlings as much while I'm in the hospital.) The first photo below is the seedlings earlier this week. I have five types planted. Three slicing-sized tomatoes and two cherry tomatoes. They are Momotaro, Husky Red Dwarf, Sweet Ozark Orange, Isis Candy, and Gold Nugget.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/cb046d

I took photos of the process of getting the Earthboxes ready to plant. The drawings provided with the boxes are fairly clear, but sometimes it's easier to understand a real photo.

Step 1, Gather the parts. Here I have the box, the reservoir screen and the fill tube. You can't see the casters, which I've already installed. If you want the boxes to roll, buy the factory casters. The hardware store furniture casters won't fit.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/a566ae

Step 2, Assemble. The reservoir screen lays over a variety of support posts in the bottom of the box. There are three holes, two large rectangular holes that allow potting mix to be packed and submerged in the water. That packed soil is a wick that pulls water up by capillary action and supplies the plant with water and dissolved nutrients. The smaller round hole is for the water fill tube. It provides a way to get water to the reservoir, to be used as the plant needs it. You can't see it in the photo below, but there is a hole in the box itself, that keeps the reservoir from overflowing and allows an air gap between the water surface and most of the soil. You can see the overflow hole in the parts photo, above.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/accf31

Step 3, Soil wicks. Pack potting mix in each of the square corners. The bottom of the box is molded to make a basket to hold the packed soil. Be sure the soil is packed tightly, if not, the water won't wick correctly into the rest of the box. It's hard to see, but the soil is packed into the wicking basket here.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/010e35

Step 4, Bottom layer. Spread an even layer of potting mix over the reservoir screen about two inches deep. Pat the soil into place to make a firm, but not solid layer. This will provide the base for the remainder of the container and ensure the soil doesn't filter down into the water reservoir.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/838290

Step 5, Soil & Dolomite Lime. Add additional potting mix to fill the Earthbox to within 2-3 inches of the top. Level, but don't compress the soil. Spread one pound (a generous cup) of dolomite lime evenly over the surface. Mix the soil and lime to a depth of 3-4 inches. Once complete, lightly compress the soil.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/359a73

Step 6, Fertilize. This step will vary depending on what you are planting in your Earthbox. The setup instructions show fertilizer placement and seedling locations for a variety of vegetables and plants. Since I wanted to plant my tomatoes in the middle of the box, rather than the edge as Earthbox instructions show, I modified the fertilizer placement. I put two thin strips of fertilizer at each side of the box, in a 2-inch deep trench. I used, as the instructions specify, two cups of chemical fertilizer. Cover the fertilizer with the soil pushed up to make the trench.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/a735c9

Step 7, Finish the soil. Mound soil at least two inches over the edges of the container. Pack lightly as you add to keep the mix from falling out. If you use a two cubic foot bag of mix, you should have just enough to complete a nice loaf-shaped mound.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/632de1

Step 8, Cover and plant. Pull the plastic mulching cover over the fill tube using the pre-cut hole. If you live in a cooler climate, use the black side of the cover out, to help warm the soil. In warmer areas, like here in central Texas, use the white/grey side of the cover to help keep the soil a little cooler. The elastic around all edges of the cover will pull over the upper lip of the box and secure snugly. All that's left is to use a sharp knife to cut slits in the cover at the desired planting locations, dig a small hole to fit your seedling, plant, and water the seedling lightly. Fill the reservoir until water flows from the overflow hole. Add more water every two or three days at first, then every day as your plants grow and need more water.

Thumb of 2014-03-01/david_reaves/d3ba7f

I'll update with results once I've planted and the plants are growing.

David R
[Last edited by david_reaves - Feb 28, 2014 8:17 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #563750 (1)
Name: Linda
Carmel, IN (Zone 5a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member Region: Indiana Dog Lover Container Gardener
Seed Starter Herbs Vegetable Grower Cut Flowers Butterflies Birds
Image
mom2goldens
Mar 1, 2014 3:38 PM CST
This is a great pictorial, David. Thanks for posting this...I'm sure it will be a huge help to anyone new to EBs. Your seedlings look beautiful and healthy. EBs are a great way to help you continue your hobby during your recuperation.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery from your upcoming surgery.

Linda

Vegetable Grower
Tplant
Mar 1, 2014 8:44 PM CST
Hi David.
Excellent tutorial on earthboxes or as I ORIGINALLY CALLED THEM "EB'S". It's great to see someone pick-up where I left off as I am now totally disabled and eat my heart out that I can no longer work the garden. A couple of years ago on another forum I started a lot of people on EBs. I've grown every plant from watermelon to cukes to broccoli and of course tomatoes in 23 EBs. It was a lot of fun as you well know.
"HAPPY GARDENING"
TPLANT
PS -- I will be enjoying your results.
Name: Linda
Carmel, IN (Zone 5a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member Region: Indiana Dog Lover Container Gardener
Seed Starter Herbs Vegetable Grower Cut Flowers Butterflies Birds
Image
mom2goldens
Mar 1, 2014 8:47 PM CST
TPlant--so good to see you here. I know you will be able to contribute a lot to this thread for anyone that has questions. Glad to see you posting again.

Linda
Name: David Reaves
Austin, TX (Zone 8b)
Vegetable Grower Region: Texas Canning and food preservation Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
david_reaves
Mar 1, 2014 10:02 PM CST
Tplant, it was your experience with Earthboxes that largely inspired me to try them this year from the wheelchair. I'm glad I could watch you and gymgirl, and some of the other EB users when I was growing in my garden. I learned quite a lot, and I hope to make something this year from y'all's postings from previous years. Thanks!

David
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
Image
valleylynn
Mar 1, 2014 11:02 PM CST

Moderator

David, that really is a great tutorial you put together. It would make a great addition to the Ideas area. If you have never done one, maybe @dave could help you publish it.
May you heal and recover quickly David. Keep us posted on your Earthbox tomatoes are doing.

Hi Tplant. Welcome! to ATP.
Name: Glen Ingram
Macleay Is, Qld, Australia (Zone 12a)
Bearded Dragon young male
Region: Australia Annuals Canning and food preservation Herbs Tropicals Foliage Fan
Plays in the sandbox Cactus and Succulents Garden Photography Hybridizer Composter Sedums
Image
Gleni
Mar 2, 2014 4:03 PM CST
TPlant Welcome! Welcome!
Name: David Paul
(Zone 9b)
Cat Lover Hibiscus Seed Starter Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Miniature Gardening Keeper of Poultry Herbs Foliage Fan Farmer Dragonflies
Image
DavidofDeLand
Mar 2, 2014 5:33 PM CST
I agree Thumbs up

Vegetable Grower
Tplant
Mar 4, 2014 2:49 PM CST
Great to be remembered......
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
Image
valleylynn
Mar 4, 2014 7:26 PM CST

Moderator

What are your favorite things to grow Tplant?
Name: David Paul
(Zone 9b)
Cat Lover Hibiscus Seed Starter Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Miniature Gardening Keeper of Poultry Herbs Foliage Fan Farmer Dragonflies
Image
DavidofDeLand
Mar 4, 2014 8:48 PM CST
Maybe for a condo balcony or such?.......otherwise they are too small and I don't get it. They will not produce large productive plants.

If on a balcony or teeny tiny area it could be great for micro greens or Cherry Tomatoes per one.
Name: Horseshoe Griffin
Efland, NC (Zone 7a)
And in the end...a happy beginning!
Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Garden Sages I sent a postcard to Randy! I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
For our friend, Shoe. Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Enjoys or suffers cold winters Birds Permaculture Container Gardener
Image
Horseshoe
Mar 4, 2014 9:49 PM CST
Howdy, T! Nice to see you again. Sorry to hear you are not gardening as much as you used to. Maybe those grandkids could help get you going again, eh?

David, nice tutorial with perfect pics on the how-to. Sorry to hear of your accident and hope you recuperate soon.

David-Deland, are you referring to only growing small plants in Earthboxes? If so, I've grown full sized indeterminates in them and they have produced very well. Same for peppers and eggplants.

Shoe (off to put another log on the fire, suffering from winter woes again in NC!)
Name: David Reaves
Austin, TX (Zone 8b)
Vegetable Grower Region: Texas Canning and food preservation Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
david_reaves
Mar 5, 2014 12:33 AM CST
David, actually they will grow large productive plants. I've seen Earthboxes that have full-size plants that are very productive. The amount of soil is less important than the availability of nutrients and consistent source of moisture. Conventional pots may not provide enough of either. They are useful way beyond balconies or other small areas. Our new member TPlant may have pictures of some of the great things he's grown in Earthboxes, Gymgirl is another member that I know that has grown lots of things in self-watering containers. Maybe either one can post pictures.

Name: Glen Ingram
Macleay Is, Qld, Australia (Zone 12a)
Bearded Dragon young male
Region: Australia Annuals Canning and food preservation Herbs Tropicals Foliage Fan
Plays in the sandbox Cactus and Succulents Garden Photography Hybridizer Composter Sedums
Image
Gleni
Mar 5, 2014 1:02 AM CST
Here is Gymgirl. I making one now.

The thread "Make an eBucket!" in Vegetables and Fruit forum
Name: Joanne
Calgary, AB Canada (Zone 3a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Region: Canadian Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Roses
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Annuals Container Gardener Vegetable Grower Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Image
Joannabanana
Mar 5, 2014 11:00 AM CST
valleylynn said:David, that really is a great tutorial you put together. It would make a great addition to the Ideas area. If you have never done one, maybe @dave could help you publish it.
May you heal and recover quickly David. Keep us posted on your Earthbox tomatoes are doing.

Hi Tplant. Welcome! to ATP.


I agree
Name: David Paul
(Zone 9b)
Cat Lover Hibiscus Seed Starter Native Plants and Wildflowers Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Miniature Gardening Keeper of Poultry Herbs Foliage Fan Farmer Dragonflies
Image
DavidofDeLand
Mar 5, 2014 6:06 PM CST
I agree that large plants can be grown in tiny containers and spaces with nutrients, and have to admit that I have so much space that,... I can only imagine growing that way if I did not. Thats all. I have a neighbor who has a half acre also who is a writer for a local newspaper here locally and did an article on how to grow herbs inside on your kitchen countertop in one of those tiny flourescent light units they used to sell. She had the spindliest little micro Basils and such and where was that Cherry Tomato going to go when it outreached her countertop light?

Hmmmmmmm I'm thinking.;............Florida,...shes got a half acre of space,... herbs grow like weeds, my basils were already 3 ft. tall, tons of giant tomato plants in my yard,.....etc.etc..............

(name change) "Gladys, (I say) With that huge ole' beautiful yard of yours why don't you just do an article on really growing them?!"

This is a person who writes articles on occasion about gardening, who really does not garden and gets most of her information from compiled and adjusted internet information from numerous sites. Go figure!

I love her though, because she is a fun, good neighbor who is a complete ditz and delight on short visits....
[Last edited by DavidofDeLand - Mar 6, 2014 3:35 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #566477 (16)
Name: Joanne
Calgary, AB Canada (Zone 3a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Region: Canadian Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Roses
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Annuals Container Gardener Vegetable Grower Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Image
Joannabanana
Mar 5, 2014 6:22 PM CST
Hilarious! I think I have the same neighbor here. No 1/2 acre lots, but same thing going on
Name: David Reaves
Austin, TX (Zone 8b)
Vegetable Grower Region: Texas Canning and food preservation Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
david_reaves
Mar 6, 2014 6:16 AM CST
David of Deland, I'm there with you, growing full-size plants in full-size dirt. Normally, I would be using a good chunk of my four acre lot for vegetables. The Earthboxes provide an alternative to a big garden when something precludes normal growing. For some, container gardening is the only way to grow anything
Name: Linda
Carmel, IN (Zone 5a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member Region: Indiana Dog Lover Container Gardener
Seed Starter Herbs Vegetable Grower Cut Flowers Butterflies Birds
Image
mom2goldens
Mar 6, 2014 8:05 PM CST
I have a suburban lot (with a very picky Homeowners Association). My lot is very well landscaped with trees, shrubs, and perennials. I need to fit in my veggies wherever I can. I use EBs to help me avoid tree roots, tuck things into unused spaces, etc. I have 5 EBs dedicated to tomatoes, and I grow mostly inderminates. They do wonderfully. I used my other EBs for peppers, leeks, onions, green beans, zucchini and cabbage. Without them, I could not produce nearly what I could hope for otherwise.

I grow my herbs in other smaller containers, and my potatoes in smart pots.

I just couldn't imagine my garden without EBs. I am grateful to everyone I have learned from to figure out what worked best for me in terms of potting mix and fertilizer. Best of all, the EBs have a watering system that cuts hours off of my watering time each week.

I had some trouble getting started my first few years, but it was worth it to figure everything out. It's great to be able to learn from those who have much more experience than I do.

Linda
Name: David Reaves
Austin, TX (Zone 8b)
Vegetable Grower Region: Texas Canning and food preservation Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
david_reaves
Mar 9, 2014 12:24 AM CST
The tomatoes were planted today. Five finished Earthboxes! Now I need to plant pepper seeds, nuget them on the heat mat, and grow them in some home made eBuckets saved from last year.

Thumb of 2014-03-09/david_reaves/49cc46

David R

Page 1 of 3 • 1 2 3

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Containers forum
You must first create a username and login before you can reply to this thread.

Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "Dianthus 'Nyewood Cream'"