Making the Earthtainer bigger - And Permanent!~

md2b78February 4, 2012

Hello all,

I have experimented with the Earthtainer in its original form, and it is awesome!

My question is this: Is it possible to increase the scale of the design?

I work with an NGO in northern Kenya which, among other things, is seeking to increase farming output. We aren't looking to start an agribusiness - we simply want to feed people. The environment is arid, at best, though bore hole wells are capable of feeding a supply of water. Having an Earthtainer-style grow system and its water control would be beneficial, as you can imagine.

Basically, I want to build a raised garden bed using rail road ties, lumber, and plastic sheeting. I would line the inside of a raised rail road tie bed with a plastic material so that it could act as a pool of water. Above, I would suspend a soil box using lumber and the necessary supports. Just as the Earthtainer works (water access tubes, overflow points, and all), only with local supplies - and much bigger.

For another way to conceptualize it, think of an MegaEarthtainer that is 8 Earthtainers long and two Earthtainers wide. 8 Earthtainers strolling the desert two-by-two. Now imagine two sets of eight. 4 sets. 8 sets. 16 sets.

Could I construct this MegaEarthtainer using 8 wicks of standard Earthtainer size spaced as they would be naturally? Would I need a different sized wick? Would I need 8 separate water compartments - and if so, could the soil box above be one entire box or would it need to be split up into 8 compartments as well?

This is a serious project, with wonderfully serious implications. The bonus is that after trying it out at home (in Indiana) and keeping you apprised with pictures and commentary, if successful, I will report the field results.

I hope this can happen!

Keith

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rnewste(8b NorCal)

Keith,

Congrats on trying to help people in need of food.

I know of folks who have "scaled up" the EarthTainer principles such as a plastic horse watering trough, using multiple wicking basket.

In your case, I am not sure of the production benefits you are trying to achieve. On a Production per square foot basis, your yields should come out the same, whether it is in a standard form factor EarthTainer - or in something twice its size. Can you tell us what your thinking is re: needing a very large size "MegaTainer?

Raybo

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 9:54PM
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drivewayfarmer

Check out http://www.instructables.com/id/Wicking-Beds/
it may be worth a look for your situation.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:33AM
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jll0306(9/ Sunset 18/High Desert)

I second wicking beds. They look like the perfect solution for arid land agriculture.

I noticed a poster on the SQF forum (not here in GW, but elsewhere, posting about converting his SQF to a wicking bed watering system, but further research shows that it can be used for raised and lasagna beds of any size.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:34PM
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ronalawn82(z9FL)

md2b78, I would suggest narrowing the focus to a single, specific Objective. From that, a procedure, program or structure develops. Here are a couple of examples of what I am thinking.
To conserve water. The emphasis is on the reservoir aspects.
To maximize yield/unit area.Suggests a wholistic approach; water, fertilizer, choice of crop etc.
To teach a community self sufficiency.Effective Teaching Methods; in addition to all of the above.
My objective here was to make the project simple.
Reading it over, I am not sure that I have succeeded.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 4:21AM
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joeworm

http://www.waterright.com.au/

this is what you are trying to achieve.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 6:10PM
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md2b78

Thank you so much for the follow-ups.

I apologize that I was not quicker in writing back - I was out of country researching the area in question.

Driveway farmer - YES! HELL YES! This is exactly what I had in my head. Rnewste, in answer to your question, http://www.instructables.com/id/Wicking-Beds/ was exactly what I was trying to think of.

And so . . . I will take a close look at wicking beds - these may be exactly what we are looking for. Especially the closed beds for now. Joeworm, your link was right up our alley. Water management is the major issue in East Africa, and we will be researching soil amended with worm and tilapia refuse.

Ronalawn82, your to do list was also spot on, especially regarding teaching self-sufficiency. The best end for this project, and any aid project, is to leave it in the hands of the locals as either a sustainable community source or a working business model.

I'll keep this up-to-date with what we find out. This will be a bit of a long time scale on updates as things actually happen ("Africa Time" is not exactly speedy) and as I am able to reach an internet connection :)

Thank you all so much!

Keith

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 9:33AM
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