HomeMade Earth Box Design? FeedBack

homemommyApril 12, 2009

I have been thinking of the following for a home made earth box design...

Take a large tote, fill the bottom 1/4 or 1/3 with a large gravel. About an inch from the top of the gravel, drill in the water overflow drainage hole.

Set into the gravel, a pond basket. Line the pond basket and rock layer with Burlap to prevent tons of soil from settling into the water.

Add a Bamboo pipe as your water conduit, as opposed to PVC in a corner.

Fill the box with your growing medium over the burlap. (if you don't have burlap, even a cotton fabric would work I figure... perhaps recycle a few T shirts that have had better days!) The rocks will support the weight of the soil with no complications or issues. Add a mulch layer on the top.

Now, add the water until it flows out of thedrainage hole.

Now, the rocks will take up some of the room for water, and it may need to be filled a little more. But, it should still store plenty of water! And, it just would be so so EASY to make, with the exception of a single drainage hole, and cutting the bamboo, there is no other cutting / drilling required! Truely, just about ANYONE could make this, and it would be super adaptable for large plant pots, really just about any size container!

Anyone familiar with these types of planters think of anything I am not thinking of??

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Sounds simple - but it also sounds ugly and heavy. You would have to use a planting media with the correct amount of air porosity and "wicking" properties to get it to work.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 5:28PM
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Ugly?? People make home made earth boxes out of totes all the time, they may not be the most beautiful, but perhaps if they are placed just behind other containers, or maybe even if something like sweet potato vine was planted in them that drapes over the sides they could be "beautified".

Heavy? Well, if it is full of soil and water, or soil and rocks and water, they are going to be just as heavy... I can't figure that an authentic earth box or any other type of home made is much lighter!

As for the soil media, yes, you would want to make sure it is a good mix for what you are planting, but it is no different for any other type of earth box or container or garden for that matter...

I am just wondering if there is something I am not thinking about, in regards to using the burlap or cotton fabric, and rocks for support...

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 6:52PM
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I think rocks are too heavy to mess with--hauling from store and they would make your container super heavy--way beyond what the mix and water weigh.

I just grabbed a cup and and filled it with the 'rocks' (turface) then filled it with water.
I measured the water and got around 1/3 of a cup. So you are losing 2/3 s of the water storage capacity.

You are just trying to come up with some way to support the
mix without using some sort of plastic 'shelf' insert with lots of holes drilled into it or another rubbermaid container cut off --right?

I have seen a suggestion somewhere of using aluminum soda cans thrown in a big container so that you save on potting mix. Wonder if you could use aluminum soda cans but this time sit them upright-- use a can opener and take off top and bottom and drill a few holes in the sides so they fill with water as does the space around them. Put as many as you need to fill up the botttom of the container and then proceed with the rest of your plan --they would weigh next to nothing. You would lose some water capacity but not as much as rocks.

I don't know if the aluminum cans would leach anything though.

I still think it would be easier to use Josho's plans for using two containers--one is sacrificed and cut off to be positioned upside down and functions as the aeration screen/shelf . The extra water capacity would be worth it.

Or buy an earthbox--the daddy and inspiration of them all. I have some going on 15 years old. They are cheaper than rubbermaid totes when you factor in your time and the longevity of the containers. As an added bonus they are made from food safe plastics. ( However, I have made my own knock-offs too just for the fun of it and I wanted them bigger)

Here is a link that might be useful: josho's SW container plans

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 11:43PM
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Thanks Farkee for the food for thought ;-)

I probably will invest in the real deal (Genuine Earthboxes) but this is just not the year to do it... I can talk my husband into perhaps a $20.00 expense, but not a $50.00+ expense, and because we are in Canada, with shipping and exchange working against us, it will definately be more!!

Thanks for your ideas on the rocks, I am not so sure that a container filled with rocks and water or just water is more heavy, (don't underestimate the weight of water!) but the idea that it would take up 2/3's of the water is a good point, I did not think it would be that high!

The cans are an interesting idea... I don't think soda cans would work here, not possible to take of the tops and bottoms, but ordinary cans would work... But this type of support system, just not sure what I will use, is likely the best way to go...

I have seen Josho's containers earlier this weekend, very inspiring!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 9:49AM
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Taking tops off soda cans is easy just use can opener. I do it all the time to cook beer can chicken hehe. Not sure bout bottom tho.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 3:06PM
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I have tried several times over many years to remove the top off a soda can, never been able too, the lip seems to be too tall / deep compared to other can types... Perhaps our cans are made differently up here... Maybe I just don't know how to use a can opener! lol!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 3:48PM
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What about building the single tote design - cut the middle out of the lid, use either perforated drain pipe ($5 for 10 ft at the big box stores) or perf'd pvc pipe to support the lid. I just built some out of 6" deep "under the bed" containers - works great for lettuce and other shallow root veggies.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 12:10PM
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    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 3:28PM
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jmalt31(NJ Zone 7)

Here is the link to the thread that contains all of my PDF documents to build these types of containers (including decorative ones). The easiest design is the dual tub where the 14 gallon tub sits in an 18 gallon tub. Look at the docs to see what I am talking about. The problem I see with your idea is the rocks will take up too much room where there should be water, and also you need to have an air gap between the water surface and shelf / screen that holds the potting mix. You will find all the information that you need in my documents. If you want to go bigger than go with Raybo's earthtainer he uses 33 gallon tubs I believe. I have have no trouble growing 2 indeterminate tomato plants in the 18 gallon size. with Rabo's you might be able to go with more but you will need to talk to him about that. I have not tried his design.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fixed self watering container PDF documents

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 1:47PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

I would recommend against using any bamboo in water or very moist area. It will get a black mold all over it very quickly. I was using bamboo sticks with a bottle cork on the end as floats to see my water levels at a glance. The bamboo molded and fuzzied in a matter of weeks.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 7:32PM
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What about this example of basic homemade earthbox inspiration.
All is consist of transparant acrylic water containers.


Here is a link that might be useful: Homemade earthbox

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 9:03AM
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We followed the basic directions in making our homemade growing boxes but in some used the plastic coffee cans..about 6" high, drilled holes in the sides, they work great and are about the right heighth in the box. Hey it's free, might as well reuse. The shelf (ledge) sits on the cans and supports the soil. It works for us anyway.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 5:28AM
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In any "Earth Box" type container, you have to get the right wicking/porosity potting mix anyways.

Burlap could rot. If you are concerned about PVC pipe, you can buy alternative pipe material at Home Depot, although Lowes has a much better selection around here. I got flexible plastic tubing of #1 plastic that is aimed at low pressure applications such as a refrigerator ice machine

I'm planning on using small plastic cups from the dollar store as supports for the bottom, and cut off the lid of the plastic container for the separator between the soil and reservoir. Also use machine screws around the sides to support the edges of the lid/divider.

5 gallon food buckets (pickle or icing buckets) also make cheap/free self-watering containers.

Drilling isn't really a time consuming part of SWC construction. Cleaning out buckets, and cutting things to shape is what takes more time.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 12:33PM
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