Help--fertilizer for tomatoes in an Earthbox

Kathy BochonkoApril 30, 2005

Hi, I just ordered and received my first Earthbox. I want to plant my tomatoes right up, but am not sure what sort of fertilizer to use. The instructions say granular with all 3 #'s between 5 & 15. But within this range I can't seem to find anything that is granular and not time released. I wanted to use Gardens Alive's tomato food but they don't list the percentages on the website. How much will it affect me if I order this and get it and the numbers are not within the stated range? I see big bags of granular lawn food, but the smaller multio-purpose bags I have seen do not fall within those numbers. I have some Gardens Alive for flowers which is a 3-3-1 would that work? Otherwise everything is time released that I saw at Lowes. (like osmocote) I have Orthos Rose Pride which is a 15-5-10. Any Earthbox users know anything about this? I really want to plant my tomatoes this weekend.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardens Alive Tomato Fertilizer

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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

Heck, I just use whatever I have, such as 10-10-10 lawn fert, or the Citrus and avocado fert. My 'maters in Earthboxes produce abundantly, year after year. I do not use the plastic cover, I use a deep layer of pine bark mulch. Works fine!


    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 6:55PM
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garaj(9B CENTRAL FL)

Lisa has it right. I buy the cheapest sack of 6-6-6 or 10-10-10 that I can find at Lowes, Home Depot or Ace Hardware. I have even used an 8-10-10 blend for tropical plants. It all works just fine. Garaj

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 6:21PM
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I bought Earth Box last year. Making my own this year to add to my growing. A lot less money. Consider it if you want to expand. Found information on here to make your own.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 1:12PM
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Millie_36(Z6b MO)

We buy 50 bags of 13-13-13 at our local feed store. You can store the excess in 5 gallon buckets or use it for the lawn or garden as it was intended.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 9:39PM
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how much fertilizer should you apply and when?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 12:10PM
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Lynne_in_Linden(z6 NJ)

Robert, where were the instructions on making your own EarthBox? They are too expensive but they look like they work pretty well.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 8:14PM
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SirTanon(z9 AZ)

Joeyb - The fertilizer goes on when you plant.. you place a long band of it along one side, or between the plants, when they go in the soil.

Lynne - There are lots of different methods of making a home-made Earthbox, but they all just follow a simple basic methodology - I just use whatever materials are around. The best 'how to' that I've found can be found WITHIN THIS GARDENWEB THREAD

As far as what kind of fertilizer - I agree with the others. Whatever basic type of granular works great, even better if it's got micronutrients, etc.. I have used Walmart 9-12-12 tomato fert, for example. I also add in a small amount of Epsom Salt crystals to the mix.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2005 at 2:50AM
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jvstealth35(z7 GA)

Does anyone have the homemade earthbox instructions? I am looking for them and the link no longer works on the GardenWeb thread. Those were the best homemade Ebox instructions I have seen to date, along with great discussion. Please email me with these instructions, or other versions if you have. Thanks in advance

Joe V

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 3:15PM
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opabinia51(SW Canada)

The best thing to use is some sort of organic ferilizer. All organic fertilizers are by nature slow release. Liquid fish fertilizer, once a week works great. (I use this.) Also, Kelp meal is really good. Put it in the hole before you put the tomatoe plant in (a handful).

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 9:29PM
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jmalt31(NJ Zone 7)

Hello All,

I am at the moment compiling a complete how to make your own earth box document based on my instructions that are no longer available here and all the questions and answers that you have all posted. Stay tuned I think you are going to like what I am putting together. I plan to show 5 different designs I have three documented already It might be ready by next week. There will also be a question an answer section (from your questions) and a how to set up an Earthbox section. Please be patient I am working as fast as I can. As for the original post I have all 3 sections saved in a word document please email me and I will sent it to you. But if you can wait the new document is lot better with more details.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 11:09PM
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Fito(z7 NYC)

Here are some instructions for a self-watering container.

Here is a link that might be useful: E****Box Instructions...

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 2:18PM
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garaj(9B CENTRAL FL)

Joe, I worked up a number of e-boxes based on your earlier document and never had such fantastic results. I now have six and am working on Number seven. My only suggestion to those that try them is to set just one tomato plant per box. Two per box is overwhelming and requires a lot of constant tying up and thinning. Many thanks, Garaj.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 2:52PM
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barb_in_dc(z7 DC)

Here's My $0.02:

Two years ago I bought the Gardens Alive tomato fertilizer. I thought it was rather expensive and didn't see any magical transformation.

Last year, I bought Tomato Tone. Had the best crop I've ever grown (all in containers, natch), which made the squirrels happy.

This year, I bought some "Bud and Bloom" (10-52-8), which I bought on Tapla's recommendation for repotting my Rose of Sharon. I just sprinkled in on all my flowering plants, including the tomatoes which also got Tomato Tone. They are looking great and setting lots of fruit.

I really don't see how using an Earth box requires different fertilizers than regular containers. Could be wrong.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 4:35PM
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I planted this box on 5-22-2005

This is how they looked on 6-28-2005

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 11:12PM
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Kathy Bochonko

Wow, what sort of fertilizer did you use? Mine have grown as tall as the posts, but they are not quite as full as yours and I planted them the first weekend of May. Also what variety of tomatos did you plant? I have already gotten a couple of tomatoes of my Sungella, but the Moneymakers aren't anywhere near ripe yet. I ahve a lot of fruit setting but none are looking very large. The Sungellas were really small (like ping pong balls or slightly larger)

I used some of the Gardens Alive for flowers (3-3-1) and I am regretting it. But I am not sure if I should try and add anymore at this point. If I did would I just lay a new strip on top of the old one?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 11:20PM
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Sorry to say, I just found an old "Vegetable" fertilizer box in the garage that I think was about 10 years old. It didn't seem to be too important to be too fussy. I do have it connected to my drip irrigation system and it is being filled twice a day with 2 gallons of water each time. It does not seem to be enough, so I am manually adding another gallon or so in the afternoon between the automatic cycle! My largest dripper is a 4/gal/hour. I saw a plan for an automatic valve in the bottom, this could be a plus! I should take a closer photo, the stems are bigger than some of my fingers. Lots and Lots of Cherry tomato's forming!

I am afraid to sit too close, if you know what I mean.

1 Plant is a BEEFSTEAK (I am just a novice at container tomato's, so this may be a bad choice from what I have read. I'll know later...

1 Plant is a "Cherry", and I will have to check the tag.

The Beefsteak is on the RIGHT...

As of today, (7-1-05) the plant is about 8 inches taller that on Tuesday!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 7:38PM
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I wanted to share the images of my EarthBox tomatoes as of today July 18, 2005

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 8:11PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)


    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 9:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)


I don't want to stand back and throw stones, but this is a very old post and looks like a prime example of what too much N will bring. It appears that easily, 95% of the plant mass is in herbaceous growth & promises to remain that way because of the N supply.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 9:34PM
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Gawd I am glad you said it instead of me ;-) I was tempted to, but just walked away since the thread is so old.

Huge, lush, healthy plants are great. Unless of course the only reason one is growing them is for their flower or fruit ;-)

And no, Earthworm, you shouldn't feel embarrassed at *all* for finding those plants inspirational. They do look fantastic until you look at the date of the photo and the poster's zone and realize those plants should be loaded with immature, green fruits, at a minimum by that point.

For that matter the poster, IOIOSOTWIG, shouldn't feel embarrassed either. It's really easy to watch the early growth take off and think everything is going well. It isn't until later in the season when the hamburger is waiting for a slice of tomato that one starts to realize something isn't going according to plan.

In this thread a very nonchalant attitude is displayed toward choice of fertilizer. That's OK and also easy to understand in many cases.

If you want the best results from plants though it really does pay to understand, at least at a basic level, what plants need to do what we want them to.

Lawn fertilizers really don't work very well for tomatos ;-)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 10:25PM
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Your right justaguy..lawn fertilizers don't work well with toms..they are way too high in nitrogen,,because after's grass and needs the nutrient,,but for tomatoes..for the rest I have used a rather uneven mix ratio in the earthbox
(I only have one) the rest are HM 18gal with 1 plant in each..
ratio is 10 far so good..on another note..
Earthbox says that you can plant 2 plants per container..but I find that this is a lil too much to meet the demands of the box..yes pretty pictures ya'll but I found it too much of a hassle to pour in at least 2 gallons a day every day..
And then theres the problem with seems a little too soil and fertilizer..regardless of what ratio you use to keep 2 plants healthy.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 12:09AM
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ratio is 10 far so good..

That is a much better ratio than a lawn fertilizer or 'any old thing I had laying on my shelf' fertilizer ;-) Earthbox says that you can plant 2 plants per container..but I find that this is a lil too much to meet the demands of the box..

I agree for the most part. I don't agree that one can't get great yields from healthy plants in an EB with 2 plants, but I certainly agree it's easier (less maintenance) to grow one awesome plant per box than it is two. And then theres the problem with seems a little too soil and fertilizer..regardless of what ratio you use to keep 2 plants healthy.

Depends on the availability of calcium in the mix as well as other factors such as evenness of moisture and even the temperature.

BER is caused by a calcium deficiency, but it isn't that simple because the reason for the calcium deficiency has to be determined. An obvious reason would be a planting mix and fertilization program that supplies inadequate calcium. Another reason would be uneven moisture levels. Plants can't take nutrients from dry soil, they take it from water.

Tomatos are really sensitive to this and let the soil dry even for a short while and that can result in BER on the current fruits developing. Lack of water in this case means lack of calcium carried into the fruit via water.

Even more difficult to control is the weather. Let the temps be hot and dry and the plant will lose water from it's tissue faster than it can replace it via it's roots. This will result in inadequate calcium in the plant and result in BER. The plant is taking up water as fast as it can, just not as fast as it is losing it.

I love growing tomatos more than I enjoy eating them. I think the reason is that tomatos are very easy to grow OK, but incredibly difficult to grow really well consistently because of how fragile they are. They are a plant whose origin is unknown and still debated although most would place it somewhere in South America, perhaps Peru. What is more clear is it enjoyed it's evolution free of significant disease pressure and the result is that no variety today has any significant resistance to fusarium or verticillium or any other disease. Despite the best efforts of hybridizers only modest improvements to disease have been made and these often sacrifice flavor as a trade off.

Very easy to grow, very difficult to grow well consistently. Love 'em.

Screw it up and you still probably have enough for a few BLTs and do it really well and you have enough for making pasta sauce.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 1:40AM
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Kathy Bochonko

Well I see this thread has been resurrected. I am retiring my Earthbox this year, or at lest maybe I'll try planting something else in it. Maybe some basil? I think I got about 6 edible tomatoes last year. I am going to plant my tomatoes in the ground this year.

I do need a new cover and don't feel like ordering one, has anyone made their own? If so how? Black plastic? Or will that heat up the roots too much?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 6:58AM
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ditnc(7 NC)

Since two tomatoes may be too much for one box, does anyone see a concern with planting one tomato and, say, one squash, in a single earthbox? I am planting a German Johnson in it today, but agree that a second may be overwhelming for this box. I could take a squash, cuke or zucchini or something out of another container to be the tomato's box buddy. Would they conflict with each other as long as I make sure the tomato does not shade the other plant?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 5:28PM
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Can anybody tell me where to look for a "make your own earthbox"? Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 7:40PM
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ditnc(7 NC)

Here's a great link to someone's site. They obviously took a lot of time to document and photograph, very well done. Second link also (more entertaining than detailed with step by step directions but good visuals):

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to building SWCs

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 7:50PM
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