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Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Posted by rnewste 8b NorCal (rnewstead@aol.com) on
Tue, Mar 30, 10 at 0:23

The Rev 2.0 Guide is now available here:

http://earthtainer.tomatofest.com/pdfs/EarthTainer-Construction-Guide.pdf

This corrects for the new 31 gallon Rugged Tote dimensions for the cage system, as well as more detailed end of year maintenance and Spring startup recommendations.

Raybo

Here is a link that might be useful: Rev 2.0 EarthTainer Construction Guide


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Awesome...you're the best! =)


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Great guide. Thank you, Raybo.
Would be nice to see a full list of components at the beginning of guide.
Also, what kind of fertilizer you are using for tomatoes?

Thanks again,
Good work


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

brier,

The Parts List is on Page 17 of the Guide. From a "flow" point of view, do you think it is better placed as Page 3?

Regarding Tomato fertilizer, for years I have been extremely happy with the 4-7-10 NPK Tomato-tone. Then, last season the Espoma folks significantly changed its formulation. For me, the "New" Tomato-tone is not anywhere as good as the "Old".

I am trialing a number of alternative Tomato fertilizers this Season to see if anything comes close to the "Old" Tomato-tone. Stay tuned.....

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Lowe's carries most of the "tone" fertilizers now. At least mine does. I would have bought it if not for other recommendations that I should use a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer, which has been very successfull so far. I bought DynaGrow Foliage Pro 9-3-6 which also has small amounts of Calcium, Magnesium & a few other essential minerals. I felt I must revamp my fert plan after all the BER I got last year. :-\


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

tn,

Did you use Dolomitic Lime in your containers last year? That has a significant impact on minimizing BER. I am recommending 3 cups for new Potting Mix in the 3.2 cu.ft. EarthTainer.

I am trialing a couple of 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers this Season (Osmocote, Simplot "All Seasons") to compare vs the "Old" Tomato-tone. My concern is that I may get lush vegetation - - but a decrease in tomato production. I am also trying a couple of more "balanced" fertilizers like Fox Farms and E.B. Stone Vegetable fertilizers, as well.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Raybo: No. =( No Calcium source, hence the BER on over 100+ almost full-sized San Marzano tomatoes before I gave up on the two plants & trashed them. This year, i'm using the FP 9-3-6 which has the Calcium to hopefully avoid this. =) I am going to supplement with ProTeKt 0-0-3 upon flower formation, to avoid possibly having a situation like you mention; lush vegetation with decreased production.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

tn,

That might not be enough. I would seriously consider adding in at least 2 Cups of Dolomite Lime. It won't do any harm - - and you may not waste a Season with BER again. Might be even worth a try in one Container, as a reference point.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Ok, i'll try to find some. Better safe than sorry...lol. =) Lowe's or HD or any other "box store" carry it?

- Steve


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Steve,

Our local Home Depot carries the Espoma brand Dolomite Lime. $3.97 for a 5 pound bag. Trust me, you will be more than happy come July, when you start harvesting BER-free tomatoes!!

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Steve- Ray is spot on, gotta add the lime for sure. Have we not been over this already? lol

Ray- Are you using the Lilly Miller time release, which is in the 3-1-2 ratio, if so you wont see any fruit reduction on that one, I'm using it as you probably already know and it seems to be helping my Red Alerts fire out the fruit thus far.

Damon


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Damon,

In one of the 'Tainers I am using Osmocote 19-6-12 CRF as a trial. I still have one 'Tainer that I haven't added the fertilizer yet. I can trial the Lilly Miller you recommend. Where in the local area did you buy it? I checked Summer Winds but they do not carry that Brand.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

What I don't understand is this: The Calcium level in Foliage Pro id almost as much, percentage-wise, as the K/Potash. So, y'all are saying that I need more Calcium in my potting mixes than K/Potash (about as much as Nitrogen)? This doesn't make sense to me...

Product (Foliage Pro 9-3-6)
Analysis Total Nitrogen 9%* Chlorine (Cl) 0.006%
Ammoniacal (NH4) 2.9%* Cobalt (Co) 0.0005%*
Nitrate (NO3) 6.1%* Copper (Cu) 0.007%
Phosphorus (P2O5) 3%* Iron (Fe) 0.1%*
Potassium (K2O) 6%* Manganese (Mn) 0.02%*
Calcium (Ca) 2%* Molybdenum (Mo) 0.0005%*
Magnesium (Mg) 0.5%* Nickel (Ni) 0.0001%
Sulfur (S) 0.05% Sodium (Na) 0.05%
Boron (B) 0.006% Zinc (Zn) 0.015%

- Steve


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Raybo- Lowes off 880 has it. They had some at half price about a month ago. Never the less you should be able to find it there.

Steve- I'm really not sure about the percentages, maybe A1 can chime in on that one. As a general rule of thumb you want a tbs of lime for each gallon of mix. I think of it as being safe then sorry. If you look at A1's basic 511 mix, its standard. Unless whatever potting mix your using already has lime in it. Arent you using a pro-mix soil? Does it have a Ca. source in it?

Damon


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Damon: Yea, I hear ya, I just don't want to overdo it on the Calcium, KWIM? (if overdose of Calcium is even possible or has any negative effects) =) I am using Pro mix soil. I think it does contain llime already, but i'm not 100% sure. I'll have to check later when I get home.

- Steve


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Raybo,

How do you think cucumbers would fare in an earth tainer...any special differences to be aware of? Also, I have some property which I'm not at every day, how long do the 'tainers go on average between watering?

Thx!


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I had 4 cucumber plants in an 18 gallon DIY SWC last year. They did very well and were very productive.

They had some problems with powdery mildew, but so did everything else....


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I want to grow broccoli in SWC this year. Is 3:3:2 mix or 3:2:1 mix better for broccoli?

Thanks!


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

@ bubblegarden - broccoli in a 4 gallon swc......

Details of growing conditions:

Growing medium used Miracle Gro Potting Mix
Size orifice for water to enter soil mass 7/64"
Mulch used Lid of container
Fertilizer used cup of Osmocote mixed into the top 2" of soil at time of planting
Time until maturity was reached 70 days
Watering needs of planter filled reservoir 2 times per week

EG


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Cucumbers in swc's

ferretbee - I have 20 cucumbers growing in swc's this year, and expect them to do very well. Also have melons, corn, tomatoes, and peppers being planted in swc's......

EG


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

engineer: Did you already plant your cukes? In TN, I was going to wait until the end of this month before I did so. Of course, if yours are in swc's, they can be moved indoors when chance of frost shows up, I guess, so they can be started earlier. Mine are going directly in my yet to be prepared cuke bed...lol.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

c00,

I haven't grown cukes myself, but here is a photo of Eggplant growing in one.

Photobucket

I would think cukes would do quite well.

bubble,

I don't have experience with Broccoli, so I would be "conservative" and use the 3:2:1 Combo Mix for your first Season.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

tn veggie gardner - yep, planted 20 cucs in swc's already...

EG


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Raybo - conservative? I know you are dead set on using, promoting, and recommending the proverbial "3:2:1 mix", but there are certainly other effective options as well. Any comment I make on this forum is backed up by research based material, with data and photos to prove it. You should really listen to others' input, as i'm sure it would be helpful.

EG


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

EG - chill pills are in order! Suggesting there is no basis for his recommendations and that he should start listening to others, is hardly the way to create a following for your scientifically based recommendations.

If you have constructive criticism or other good recommendaitons, why not just make them, along with any support you see fit, rather than rudely call out someone you clearly disagree with. Ray's pictures of his successes speak for themselves, whatever their basis.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

EG,

After evaluating 31 combinations of potting mixes, perlite, bark materials, Turface, Cactus Mix, Redwood Compost, etc. what my trials found is that the 3:2:1 Combo Mix performed better than any other combinations that I observed. Here is a Cherokee Purple in the 3:2:1 mix:

Photobucket

While other mix combinations may work as well, or better, all I am doing is posting my findings. I am not "promoting" anything. I don't understand your message that I am not "listening to others input". I don't profit one penny from any of this. I am sharing my results so that others can get a jump start on getting good results from the EarthTainer.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

jerry - no chill pill needed, as the context of my comment wasn't intended as malicious at all. I don't want a "following" for my recommendations, and didn't call Ray out. For this "soil moisture level in a swc" issue to be fully understood, there needs to be differing opinions on how to make it better. Sounds like you need a happy meal....

Ray - I applaud you for your efforts, and sharing of information, because most of it is beneficial to those that would be helped from it. My broccoli and your tomatoes are 2 different scenarios, and I only presented the data, photo, and information to the poster that had questions about growing broccoli in a swc. I know that you don't make a penny off of your design/method, and quite frankly - that's the way it should be. Your thinking and my thinking are clearly very different on how to address the issue of the soil moisture problem in a swc - which is good, due to it being attacked from more than one angle. I'll be trying your 3:2:1 mix myself, when I get the time to do so - but for now will be using my "liberal" moisture control methods (which grows things well too)

EG


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Just a materials question on my newly built(6ea) Earthtainer 2's before I fill them with potting mix. The materials list calls out for 4" drain waste pipe for the table supports. I've just noticed afterward that the marking on the pipe indicated "FOAM CORE" DWV pipe? Is this a safe(non hazardous) material to be immersed in my water reservoir as the cross section of pipe is exposed to water?


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

greg,

If the PVC was under high temperature and extreme pressure, then I might be concerned. Since it is sitting passively in ambient temperatures as a support piece, I do not have a concern with its use in this mode.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 15, 10 at 0:35

Ray, I forgot to review your guide before planting in my ETs the other day and only used 2 cups of dolomitic lime. Do you think BER will be more likely for me? Or perhaps since I recycled last year's potting mix by adding more perlite and the bark fines.. there's some lime in the existing mix that will be enough in the new mix?

I also am trying something I'm not aware of anyone else doing.. in addition to the usual Tomato-Tone (50\50 old new) fertilizer strip each planting hole gets 1 cup of homegrown worm castings from my red wiggler bucket bins. (one bin can produce at least 14 cups of worm casts in a year). We'll see what benefit or detriment that causes this season. That's far more than what I used last year (a few tablespoons per hole).

From 050509


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

ben,

I think you will be fine with 2 Cups Lime in the re-used potting mix, as I understand there will be some residual left in the mix from last Season. Excellent idea on the Worm Castings!! Keep us posted on how the 'Tainers do with it.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 15, 10 at 12:18

That's what I was hoping you'd say Ray. ;) I didn't want to remove the extra fine pine bark mulch and have to mess with getting more lime under the plastic mulch barrier. What's done is done. :)

I will definitely keep everyone posted on the worm casting fertilizer observations. I didn't do any 'control' though, so I am hoping for wicked awesome growth on everything. It's all Ray's generous Goosecreek and NARX offering in all my 'tainers this season (I have 17 other varieties, but I'm going for what has been reported as productive in the ET universe).

I helped my wife with a project for her biology course last semester by comparing different fertilizers and the results of growing string beans in the different types. You can see how much more productive the beans with worm castings were over the control (at least 9X as many string beans formed)

From 041410


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Looking good, Ben. I had debated about buying a bag of Worm Castings and adding them in the EarthTainers, but I had so many other Combo Mix ratios and fertilizer trials set for 2010, that I decided to wait until the 2011 Season to experiment with them. I'll be watching your 'Tainers with great interest.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 15, 10 at 15:29

I eat bananas like they are going out of style to control my charlie horses at night, so my worms get fed primarily banana peels. They are the only pets you WANT to poop everywhere. lol
Anyhow my worm casts are most probably very high potassium.

From the attached link I found this very interesting..
"Plant Utilization Potassium, one of the 17 chemical elements required for plant growth and reproduction, is often referred to as the "the regulator" since it is involved with over 60 different enzyme systems in plants. Potassium helps plants to resist drought and effects from excessive temperatures. It also increases crop resistance to disease. Potassium aids plants in the production of starches, controls root growth, and regulates the opening and closing of pores in plant cells (called stomata), which is important for efficient water use"

Here's hoping my worm casts are potassium-heavy. I know the worms produce a very usable, stable form of fertilizer that can be used instantly with plants (and won't burn them).

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant Nutrients: Potassium


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I just started constructing my earthtainers for this year. I'm not yet finished with them, but figure I'll get everything completed next weekend. I'm wondering your thoughts about using just basic cable ties (zip ties) for connecting the tomato cages. Are the wire clips worth it? Thanks :)


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

soletti,

While the wire rope clip is not absolutely essential, it does add rigidity when handling the cages during the construction and mounting process. At about $0.15 for the clip, I think it is a worthwhile purchase.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Any reason you don't just cut out a circle for the plants in the top of the container rather than the entire inside? Seems like it'd be strong than the plastic bag you use to cover it. Just wondering...

-greg


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

greg,

This would work if you are not using a cage system. I do however, use the cutouts to place in the base of the container to "double-wall" it, then the second cutout underneath the 'Tainer so that swiveling it mid-way through the Season is easier.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

man, cutting that 4" pvc pipe with a hand saw is hard work!


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Are you using the thin wall 4" landscaping drain pipe? This is much thinner than 4" PVC pipe. It comes both perforated every 3 inches, or plain. I like the plain, and then drill my own holes.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

A couple quick questions I hope you can answer for me:

1. In your pdf guide you mention to install a sun block panel to prolong the life of the container. Where is this installed and what material is used for this?

2. Is there any concern with these containers not being food grade plastic?

3. With all the concerns over VOC emissions from PVC, should we be using copper instead of PVC for the fill pipe?

BTW, your plans are great, and the videos found on the TomatoFest website really gave alot more insight into the construction & assembly.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Webgator,

These containers are not UV resistant so over time, the outer shell will deteriorate and will need to be replaced ($9.97). I am estimating a 7 year life. Couple of things you should do, especially in Sunny Florida. (1) Rotate the container 180 degrees after each Season to "balance" the container's sides vs. the Sun. Alternatively, install a Sun blocking screen like a bamboo shade around the exposed sides of the 'Tainer.

The containers are made of LDPE which is the same material used in your coffeemaker. As this (as well as the section of PVC pipe) is not under pressure nor extreme heat, I do not have a concern. In fact, I would be more concerned about this material in a hot coffeemaker, but that is a different discussion. If you can afford the price for a section of copper for the filler tube, then by all means use it.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Wow, thanks for the quick reply Ray!

I had thought of using some 1X6, but bamboo fencing certainly would be the decorative way to go! Should've thought of that first as I was literally just outside considering getting some to make my "neighbor friendly" shadowbox fencing less friendly, as my Jack Russell fights through the fence with the neighbor's dog.

Looks like I'll be making a material list and another run to Lowes!


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 20, 10 at 20:53

My Home Depot sells a straw fence. I think it was 25' X 6' tall for $23. It's out in the outdoor section of the store. I'm thinking this might be great to buy and cut in half to make a 3' fence, then tie to small stakes all around my Earthtainers. I want aesthetically-pleasing this season I think. What other options are there? what's the cost, where did you find the material and how's it look? The straw fence isn't as tightly 'knit' as I would like, but from a distance I think it might look pretty good.

Oh by the way I found a place here called Landscaper's Corner that sells a cubic yard of pine bark fines for $36. Is that a good deal? Seems silly now I bought a used shredder to chip my own bark, but then again I like having the chipper to make compost materials more manageable. I was looking for crushed granite retailer for Al's mix, but am finding in a region almost exclusively on a limestone base that granite is rare if not impossible to find. Too bad Al's mix doesn't call for limestone. lol


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Ben,

You don't really need to make a fence going all around the 'Tainer - I think a 3-sided "U" section would meet the WAF Test. You could even hinge it so that it would fold up for Winter storage. I have seen the redwood lattice 2 ft. high sections at HD that would look good.

Regarding crushed Granite, do you REALLY want to put this in your EarthTainers? I simply can't see how this will aid the wicking process. Yes, in a top watered container application it works fine, but for the life of me, I am having a hard time rationalizing its function, given all the weight it will add to the 'Tainer.

Oh well, if you use it and it does work well, then I will be a "convert". It would be interesting to trial the 2 Mixes side by side, for a comparison grow this Season. Keep us posted.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 21, 10 at 2:40

Oh the granite isn't for the Earthtainers.. I was just looking for it to make Al's mix for some plain old containers. Didn't mean to infer it was for the Earthtainers. I wouldn't think of adding more weight to my Earthtainers especially since I put mine on pillars off the ground. Don't want a crushed foot if one should topple. I guess it would hurt already if that happened, but it would hurt more with granite in it. I don't see any benefit to using it in the ET either Ray.

I did find it interesting that bark fines are obtainable in my area and I don't need to make my own. I think $36 for 27cuft is very reasonable considering I paid $18 for 9cuft total bagged and had to buy a $150 shredder and spend hours shredding it to reduce it to the more correct size. It takes longer than one would expect to sift bark too. I've been using all the pieces smaller than 1/4" mixed in with some cheap open-bag potting mix to stretch the mix for potting up tomato seedlings (I grow extra every year to sell) and it seems to have worked very well. The seedlings don't care in the foam cups I potted them into.

Here's a look at my Earthtainers. I planted up the three 5Gallon Buckettainers the other day. I was thinking that straw fence material at Home Depot could wrap around this entire assemblage of containers to pretty up the garden area. Since this photo was taken I added 3 upside down Earthtainer tote pieces on the ground and filled them with a blend of topsoil and compost. I intend to plant zucchini in them and hope the damn pill bugs won't kill them as they do every year before I even get one zucchini in my square foot garden, I hope they don't find them. Zucchini is supposed to be easy to grow, so I don't know why I fail at it every year. lol

From 041710


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Raybo I made the EarthTainer following your detailed directions as closely as it is possible for ME to follow any directions. One of my additions was to cut the handle portion off the unused portion of the first tote, amounting to a little over 10 inches of side material. This I inserted into the finished EarthTainer all the way down against the bench. This I think added strength to the sides, against the force of the soil. Al


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Al,

I REALLY like that idea! It gives extra rigidity to the system. And, the "double wall" will provide a layer of insulation on the Sun side, to mitigate heating up of the roots. I'll need to make one to document it for the Guide. Is it possible for you to post a picture of how you cut the handle off? I am trying to picture it in my mind right now. Also, when in the assembly process do you add it? Without cages, you could insert it as a last assembly step. However, with the cages, you must slip it over the cage assembly before you mount the cages to the aeration bench - - I think.... Excellent work!!

Raybo


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RE: Lid

Al,

Anoter question a photo would solve for me. Does the "insert" where you've cut off the handles sit above the rim of the outer shell, and if so, how do you attach the top cover now that those handles are cut off? At the moment, I am thinking the insert sits above and "cups" the top lip of the outer shell by maybe 1/2 inch, right? So the lid will now attach to this slightly raised rim edge of the insert, which is fine - - except the lid with the moisture barrier is clamped down mechanically when the lid is snapped over the 2 handles. If these have been cut off, what now holds the lid in place?

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I just cut the top containing the handles off the same as you cut the bottom off to make the bench, with a reciprocating saw. The remaining piece is a little over 10 inches and can be slipped over the cage with only the top rim used to hold down the black plastic removed. The insert sits an inch or so below the top holding the plastic with no interference. It fits very tight inside the box and of course must be installed before the landscape fabric. I did not take pictures before assembly and the box is already planted. Al


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Al,

Just so I clearly understand it, you took perhaps a 1 inch "slice" off the entire top of the container, (lip and all) so that this insert now slides down within the outer container, and is recessed below by about an inch, or so. Correct?

thanks,

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Thats right Raybo. If your interested I made a couple of other minor changes in the construction. The wicking basket I mounted through the top of the bench. I did not like the use of the expansion screws securing the bench. I used 1/4 inch carriage bolts, one inch long inserted from the inside with the nut and washer on the outside. Excess bolt length cut off with hacksaw. The cages you specified from Walmart were not in stock. I found similar heavyweight cages at OSH, 54x16 inches. Minor annoyance was was inconsistent vertical rod spacing. Having the facilities, I brazed the fender washers to the cage legs. Other than that I followed the rest of your plan except the soil which I have my own. Al


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 23, 10 at 9:50

I too like the idea of using the leftover material as a sleeve to brace the sides of the container. Wouldn't it be easier to just slip that around the outside of the Earthtainer than trying to put it inside the Earthtainer though? Of course I am using mine right now as raised beds (just filled them with soil the other day and planted a zucchini in one). You'd have to slip it over the outside from underneath the Earthtainer. Too bad mine are all filled and planted. It will be a Herculean feat to be able to slip it on now, but I'm going to try nonetheless.

Putting the sleeve on the outside of the Earthtainer would work as a solar shield to protect the inside from that kind of wear. On the inside, it would lend support, but wouldn't have the extra UV protection.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Ben,

I like the idea of using the extra shell piece to make an external "girdle" on the outside of the EarthTainer. As Al had done, taking the piece and cutting off the top inch or so, would give you a nice sleeve to help insulate the grow media from the Sun, as well as help keep the long side walls from bowing out, making it easier to snap the lid on when fully loaded with Mix.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Ray,

I bought a bale of Pro-Mix BX. Should I add anything to the mix (aside from the dolomitic lime and fertilizer) like extra perlite or some bark fines? The plants growing in your 3:2:1 mix look great and I don't know if I will get the same results using just Pro-Mix BX. I'm worried about it getting to wet. Also, Pro-Mix has a blend called Pro-Mix BRK, which has roughly 50% peat, 40% processed pine bark and the rest being composed of perlite and nutrients. What r your thoughts?

Thanks,

Phil (Newbie)


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Phil,

While I am not able to get Pro-Mix out here, I did get some Gardener's Supply Container Mix (which I believe is the same thing). Tried it in my Fall crop and it alone stayed too wet. Better than Miracle-Gro or Sta-Green alone for sure, but still not optimized for SWCs, in my view.

As the Pro-Mix BX already contains 14% Perlite, I would add additional in a 8:1 ratio of BX to Perlite. I would also really try to find Bark Fines to add to your Combo Mix, as they do help with aeration, etc. Even if you cant find them in pure form, consider adding in something like Kellogs "Clay Soil Conditioner". While not ideal, it would be better than not adding anything to aid the aeration process.

In the end, for a SWC you want a mix that will wick on its own, but also to be light and fluffy. Something in the range of an 8:3:1 ratio of BX, Clay Soil Conditioner, and Perlite is where I would start. Experiment with different ratios until you find one that you are happy with.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I just slide the left over piece over the main container and then re-drill the holes that are covered. I think that using the whole left over piece adds rigidity and protects from the sun.

Photobucket

I have 6 rubbermaid from last season and 6 toughtotes that I just completed. Here is the whole 'tainer family.

Photobucket

Photobucket


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Where did you buy the lawn flags? I tried a hanger with cork on the end but it seems like its too heavy to float. Also, how can you easily tell by looking if it needs water if its just a matter of an inch or two difference in the flags height?


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

silentway,

Dude, you are really cooking!!

Nice looking setup. I will include the outer shell in the Rev 2.1 of the Guide.

Thanks for posting the photos,

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Those are surveyor's flags that I got at Lowe's. You need to get the long ones as the short ones will not reach. They are inserted into 1.2" styrofoam balls that I got at Micheals. I used gorilla glue to hold them in. They give a good visual indication of the water level and you can push them down to get a better estimate of the water level. They may cut down on evaporation as well.

However I don't really need that anymore since I installed float values in all 12 'tainers and now have a automatic watering system. I got the adjustable ones and set the water level at just above 2".
Photobucket

They are all supplied by a rain barrel and I have the option of connecting it to the water suppler if that runs dry.
Photobucket


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted .

Thanks Raybo!

I have one suggestion that you may want to consider. I found it much easier and cleaner if the the landscape fabric is installed before the cages are mated to the platform. If done this way you just need eight small (~1") slits in the fabric as opposed to the big slits required if the fabric in installed afterward.


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fix typo

I meant to say 1.5" styrofoam balls.


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fix typo

I meant to say 1.5" styrofoam balls.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

silentway,

I would really like to include your SWC design in the AWS Section of the EarthTainer Guide. Did you document the mini float valve installation in pictures, as well as mounting dimensions. The neat thing about the mini floats is that you can use a gravity fed system like your rain barrel - whereas the EarthBox AWS needs a pressurized feed system. Good stuff!!

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I'm curious if anyone has tried Jobe's Organics vegetable and tomato fertilizer? I picked up a couple of 4lb bags at Ace Hardware for a great price ($3 after rebate). It is a 2-7-4 formula. It seems a bit lot on N, so I might supplement with a very small amount of 18-18-18 I have on hand.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Years ago I converted my daughter in laws water feature to maintain the water level by using a float valve intended for water level control in evaporative or "swamp coolers" cheap and available everywhere. Her only water nearby was her drip system which was on a timer to turn on every three days. So every three days the water level in her fountain was topped off. The fact that the pressure was only ten pounds made no difference and I am sure it would work as well on any gravity system. My next EarthTainer I will install one. Al


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Float valve installation procedure

Right, the reason I choose to use float valves, over the easier to install EarthBox valves, was to be able to use the rain barrel. Last season I was able to supply about half my water needs with the rain barrel and I didnt want to give that up. The barrel holds about 50 gallons and it only takes about a " of rain to fill it up.

I used the adjustable valves that accepted " tubing, model MA252. Ice maker tubing was used to connect the valves to " poly tubing that is intended for a drip watering system. Each valve had to be manually calibrated by placing the completely empty container on a level surface and connecting it to a water supply. I chose to set the water level at just above 2 inches. This was a pain to do for a dozen tainers.

In hindsight I should have used the non adjustable valves (M252) and set up an experiment to determine the distant of the water level to the mounting center. This could be done by temporally mounting the valve at a know height in a cheap disposable bucket and let it fill up. Then measure the water level and compare it to the mounting center of the valve. Once you know this it is easy to select a mounting height to give the desired water level.

I didnt take any photos of the process, I now wish I had, but I can provide the procedure that I used.

Procedure to install adjustable float valve:

1. On the short side of the container opposite the fill tube mark a spot 3 " from the bottom and one quarter distance from the side.
2. With the aeration bench in place drill a small pilot hole at the location marked above.
3. Remove the aeration bench and drill a 7/16" hole in the container where the pilot hole is.
4. Install the float valve in the 7/16" hole.
5. Drill a 1 " hole in the aeration bench where the pilot hole is.
6. From the bottom of the aeration bench cut two slits tangent to the 1 " hole creating a 1 " slot to provide clearance for the float valve.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

silentway,

Thanks for the information on the mini float valves. I bought a couple of the MA252 to experiment with last Season - - but never got around to it:

http://www.thevalveshop.com/menu/manual/kerick/kerickm.html

Frankly, the cost per unit for the EarthBox AWS system is almost the same cost, and it is a lot less work to install. You just need to lengthen the sensor tube which is 3/8 inch refrigerator tubing:

Photobucket

Again, with a gravity fed system like a rain barrel, the mini float valve approach is an excellent solution.

Raybo

Here is a link that might be useful: Mini Float Valves


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 28, 10 at 0:20

Thanks for the mention of that deal daveinco
I've got one Ace Hardware in my area. I'd like to try this fertilizer out. I'll pay them a visit. The circular shows a limit of 3, so I guess the rebate form allows three $6 rebates?

I'd like to try the float valve thing with my rain barrels, but it will have to be for next year as my 'tainers are filled and being used for tomato plants already. We are under a patchy frost advisory tonight. I hope this is the last one.

So I would go with buying the $9.93
3/8" Kerick Mini Float Valve. Fixed Arm. sounds like for my ETs ?

My rain barrels use a standard hose spigot, but I am not sure how to route the water to the other side of the fence because my back yard is sloped upward where the Earthtainers are. I wonder if I would have enough back pressure up that gentle slope to make these valves work. I'd run a hose from the rain barrel slightly under the surface of the ground so I wouldn't trip on it or get it caught going under the fence gate where my ETs are. The public water here is overly chlorinated and my plants don't care for it much (compared to rain water that they thrive upon).


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I am experimenting on fertilizing my EarthTainer, based on observations of root behavior seen in the plants propagated by a local nursery. He makes and sells a lot of four inch perennials, each one fertilized by a pocket of time release fertilizer about a half teaspoon, deep in the corner of the pot. Most of the root growth goes over to that corner of the pot. In my EarthTainer I have made a similar pocket close to each end, intending to direct the root growth. When I remove the plants at season end I will post the results. Al


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Float valve source for eastern US

Bencjedi,

I purchased my floats valves from a place very close to you (Ohio). The price is a little cheaper but they make it up in shipping. They charge $2 shipping per valve regardless of how many you buy.


http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/item.aspx?itemid=23623&catid=569

Here is a link that might be useful: US Plastic


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Thank you Ron for your Earthtainer design. I am a huge fan of square foot gardening, but am trying 3 ET's this year as an experiment (1 Tomato, 1 corn, 1 squash/zucchini).

Two questions:
1. In the contruction guide, there is no mention of cutting the slits in the aeration bench corners to allow the slip joint (as described in your construction video on tomatofest). Is this still recommended?

2. Extensive Googling shows that the Earthbox AWS seems to be out of stock, with no timeframe for availability. So the float valve solution seems to be the only available solution to those of us starting this season. First, do you know of a source for these? If not, I am willing to take pics of silentway's installation technique within the next week. Are there any suggestions or mods before I do this? Is 2" the desired water height - why not set it to the overflow height? Can I get these valves at the BORG as evap cooler valves, or do I need to order these from USPlastics or the valveshop as linked above?

Thanks again,
Randy


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Randy,

The EarthTainer II improved design now uses a shorter Aeration Bench and I found it was not necessary to cut the slits now, as it seats well as is (saved you a step!!).

The AWS is out of stock, as you noted. Silent's mini float valve approach will work quite well. 2 inch depth is ideal as if you made it too high and the 'Tainers were tilted, water could continuously run out the downhill overflow hole which would not be a good thing. You just need to keep the potting mix in the wicking basket saturated, and 2 inches of water depth is plenty.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Raybo,

Sorry I butchered your name!

I just completed my first one, and I have a (stupid) question. Is the fill tube supposed to sit on top of the toggle bolt?

I centered both on the short end, and as a result, the toggle bolt is directly below the fill tube hole, and the tube can only drop about 1" down into the hole before it hits the toggle bolt.

I am thinking of waiting on the auto fill, to see if the AWS will come back in stock. In the meantime I am going to hook the fill tube up with a drip emitter from my irrigation system, and as they draw more water, I'll add more emitters. I think I will drill a hole in the top of the fill tube, so I can zip tie my dripper line into the tube.

Thanks!
Randy


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

okay... I'm an idiot. In case other idiots build this in the future, you might want to stress in step 15, that this is the mark on the long side of the container. I started this a week ago, and had forgotten which mark was which, and thus toggle bolted the short end.

-Randy


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I'm in the process of making about 6 31 gallon Earthtainers and about 10 18 gallon ones of the same design. The 31 gallon ones will be for tomatoes and the 18 gallon ones will be for other crops. I had great luck last year with 18 gallon ones with cucumbers and other vegetables and since I have an abundance of 18-gal containers right now (bought them on a great sale last fall) I'm going to use them for non-tomatoes. Anyway, the big question I have is can I still use the larger pond baskets (9x9x5) with just a smaller cutout? I have 25 of those pond baskets and am willing to buy smaller ones if needed (found those 25 for a GREAT price on ebay so it wouldn't be too painful to use something else). Would appreciate any/all help available! I'm in the middle of the cutting and will build next weekend. (We're in South Dakota so it's just now good planting time...)
Thanks!
Rebecca


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Rebecca,

Please do not use the large 9"x9" wicking baskets - they are much too large for BOTH the 31 and 18 gallon SWCs. Be sure to follow the latest EarthTainer Guide for the 31 gallon units. For the 18 gallon units, I would recommend a smaller Deli container of perhaps 3 inches in diameter. Drill a dozen holes in it to let in water from the reservoir. Email me if you want more specifics.

Raybo

Here is a link that might be useful: EarthTainer Guide Rev 2.0


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Fri, May 14, 10 at 23:51

daveinco you might want to check your rebate status on the Jobe's fertilizer. Ace Hardware rejected 4 of the 7 bags of all 3 varieties of this fertilizer I bought. I called them up today and the first level rep will insist on the 3 bag limit, so I had to ask for his supervisor who agreed that EACH type is limited to 3 bags each, so he cut me a special check for the 4 bags that were denied for exceeding the limit. He said the way the rebate form is in their system that it only accommodates 3 rebates in the single grouping and doesn't account for 3 varieties for a maximum of 9 rebates. He had no problem setting up a second rebate in the system to account for the 4 bags. Just thought I would let you know since you bought this fertilizer and tipped me off to the sale in the first place. Thanks

Oh yeah I mixed this 50% with OLD Espoma Tomato-Tone and 1 cup of worm casts and compared to the Espoma Old+New+Worm ferts in Earthtainers the ones using the Jobe's fertilizer are growing much more vigorously. Maybe the mycorrhiza is more active in the Jobe's and loving the worm casts?

Ben


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I wonder how the EarthTainer would work for a banana plant...I was thinking you could put a soil heating cable into it so you can plug it in during the the winter. I might give it a shot


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

You will need to research the proper grow media, pH, and moisture level ideal for a banana plant, but there is no fundamental reason that it should not work - - in fact, I'll bet you get great results!

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

I'm sorry if this has been asked before -

First - Raybo - ThankYou - I'm looking forward to trying these things out!

OK - Questions - it would be nice in the guide if you put a pic or 2 of what you use to cut the 4" pipe. Sawzall? Will a jigsaw work with pilot hole?

Fertilizer strips. THe boxes of fertilizer I'm looking at are Tomato fertilizer from CIL. Would this work? How do I know if it's slow release - it says that nowhere on the box.

Other brands that might work? Does it have to say Tomato fertilizer on it or just get the Ratios correct?

Linked.

Thanks guys!

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Fertilizer.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

jonny,

To cut the 4 inch diameter support pieces, I drill a pilot hole, then use a sabre-saw to cut it.

The CIL fertilizer should work well. Nothing of a specific requirement other than it should be oriented to Vegetable production.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Thank You Raybo! I bought some RubberMaids, Also have a variety of other containers I might try to setup in a EarthTainer / SWC format - Have you experiemented with other containers / sizes?

Your RubberMaid with 6 pepper plants in it - Did you feel there was enough space in there? Better with 4?

Thanks! Reading through all these threads - you're an AMAZING asset to ANY forum / community and seem like a great guy!


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

jonny,

Here are 6 Bell Pepper plants in the 31 gallon EarthTainer:

Photobucket

I am working on a design of an 18 gallon INDOOR EarthTainer that will not leak water. Stay tuned.....

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Found the Earthtainer design a couple of months ago, have made 2, and can't wait for the 2011 planting season.

I made one design change. I couldnt cut the 4" support pipe straight and didn't like the foam core floating around in the water. Found that "T" connectors for 1 1/4 PVC are 4 1/4" tall. So joined two into an "H", then joined another two, and then zip tied them together so there are four columns per support. They cover about as much area as the 4" round.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Johan,

Sounds like your mod will work just fine.

Next Winter, you may want to consider building a few InnTainers to grow tomatoes inside:

Photobucket

Leak-proof water level indicator system:

Photobucket

Racked up:

Photobucket

Photobucket

And with the HPS Lighting system operational:

Photobucket

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Are you out there, Bencjedi? Would love to hear a report on how your worm cast fertilization observations turned out. I'm kind of assuming that your worm castings included little worms and eggs, right?

If we use 'soil' rather than 'mix', it gets too heavy because there are no worms for aeration. The 'mix' to me means dead soil, and not best for the plants to thrive. I'm following with interest the Australian 'wicking worm beds' where a worm feeding station is incorporated into the planter. You can check it out at http://www.easygrowvegetables.com/html/easygrow.html I sure would love to have some of you folks try the worm stations in your EarthTainer systems and let us know how it affected plant growth.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 7, 11 at 17:00

The worm castings made for very strong seedlings, but then like the previous year my plants fell victim to fungal issues despite making sure I had a 3:2:1 mix in each ET. We had a very rainy spring last year. I am thinking of adding more perlite to the soil mix because I didn't start out with pre-packaged Miracle Gro mix as my base.. I had made my own with peat, vermiculite and perlite. Maybe my mix is light on the perlite and is too wet, is my thought..

I did only have a couple worms total from all 5 ETs when I cleaned them out in the fall. I guess I was thorough picking out the eggs when I harvested the castings.


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Ben,

I think your combo mix is too wet with the Vermiculite, and no bark fines. I would really suggest you consider the 3:2:1 combo Mix using decorative groundcover bark instead.

Raybo


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 9, 11 at 12:17

Oh yeah Ray, I added the bark fines last year in the 3:2:1 mix (how could I forget all the screening of bark fines?). I still think it is too wet because of the base soil mix I made originally two years ago ('Pro Mix' brand approximation, which I forget what it was now). You're probably right about the vermiculite nonetheless. I don't know how much perlite I should add in to try to improve the situation. I am thinking I take the existing mix and do it in a 5:1 ratio to more perlite. What do you think?


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RE: Rev 2.0 of the EarthTainer Construction Guide Now Posted

Ben,

I would do a "test" in trying to find the optimal Mix-to-Perlite ratio. While too much Perlite will never bite you, if you add in too much, wicking may be negatively impacted. You want a well drained Combo Mix that will allow plenty of aeration for the root system.

Raybo


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