Saturday, October 10, 2009

Earthbox

Sometimes it's worthwhile having friends, even if they live in New Mexico. Bruce (2009 Triumph Tiger) and Celia wrote to let me know that winter is closing in on Santa Fe and they are putting away their Earthboxes, which is about the time Key West residents start thinking about planting.Bruce told me about these planters he had researched and I was keen to try them. However by the time he was planting his, our growing season was pretty much over as the heat of summer bore down upon us. It is actually possible to grow stuff in summer I think but it will take some more practice with judicious use of shade in the hottest months. My key lime tree did splendidly and we squeezed limes into our drinks all summer long. A couple of weeks ago my wife and I planted some broccoli seeds and bell pepper seeds and we decided it was time to try transplanting them. Into our brand new Earthboxes. The first thing was removing all the labels stuck to the boxes including the extremely difficult to remove label stuck on the screen that fits across the bottom of the box. There is a place in hell for whoever thought to stick an advertising label here:My wife got the hair dryer on it and I peeled with my finger tips and a knife blade and eventually we got almost all of it off. Had someone from Earthbox been on my deck at the time they would have been lucky to have escaped with their scalp. Then I stuck the casters on the bottom so we can roll the planter around at will, and very nicely they work too, especially as tow of them have brakes to prevent ruanways...
We bought the planters from the helpful people around Mile Marker 100 in Key Largo, known as Holiday RV's (305 451-4555) and at around $65 a pop for the organic models we were glad to see they came with all necessary stuff, as we shall see, for a season's planting.

The Earthbox is a clever idea, as it supposedly waters itself from a reservoir in the bottom of the box. The screen keeps the earth from falling into the water and the whole shebang regulates itself thanks to a small hole drilled above the floor. When one pours in too much water the excess flows out here, indicating the reservoir is full. And that is that for watering, the plants absorb as much moisture as they need on their terms .
It seems the plants water themselves thanks to some form of osmosis where the piles of dirt in the corners stay moist in the water reservoir and wick the water up to the roots:All the gardener has to do is keep the reservoir filled using the black tube wedged into one corner. And to start the process fill the bottom of the box with about one and a half watering cans to get the water to flow out of the overflow hole...It's really no hard to assemble the Earth Box as long as you have a couple of gallons of water and one and a half large bags of potting mix (not, for some reason, potting soil). Don't ask me, I just do as I'm told. And there are easy to follow instructions on line at http://www.earthbox.com/
and my wife printed them out so we could follow them step by step the first time out.
With the screen in place and soil in the corners and all nice and wet we simply piled dirt on top of the screen not minding if some fell through into the water below.And then there is a little white packet to open with something called dolomite which gets spread around like snowflakes:It's all part of the Earthbox package and we spread it around, my wife and I before mixing some more dirt on top and moistening it down.
Once the box is full of nicely moistened earth one makes a little mound down the middle and fills it with the contents of the second packet which is fertilizer. The idea is that the fertilizer will propagate itself for the entire growing season and it sits in the middle of the planter where it won't get wet,which means you can't use water soluble fertilizers. Like I said, I prefer using the supplies that come directly from Earthbox on the theory they know what they are doing.
So by this stage we have a plastic Earthbox loaded with water and dirt and half a dozen seedlings planted and ready to go.Here's the other trick part of the Earthbox, not only does it water itself, it also weeds itself. It comes with a plastic cover, white side out for hot climates, summer in Florida or Arizona, say, or black side out for cooler climates. With the cover in place and some dastardly difficult holes to cut for the plants to stick out you have one completed Earthbox planter:The cover keeps the rain off the fertilizer an prevents weeds from growing and with just some water to to fill the reservoir from time to time the plants should grow on their own.Earthbox recommends 6 to 8 hours of sun a day, but I am going to keep the box partly shaded to start with as the sun is hot but so far we seem to have lift off.
We filled two boxes with our first batch of seedlings and I have high hopes for them especially as they should be away from the deprivations of the iguanas which did huge damage to my summer beans, wrecking the bed completely. I hope that up here with some judicious application of anti-iguana repellent on the stairs leading to the deck, my plants will grow in peace. We have three more boxes to fill including one with a trellis supplied by Earthbox to grow some beans. I m looking forward to seeing this work.Here is the completed box en route to it's alloted, partially shaded corner. and not one picture of a Triumph Bonneville included.