Saturday, May 30, 2009

Urban Container Gardening - How to Make your own EarthBox®, A Self-Contained Gardening System - YES YOU CAN!

Trademarked EarthBoxes are self-contained mini gardening systems that people with no yard or with very limited available outdoor space can use to grow vegetables and herbs . Even people with plenty of arable land are using these and similar contained systems because they produce yields more quickly and bountiful than traditional gardening can.

I first heard about them a few months ago listening to a radio interview with Ruth Reichl, who mentioned she uses several of them at her New York City apartment and I was instantly intrigued. For the first time in my long bout of country-girl-stuck-in-a-city-apartment-malaise I became hopeful that I might be able to pull off gardening sans overwhelming city logistics hassles.

Cinching the deal for me was seeing some of these store bought boxes do their thing on a client's rooftop recently. Their boxes, planted not more than a month ago, were bursting with a tangled jungle of vibrant, organic greens and produce fit to feed a hungry family and their friends for an entire summer.

The growing box fattens plants and their yields better than regular containers because it has a self-wicking system that sucks water stored in a reservoir from the bottom of the container up by simple capillary action. You simply keep the reservoir filled and the plants and soil self-regulate the water and nutrient movement. Completing the straightforward system is the tarp cover over the soil, that plants peek out of and that prevents moisture evaporation and soil erosion.

Many people will opt to purchase the original pre-fabricated EarthBoxes for the ease of clicking, ordering, having them delivered to their doorstep. You can find them here: EarthBox Online Store.

But for those of us bent toward do-it-yourself projects and frugality, the self-contained gardening boxes can easily be made at home for a fraction of the cost of the original ones. Here's a link I found to step-by-step illustrated directions for making them: http://www.josho.com/gardening.htm. I looked at several peoples' directions, but found Josh's best.

I've not constructed my earth box yet, but have begun collecting the needed materials. I'll tell you this, finding a pond basket in New York City is not easy. Saving myself a trip to a Flushing, NY store, I found in a Chinatown 99-cent store a plastic colander that will do the job as well. Tomorrow I will go down to the Plant District to find a proper size piece of bamboo piping. I should be able to build it by this coming weekend if all goes well. *I highly recommend reading through all the directions, making sure not to miss Josh's notes at the very end. He learns over time how to improve upon his original design.

Once you've read through the directions, and if you search online for others' enclosed container gardens, you will see there are many ways to improvise the design to achieve the same desired effects--bounteous harvests of organic produce to nourish you and your family.

*Originally written for Nourishing Moms.

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