Introduction: Earthbox...simple, Low Cost!
This was my first attempt at making an Earthbox. I was watching random videos on youtube when I came across an Earthbox construction. After researching more, I understood that it is a great way to grow plants - faster, water efficient and lesser maintenance. While I had the option to purchase one from the US for around $45, I also found some DIY ones made for much lesser. This motivated me to get busy and make a simple, low cost earthbox.
I won't go over the working principle of the earthbox. There are a number of links that explain how it works!...here's a link to understand the self watering principle, wick etc. --http://parade.antisocialengineering.org/pdf/educat...
Step 1: The Container
To make it really cost effective, I needed to buy the parts cheap and use whatever leftover material I had in my garage. I looked online for storage containers, plastic pots etc. but really couldn't find anything suitable.
Then one fine day I was walking through the Malleswaram market in Bangalore, India (where I live :) ) shopping for grocery and other items, when I chanced upon a street vendor selling buckets and other plastic goods. As luck would have it, he had a yellow plastic waste basket (as seen in image). It was not new (it had scratches on it) and I was able to get it for a bargain. I paid just Rs. 400 (about US $6.0) for it!
The top of the lid was hinged and I couldn't really use it. So I used an electric saw (a hand saw can be used too, if you have the time!) to but away the center portion around the lid, till I was left with the rectangular outline of the lid which I was going to use later.
Step 2: Using Junk/ Scrap for the Other Components
Over time I have managed to accumulate a fair amount of junk/ scrap in my garage - remnants from some odd construction/ repair jobs done over time. These are the items I found and used to complete building my earthbox
- I found a piece of steel wire (about 20 inches long I think). This was excess from a steel wire roll used to make a clothesline at home. The piece was bent and I spent about 15 minutes straightening it out as much as I could with a pair of pliers
- I found a 1 inch PVC pipe which was unused excess from a plumbing job done a year earlier at home. I cut it down to the right size and made a notch at the end (as seen in image). The pipe length was a little longer than the height of the plastic bin and the notch is to ensure better water flow into the bottom of the earthbox
- I found an old fiberglass sheet lying on the roof of my garage. I guess it was used as garage roofing till we upgraded to a metal roofing many years earlier. I was going to use a piece of this fiberglass sheet to construct the middle layer of the earthbox (which holds the soil, wick etc). NOTE: Cutting fiberglass is tricky...use gloves and eye protection. The fiberglass is small and very sharp, which I learned the hard way! :)
- To construct the wick I was going to use a plastic water bottle. I found this 1 liter bottle lying around and I cut it as shown. I needed the bottom part of the bottle - I cut it to the height I wanted from the bottom of my plastic bin to the middle fiberglass layer
Step 3: Preparing the Middle Layer
The middle layer (as I call it), holds the wick and the soil above it. I wanted it to be placed about halfway through the plastic bin. I drilled 3 holes each along the length of the plastic bin. I took the steel wire I had straightened earlier and cut 3 parts and passed them through the holes in the bin. The ends of the wires were bent, so that they formed a rough frame for the middle layer to sit on (see image)
I placed the pipe for the water (as seen in image) and then took some measurements so that I could accurately cut the fiberglass layer.
I then made holes and cuts in the fiberglass sheet - using a combination of electric drill, electric saw and utility knife to arrive at the shape as shown in the image. It took me a few iterations to get the shape right, so that the wick (bottle) fit snugly through, the water pipe fit correctly and the sheet itself fit into the plastic bin as the middle layer.
Step 4: Placing the Wick
With the middle layer in place, I took the plastic wick and drilled a few holes in the bottom portion (the part that would be in contact with the water in the earthbox).
Next I drilled overflow holes in the sides of the bin, about 3-4 inches from the bottom of the earthbox. The idea was to have 3-4 inches of water height, then about 3-4 inches of air above it, before the middle layer started.
I filled the wick with the potting soil - I just combined vermi-compost and regular red soil (from my garden). The wick was then placed in the middle layer.
Also, about a week or so earlier, I had buried a slice from an overripe tomato in a small pot. This had germinated well and I had some good samples to choose for my earthbox (see image)
Step 5: Completing the Project
So with the wick in place, I topped the box off with the potting soil I had prepared earlier (I had added water so that the soil was moist). I made a small channel in the top to add some fertilizer (lying around in the garage) and covered it with soil. I found a green plastic carry bag lying around which I cut up and used to cover the top of the earthbox. I then took the rim of the lid (I had cut this out earlier) and used that to hold the plastic sheet in place (see image). I made 4 cuts in the plastic sheet and planted 4 tomato saplings (I had to wiggle the sapling carefully through the small cutouts in the plastic sheet and plant them - couldn't figure out an easier way of doing it)
The plastic sheet prevents excess evaporation and also prevents weeds from growing in the earthbox. Well all that was left to do was to fill water through the pipe till it came out from the overflow hole in the plastic bin.
TIP: Remember the top portion of the plastic bottle that was cut away while making the wick? Without the small plastic lid, that top portion can be used as a funnel to fill water in the pipe :)
Well so my earthbox was ready and now the saplings could grow on their own with very low maintenance from my side. It cost me only INR 400 (US $6.0) and I cleared some junk from my garage!!!
I have been observing the plants and they seem to be growing pretty well - the sapling are actually growing much faster than the ones I had planted directly into the soil in my garden.
I will wait for some more time and then update this post with some photos of the plants as they grow more.
Step 6: After 3 Months (March, 2016)
Here are some recent photos. I built a bamboo frame around the earthbox and the tomato vines have been growing really well. The weather is much hotter now (35-38 deg C) but I water it just once a week. The yield is just amazing compared to the growing plants in the soil directly.