Ultimate Vegetable "EarthBox" For CHEAP!! :) TeraHydro Boxes (aka TetraHydro Box) DIY HOMEMADE

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ATTN! If you like this guide please rate it with a 1-5 star rating to the right of this text and leave comments with constructive criticism :) Thanks :)

This is a guide to building a 2 different great "EarthBox" systems for next to nothing in relation to the $50 commercial version. The smaller is a more experimental idea and may just be TOO small... the larger will work as well or better than the commercial counterpart. This instructable will cost you about $10 for EVERYTHING for the smaller and about $15 for the larger... I recommend building 2 of which ever you chose to bring down cost... or build 2 of each like i did :)

EarthBox is a commercial version of a "self contained gardening systems". From here on out i will call mine TeraHydro Boxes... lol... my own brand... lol

TeraHydro Box explains exactly what it is tho... it is basically a hydro system for growing plants that also incorporates a small amount of dirt for plant stability and fertilizer delivery. Further explanation of the science is in the first step of this project.

The advantages of growing plants in a TeraHydro Box are abundant.
-A place to grow for those without "real dirt" aka large yards
-Requires much less space
-Saves huge amounts of water
-Easy to keep plants well watered
-Almost maintenance free all season after planting
-Huge crop yields
-Easy to grow organic or "regular"

Update!!  BOTH the small and large TeraHydro Boxes worked excellent.  The Large TeraHydro Box worked much better than the original Earth Box even!! I harvested gallons and gallons of salsa. Way to much in fact, haha...  While I still recommend 6 tomato plants for the large THB, 2 would be better for the small one.  Six plants was just to much vegetation for such a small area and the plant were a little small from not getting enough light. Check my account soon for more garden projects in 2010!  :)

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shuneycutt6 days ago
Any particular reason you couldn't use the lid of the containers with holes drilled in them for the plants to make it look better?
STEVEN36 months ago

I went to walmart I found tge 18 gal tote for 5.47

I can not find the insert

The one they had was a little different, about $3-4

Also did you think of using the top of the tote and cutting it to fit and use that as the insert



buteman10 months ago

I think building lime is calcium oxide whereas garden lime is calcium hydroxide.

Adding lime does increase the pH which means the soil becomes less acidic. pH range is 0 to 14 with 0 being very acidic and 14 very alkaline. 7 is neutral - neither acidic or alkaline, If I remember correctly most plants prefer the pH around 6 to 7.5 although there are differences between what each really loves.

Rich_Limburger10 months ago

ATTN? ow I see another way to write attention nm then clear instructable, i'm gonna try and make one with Ikea stuff

bikeboy4 years ago
Very inspiring instructable!
As a way to prevent the dirt from dropping through the reservoir holes when filling up the box, you could cover the grate with non bleached household paper. Once the dirt is thoroughly soaked, the paper will quickly disingrate and allow root propagation.

When I put together my indoor pots, I use coffee filters on the bottom to keep the dirt from washing out the bottom hole. They don't disintergrate like paper and last for years. I think a layer of unbleached filters would work better and last longer than paper towels or any other paper.

plain (non-glossy) newsprint should also work since the inks are soy based.
petercd made it!1 year ago

I used someone else's idea of the pvc tubes as stilts and cut the lid to retain the outer section as a hold down for a plastic liner, when I find one, then I drilled the lid and laid some paper towel on top to stop the earth from falling through the holes. I followed the Earthbox method of 2 earth riser wicks in the corners and a row of fertiliser under the mound in the middle which also acts as a watershed. I figured a rubber car mat would be better than nothing in the meantime, I have 3 tomatoes in the front getting sun and 3 green peppers at the back, apparently they make good companions. Nice 'ible.

earthbox 1.JPGearthbox 2.JPGearthbox 3.JPGearthbox 5.JPG
doodadica1 year ago
Great instructable. Thanks. I'm new to gardening, but I'm wondering what you (or others) would think of using a layer of pumice for the reservoir in the bottom instead of a big open space.
Podsixia3 years ago
Hey, so I'm a complete gardening noob, and I'm not sure if this will work on my balcony. We're on the 2nd floor, with a 3rd floor balcony above us, so I don't think we get much sunlight there.

For this set up, what would you say would be the minimum required amount of sunlight per day? Thanks,
It doesn't matter how you grow a plant, the amount of sun it needs is the same.
grrrlgeek1 year ago
I don't know if you check these messages anymore, but increasing pH is decreasing acidity and increasing alkalinity. To increase acidity, you would decrease pH.
Cherisse231 year ago
Made 2 of these boxes today. The drill bit we used was 7/8", so a bit bigger then yours.I hope that doesn't let in to much dirt.

We used one box for herbs (basil, chive, cilantro, rosemary) and the other for veggies (peppers, carrots and cucumbers). Thanks for posting the instructions!

One question. In the begining, when the roots are still making their way down to the water, do we need to water from the top? I'm worried about things drying out.
JMH4073 years ago
I'm concerned about the black trash bag covering. I live in FL and wonder if that would hold too much heat in and cook the plants?
DIY-Guy JMH4072 years ago
4 words. "White garbage bag coverings."
kimbenoit2 years ago
I have made some "similar" grow boxes, but I really like the idea of a large dish drainer to support the soil. I was using pvc pipe sections with two sections filled with soil as large wicks.

I think that a cheap fabric mulch cover would help keep the dirt out of the reservoir, but still allow the water to wick to the soil. I get rolls of the stuff from a dollar store for $5. It's only meant for one season anyway. Good for tops, too.
armbml2 years ago
I cut a 45 degree end on my fill tube instead of a "v" works the same way and I think is easier. Great instructions and comments. i have only been EBing in FL for 2 seasons (1 year) I have found this forum very informitive. Thanks brian.
rjlewis742 years ago
This is very cool. After i found this instructable I started constructing mine last night with a couple variations. Scavanged the garage and reused materials i already had on hand. Only had to go pick up the plants and potting soil.
Two questions..
1) Does this system work well with starting from seed? ie, could you leave it open and sow seed in there and thin and transfer? Or only with small established plants?

2) if using a pre used bin, how should one clean it to prep it? Pretty sure it has only been used for yard work, But it is pretty dusty and dirty.

BTW you are now my new favorite person. I am going to make 2 a week until I can do my whole yard in these... Well maybe not the whole yard. But definitely the back patio.
1) You can grow from seed (or I should say seeds will grow) but beware that if heavy rainfall is likely you will want protection from this as it works against the purpose of the 'TetraHydro Box' and could mess up the fertilizer also getting the bag over the top without damaging the plants may be a challenge, but I would suggest giving it a try and if it doesn’t work then you know :) or even better make two and the first can be with seeds the second with established plant and see what works best.

2) I would try to use only water to wash the bin starting with boiling water to kill anything that might harm your plants, then give it a good scrub with just warm clean water and finally when it looks clean a final rinse with boiling water. There may be some plant safe products out there you can buy but boiling water will do the job just as well.

Have fun and post some picture when you get going let us all see how you are doing.
Also I forgot to mention that strong wind could effect plants that are not strong enough so do take that into account.
This may be a dumb question, but its the one thing that has kept me from trying this for several years. What do you do with these boxes in the winter? How do you start them again in the spring?
porpor12343 years ago
Great instructable, Brian, for someone not very strong or handy. Did you use anything to support your tomato plants? When I plant in my garden, the wire cages don't hold them up and the location doesn't get enough sun so I get about 1 tomato per plant!! :-(
This is a great innovation and Instructable! I've been playing with container gardens for a year or so. Have not come up with a satisfactory container garden. I have several of the 18 gallon tubs like you show in this instructable.
Going to make several of these right away.
I do have a question tho. What is the purpose of the 1" pvc in the corner. Would you use it to replenish the nutrient rich water?
Also I am reluctant to drill a hole for drainage, unless I plumb the drain line to recycle the spilled nutrients.
ok so I'm ready to try, this looks awesome for my patio...but I don't do commercial fertilizers...I have a worm box and a very THICK layer of castings, but can I just use worm tea for the fertilizer strip? or even a strip of just castings? Do you keep adding to the fertilizer strip or is that just in the intial planting? thank you!!!!!
halindrome3 years ago
In one of your replies you mentioned that the airspace above the reservoir is critical. This is going to sound stupid, but... if there is airspace between the water and the bottom of the soil area, how does the water wick up into the soil?
I live in the south (SoFLA) and it gets hot here. Won't that black plastic promote heat buildup? Is it ok if it does?
Brian - you have created a monster!! lol - i have been making these things for a couple weeks now and i am hooked!! i have made three "large" and three "small" and i have materials to make one more small and three more large ... I am making four "medium" ones in pink for my daughter (5 yrs) and 3 of her friends ... As my veggies get close to needing to transplant from their starter places i move them over and i have been having an absolute blast ... I reviewed several sets of instructions before diving in and yours was the easiest to implement and also follow. Great job and thank you for sharing this with me!! :) ~ Michelle
penandsword4 years ago
This is a great instructable! I think I'm going to start my own per your instructions this weekend.

A question, though...When you say 'add the plants', how big are the plants you are using? Seeds, little sprouts, or the baby-sized plants like you get in a pot from Home Depot?
CharlesP304 years ago
Excellent tutorial! I built a similar version of these last year and they Worked great. I used 5 gallon buckets instead of Rubbermaid Containers, but the design was the same. Great Instruct-able!
Toulouse5 years ago
I have been trying to figure out how i would try some semi-hydroponics and found your instructable! thanks man! I'm gonna do this with more emphasis on roots reaching water for some habanero peppers i have growing. I wanna try to get some really potent habanero's. Great instructable, great idea!
brian3140 (author)  Toulouse4 years ago
I hope you did in fact try this as you will yield amazing results in your endeavor lol
brian3140 (author)  Toulouse5 years ago
from my own observations it seems that habanero's roots are not very long... idk if that is always true or just my observation, but i would try very shallow dirt for what you are talking about. maybe 4 inches? idk... lol
ezermester5 years ago
This planter looks great and I am trying to decide what I want to do.  I have two questions about the Earth box- or any home made version. 

How often do you water them? Does it really need to be filled every day as the earth box instructions say? I though the point of having a "self-watering" system is not having to water all the time.

Is it bad to use soil based mix? Square foot gardening recommends 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, but earth box says no compost and 75-80% peat. Could I use something in between these two recipes? I was hoping to take advantage of the town's free compost, and also rather not use that much peat as it is not renewable. I know I could use coir but not sure if there is a local source and the shipping is expensive for it.

brian3140 (author)  ezermester4 years ago
Yes it should be watered every day or every other day depending on how fast it is emptying. The reservoir should never be dry and always have some water at least.

In regards to your soil question... There needs to be better soil options, yes.
I will be working on a new recipe for the spring of 2011. I am growing organically now and would like the still use my boxes. The organic potting mix and organic dry all purpose fertilizers are an option, but would cost over $20 a box and not an option for me. The reason earth box tells you not to use compost is because it makes to dense of a soil. this system only works with "light" dirt, lots of airspace, and well draining. Compost sops up and holds moisture. So there is my challenge, but I promise I will have a solution for 2011.
I am guessing that 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite would work, but would also be expensive. And... peat is not renewable, you are right, however there are alternatives to peat available such as composted tree barks or other regionally available options. Google some :)
Lazooka4 years ago
Awesome Idea!
brian3140 (author)  Lazooka4 years ago
chefmichel4 years ago
How much space would you recommend between the basket and the sides of the container ?
What would you consider as a "too small basket"?
Very good and clear 'ible'
Keep updating please.
brian3140 (author)  chefmichel4 years ago
i'll be working an an organic update this spring :) 2011

In the large boxes there is a variable amount of dirt space from approximately 1 inch all the way to 3 inches as you reach the top of the baskets. That seems to work well and leaves plenty of room for a large reservoir. Big baskets are good for the same reason. Large reservoir. I wouldn't use any smaller baskets than I did for the large box, and while the small box works it seems less worth the effort.
chastidyi4 years ago
I used mushroom compost instead... 40 bucks for a truck full and it filled six and part of a flower bed. It's working wonderfully. I also planted more in the space, and they are still doing great.
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