How to Make an Earth Box!





Introduction: How to Make an Earth Box!

materials: rubbermaid tub; 1/2" pvc pipe approx 18" - 24" long; six plastic flower pots (the kind your plants come in when you buy them) of the same size, dremel or small saw or big scissors, dirt, water, nail or drill, plastic garbage bag, granular fertilizer.

Step 1: Step 1

an earth box is basically a big tub with a water reservoir in the bottom. i used a BIG rubbermaid tub i bought on clearance in january for next to nuthin' at walmart. you'll need six pots or so, the plastic kind plants come in when you buy them, to be the support under the floor of the box. take the lid and trace around the mouth of the pots on opposite diagonal corners. also make a small circle the circumference of the pvc pipe.

Step 2: Step 2

cut out these holes. ALSO, around the inner rim of the lid, cut the lid out so the rail that clips onto the edge of the box remains intact. the center of the lid will act as the floor of the box, resting on top of the pots, holding the dirt. place the center of the lid inside the box on top of the pots. arrange the pots so two of them are situated underneath the large holes. this is also a good time to punch or drill holes in the side, level with the "floor," for drainage. i did approx four holes per side.

Step 3: Step 3

insert pvc pipe! best if it's angled. now time to fill the tub with dirt. first top off the pots that are visible with dirt. these will wic water from the reservoir up into the rest of the tub. continue to fill with dirt, watering it down as you go along so it settles, and fill it TO THE TOP. this is the only time you will water the dirt directly. the rest of the time you will use the pvc pipe to fill the reservoir with water. scoop a shallow trough lengthwise out of the dirt and fill with dry, granular, fertilizer. take your plastic (garbage bag, or landscaping plastic) and cut a rectangle about three inches longer and wider than the top of the tub. lay it over the top of the tub and use the rim of the lid to clip down and hold it in place. you will not remove the plastic again. you cut holes in the plastic to plant your seeds/plants and voila! you done it!

Step 4: Conclusion

these boxes reduce watering needs and can cost you upwards of $60 at a nursery. i'd check them out, tho, the professional ones just to see where they're headed. they use less dirt and water than i did with this tub, but i wanted to plant tomatoes and i wanted them to be happy.



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    Just buy the real thing. People seem to forget that time IS money. Plus I doubt these Rubbermaid type containers will last in the sun like an Earthbox does. Make these two or three times or buy the real ones? No brainer

    5 replies

    I've had mine for well over five years. It pays to get the Rubbermaid containers vs the no name totes as the cheaper totes become brittle in less than 3 years

    I totally agree. When I bought my Earthbox 8 years ago, I think I paid $39.95 plus shipping. These plastic tubs last about 3 years before cracking and then falling apart. I was still working back then so my time was more valuable than the extra I paid for the finished product! My Earthbox looks 95% as good now as it did when I first got it.

    I agree with you. Rubbermaid containers will get brittle rather quickly out of doors.

    My father had many earth grow boxes. When he died in 2006, I got three of his. They still look unweathered. I plan to get more this year, as his are at least 15 years old and doing great! Most plastics don't last long in the sun and we live in the south. The smaller junior size will be easier for me to move.

    And they're not 60 bucks they're less than 30

    Is there no concern about toxins leaching into vegetable plants by using non-food grade plastics? For flowers and things we wouldn't normally eat, fine, but I don't know about growing food in containers that are not food grade plastic. Seems like a bad idea. Thoughts anyone?

    1 reply

    I checked into this before I bought mine and the percentage was so minimal that it wasn't an issue. This whole deal is for people who don't have land available to have a traditional garden. This box provides a contained space so at least you can have a tomato plant or two.

    Great job, It is to build. I built one similar to this about 10 years ago and still going strong. I use it only for tomatoes because they are so good in the wintertime. I added an automatic watering system to mine because I go south every winter and they need water while I am gone. I use indeterminate tomato plants and I change them every 2 or 3 years because the vines get to be close to 15 feet long.

    i'm using sterlite containers, similar to rubbermaid. the growbox which i have 3 of works very good for me. it is 28" X 14" and 12" high, it allows for 8" of dirt which leaves 5" for water. i don't know why everybody else uses less water. seeing as 8" of dirt works in it, i'm only allowing for 8" of dirt in my sterlites which are 24" X 17" and 15" high, which means 7" of water, which means i will be filling them less often. i saw on another persons comment that he used a 1" threaded PVC elbow, drilled a hole and screwed in it, it fit nice, i'll be using a 2" elbow, and a 2" threaded female if needed on the inside, just for the ease in filling. i have one other tote which is a large one and will be doing the same with it. thanks for all the hints people.

    I use screen used for keeping small animals in co screen for stucco for the floor, this will give support and at the same time you get the air/ water flow you need

    good idea with using the pots...the "floor" needs holes drilled in for aeration between the mix and water....and also you dont use dirt in these, you use a soilless medium for it work to properly..i have built one of these using 4" pvc pipes and used the egg crate light panel covers for the aeration screen.....good idea with using the pots..i may try using the lid as an aeration screen on some of the ones i'm making...

    4 replies

    Actually he/she is correct in making this and using soil. It is called an earth box not a hydroponics resovier. I have a huge hydroponics setup in my home as well as a large garden. My hydroponics are all water and nutrient feeders but wanted to do a earth box and this person has done it correctly except like you said the bottom could use some air holes but for you to say yoiu don't use dirt in these is wrong. You may want to do your homework and read about earth box before you say he made it wrong which he did not. Good job on it. I was looking for a much cheaper way to make it then the professional earth box at their website and this will work perfect.

    By the way I suggest you look at the site, it clearly states "bag of organic potting mix". This excludes any soil that has nasties in it. The potting mix is just the matrix that the roots grow and holds the fertilizer stripe and provides water through capillary action. It is potting mix that is sold at the Earth Box Research Station in Ellenton, Florida. I've taken several of their free seminars on Earth Box home gardening. Each time they strongly tell you , "Do not use soil, dirt or anything other than potting mix."

    I would love to see how you did that salvia71. I have made two earth boxes using a similar style to this instructable. The only difference is that I made holes in the floor for aeration. Otherwise I used potting mix etc.. and they work great. I dont compeletely understand your comment, if you could elaborate. :D

    I think the "egg crate light panel " that Salvia71 is using is the suspended ceiling plastic inserts that you put into the grids.

    I would drill holes in the lid/floor and cover it with weed block fabric. Cut the fabric to allow the potting mix to fill the two pots. There are several "secrets" to the EB. One is the water supply below with an air gap between the water and the soil. This allows the water to oxygenate. The next is the two soil columns that wick water up into the potting mix. Potting mix, not soil or dirt or any nutrient containing plant growing matrix. The fertilizer is applied in a stripe or stripes between the plants which allows the plants to take as much as they need. Make the stripe by running a finger through the mix to open a slot, fill with fertilizer and cover with the potting mix(Next growing season remove the old stripe and refill and recover.) The next item is the potting mix mounded up above the rim of the box and covering with the plastic sheeting. This sheds water and prevents the fertilizer from being washed down into the water and concentrating the fertilizer salts. Each of these points are vital to the EB usage...

    2 replies

    Sounds good Bucklipe, thanks. And thanks as well to mnd for the original post. I built mine with a mound as suggested to avoid over-quick use of fertilizer, but did not use weed blocker on the bottom, just stuffed some of the gaps with coffee bean bag burlap. Otherwise I did everything form mnd's original post. That said I wonder about using compost tea in the box: do I need to use a fertilizer row? I'm using potting and planting mix from Costco, do I still need the fertilizer row?

    Thanks for any help. BT

    I know this is almost two years since the original post.

    You did good with the burlap. It's just anything to keep the planting mix out of the water and let roots grow down into the water if they want to. The fertilizer row is essential. It keeps the fertilizer salts from accumulating in the water. The plants will grow "feeder" roots over to the stripe and use what they need. Most of the potting mixes that we buy have a small amount of fertilizer in them. Usually it is insignificant compared to the Force. Oops, sorry my quoter ran amuck. Even with the small amount in the mix put the stripe between the plants and away from the holes the plants grow through. This way any rain won't wash it into the water holding area. As for the compost tea, I would recommend you use it on other planting methods. This procedure has been worked out through trial and error on campus at the University of Gainesville and has been in use in commercial farming as well as home use for 15-20 years. The inventor lives about 15 miles from me. I visit his Earth Box Research Station 2-3 times a year to buy stuff and just to marvel...

    Sounds great & I am seriously considering making a few.
    However, I have a question about the safety of it. We hear so much about how bad the different chemicals in plastics are & left in the sun they leach those chemicals even more, so, it has me wondering about the safety of these earthboxes.