earthbox

Our Earthboxes are Exploding!

We grew a container garden when we lived in Boston in 2010. The first year we planted in garden “buckets”. We didn’t have great success but it was still a lot of fun.

The next year we decided to do earthboxes, because we heard about their amazing yield. I watched tons of you tube videos of people’s gardens and I was blown away.  The boxes aren’t super cheap so there was a significant initial investment, but now we’ve had these boxes for several years and so every year the cost is less and less. I also recently learned that you can reuse the soil for 5-6 years so that also drastically reduces the yearly cost.

With earthboxes, as compared to regular containers, they water from the bottom up. There’s a tube in the corner where you put in the water and the soil soaks it up. That way the nutrition stays in for the plants to utilize. You can see an explanation here. You also have to use a soil with a slightly different composition- you want a large amount of peat moss so that it holds moisture. Near the top of the box there is a layer of dolomite lime to help adjust the ph of the soil and a trough of fertilizer in the center. Instead of buying the earthbox soil packages (which can be very expensive) I found recommended replacements and we bought it all at home depot.

When we landscaped our backyard we put decomposed granite along the side wall (where there is TONS of sunshine) in anticipation of having our earthboxes there.

I’m pretty excited about how it turned out.

This year we planted heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño and bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and edamame.

Our zucchini plants are monsters, they remind me a little of the Little Shop of Horrors.  We’ve already harvested 4 zucchini and Mila is so excited because she LOVES zucchini muffins.

When we finished, we still had one earthbox unplanted, so I decided to add a lettuce box. I couldn’t find any lettuce already started at the nursery so I bought some packages of seeds and started them in the jiffy peat pots.

I couldn’t find our old heating mat so unfortunately I had to buy a new one. But they sprouted and are now out in their new home!

I forgot how much fun it is to grow a garden! Can’t wait to show you how this garden progresses and update you on the yield!

-erica

One Lonely Jar of Salsa.

My failure with pickles wasn’t enough to deter me from trying to can again. I decided that salsa seemed easier.

This time I decided to go about canning differently. First off, I called my friend Kate to help me. Nothing better than having support when you start to get confused and overwhelmed! And then I re-watched the Lowe’s YouTube video on canning to remind myself of all the different steps (uh, there are a lot).

We have had so many tomatoes in our earthbox garden. We used mostly Roma tomatoes for the salsa, but added a few Jellybean tomatoes as well. The recipe called for 15lbs of tomatoes. I don’t have a scale, but I know we didn’t have 15lbs.

Kate boiled the tomatoes for 30 seconds and then put them into ice cold water to “skin” them. I made a mixture of onions, jalapenos and spices which we cooked on the stove with the diced tomatoes.

I put the lids into the boiling canning water to sterilize them (forgot to do that last time, whoops!) and then took them out with the awesome magnetic wand.

Now I understand why you want to use 15lbs of tomatoes. Here is my one, lonely jar of salsa processing in the water bath.

This recipe wasn’t quite spicy enough for me. If anyone has a recipe for CANNED salsa that they love, please share! I won’t give away your family secret!

-erica

Yucky Dill Pickles.

Our earthbox is yielding astronomimical amounts of cucumbers. A slight problem for me because I am allergic to fresh fruits and vegetables. Jake has been putting them on salads, but it’s not possible to eat several in a day. So, I thought it would be brilliant to make pickles. I love dill pickles. Always have. My favorites are Claussen’s refrigerated pickles.

Pickles are a big deal in Minnesota. They always have pickles at the State Fair. This may be since Gedney pickles originated out of Minneapolis (you know you’re singing the song in your head).

Anyways, back to canning. So I decided I was going to make pickles. I went to the local hardware store and bought canning jars, canning salt and a basket to lower the jars in the pot. I wheeled them all home in my tiny grocery cart. That night my friend Carole came over to help me make pickles, but when she got here we realized my pot wasn’t big enough. So back to the hardware store we went. But they closed 10 minutes before we got there, ARGH! So i called my downstairs neighbor to see if they had a pot we could borrow: they were out of town. We called Target, Home Depot, Market Basket…. nobody had canning pots. When we pulled into our driveway, our downstairs neighbors’ housekeeper came running out with a large pot- our neighbors had called him. Saved!

Um. Well. Canning was hard. There were a lot of steps. And we were missing a few ingredients. But in the end we made our pickles. I waited 2 weeks to open the jars to try them, and yuk! They were gross! My friend Taz was over when I opened them. After one bite I said “I can’t eat the rest of this” and she says “Ok, me neither, but I was prepared to eat the whole thing if you were going to”. I’m hoping that canning salsa will be better.

-erica

Lettuce Eat.


We were away for the weekend and our earthboxes EXPLODED.  When I saw them I couldn’t stop laughing. I’ve never seen plants grow so big, so quickly. It seems like it must be a joke. They definitely look like they are on steroids (but they’re not).

So those of you who aren’t familiar with earthboxes let me explain: they are magical boxes that allow your plants to grow super fast and super big.  They are set up so that the dirt is elevated about 2 inches from the bottom of the container which holds water. The dirt then wicks the water up from the bottom. You never water from the top, instead you put the water in a pipe that goes to the bottom of the container. This allows the dirt to never dry up (every time the dirt dries up the plant’s growth is stunted) and also prevents all the nutrients from being washed away (if the water were to drain out).

We made a considerable investment in buying 8 earthboxes this year, but hoping that if we use them year after year we will get our money back 🙂  If not, we’ve had a ton of fun….

Squash.

Zucchini (it’s hard to convey how big they really are).

Cucumbers.

-erica

Urban Gardening with Earthboxes.

It’s gardening time! And they’re growing so fast this year I can literally watch them grow!

Last spring we planted a “container garden” with 13 different pots. We got 4 zucchini and maybe 10 roma tomatoes. The rabbits got our beans. We were pretty proud of our garden until we saw Jake’s sister’s garden of EARTHBOXES. Her jalapeno plants were as tall as I am (and that’s pretty tall). Earthboxes are special because they water plants from the bottom up, so the nutrients don’t get washed away. The plants also don’t get stunted growth from drying out because they are always hydrated.

So, we made a nice large financial investment and someday hope we will break even (we have a lot of pots from last year, if anyone needs pots). This year, we decided to skip the beans, since the rabbits ate them, and grow: zucchini, squash, roma tomatoes, jellybean tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, green and red peppers and lettuce.

We started our seeds (too early) with the jiffy peat pots and a heating mat.

After outgrowing the jiffy pots they graduated to burpee pots under the grow light in our upstairs bathroom. The burpee pots are stinky, so we kept the door closed. There is a skylight in this bathroom and the grow light shone out the window (our neighbors might be wondering what we were up to).

On a warm weekend in April we thought we could move our plants outside so we transferred the squash, zucchini and cucumbers to their earthboxes. But then it got TOO COLD, so we had to build a giant PCV structure with shop lights in our hallway so they could come back inside…

This week it finally got warm in Boston and now we have 8 HAPPY earthboxes lining our driveway. They are growing super fast. We just ordered some calcium nitrate which they recommend putting in the water to prevent bloom end rot (BER).

Our cucumbers.

Our zucchini.

Our squash.

– erica