How Does an Earth Box Work?

How Does an Earth Box Work? image by Tracy S. Morris

Definition

An Earth Box is a self-contained gardening box that allows plants to remain self-sufficient for long periods of time when the gardener cannot tend them. This makes the Earth Box an ideal choice for gardeners who garden in limited spaces, such as a deck or patio, and for gardeners who suffer from arthritis or other conditions that make weeding and tilling impossible. Commercially sold Earth Boxes contain a reservoir to hold water and may contain a fertilizer strip to feed plants for a season.

Parts

An Earth Box requires several parts. The container must be large enough to support the root system of the plant. A 5-gallon bucket, a plastic storage tub, a plastic gardening pot or even a plastic pet litter container may serve as an Earth Box if you want to make your own. As long as the container may be easily modified, it is suitable for an Earth Box. You will need an aeration screen and supports for the aeration screen. The aeration screen may be made from any flat object that either already contains holes or in which holes can be made. If you're going to use the container as the soil chamber and place it in a second, larger container that will serve as a reservoir, you will want to support the inside container with pieces of 6 inch or larger diameter PVC pipe. The remaining two parts of the Earth box are the fill tube, which may also be made of 3/4-inch PVC pipe, and a mulch cover, such as plastic bags or burlap cloth.

Function

The using only one container, it needs to be divided into two parts, a soil chamber and a water reservoir. These parts are separated by the aeration screen, which resembles a flat colander. The screen, which is supported by footings made of PVC pipe, holds the soil above the water and allows oxygen to get to the roots, which will grow through the holes and into the water, wicking the water from the reservoir into the plant. The gardener keeps the reservoir filled through the fill tube, which is typically a piece of PVC pipe that passes from the reservoir, through the soil chamber and to the surface of the container. The reservoir portion of the container should have an overflow opening that will allow excess water to drain away, preventing the soil chamber from being flooded or saturated. The gardener fills the soil chamber and plants as with any other planter. A mulch barrier is needed to hold in moisture, protect the fertilizer strip (if there is one) from getting wet and prevent weeds from establishing themselves.

Keywords: container gardening, Earth Box gardening, alternative gardens

About this Author

Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.

Photo by: Tracy S. Morris