The Earthboxes Are Here

by A.J. Coltrane

Continued from here.

Twelve days later and the Earthboxes have arrived. That seems to be about par for the course as far as these guys go and delivery time. (5-7 days to ship, 5 days for shipping.)

Dog toys in the foreground for size reference. I'm reminded of my dad always sticking a ruler next to stuff he'd photograph.
Dog toys in the foreground for size reference. I’m reminded of my dad always sticking a ruler next to stuff he’d photograph.

Of course, that means 24 cubic feet of potting soil to fill them up. 10 of the big bags of the stuff.

It's taller than it looks. I had to make two trips and fill up the back of the car each time.
It’s taller than it looks. I had to make two trips and fill up the back of the car each time.

Right now I’m leaning towards:

3 boxes of tomatoes (6 plants)

2 boxes of assorted peppers (12 plants)

1 box of zucchini (2 plants)

1 box of cucumbers (4 plants)

1 box of lettuces (8 plants. Hopefully something that can be continually harvested all summer.)

4 boxes of herbs (24 total plants. At least 6 basil, 4 parsley, 4 chives.. maybe some beans along the back of the boxes.)

I’ve got the Mother Earth News Almanac off of the bookshelf. (12th printing, March 1977. I paid $1.15 for it used, many years ago.) Maybe I can mix in some companion planting somehow..


9 thoughts on “The Earthboxes Are Here

  1. Just be careful on the tomatoes – if they are too close together, they won’t grow properly and the soil might degrade rather quickly. Based on the size of those boxes, I would say, depending on what type you are planting, you might be better off with one per box.

    For the zucchini, trust me on this – you will only need one plant and you won’t be able to fit 2 in one box anyway. Invest in copper tape too – the slugs love zucchini. I would also make sure that your zucchini are easily accessible – at the first sign of powery mildew, move them far away from everything else or you will lose your entire garden. Same with the cukes. Those two are the first ones to show signs of it. There is an easy remedy though involving soap, but it requires a lot of manual labor.

    Your pepper leanings are ambitious. They don’t grow terribly well here (it just isn’t hot enough).

    If you get leaf lettuces, you should get a 2-3 cuttings this year, depending on the weather. For head lettuces, some will only produce one, some will do 2. I think romaine does two.

    I would recommend kale too – it grows well here and you will get several cuttings from each plant.


  2. Tomatoes — I’ll do small ones at two per box.

    Zucchini — The slugs got them early last year, and the mildew got them late. It was pathetic. I have copper tape. I’ve also seen people put what amounts to a cage under the zucchini to keep the leaves off of the ground. I’ll likely try that too.


  3. To finish the thoughts:

    Peppers — I’m hoping that the spot on the concrete pad at the base of the house proves to be *too* hot, if anything. It’s almost like a parabolic mirror there. We’ll see on these, worst case is that I prioritize something else next year.

    Lettuces — Do leaf lettuces need to be harvested all at once? Or could you say “I want some salad” and go pick off part of the plants? I’m assuming (hoping) it’s the latter.

    Cucumbers — I love cucumbers. Hopefully they cooperate.

    Kale — I wish I liked Kale more than I do. Maybe I just don’t “get it”. I could try one with the lettuces and see how it compares.

    The quantities per box above are all to the Earthbox website recommendations. I’m inclined to start that way. Google “earthbox tomato”, there are some huge plants that look like they’re doing well.

    I’m fully expecting it takes a few seasons to really start to “figure it out”.


  4. The pad might help with the peppers.

    Leaf lettuce can be harvested as needed. You just have to get to it (like head lettuce too) before it goes to seed.

    Cukes grow well here, so that should not be an issue.

    Kale and Chard are wonderful because they are multiple harvest plants and they will actually grow in the winter here.

    The problem with the tomatoes here is similar to peppers, it isn’t hot enough. I suppose if you went with a determinant variety of tomato, it could work with 2 in a box, but the indeterminant plants need more space. I gave my plants 3 feet of space to keep them from growing on top of each other and that worked. Most people don’t give their plants enough room and they don’t produce fruit, which is find if you live in the South, but not so good when you live where summer temps are around 75 degrees.


  5. The right answer then is to try the tomatoes both ways — with 1 per box and 2 per box. If I place them side by side it the results should be pretty clear.


  6. Just came across this post, and it might be too late to add to the discussion, but I’ve successfully grown two indeterminate (cherry) tomato plants in one earthbox. Last year, I grew a Sun Gold and a Sweet Million in one earthbox by following their recommendations on how to plant them. I had to fill the water almost every day since the two plants used up a lot of water. Ended up getting lots of tomatoes though. By the end of August, the plants had grown to about 6-6.5 ft high, and a bit too much for me to manage even with various staking systems. For reference, I live up on Capitol Hill, right outside of downtown Seattle.


  7. @D Pajela

    We’re going to try six different tomato varieties this year, including a Sun Gold. The Sun Gold seemed to have a reputation in the Seattle area as a relatively “no fail” option. I didn’t purchase the earthbox staking system — right now the plan is to use some fencing and make a cage around each box. We’ll see how that works out.

    The tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos will be planted this weekend and I’ll document it with another blog post.

    Thanks for the feedback.


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