Before I Had Dirt, I Had EarthBoxes!

When I tell the tale of my evolution into a suburban farmer, I always come back to that first “I can do this” moment.  That moment came for me one afternoon a few years ago when I was out in the backyard harvesting bucket loads of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Not from the ground.

Earthbox Peppers

But from the collection of EarthBoxes I had set up and placed in various sunny locations throughout our North Texas suburban backyard.

I was tired of spending high dollars for low quality produce in the stores, and had invested in several EarthBox planting systems to try and grow my own vegetables.

And oh, did they produce.

And oh, were they easy.

What is an EarthBox?

An EarthBox planting system comes with a plastic, rectangular container measuring 29″(l) x 14″(w) x 11″(h).  But this isn’t basic container gardening.

An EarthBox system also comes with:

  • An aeration screen that is placed in the container, creating a 3 gallon water reservoir at the bottom
  • A plastic insertable tube enabling the easy filling of that water reservoir
  • Plastic mulch covers to eliminate weeding
  • Organic fertilizer to layer into your planting medium

All you need to provide is the planting medium.  Any type of potting soil mix will do.

The simple steps to prepare your EarthBox?

  1. Insert aeration screen in container (it serves as a buffer between the soil and the water reservoir).
  2. Insert watering tube (allows filling the reservoir via hose or watering can).
  3. Pour soil mix into container to top.
  4. Use fingers to dig trench lengthwise in soil mix (approximately 3-4 inches deep).
  5. Pour supplied fertilizer in trench and cover with soil.
  6. Place plastic mulch cover over top of container.
  7. Fill reservoir through water tube (there’s a drainage hole at bottom, so you can’t overfill).

Voila!  You’re ready to plant.  There are tips included with the EarthBox to ensure that the water supply permeates the container soil appropriately.  But it’s all really straightforward and easy to implement.

EarthBox Wall

Now, one of the downsides of the EarthBox, and one of the drivers that led me to developing the Bell Back 400, is that it supports growing seedlings. Not seeds, but sprouted plants.  You have choices here.  You can sprout your own seedlings under lights, in a seedling starter or in any other number of ways.

Or you can just run to your local nursery and pick up ready-to-plant vegetable seedlings.  And as this was before I got into grow lights and Winter seed starter programs, that’s exactly what I did.

Want to know how much effort and time it takes to grow a vegetable seedling in an EarthBox?  Here are the tasks:

  1. Buy seedling (depending on the type of veggie, you can fit anywhere from 2 to 6 plants in a single EarthBox).
  2. Poke hole in mulch cover.
  3. Plant seedling through the hole into the EarthBox soil.
  4. Check water every 2-3 days and fill reservoir when needed.
  5. Stake plants as they grow, if needed (peppers, tomatoes, etc will require support).
  6. Pick fresh produce for the next several months.

No weeding.  Minimal pest control due to covered soil.  Consistent water supply that is easily replenished.

Quite frankly, my EarthBoxes spoiled me.

That “I can do this” moment I alluded to earlier?  It led me to taking the next step of converting a sizable chunk of our yard from lawn and ornamental plants into organic edible garden plots.  After harvesting my own EarthBox grown vegetables and tasting the difference, I wanted to expand into growing seeds and building up my own organic garden plots.  And it’s been a fun adventure.

But EarthBoxing is so much easier than farming.  And for anyone with limited space or the lack of desire to take on dirt management, I’d highly recommend the EarthBox as a way to grow your own vegetables.

You can find EarthBoxes in most major nurseries or box stores.  To learn more, check the EarthBox site (this is solely a personal recommendation and I have no affiliate relationship with the company).

Have you utilized EarthBoxes in your home garden?

We’d love to hear about your EarthBox successes.   And any tips you would offer to an EarthBox gardener.


Update: 11/2014

If you liked this post, please check out our new edible gardening community:

Farming Suburbia

Whether you are growing tomatoes on your patio or have a backyard full of herbs and produce, you are Farming Suburbia.

FArming Suburbia



  • Michael Duffy

    I built a couple of Earthtainers last winter, but didn’t get a chance to plant in them before we had to move from California. They arrived out of storage a couple of weeks ago, and I’m really looking forward to putting them to use come spring. I did grow some lettuce in a self-watering pot last year and it really did well. Now I have a full North Dallas, south-facing backyard ready to be turned into something functional (over the next few years of course).

    • jdbell60

      Hey Mike!.

      You can plant some great stuff in the Earthtainers, but if you have the opportunity to start building out some plots in the yard, I’d heartily recommend it. How’s the soil up there in McKinney?

      If you need any help with the soil or suggestions on planting, let me know.