What to put in your Homemade EarthBox(TM)

– Posted in: Mailbag

Shirley Glaudo writes:

I am working on building a homemade earth box. I would appreciate the “recipe”to fill the box.. what kind of soil, how do you determine how many plants and I hear you put fertilizer on top of the soil but what kind – 8-32-16? When and how do you water. I will appreciate all information I can obtain.

I confess I don’t have any experience with these things. I assume you’d treat them like any other container planting. Can anyone offer more specific information?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

debles May 3, 2008, 12:48 pm

We made several homemade earthboxes a few years ago using the tote type containers.
It’s now only 3 years later and I have to disassemble them and toss them.
The material doesn’t hold up well like the earthbox material does.
I’m replacing them with real earthboxes.
However, I spotted a homemade method for growing a single tomato plant that looked like it would hold up longer.
It used 2 of the 5 gal storage buckets, a plastic drinking cup and a tube for aquariums.
The material the food storage buckets are made from is much sturdier than the tote storage containers.
I may eventually add some of those to my container garden.

Carolyn January 7, 2008, 9:38 pm

Thanks for the additional comments. I started gathering my materials Dec 23rd and think I can make boxes for less than $7.00 apiece.

I took my PVC pipe back after reading the research on particles leaching into the soil and roots.

I am going to use rubber hosing. I cannot find another else for sale in Home Depot or Lowes. Any recomendations would be wonderful.

I have 8 organic tomatoe plants to plant in the containers first. Then I have started lots of vegatables from seed. I am a vegaterian and cannot continue to purchase my organic veggies. The best solution is to grow them my self. I am putting my one and one half foot tomatoe plants into containers on 1/9. I will be able to supply my friends and families with good organic produce.

This has been so much fun. I have had to take a hititus from the planting to lay tile and wood throughout my house here in South Florida. Perfect weather for year round gardening. I am so thankful.

Josho January 7, 2008, 3:46 pm


The website’s still up. I had to change the URL (and the content of the website, slightly) to accommodate the fine folks at Earthbox, who sent me a nasty Cease-And-Desist letter telling me I had to delete any references to Earthbox from my website.

The new site is http://www.josho.com/gardening.htm

I hope you find it useful!


Josh Mandel January 6, 2008, 7:55 pm


The website’s still up. I received a nasty “Cease and Desist” letter from the Earthbox people and had to delete all references to Earthboxes from the website (including the word “earthbox,” which was in the link!). The same site is now available at http://www.josho.com/gardening.htm. Let me know if you have any problems accessing it; you can also reach it through the homepage, http://www.josho.com.
Yours truly,
Josh Mandel

Carolyn December 23, 2007, 1:30 pm

Does anyone have the directions for making a homemade Earth Box. The website Homemade EarthBox(TM) does not exist anymore

Ed Warner February 23, 2010, 9:55 am

i Make mine out of 18 gal tote boxes from wal mart and adapt i use potting soil to fill as it is sterile,been growing vegies with them for 3 years now.

Ed Warner October 20, 2010, 11:34 am

I printed a copy of the instructions would be glad to share with you

p. wilson December 5, 2007, 12:42 am

Check your library for this GREAT book.

“Four-season harvest : organic vegetables from your home garden all year around”

by Eliot Coleman ; illustrations by Kathy Bray ; and photographs by Barbara Damrosch.
Coleman, Eliot, 1938-

Lynda Chassey April 8, 2006, 12:04 pm

I bought several of these from Gardener’s Supply (called “self-watering planters”) 5 years ago, when my arthritis got so bad I couldn’t garden in the ground any more. This is what I have discovered about using this type of planter:
1) Good potting soil like Miracle Gro, combined with some ground topsoil, works best. Adding the ground topsoil also adds natural bacteria and small organisms that plants need to thrive year after year. Each year, I have also had to add potting soil to keep the level of soil in the boxes.
2) Any annual will thrive. As for perennials, my daylilies, lavender, and chrysanthemum always come back. I lost most of my bulbs the first year, so now I keep that planter close to the apartment and shelter it from cold winds so that the bulbs don’t freeze. My columbine has been a problem; I think out of the five I originally transplanted to the planter, only one has remained.
3) As for number of plants, I think it depends on the size of the planter and the mature size of the plants. However, I have found that a greater number of mature plants will thrive in a planter than do in the ground.
4) As for watering, I simply stick my finger into the soil at least 2 inches. If that 2nd inch feels dry, then I water.

Judy Miller April 3, 2006, 12:06 pm

Much/most of the answer will depend on siting, size of container & type of plants. All sun=more water, all shade =less; tomatoes = lots of fertilizer, lavender or morning glories need less. The more closely potted (crammed in there!), the more water & fertilizer will be needed.
And the amounts of fertilizer differ by what kind you use; slow release prilled might last 3-6 months; liquid miracle-gro type will need to be used every week or two; granular types by the label; and cottonseed meal/rock phos will be at planting and some supplemental side dressing during the season.

That being said, you could go for the trial approach and for every bushel basket sized amount of soil, add a good double handful of a nice mix of cottonseed meal, kelp, rock phosphorus & greensand & mix in thoroughly before planting and then another double handful later on in the summer.

If you have bears, don’t use the kelp meal.