by Susan Harris
I reported in this blog story the pearls of container gardening wisdom that Gene Sumi conveyed to the Chevy Chase Garden Club recently, but there’s just one more thing. He also told the audience about his LOVE for the container growing system called the EarthBox, a name I’d heard plenty of times but never paid any attention to – until I heard Gene rave about it. He called it “revolutionary” because “it works anywhere!” Even on a roof, even in the desert!
This illustration from the EarthBox website explains how they work.
Apparently with this ingenious contraption you only have to fertilize once, and water significantly less often. And that the plastic across the top of the growing medium prevents splash onto the leaves, which means it prevents disease, while also keeping the soil moist and discouraging weeds. Another advantage is that you can’t overwater with an EarthBox. To water, you fill the 2.2-gallon reservoir at the bottom of the box through a tube jutting up from one corner; water is then wicked up through the soil and into the roots – which uses significantly less water than a conventional garden. Made from recycled plastic, it’s compact and portable. The inventor claims to have harvested 137 pounds of tomatoes from a single box! EarthBoxes are two and a half feet long, 15 inches wide, and a foot tall.
Gene grows tomatoes in EarthBoxes – ‘Jetstar’ cherry tomatoes, which love the heat and did well even last summer. Gene leaves his EarthBox out all winter and says it does fine with that treatment.
EarthBoxes for the Third World
What’s even more impressive is that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has established The Growing Connection to help poor countries grow more food – using the EarthBox. It was chosen because it requires 60% less water than in-ground plants, and because it can be used on top of bad soil. This story has lots more on the UN program.
And the word seems to be spreading. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, heard about them and ordered up 300 EarthBoxes, which were delivered to Google headquarters, where they’re used to grow food for the gourmet meals that Google so famously serves its employees.