Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DIY Garden Box (aka EarthBox)

I'm attempting to garden this year. As I may have mentioned before, our yard is watered with reclaimed water. This means that I have to garden on my patio. I tried a few years ago, but I didn't do a good job of watering and fertilizing the plants. It was a total failure. 

At the beginning of March, I attended a Relief Society conference. One of the classes was building a self-contained garden box, the DIY version of the EarthBox brand. I loved it and planted tomatoes, zucchini squash, green onions and peppers right away. At that point, I was totally bitten by the gardening bug and set out to build a couple more boxes. 

I took photos as I went and am going to try to write some instructions. There are plenty of different methods and materials you can use by searching the internet for "DIY EarthBox." 

18 gallon bin & lid (Use a dark color, not clear. Also check the recycling number on the bottom of the tote. Most bins are made of #5 plastic. #1, #2, #4 and #5 are safe to use. #3, #6 and #7 contain BPA that can leach into your food.) 
4 inch wide drainage pipe (It looks like PVC, but has holes in it. You will need a length of 45 inches for each box.) 
PVC pipe (Any width between 3/4in and 1.5in is fine. You need about 27 inches or 4 inches taller than your bin.) 
14 Zip ties 

Box cutter or sharp pocket knife 
Hand/Jig/Table Saw 
Drill with 1/4in bit

Using the box cutter, cut the lid. Mine had a lip around the outside of the lid. I cut just outside of that and it fit perfectly. 

Cut the 4 inch drainage pipe into 9 inch sections. You will need 5 total. Also cut the PVC pipe to about 27 inches. It doesn't have to be exact, but at least 4 inches taller than your box. Also, one end of the PVC pipe needs to be angled. Again, it doesn't have to be perfect, but a 45 degree angle is the goal.

I was making 2 boxes, so I have 10 pieces of drainage pipe and 2 lengths of PVC.  
Mark circles onto the inner piece of the box lid. We want the PVC pipe to go through the lid, but the lid to sit on top of the drainage pipe, so trace the outside of the PVC pipe and the inside the the drainage pipes. The 5 pieces of drainage pipe should be in a pattern like a 5 sided dice. The PVC pipe goes on the bottom between the 2 lower circles.

Cut the top 2 drainage pipe circles and the PVC circle out. Dan used his drimmel tool, but your box cutter will work just fine. Remember to cut inside the drainage pipe circles and outside the PVC pipe circle. These top 2 circles are your soil circles, the 3 that are not cut out are support circles. Drill 1/4in holes at 4 points around your soil circles. Drill 2 pairs of holes for each support circle: one on the inside of the circle, one on the outside. These are the holes through which you will attach the drainage pipe with zip ties.

See the plywood under the lid? That's to protect my patio table. It's a good idea. 

To make sure the soil gets fresh air, drill 1/4 inch holes all of the lid, including inside your support circles.

In 3 of the pipes, drill 2 holes across from each other at the top of the pipe. These are your support pipes. In the other 2 pipes, drill 4 holes. These are your soil pipes. These pipes also need a couple more holes in them to allow lots of water into the soil, so drill a few extra holes in them down the length of the pipe. Attach the pipes to the lid using the zip ties.

I found it easier to loosely attach the pipes until I got both (or all 4 in the case of the soil pipes) in place, then I tightened it. Cut off the excess of the zip ties. 

This is turned around from the previous pictures. Don't let it confuse you.

Set the lid inside of the box.

Drill a hole in the side of the box, just below where the lid sets inside of it. 1/2in drill bits are the right size, but I don't have one so I used 1/4in and it works just fine. You can tell where the lid sets by looking for its shadow or by pressing on the side of the box. This is how you prevent over-watering in your container garden.

Slide the PVC pipe into its hole so that the angled end is down. This helps keep the PVC pipe clear and prevents it from clogging against the bottom of the bin.

That's it as far as the construction of the garden box goes. I'll write another post this week on how I filled my gardening boxes. Does Friday work for you? Read Part 2 here. 

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