The Bottom Line
Earthboxes are amazing for vegetable container gardening. They live up to their hype.
- More productive than conventional container gardening
- Easy to set up and use
- Great design
- Environmentally friendly
- Organic "replant kit," is expensive
- Large self-watering container for growing vegetables and herbs
- Earthbox dimensions: 29"L x 14"W x 11"H
- Holds up to three gallons of water in reservoir
- Holds two cubic feet of potting soil
- Made of food-safe, UV stabilized, re-cyclable plastic
- Available with organic or conventional fertilizer
- Allows plants to get a continuous and even supply of water
- After initial fertilizer application, no additional food is needed (though additional calcium may be needed to cure blossom end rot)
- Soil cover prevents over-watering of plants
The Earthbox is a large self-watering container garden that even the least attentive gardener can use with success. It is my go-to gift for friends who are desperate to grow vegetables in pots, but have neither the time nor the patience to succeed with conventional container gardens. I also know many extremely accomplished gardeners who swear by Earthboxes.
When I saw ads for the Earthbox, I was extremely skeptical about their claims. Lots of garden products promise, “BIGGER, EASIER, FOOLPROOF…” and most of the time it’s snake oil and not worth the money.
However, and this is a substantial however, I have been blown away by the results I’ve gotten from my 10 Earthboxes. I have several tomato plants growing in the same area in all different kinds of containers – and my Earthboxes are out-performing them all – by a lot. The manufacturer claims that your output can be double that of conventionally grown vegetables - I would say my results are about that good.
The Earthbox was designed by a professional tomato grower and it took years of refinement and research before it went into production, and it shows. The Earthbox is not only durable - the company has some that have been in use for 15 years - it is also extremely water and fertilizer efficient, making it very environmentally friendly.
The Earthbox system has several advantages over conventional gardening, and one of the most important is that because your soil is covered, it is impossible to over-water your plants - which is probably the single biggest reason most container gardeners fail. It doesn't matter if you have a rainy summer or a dry one, if you consistently fill up the Earthbox reservoir, your plants will get the right amount moisture.
The Earthbox is incredibly simple to assemble – it takes about 15 minutes to put the whole thing together, and planting it is a piece of cake. You can get wheels for your Earthbox, which is a great idea if you want to move it around, because once these boxes are planted and filled with water, they weigh around 80 pounds.
The Earthbox comes with detailed instructions for assembly, including a diagram with suggestions of how many vegetables you should plant per box.
While you can grow almost any plant in an Earthbox, my advice is to follow these instructions closely! While it is tempting to grow more plants than recommended, it really is counter-productive. The Earthbox is based on years of research and if the instructions say to plant only two tomatoes (which they do), you should only plant two tomatoes per box, because the box and fertilizer recommendations were designed to provide nutrition and water for two plants, and those two will get huge and produce like crazy.
There is one caution I would give for Earthbox vegetable container gardening – stay on top of watering. When your vegetables are in full production, they can suck up an amazing amount of water and you will probably have to water every day. If you live somewhere hot, you might have to water even more than once a day.
If you are growing tomatoes or other seeded vegetables, letting the soil get too dry can cause blossom end rot, which I have seen on some tomatoes growing in Earthboxes. If you do see blossom end rot, the Earthbox website suggests, to “mix 1/4 th cup of hydrated lime or pickling lime with one gallon of water and add it to the reservoir the next time you fill your Earthbox. Do this only once and pick off the affected tomatoes...
The Earthbox is sold either as a complete package, which includes the box, an aeration screen, a water-fill tube and two covers (think, giant shower caps), fertilizer and lime. There is also a kit that comes with potting soil, but you can use almost any good quality potting mix. You can also buy just the box, screen, tube and the covers. However, after experimenting, my advice is to buy the kit that comes with the pre-measured fertilizer and lime. When I tried using my own mixture of fertilizer and lime, it was a total fail that resulted in lots of tomatoes with blossom end rot.
The advantages of using Earthboxes are many. Huge vegetable production with very little work, and the ability to grow crops in areas that are dry and where the soil is bad or even non-existent. I have 10 now and am considering adding at least three more next year.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.