Monday, September 28, 2009
Tomatoes and the EarthBox
Here we are at Day 18 ... The seedlings are spending most of the day outside now, in full sun. I'm watering every morning, with a liquid fertilizer (I'm using Fox Farm Grow Big). I've had a bit of stretching with some of the varieties. Truthfully, I'm a little mystified by it ... they've been getting good light since they sprouted, and it's only a few of the varieties. In the picture, you can see the thin bamboo skewers I'm using to help them stay upright.
So, back the GTP (or Grand Tomato Plan). My final growing method this year will be with an EarthBox. I know lots of people who are near fanatics about EarthBoxes, and I think they're a great way to get started vegetable gardening in containers. EarthBoxes are self-watering and self-feeding container systems, large enough to grow two tomato plants. The basic EarthBox costs about $30, not including shipping. If you want to purchase the complete package (including soil and amendments), the cost increases to between $55 and $60. Finally, the company sells a staking system that is designed to use with the box and costs about $40 in all (including casters). You can, however, make your own staking system if you're a little bit handy.
Setting up and maintaining an EarthBox is easy: it's a two-layered system with the growing media suspended over a water reservoir. The soil wicks water up from the reservoir as needed, and a plastic cover over the top of the container prevents evaporation. You add granular fertilizer and dolomite to the soil when you assemble the box, and the movement of water through the soil slowly dissolves the nutrients so you only have to feed your plants that one time. Once the box is assembled, you simply add water to keep the water reservoir full. Easy-peasy.
So that's it ... in-ground, containers, and the EarthBox. The final piece of preparation involves some kind of staking system. Indeterminate tomatoes need to be staked up as they grow. The first time I tried to grow tomatoes here, I used the standard, store-bought tomato cage. It was a disaster. My vines outgrew the flimsy cage long before the first flower, and they ended up laying on the ground and rotting. You'll need something more substantial than that.
Up next: My non-patented tomato staking system.