First-time Earthbox/City Picker/self-watering planter questions.
March 28, 2013 10:40 AM   Subscribe

With the last frost date in sight, I'm planning to pick up a couple of these Earthbox clones for my deck, and I'm looking for any and all tips to improve the likelihood of success.

From what I've read, it's really important not to crowd plants, so I figure I'll dedicate one to a couple of tomato plants and the other to some kind of leafy green. Can I plant seeds directly in this thing, or should I get little seedlings and transplant them? Should I use the black plastic cover?

In my eagerness, am I starting these things too early? (I'm in Chicagoland.)

posted by ndg to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You already sound like you know more about gardening than I do, but I asked a related question last week and there's an answer partway down about the Earthbox.

I'm planning on doing all my shopping and herbiniating this weekend--still haven't decided on a plan of attack--so I'll be watching this thread with interest!
posted by phunniemee at 10:52 AM on March 28, 2013

Fertilizer! You can use fish emulsion if you don't like chemicals. The leafy greens probably don't need much. But you must fertilize tomatoes if you want them to produce enough to make it worth the effort.
posted by skbw at 11:16 AM on March 28, 2013

For leafy greens, seed directly, and do not use the cover. For tomatoes, buy plants, and use the cover.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:26 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Too early for tomatoes outdoors. Start tomatoes indoors. Transplant them when soil temperatures are at 60 degrees F or they won't grow. Do not fertilize tomatoes with high nitrogen fertilizers- this is a sure way to promote blossom end rot, pests, and other pathogens. I use good soil and never fertilize vegetables unless the plants show a deficiency- so far I've only ever had to supplement with magnesium.

Earth boxes can be very problematic with fertilizer and salt buildup because the water never flushes out. I would suggest that if you cant get a good soil mix containing things like earthworm castings, compost, and guano, you instead mix a bit of slow-release organic fertilizer into the mix. Frankly, unless you are away or forgetful about watering, container plants do best when they can drain readily (I am a professional gardener and landscape architect).
posted by oneirodynia at 11:29 AM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Be selective what sort of fertilizer you use. High nitrogen makes for huge plants, but not necessarily more fruit. Build good roots, and they'll do the rest.

There is no such thing as too much drainage.

You are probably starting the tomatoes way early, but the leafy greens can be sewn directly now. Once the local garden centers* start selling young tomato plants, it's generally safe for you to buy them.

(also, what oneirodynia said)

*not necessarily true of the big home improvement chains
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:31 AM on March 28, 2013

This soil from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply is a good choice, and is not too expensive. It looks like that container holds 2.8 cubic feet if I'm reading the dimensions correctly.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:43 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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