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Author Topic: What I have learned in my first year with EB...........  (Read 19838 times)
dancing lemons
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Posts: 1002


Richmond VA Zone 7+


« on: October 01, 2007, 01:09:54 AM »

****If you are a new EB gardener this information may not be appropriate for you****

Hello one and all,

2007 was my first year growing in an EB.  I am not new to vegetable gardening just new to EB.  Here is what I learned:

OKRA -- Okra do not like to be crowded in the EB.  I think 2 okra plants are all that should be put in an EB in the same configuration as Tomatoes OR in the middle with 2 fertilizer strips -- 50% down each outside rim.  The auto-water system developed by EB did not give my okra enough water.  When I grew okra in the ground I had plants that were more like large bushes with many many branches and all of the branches would yeild okra.  2 of my monster okra plants struggled as best they could in the EB which had a total of 4 okra plants.  I finally cut the weakest 2 plants out and within 2 weeks the okra took off like rockets producing as many as 8-10 pods per plant per day.  If you are considering okra in an EB do not add the dolomite - okra do not like it.   I had to cut 1 inch off of the clear tubing on my okra box water sensor to keep up with the water demands. 

TOMATOES -- Tomatoes need a second helping of fertilizer.  In my first year I found the tomatoes (indeterminate variety) got a 'second wind' when I bottom fed them with liquid fertilizer.  Tomatoes do not always need the entire bag of dolomite that comes with the EB when you order it new.  If you have an area with LOTS of sun and you are not planning on putting up shade cloth - grow tomato variety with potato leaf - the large leaves will shade your tomatoes and cut down on most sunburn.  Large indeterminate tomato plants will perform better if there is only one in each EB.  You will still get many tomatoes with 2 plants but your plants will be healthier with only one in EB.  IMHO

HERBS -- Do not plant herbs that need full sun in front of Eggplant or Peppers - the eggplant and pepper plants will provide too much shade if your 'full-sun' spot is marginal.  Basil will grow huge plants in an EB.  Do not grow Mint in your EB unless you want ONLY MINT in that EB.

POTTING MIX -- You CAN use potting MIX with fertilizer already mixed in.  You will still need to add the fertilizer strip because potting mixes with fertlizer mixed in have VERY LITTLE fertilizer in there. Add some coir to your potting mix - I added about 30% coir to my second set of EB which are now planted with fall crops.  Coir will help with moisture retention. Add some worm castings to your potting MIX.  Don't have your own earthworms??  Either set up your own worm farm OR purchase some worm castings.  I think that adding organic matter is a MUST not an option because potting mix and chemical fertilizers just will not serve me well.  Yes, I know a gazillion folks have successful EB gardens with just the offical EB kit but here in my neck of the woods - it did not work well.  Once I began to "beef up" my planting media I began to see better results.

FERTILIZER -- Skip the 5-10-10 and the 10-10-10 and use an organic fertilizer.  Even if you are not growing organically the organic fertilizers available will give your plants more vigor and help them fight bugs and disease better.  You will not be immune to bugs and disease but healthy plants fight better.  Try internet searches for better fertilizer if it is not available where you live.  I will be using fertilizer strips AND fish emulsion and liquid seaweed soil drenches on a schedule that I have not yet developed.

PLANTS -- Be really, really careful when purchasing plants to transplant into your EB.  If you are not going to grow your own plants - do not bring trouble into your EB garden with piggyback bugs and disease from store purchased plants.  Look at your plants on top and under bottom of leaves only purchase if they look really healthy.

Would I purchase EarthBox again and grow another vegetable garden in EarthBox??  You bettcha!!!!!!!!!!  I will purchase more EarthBoxes.  I will be doing many things totally different from what the EB directions tell us to do.  I will be making many changes to my fertilizer routine, growing media amendments and pest/disease control.  I will also be changing the number of certain plants.  Heirloom tomatoes will be ONE TO A BOX.  Okra will be only 2 plants per box. 

All of this is of course just what I learned this first year of growing in an EarthBox.

Cheers,
DL



« Last Edit: October 01, 2007, 04:03:27 PM by dancing lemons » Logged
Ratrace142
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Posts: 382

Virginia in Zone 7


« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2007, 07:28:13 PM »

Cheers !!!

Ratrace142
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3RING
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Posts: 116


Bradenton, Florida Zone 9b


« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2007, 08:19:49 PM »

Hi DL!

 I'm going to ask for your official opinion on coir, good or bad.
 With you being the "Mad Scientist" and all, I figure you may have a good idea about it...  Cheesy
 
 
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dancing lemons
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Posts: 1002


Richmond VA Zone 7+


« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2007, 01:49:40 AM »

Hi there 3Ring,

I like coir (coco peat).  I first learned about it right here on this forum.  In my opinion it gives the potting mix a better texture.  It helps your planting medium retain moisture better which is good in the EB.  When I read a potting mix bag and it says chemicals have beed added to retain moisture - I don't like that because I do not know what chemicals were added.  This was my first year with EB so I did not know about mixing my own potting mix.  In 2008 I will mix my version of Donald's potting mix -and- I will know exactly what is in the "dirt" I grow my veggies in.  Coir can also be used in the ground just like peat moss.

Coir is "renewable".  Coir is coconut husk fiber - as long as someone grows coconut there will be coir. 

DL
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3RING
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Posts: 116


Bradenton, Florida Zone 9b


« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2007, 11:46:05 AM »

Thanks DL!

That's all I needed to hear!
I too am trying to break all the "bad chemical habits" I thought were right.
Slowly I'm seeing the error of my ways....thanks to a number of folks here.   Smiley
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John
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Posts: 1333


Zone 5


« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2007, 08:48:49 AM »

3ring,
I agree. I too am becoming more and more reluctant to using chemicals.
Most of the time there are other ways!
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Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist (PCH)
BeckyinTX
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Posts: 3


« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2008, 09:44:30 PM »

DL~

I know this is old but what a wonderful, helpful post!!    Thanks for sharing!
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Donald1800
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Posts: 1543

Fontana, CA Zone 8


« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2008, 02:32:49 PM »

For those of you having difficulty locating my previous posts on my potting mix and fertilizer formulas, here they are again.


Fertilizer:

"Here are my recent soil test results so that you can get a better picture of what is needed for a 2+ cu. ft. planter like the EB.  This is not complicated, but there is some valuable info. and insight into what to expect from fertilizers.

My home made 'Basic' fert. tests N3.8%, P4.2%, K4.0%, and contains:
```1 part Rock Phosphate
```1 part Bat Guano
```2 parts Dried Blood
```5 parts Greensand/Gluconate Potash

My home made potting mix contains NO nutrients of any kind - not even a Ph adjustment of carbonate of any kind, and tests PH 5.5, needing N=100%, P=100%, K=100%.

To 2+ cu. ft. of my home made potting mix, I add:

3C Worm Castings
1/4C 'Basic' Fert.
1/8C each of the following:
```Azomite (trace minerals), Gaia Green (Glacial rock dust containing trace minerals and available calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and micronutrients), K-Mag (Potassium 22%, Magnesium 11%, Sulfur 22%, does not change Ph), Calc-M (calcium 23%, sulfur 18%, does not change Ph).

Addendum: I am now using the above amounts with one (1) cu. ft. of potting mix, or twice the amount for the 2 cu ft. EB.

To adjust Ph to various plant's needs, added:

for Ph 5.0-5.5 (Potatoes) No added carbonates of any kind.
for Ph 6.0 (Strawberries, etc.) 1/8C Oyster Shell OR 1/4C Dolomite Limestone
for Ph 6.5 (Nearly everything else) 1/4C Oyster Shell OR 1/2C Dolomite Limestone

After 'aging' the mixed, fertilized potting mix for two weeks, the soil tested as needing N4%, P4%, K4%, exactly what my 'Basic' fert. provides.  (Note:  No nutrient shortage with the above doubled fert. application) However, I only used 2 cups of the 'Basic' fert. in the strip as my experience tells me that more would only be wasteful.  (Note: Only one (1) Cup needed in center strip)  I may try an experiment next year with a heavy feeder like Tomatoes if I use two EBs, one with 2C fert. and the other with 3C fert. - but now I don't see it being needed.

As you can see, you don't need high fert. numbers OR high quantities to get good crops.  However, I personally see a cautionary note about the amount/quantity of Dolomite Limestone being recommended for EB use.  In the 2+ cu. ft. volume of the EB, I personally have seen 1/2C Dolomite adjust the PH one full number alkaline.  And if people are starting out with potting mix already PH adjusted to ~6.5, then 2C dolomite should take the PH way too alkaline, even for tomatoes.  When you get the Ph over 7.5, you get nutrient lockup, disease and insect intolarance.  Someone else should really look into this, as I think there may be a potential problem here.

Potting Mix:

"I posted info. on my home made potting mix, but here it is:  Premix equal parts Sphagnum and Coconut Husk Peat.  To 7 parts 50/50 peat, add 2 parts Vermiculite, 1 part Perlite and 1 part 4X8AWC Coconut Shell Activitated Carbon (particle size of 1/4" to 1/8", acid washed for Ph neutrality and dust removal).  For the Activated Acid Washed Carbon, check on the net with Pool Filter supply companies.  It is usually available in 50 lb. bags and for about $60.

Addendum: I am now using only one (1) part Vermiculite and 1/2 part Perlite in my current potting mix.

This potting mix has the best texture and "hand" that I have ever felt, and was worth the time and effort put into making it, and it wicks beautifully."

I have not found a product on the market (except perhaps what I remember of the old 'Black Magic' for African Violets) that has this feel and fluffyness.  I highly recommend it to those looking for a home made potting mix.

Donald1800
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kathy
Horticulturalist
The EarthBox
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Posts: 3815


The mountains of PA Zone 5, almost 4.


« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2008, 03:14:40 PM »

Wow  Donald, you just brought up an old memory for me.... the old Black Magic potting soil for violets....many, many  moons ago,  the 60's or 70's I worked for a grower  and that's all we used, and it was fantastically, fluffy and rich. Just by the feel, you know it was good stuff. Well, thanks for the nostalgia. Me, I can't justify the time to make my own potting medium. I would rather buy something. I think our EarthBox system let's you be a little forgiving with the potting medium. In other words it doesn't have to be the world's best potting mix.
      One thing, I will say is the soils vary greatly by region, a bag of Miracle-gro potting mix bought in a  store in Pennsylvania, is alot different then a bag of the same product bought in Oregon. This is just something, I noticed doing a lot of open houses at EarthBox retailers across the country. Maybe when I retire I will be looking up my old forum notes, to look up your potting mix formula.
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kath, gardening is my game,  over 45 years in the business.
David
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Posts: 75

Connecticut Zone 6b


« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2008, 06:08:32 AM »

TOMATOES -- Tomatoes need a second helping of fertilizer.  In my first year I found the tomatoes (indeterminate variety) got a 'second wind' when I bottom fed them with liquid fertilizer . . .

I only have grown peppers (lots of them) in Earthboxes but I do grow 30 or 40 tomato cultivars, over 100 plants, a year in the dirt. Are you sure that "second wind" is not the natural cycle indeterminates, some more than others, have? With Cuostralee for instance (one of my favorites), I get an  early and larger fruit set then, for about 18 days, not much happens. Then fruit set starts again and the second and third flourishes are as large as the first--without any additional fertilizer (I had a 4th flourish last summer and most of the fruit ripened just before the frost). From what I've seen and others have said, one can expect to wait 16 to 24 days between flourishes. Between the waves, there is still some fruit set and it appears the vigor of the plant is declining but it is not.

As I said, I do not know if the decline you see in an EB is something other than the natural cycle. But it might be worth experimenting and holding out past that 18 day mark before adding more fertilizer
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dancing lemons
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Posts: 1002


Richmond VA Zone 7+


« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2008, 03:47:29 AM »

David,

Good point.  I had nothing else pressing to do so decided to experiment with bottom feeding.  It is highly possible that the plants were in a 'resting' phase of growth.  The plants were indeterminate type and I definately saw an increase in growth and bud set after using a liquid fertilizer in the reservoir.  I will check this year to determine if I get new growth with no added fertilizer AND also will have EBs with extra fertilizer - just in case.  Thanks for the info.  I love to experiment so will keep this info in my journal.

DL
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ratchet
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Posts: 227


Creola, AL - Zone 8


« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2008, 11:37:37 AM »

I agree with the one tomato plant to a box, especially the larger varieties. I could not keep up with the watering demand with two plants, and that was with an automatic watering system in place. All my other boxes were constantly over running and my tomatoes were always running dry. Determinate, two to a box was fine.

Ratchet
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trish54
Newbie
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Posts: 3


« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2008, 06:44:47 PM »

For those of you having difficulty locating my previous posts on my potting mix and fertilizer formulas, here they are again.
Thank you for all the time you have put into this! I am a new gardener and would like to try your formula.  Where do you buy all this?   Grin  not sure what all of this is but I am going to try it! Thanks again.

Fertilizer:

"Here are my recent soil test results so that you can get a better picture of what is needed for a 2+ cu. ft. planter like the EB.  This is not complicated, but there is some valuable info. and insight into what to expect from fertilizers.

My home made 'Basic' fert. tests N3.8%, P4.2%, K4.0%, and contains:
```1 part Rock Phosphate
```1 part Bat Guano
```2 parts Dried Blood
```5 parts Greensand/Gluconate Potash

My home made potting mix contains NO nutrients of any kind - not even a Ph adjustment of carbonate of any kind, and tests PH 5.5, needing N=100%, P=100%, K=100%.

To 2+ cu. ft. of my home made potting mix, I add:

3C Worm Castings
1/4C 'Basic' Fert.
1/8C each of the following:
```Azomite (trace minerals), Gaia Green (Glacial rock dust containing trace minerals and available calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and micronutrients), K-Mag (Potassium 22%, Magnesium 11%, Sulfur 22%, does not change Ph), Calc-M (calcium 23%, sulfur 18%, does not change Ph).

Addendum: I am now using the above amounts with one (1) cu. ft. of potting mix, or twice the amount for the 2 cu ft. EB.

To adjust Ph to various plant's needs, added:

for Ph 5.0-5.5 (Potatoes) No added carbonates of any kind.
for Ph 6.0 (Strawberries, etc.) 1/8C Oyster Shell OR 1/4C Dolomite Limestone
for Ph 6.5 (Nearly everything else) 1/4C Oyster Shell OR 1/2C Dolomite Limestone

After 'aging' the mixed, fertilized potting mix for two weeks, the soil tested as needing N4%, P4%, K4%, exactly what my 'Basic' fert. provides.  (Note:  No nutrient shortage with the above doubled fert. application) However, I only used 2 cups of the 'Basic' fert. in the strip as my experience tells me that more would only be wasteful.  (Note: Only one (1) Cup needed in center strip)  I may try an experiment next year with a heavy feeder like Tomatoes if I use two EBs, one with 2C fert. and the other with 3C fert. - but now I don't see it being needed.

As you can see, you don't need high fert. numbers OR high quantities to get good crops.  However, I personally see a cautionary note about the amount/quantity of Dolomite Limestone being recommended for EB use.  In the 2+ cu. ft. volume of the EB, I personally have seen 1/2C Dolomite adjust the PH one full number alkaline.  And if people are starting out with potting mix already PH adjusted to ~6.5, then 2C dolomite should take the PH way too alkaline, even for tomatoes.  When you get the Ph over 7.5, you get nutrient lockup, disease and insect intolarance.  Someone else should really look into this, as I think there may be a potential problem here.

Potting Mix:

"I posted info. on my home made potting mix, but here it is:  Premix equal parts Sphagnum and Coconut Husk Peat.  To 7 parts 50/50 peat, add 2 parts Vermiculite, 1 part Perlite and 1 part 4X8AWC Coconut Shell Activitated Carbon (particle size of 1/4" to 1/8", acid washed for Ph neutrality and dust removal).  For the Activated Acid Washed Carbon, check on the net with Pool Filter supply companies.  It is usually available in 50 lb. bags and for about $60.

Addendum: I am now using only one (1) part Vermiculite and 1/2 part Perlite in my current potting mix.

This potting mix has the best texture and "hand" that I have ever felt, and was worth the time and effort put into making it, and it wicks beautifully."

I have not found a product on the market (except perhaps what I remember of the old 'Black Magic' for African Violets) that has this feel and fluffyness.  I highly recommend it to those looking for a home made potting mix.

Donald1800
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luvgardening2
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 489

Southern California, Zone 8


« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2008, 07:17:02 PM »

Hi, I think Donald buys from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply.   GrowOrganic.com  He can confirm it.  I like to buy local because I am cheap and I am not too hot on paying the Shipping.  I got a quote from them and I just about fainted.  I tried to buy it from my friend at the nursery but some of the things on Donald's list was unavailable so I got it at a Farm Supply Store not too far from home.  It is also the same place that I buy Pro-Mix.  It took some time to put everything together so in the beginning I just added the Worm Castings to my potting mix.  I just cleaned my boxes out and I am convinced that the boxes I added the Worm Castings to did alot better than the boxes without. 

Nancy
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Donald1800
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 1543

Fontana, CA Zone 8


« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2008, 02:44:40 PM »

Yep, Peaceful Valley is the one I use.  It is just north of me, so shipping isn't bad - items I can buy from my local Lowes or Home Depot are the same price as PV + shipping - so I usually buy it all from PV.  However, that being said, I ALWAYS recommend that you try to buy this stuff from local sources as shipping can be high if you are not close.  All nursuries near me would not sell the 25-50 lb bags that I needed.  Also try to locate farming supply sources in your area.

By this time you may begin to feel that this is becoming more work than you are willing to spend - especially after you have spent the time breaking up the compressed peat/coir and mixing all of the ingredients for the potting mix and fertilizer.  I know I have after doing the last 24 of my 40 EBs.  However, there is a deep sense of personal satisfaction when you see and TASTE the different results from this work - it is all worth it.  And basically you only have to expend this amount of effort only once.  After that it is only suplimentary addition of potting mix and fertilizer each year with apparent soil improvement each year - it gets better with age.  Really, it is worth all of the initial work, or I wouldn't do it either.

Donald1800
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