The Best Grow Boxes

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    • The Earthbox is a commercial grow box that is made to last for many seasons and regulates the nutrients and water tables for optimum plant growth. It comes with options for wheels and a trellis for climbing plants like tomatoes and is neat, self-contained and user-friendly. It can be used indoors or out and has a mulch cover to prevent weeds from growing if used outside. The box has an automatic water reservoir with an overflow hole, an aeration screen and the choice of regular or organic nutrient strips that release the correct amount of fertilizer into the water. This particular grow box is an example of complete systems that can be set up in minutes and require very little attention. It costs more than a system you can build yourself but might be a good choice for someone who doesn't have the time to assemble a grow box and maintain it.

    Ecological Grower

    • The Rooftop Garden Project in Quebec makes an ecological grower for local sale but has instructions online for a do-it-yourself version. It uses the same basic principles as the Earthbox: a large plastic tub with a false bottom that contains the water reservoir, a water-filling tube and an overflow hole, a top through which the plants grow, and a soil mix of perlite, vermiculite, peat moss and compost that can be purchased pre-mixed at a garden store or mixed to your own recipe at home. The organization strongly recommends adding a compost operation to your household growing system as a way of closing the circle and reusing everything organic in an endless loop. The ecological grower can be upgraded for more convenience with your own addition of a wheeled platform or casters, a trellis for tomatoes and bean vines, and nutrient formulas you develop to suit your growing conditions and selected plants.

    Slippery Slope Salad Bar

    • The Slippery Slope Microfarm in Brooklyn, N.Y., shows interested urban gardeners how to make a grow box that will fit on a wide window ledge or a skinny balcony. Use a plain mortar box from the hardware store or a recycled plastic tub. Cut 4-inch diameter HDPE drain pipe in half and set three halves, cut side down, in the box. Cut the bottom off a plastic water bottle and turn it upside down. Then cut a hole in the top of one drain pipe that allows the bottle's pour spout to fit in very snugly. This is the watering tube. Cut another hole for overflow in the side of the box at the top of the middle drain pipe. Fill the box with a light potting soil mix, add starter seedlings or plant seeds and get out the salad dressing. Very inexpensive and completely adaptable to the space and type of crop you determine.

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