Monday, March 25, 2013

Ready, Get Set... Grow!

Let me preface this post by restating the hurdles to my lofty ambitions of growing organic veggies in my suburban backyard.  This will hopefully put into context why I have been scouring the web for plausible growing options.

1.  I live in northern Nevada, about 4,500 feet above sea level where the climate is very dry.  Rain?  What's that?
2. While I live in the 'burbs, I share real estate with wild rabbits.  Voracious ones. 
3.  Since my habitat is the high desert, I am almost 100% reliant on potable water for irrigation.  It's not the most ideal of situations, therefore, I need an efficient way of using water.  
4.  I have an active lifestyle and although I wish I could lounge in the yard under the sunshine with a garden hose all day, there are other competing priorities that include a lot of traveling on the weekends.   

This is the bottom of The GrowBox's soil tub. 
Which brings me to the subject of sub-irrigation systems.  Or to demystify it - simply, self-watering planters.  Generally, these planters have two tubs stacked on top of each other.  The bottom tub is a reservoir filled with water.  The top tub holds the soil and is pretty much the garden bed where you do your plantings.  How it works is, aside from the perforations at the bottom of the soil tub, there are bigger holes that you pack with soil on either side of the tub.  Once you fill the water reservoir, the idea is that the packed soil acts as a wick and brings moisture up to the soil tub in a very regulated way, thus feeding your plants just the right amount of water when they need it.

The GrowBox is a self-watering planter made by a company called The Garden Patch out of Florida.  They sent me a sample of their GrowBox to test and review.  It's a bit too early for a definitive verdict, but the folks at The Garden Patch would be happy to hear that so far, I have a growing fondness for The GrowBox.  It's day two and my transplanted sugar snap peas and mint look perky.  I sowed from seed some parsley and a couple more peas and I'd be curious how successful I'd be with growing from seed on a GrowBox.

In any case... 

THE GROWBOX by A Garden Patch: A Cursory Review
I give this product…
a bright sunshiny rating for easy installation and no watering guesswork.  After a few days, my little plants are perky and seem like they are getting enough water.  The caveat is that I would wait a few weeks to see how the food yield would be! 
What’s in the Box?
Planting space of approximately 2 square feet (and then some!) or 12” W x 27” L.
Water reservoir
Nutrient Patch which is burlap that lays on top of the soil.  It has fertilizer beads attached to the underside which auto-releases minerals to the soil.
Retail Price:
$36.90 ($29.95 + $6.95 shipping)
Ideal For:
Small spaces such as patios
Urban gardens
Supplement to raised gardens
Beginners – yes, even kids!
People with busy lifestyles, travel a lot, and such
Loving It For:
... the fuss-free self-watering technology
... being BPA-Free
... being easy to rabbit-proof
... its foolproof assembly and easy-to-follow instructions
... being proudly made in the USA
But I wish…
… That the spout had some sort of cover on it.  It is fine now in early spring, but I wonder how quick water will evaporate in 90+ degree weather.  On the upside, I think this opening actually improves air flow and keeps the roots aerated.  
…  That there was better, simpler information about the fertilizer contained in the Nutrient Patch.
Food Yield:
Yet to be determined!  Come back in mid-spring for an update!
Do I recommend this product?
I would recommend this product for sheer ease of use and easy installation.  The concept is brilliant, but it’s still premature to tell how much food I’ll actually get out of this box.  Stay tuned for an update mid-spring!

I am stoked how easy it is to set up this planter.  Just add water (and soil, of course)!  They recommend using potting mix instead of garden soil.  I bought a 1.5 cu. ft. of organic potting mix at Home Depot for $5.  For drier climates like ours though, I would suggest mixing in some coconut coir (sustainable alternative to peat moss) for improved water retention.

I also really like the holes on each corner of the planter which is intended for stakes for taller and vining vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers (yes, you can supposedly grow those vegetables with success in these planters).  For rabbit-proofing, I simply stuck skinny branches I had laying around in the backyard on each hole.  I tied landscape fabric to the stakes using a cord, and voila!  The makeshift fence feels surprisingly sturdy.  We had high winds today (typical of the Sierras) and the thing did not even flinch.

I like that the burlap that you lay on top of the soil is biodegradable, so woo-hoo.  The burlap also doubles as a little template for determining correct spacing for the type of veggies you'll be planting.  Just cut holes on the fabric and drop your seed or transplant and you're all ready to go (and grow!).  I'm using the GrowBox to supplement a raised bed garden where I'll be growing most of my tall summer vegetables.  I'm dedicating half of the GrowBox for kitchen herbs and the other half will be transplanted with cold weather vegetables like sugar snap peas and lettuce.  Once it starts really warming up, I'll replace the cold weather crops with basil, cilantro, plus maybe a pepper.

As mentioned above, it's still too early to identify any fatal flaws of The GrowBox. I do have a couple of petty gripes about the Nutrient Patch that came in the box.  
What I was not too crazy about is the painted surface, mainly because I'm not too sure what's in that paint.  Also, I had to do a little research on whether it's safe to use the fertilizer if the idea was to grow an organic edible garden.  In the end, I rationed that the ingredients of the fertilizer, from what I can understand, are naturally occurring minerals in the environment.


And there it is....

A half day's work and I have a tan and a quarter of a spring garden.  

Come back in a few weeks for the continuation of this suburban chick's gardening saga!

Discolosure:  This post is a statement of independent opinion.  While I was sent the product to review as a sample, I did not receive any compensation from A Garden Patch.  

No comments:

Post a Comment