Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Old McDonald had a farm...

...and now, so does the Melton Point!  Last year, some friends gave us a couple extra tomato plants (they were "volunteers" that grew in the wrong part of their garden to save, so they potted them and shared with us).  The two plants combined yielded three tomatoes.  That's right.  Three.  Everyone else talked about how many blooms/tomatoes they had.  We didn't.

Then, a few months ago, J found an article online that talked about how irregular watering could lead to pour production.  The article talked about a device called the "EarthTainer" that would eliminate this problem.  You can read more about the EarthTainer, as well as find instructions to make your own, here.  If you'd prefer to read the short version of the story, here you go--

The EarthTainer is made of two large Rubbermaid totes that, when put together in the right way, hold water in a lower resevoir and plants in an upper resevoir.  A wicking system between the two pulls water to the roots of the plants as needed.  As long as there is water in the lower resevoir, plants are neither over-watered or under-watered.  This system is advertised as very easy and inexpensive to build, and has been used on six continents to provide fresh vegetables where they couldn't otherwise thrive.

Given our lack of success with tomatoes last year, J was taken with the idea of the EarthTainer.  I wasn't quite so taken with the idea, but since he was enthused, I didn't want to stand in the way.  We went off to Lowes to purchase our supplies and he got started.  The website says you can purchase the materials for the base container for $20-$23 at Lowes or a similar big box hardware store.  You can't.  I've no idea what Lowes he shopped at, but you cannot buy the two Rubbermaid totes for that cost, not to mention the hardware (nuts/bolts/washers) and landscape fabric.  On top of the costs to build the base, you also need to purchase the ProMix (like soil, but you can't use potting soil) and additives.  We had to go to a hydroponics store to find most of those pieces.  Then, once you've done that, you still have to buy plants.  We might try to start our own plants from seed next year, but this year we're just trying to produce a vegetable, and I'm happy to use plants that are halfway there for us.

The first EarthTainer took several hours to put together, but the second one was put together in about two hours and filled and prepped in about an hour.  Most of the materials to build and fill the EarthTainer come in larger quantities, so the cost per EarthTainer definitely dropped from the first one to the second.  By having two of them, we have room for plenty of tomato plants, as well as a couple pepper plants and several herbs.  J is confident that these will pay for themselves this summer.  I wouldn't say I'm confident, but I'm definitely hopeful!

I'll update with pics after we get our plants in the containers.

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