Earth Box under cover

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When I first saw the Earth Box at my local garden center, I thought it was a pricey planter good for folks who live in an apartment with a tiny balcony.

Later I learned about the benefits of sub irrigated planters.  They make a lot of water wise sense when gardening in the desert.  I love that they are a small finite space that you can clear out and plant in a short amount of time.  I have a few now, taking advantage of end of season sales over the years. And, yes, in addition to raised beds on the ground.  I have some on the balcony!

The funny thing about living in the desert is that the variations in temperature during one 24 hour period can be pretty dramatic.  From near freezing in the morning  to upwards of 70-80 in the afternoon. Makes germination tough.

Discovered years ago that beans will not germinate when temps get over 90 degrees.  We go from an early spring where it is too cold for seeds to germinate outside, to too hot in a manner of weeks. This leaves a short window of time for bean germination.   I have taken to germinating inside, and have used all manner of purchased pots to do so.  Recently I found a newspaper pot maker on Amazon.  Love it.  It takes some time to roll up enough pots, but a ruler and yesterday’s newspaper, a glue stick and something nice on TV are all it takes.  Fill them with good potting soil, then carefully stand them up shoulder to shoulder in a tray, pop a seed in each one, and cover it, then water the tray.

Suddenly it was like Jack and the Beanstalk at my house.  Tall little bean plants needed bigger digs, and quick.  I planted a row of peas on one side of the earth box, and a row of 8-9 bean plants on the other side.  Now what to do to keep them from freezing.

Measured the interior dimensions of the box, and with this nifty tool,  cut 1/2 inch PVC pipe to fit.  Using eight 8.5 lengths and two 24.5 lengths, four elbows and four elbows with a third opening (side outlet)   to make the upper corners,

My little contraption looked something like this:image

 

It was very easy to assemble.  It will somewhat contain tall willowy flowers or legumes, but more importantly, it will support a special cover made of garden fleece.  These little covers make a world of difference to tender young plants.  Like wearing a sweater, it seems to take enough of the chill out of the equation that gives those green babies a fighting chance.  I had a 10×12 foot piece of the light weight stuff.  I cut two 12 x 12 squares for each end and a 30 x 36 rectangle to cover the top.  I sewed 3 sides of each square to . the 36 inch end of the rectangles.  This made a nifty little cover that was loose enough to pop on, but to keep it on I used a large binder clip.

We have woken to some frosty mornings recently after a little teaser warm spell, and those beans are happy in their little mini green houses.  I believe they were providers.  They are my first beans to plant each season.  Helps to soothe the urge to garden when temps are still a bit too cool. Here you can see the remains of a newsprint pot, peas, beans, lettuce and some ever present morning glories, which will be pulled shortly.image

Their neighbors, the sugar snap peas came up surprisingly well.  Peas can handle cooler temperatures, but the little shoots are often fodder to birds and rodents.  The covers give them a chance to get bit enough to be ignored by these ravagers of the garden.

Another season extender is the Wall of Water. This is a pea plant or two, and a sun gold peeking out of the top.  Love Walls of Water. They allow me to plant a few tomato plants each week, when the moon says it is ok.  More on that one in a bit.  Happy planting!image