Plastic Container Gardening
September 15, 2011

The day after I arrived in Majuro, I was invited to go to lunch at the Wellness Center near the Majuro hospital, operated by the Canvasback Missions, an NGO focused on health issues in Micronesia. With the cooperative effort of the Ministry of Health, they are working on promoting healthy eating by preparing a cheap and nutritious lunch at their facility and providing education to both adults and youth about the principles of healthy living. They also have a big vegetable garden on their property and grow many kinds of fresh vegetables and fruits that they use for their lunch program. As part of the agriculture program, they promote family gardening with a simple solution to the lack of land and soil in Marshall Islands. It is called an "earth box". I believe the original Earth Box is this but many DIY versions can be found on the internet. The one that the Wellness Center uses is a DIY earth box made from a plastic storage bin. As I mentioned in the previous post, Marshall Islands is not an easy place to grow vegetables. But with this easy tool, even a family without a garden can easily grow the basics. Essentially, it is a container garden plus root watering mechanism.

I took one home to start my own vegetable garden right away.

What you need

One large plastic bin
Three one gallon water bottles
Two normal size (16 - 19 oz) water bottles
One 40 lb bag of gardening soil plus composting

1. Make the water reservoir with one gallon water bottles.

Cut the top and bottom of the water bottle into 4 - 5 inch length pieces. Discard the middle part. And make a hole at two corners of the bottom piece.

plastic water bottleshow to make holes

2. Make the watering tube with two water bottles

Cut the bottoms of both water bottles. Insert the top of one bottle into the bottom of another bottle to create a long tube.

water bottle

3. Prepare the earth box

plastice container

This is a simple 18 gallon plastic container.

cut and make a holeswhole on the container

a. Cut around the edge of the dented section of the cover to separate into two pieces.
b. Then make a bunch of small holes.
c. Make the bigger hole at the one corner. The size of hole should be equal to the width of the widest part of the water bottle tube you created.
c. Cut a square in the mid section of the other side from where you made the hole for the watering tube. The size of the square is slightly smaller than the reservoir bottle (about 4 inches).
d. Mark the height of the reservoir bottle (4-5 inches) on the side of the container and make one hole about 1/4 inches below the line. This will be the drainage for the overflow water.

4. Put together

how to assemble

Place the 6 reservoir water bottles at the bottom of the container. I found that it is better to use the top part of the bottle at the corner where you put the watering tube.

cover with top

Next, place the inner part of the cover with holes over the bottles.

the water goes in there.

You have to make sure that the bottle directly underneath of the square cut is exactly positioned.
Place the watering bottle at the corner.

fill soil

Put the soil all way to to top. I mixed the composting into the soil but if the composting is not available, skip it.

earthbox mulch cover

Cut the soil bag lengthwise and at the bottom to open it over the container. This will be the mulch cover. The mulch cover is for preventing weeds and storing the moisture inside.

earthbox : hole for the watering bottle

Cut an X above the watering bottle so you can push it through.

plastice cover

And put the outer rim of the plastic cover on top to secure the mulch cover. Cut off the excess cover and then tuck it inside. My outer rim does not click completely to the bottom container so I needed to tape them to make sure that it is not loose.

5. Planting

make a hole plant comes our from the hole

Use scissors, make an X on the mulch cover and plant vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

Stay tuned - further updates on the earth box to come.

pea shoots

pea shoots

rotten sweet potato

sweet potato slips

green chiles

mystery plant