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Monday, April 22

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Resource Sun May 20 2007

Backyard Farming

Porch Tomatoes

We learned about the EarthBox from a Reader article last spring, and after a little encouragement from some friends who owned a couple, we bought in. We planted three different varieties of cherry tomatoes in our first box, which operates under a pretty simple set-up. EarthBox describes that set up as

Our maintenance-free, award-winning, high-tech growing system controls soil conditions, eliminates guesswork and more than doubles the yield of a conventional garden-with less fertilizer, less water and virtually no effort.

I would describe it as a box with an inch deep water reservoir in the bottom. It’s not rocket science, but by gum, it works!

That first box yielded a ton of tomatoes! Our tomato plants were huge and bushy, virtual green sasquatches towering over a corner of our deck. I did have several “Little Shop of Horrors”-esque nightmares…and the tomatoes tasted good, sweet and sunny. My favorite thing to do was sort of a tomato confit, simmer them slowly in a cup of olive oil with a couple of cloves of garlic and a little salt. We’d keep a jar of that in the refrigerator, and it was great on salads, pasta, grilled meat.


We have a nice size deck that gets a lot of sun, and it’s a good place to grow some vegetables; we think the EarthBox is a perfect toy for the urban gardener. Sure, you can grow fantastic tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets from Home Depot, and there are plenty of other gizmos out there that claim to make becoming a green thumb super simple but the EarthBox seems to really work, and is a small investment for something that looks like it can be re-used for years if you take care of it.

This year we are stepping it up a bit with three EarthBoxes, 1 with tomatoes (but only 2 plants instead of 3, thinking more quality than quantity), one with kale, and the third is destined to hold flowers but its currently sitting empty.

We’ll keep you updated with photos as the summer progresses - hopefully our 32 foot-tall kale and 46 lb; cherry tomato will win some ribbons at the Logan Square County Fair this year.

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Roxann Christensen / May 21, 2007 9:40 AM

Serious backyard farmers are utilizing the SPIN farming method to push yields and income far beyond what any thought possible.
What makes SPIN different from other methods is that it re-casts farming as a small business in a city or town, thereby incorporating agriculture into the built environment. It adapts commercial farming techniques to sub-acre (less than acre) land bases, and it requires minimal infrastructure.
Free photos on how SPIN works and more information can be found at

logicalmind / May 21, 2007 10:12 AM

If you're a handy person you can build your own earthbox cheaper than buying the real thing:

Betty / May 21, 2007 11:11 AM

The only problem with making your own is that they end up looking so ugly. Do you really want a bunch of storge tubs all over your yard or deck. I happen to think that my earth boxes probably outperfrom anything you can build on your own. Last year I went on line and found a grow box similar to the earth box but for a lot less money from agardenpatch. They worked just as good and actually looked prettier on my porch. I can't imagine what any kind of pot or planter would like with a 32 foot tall kale plant growing out of it.

Ron Martinez / May 22, 2007 10:23 AM

Betty, I really despise your arrogant attitude. Not all of us drive a mercedes and live in lincoln park like you do. We don't all have neighbors who will look down on us for the visual impressions of our homemade earthboxes on the weekends at the country club. And if you think your earthboxes outperform something homemade you must be the kind of person who buys burberry scarves. Maybe you can tie a burberry scarf around your earthbox to impress your neighbors. Fortune magazine says it helps your plants grow.

Andrew / May 22, 2007 5:44 PM

Ron, that was really uncalled for. Betty stated an opinion, and not a very offensive one. I don't think an ad hominem attack, ripping into her as snobby because she prefers a store-bought box, was necessary. Tone it down.

Betty, a 32-foot tall kale plant would more than justify an ugly box for the fame and notoriety such a record-setting plant would bring. Kale is a relative of cabbage, not palm trees.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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