Tag Archives: grow boxes

My case against 4 foot wide grow boxes

Why I don’t like a 4 foot grow boxes in a Mittleider garden

I’ll be honest here, I don’t like 4 foot wide grow boxes.  They’re popular and you will see all kinds of articles and videos where they are recommended.  They require too much bending over of the gardener for my liking.  For a Mittleider garden I think they’re generally a mistake.

It is difficult to tend to stuff in it and you can’t reach from one side to the other.  This becomes particularly evident when things are grown vertically.  Reaching towards the middle of the box to prune or harvest from a mature plant is near impossible.  Sure, you can push through and get it done but you risk damaging plants.  you could even knock off nearly ripe vegetables.

The top of these tomatoes in the picture below are a little more than 3 feet apart.  I can only prune and harvest easily by going down each side of my grow box.  Growing these tomatoes in a 4 foot wide grow box would prevent the easy access necessary to properly care for our plants.

grow box in a Mittleider garden
tomatoes grown vertically in an 18 inch wide grow box in a Mittleider garden

Are there good uses for 4 foot grow boxes?

There are indeed.  First, if you’re on a very tight budget yet determined to have a grow box the wide grow boxes will work.  For the cost of two 18 inch wide boxes you can build one 4 foot box.  But if you’re on a budget I’d highly recommend growing in your own soil.

The only time I might recommend a 4 foot wide grow box in a Mittleider garden is for growing potatoes.  We have heavy clay soil here in Missouri.  Our grow box dedicated to growing potatoes allows them to sprawl and makes harvest a breeze.  It is isolated from the rest of the garden and is used only for potatoes.  In this picture below we grew sweet potatoes last year.

4 foot grow boxes filled with sawdust and sand
Sweet potatoes grown in a wide grow box. Grow boxes are a great option for growing all tubers

What size grow box do I prefer?

That’s easy. An 18 inch wide grow box is ideal, particularity for vertical crops in my Mittleider garden.  We built these grow boxes in our in the garden green house.

 

equine pellets sawdust

Using equine pellets sawdust

If you cant find a good source locally you can use equine pellets  sawdust.  In a Mittleider garden the sawdust is used to fill seedling flats or even entire grow boxes.

Ideally you would have access to free sawdust from a sawmill and don’t need to go through the added expense of buying sawdust. If you’re only going to start seedlings a single bag of pellets would last a long time.  It also wouldn’t be cost prohibitive.   To fill grow boxes would take a lot more sawdust and would quickly become expensive.

If you are considering using equine pellets sawdust to fill a grow box I’d highly recommend that you consider soil beds.  They can grow food equally well despite your soil condition while being much cheaper.

How to go from pellets to sawdust

The process of taking pellets and turning them into usable sawdust is easy.  All you need to do is add water with a good watering wand to soak everything well.  As the pellets absorb water they will expand as the binding agent used a  glue dissolves.

adding the pellets to a container that will allow the excess water to drain will make the entire process easier for you.  Our wheel barrow has a crack and allows excess water to escape.

If you do not have a container that will allow water to escape try adding water a little at a time until all the pellets are damp.  Try turning the pellets with a shovel to ensure everything is wet.

equine pellets sawdust
sawdust made from equine pellets

Where and what pellets to get

As the name implies, these pellets can be bought at business catering to horse people.  Another source is at business that sell hardwood pellets for homes heated with pellet stoves.  Those hardwood pellets are fine and any wood type except walnut will work.  The pellet stove pellets can be bought in bulk and can often be bought cheaper by the bag than equine pellets.

The hardwood pellets intended for heating homes is often only carried seasonally and may not always be available.  They may also be bought at discount in the spring as they’re no  longer needed.

Watch sawdust being made with equine pellets

In this video you can watch equine pellets expand roughly three times into sawdust once it becomes wet.  The process is quick and only takes a few minutes.