Homemade EarthBoxes

At the January meeting I showed members how to construct a self watering planter similar to those sold under the name EarthBox™.  Here is the information from the website I learned the technique from, as well as photos from the January meeting.  (Edited from www.josho.com/Earthbox.htm)

Here’s how to make a homemade EarthBox™ in about 15 minutes, and for about $12 (instead of the $35.00-plus-shipping that the genuine article costs).



  • 2 18-gallon (or similar) tote boxes with lids, such as Rubbermaid. Dark colors are preferable. Also, a box that is somewhat wider is preferable to one that’s deeper. (You can also use larger totes, but note that once you fill them with soil, they’ll be very hard to move.) The more straight-sided the box, the better.
  • 1 5″ pond basket (these are plastic planters with perforated sides to allow the free flow of water)
  • 1 2-foot length of 1-1/2 ” plastic pipe or tubing (1-1/2″ should be the outside diameter) with one end cut at an angle.
  • 1 3 X 3 piece of dark plastic sheeting – I used red tomato mulch, but IRT mulch or black plastic should work just as well.



  • a pencil or pen
  • a drill with a 1/4″ or larger bit and a 1-1/2″ bit
  • a saw or dremel (handsaw will work, but a jigsaw makes it much easier)



Take one of the totes, the pen/pencil, and the pond basket. Mark the HEIGHT of the basket all around the outside of the bottom of the tote.



Cut along this line. When you’ve cut the entire box, discard the top (open) half; you won’t need it (unless you are thrifty… You could bury it to contain wandering plants in the garden).



Turn the bottom portion upside down. Take the pond basket, put it upside-down on top of the bottom portion of the tote, and trace it. Cut the shape out, but you’re going to cut about a half-inch or more INSIDE the line (so that this hole is about an inch smaller in diameter than the top of the pond basket). After you’ve done this, drill a 1-1/2″ hole in the corner of the tote bottom, and a lot of small (1/4″ or so) holes all over it.  We’ll call this piece the “base.”




Take the pond basket and put it up-side down inside the base directly under the big hole.  I use zip ties to secure it over the hole.



Put the base in the tote box (drilled side up, pond basket down), wedging it down as far as it will go. Because the big hole in the base is smaller in diameter than the top of the pond basket, the pond basket will help support the weight of the base once the soil is on top. And because the pond basket will be filled with soil, it will act as a wick for the moisture (much like the square wicks in opposing corners in the authentic EarthBox(TM)).



Drill a 1/4″ (or slightly larger) hole straight through the outer box AND the base just below the level of the base. This is the drainage hole.



Cut the end of the 2-foot length of 1-1/2″ pipe at an angle (if you haven’t done so already) and feed this angled end into the 1-1/2″ hole in the base. This is the pipe you’ll use to fill the box with water.



Take the lid that fits onto the box. Cut out the center of the lid, leaving just a rim (about 2″ worth), enough to snap back onto the box. (You can discard the center piece, we won’t be using it.)  I cut a circular area in one corner for the pipe. This is not strictly necessary. I do it so that I can have the pipe all the way in the corner, leaving more room for plants.






Now cut a piece of plastic sheeting so that it is at least a couple of inches bigger around than the top of your faux EarthBox(TM). Cut a hole in it for the pipe to fit through.  Snap the rim onto the box.  When you’re ready to plant, cut “X”s in the tarp where the plants will go. (This is very much like how the real EarthBox(TM) tops work.)