Friday, August 12, 2016

Growing Melons With Almost No Watering

Home grown melons are one of nature's most delectable foods.  There is nothing quite like a cantaloupe that has gotten so ripe that it has fallen off the vine.  Homegrown watermelons too are delicious, but as all seeds are concentrated in the center of cantaloupe, they are much easier to deseed and enjoy than homegrown Watermelon.  Melons, however,  require a huge amount of watering, and therefore work - deterring most people from growing them.  This shouldn't be the case.

We must admit that after three tries at growing melons, in our raised bed/Square Foot Garden, we were about through.  We would get at most one to two melons, but this required watering every other day.  We did at least find our favorite varieties, the cantaloupe cultivars "French Hybrid" and "Ambrosia" - two melons that were so sweet right after picking you wanted to forgo all other food.

We finally decided to try growing melons one last time - but this time in a large enough quantity to ensure pollination, and with the Waterboxx to ensure watering.

Pollination is obviously vital for melons - if you don't have at least two different melon plants of each variety, it is unlikely you will get a particularly large crop.  Bees should be encouraged(we also bought blue orchard mason bees which promptly flew away but did sometimes return).

To ensure watering, we used a brilliant invention called the Waterboxx.  The Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, or Waterboxx for short, is a device for watering trees and garden plants.  It collects and stores rain, dew and other condensation and slowly delivers it to the roots of a growing plant.  In many climates with regular rainfall throughout the summer, the Waterboxx never needs to be refilled.  In drier climates (of the southwest, for example), the Waterboxx needs only to be refilled every week, at most, with 4 gallons.

A cutaway schematic of the Waterboxx showing function - water is collected by the tan lid, funneled down the siphons shown in red, stored in the green reservoir, and slowly delivered via the white wick.  Soil evaporation is blocked by the Waterboxx basin, providing a consistent moist but not muddy environment for the roots of the plant.  Image from Groasis.com

We first decided which melons we wanted to plant - we chose three varieties of cantaloupe and one variety of (seeded) watermelon.  We then prepared a space for these - two full 4x4 foot raised beds, without any overlying trellis.  Melons have very large space requirements - we satisfied this by having a string trellis at the north side of our two beds for some room for growth.  In the second bed, we built an "A" frame for a string trellis.  We also cleared a large section of grass and covered it with weed cloth for the melon leaves to spread out.  This provided us sufficient room (although the melons did somewhat climb our trellis fence).

8 Melons in 4 Waterboxxes with our A Frame support - the area behind the Waterboxxes was also covered with weed cloth to allow growth..  Here you can already see the size difference between the indoor started (left) and outdoor started (right) melons.
With most cucurbits, it is better to start the seeds outside but we have a relatively short growing season, so we decided to try both indoor and outdoor starting. The indoor seeds we started in peat pots two weeks before outdoor planting.  We must say, the indoor started seeds did much better than the outdoor ones.  The outdoor started plants were quickly overrun by ants - who seemed to grow their colony (and aphid livestock) faster than our melons grew.  Our indoor started seeds, when transplanted whole with the peat pot still in place, grew much faster than the ants and were not seriously bothered by them.

Our melons growing quite well mid summer - we did refill the the two Waterboxxes on left once during a dry spell - right after which we received ~4 inches of rain which would have completely refilled them without our intervention.

We placed two plants per Waterboxx.  We then carefully placed the Waterboxx, making sure we had two wicks in each.  After that, there was little to do beside train the vines of the melons to stay off the paths and on the string trellis where we wanted them.  We did fill 2 of the 8 Waterboxxes with more water one time - and then immediately regretted this decision.  Right after the manual filling we received 4 inches of rain in just a few days - enough to refill the Waterboxxes completely.  We are based in Indiana - some areas without consistent rainfall will need periodic refilling (likely every 2-3 weeks).
Our A Frame and string trellis is completely covered with the vines of the melons.  

By mid July we knew our harvest was almost ready.  The great thing about growing cantaloupe on trellises is that they will fall off when ripe - the gardener just needs to check the ground daily for fallen melons and take them inside.

5 "French Hybrid" melons hanging on the inside of the A Frame with the Waterboxx just barely visible.  

Ripe melons will also change colors from green to tan .  It is important to check the garden every day for newly ripened melons because ants and soil organisms also want the sweet melons and can get through the outer skin in about 24 hours.

Here is a single day's harvest of melons from a 4x4 foot bed of Waterboxxes growing melons - with no water manually added for months.  

At its height, our Waterboxx melon garden was giving us 5 (5!) fresh melons per day.  We found we could only eat one to two so family and friends also received Waterboxx melons.

After almost giving up on melon growing, we found that the Waterboxx brought us profound success.  We plan to continue growing melons each year with the Waterboxx - of course rotating the area where we grow them and replenishing the soil with compost yearly.  If you want to try to grow melons with the Waterboxx, you can buy the Waterboxx here or learn more on our website.  The Waterboxx can also be used to grow tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, and eggplants.

We will be releasing our E-Book, The Waterboxx Gardener on Amazon.com February 2017 which will provide detailed instructions about how to garden with the Waterboxx.

We would love to hear your comments below.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Gardens for Elderly Family Members

One of the problems family members face when older is limited mobility and dexterity. This can lead to a large number of problems.  One of these is a decrease in the variety and health of their diet.  If people are not able to drive to get fresh vegetables, and no longer able to grow things themselves due to arthritic problems of the legs, knees, and hands.  While medicine has certainly improved over the last 20 years for older people, nutrition most definitely has not.

Is there any way for children or grandchildren to improve the nutrition of their older friends and relatives?  Yes, there is - setting up a small garden with the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery for plants.  It is a device that, without electricity or running water, collects dew and rainwater and funnels it to the roots of growing plants.  The Waterboxx also surrounds garden plants (and trees) and protects their root zone from competition from weeds.  In this way, the Waterboxx eliminates most of the work of gardening.




Image 1: A schematic cutaway view of the Waterboxx - rain, dew, and other condensation are captured by the tan lid, funneled to the siphons shown in red, stored by the ~4 gallon reservoir shown in green, a slowly released as needed by the white wick to the roots of the plants (shown in yellow) - photo courtesy of Groasis.com
Only small areas are needed for Waterboxx growing - the side of a deck or a few sunny feet next to the house.  It is possible to set up the Waterboxx in a few minutes, and a raised bed takes about 30 minutes to assemble, depending upon experience.  We do recommend a raised bed garden as this elminates all tilling each spring and won't be invaded by grass.

Follow our steps to setting up a small garden for a family member below:


  1. Confirm that the family member would like to have such a garden and find out if their plant selections grows well with the Waterboxx
    1. The Waterboxx can be used to grow tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, melons, squash, pumpkins, and eggplants easily, perhaps with some lettuce or other greens in the space between Waterboxxes.  The Waterboxx doesn't fit beans or peas and these would probably need to be watered like a traditional garden.
  2. In the fall or winter, find a spot in the lucky person's yard with at least 8 hours of sun per day that is large enough for at least 1 Waterboxx
    1. The Waterboxx is 16 inches in diameter at bottom - we suggest a raised bed at least 20 inches on a side.  It is best to use more than one Waterboxx (2-4) as less wood framing will be needed per plant.
  3. Get the required non-treated lumber to build a raised bed - for a 4x4 foot bed, two quantity 8 foot 2x6 inch non treated boards will be needed.  Have these cut at the lumber store to be 4 feet long each.
  4. Screw the 4 boards together at their corners, like 4 dogs all running after each other in a circle, so each edge is the same length (see image 2 below)
  5. Attach weed blocking cloth to the bottom of the wood frame - not plastic.  
  6. Fill the frame with 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 potting soil.  Each spring and fall the bed will need fertilizer, preferably in the form of compost
  7. Set empty but assembled Waterboxxes on the soil to determine spacing - snug up against each corner (see image 3 below) and one in the center (for a total of 5 Waterboxxes).  There will be space between each Waterboxx for lettuce or other greens.
    1. Note: We do recommend an extra wick in each Waterboxx for most plants - see instructions when ordering
  8. Plant pre-started plants (either grown yourself or bought) from peat pots - this works well for most plants except squash and pumpkins which need to be direct seeded (see image 4)
  9. Place the evaporation cover carefully around the plants, then place the Waterboxx and fill with water
  10. Let your family member follow the growth of their plants.  They can check the water level in the Waterboxx and add water if their is no rain, usually at most every 2-3 weeks.  In much of the country outside the Southwest, no additional water may be needed except during very dry spells.
  11. Have your family member pick fruits when ripe and enjoy all summer.
  12. At the end of the growing season, remove the wick from the Waterboxx and turn it upside down - it can be stored outside if desired, even in cold climates, if upside down.  
  13. Next spring, insert new wicks into the Waterboxx and repeat steps 7-11, after fertilizing the soil.
Image 2: Put three outdoor (deck) screws into each corner - each board should have three screws in its long end, parallel to it and three screws perpendicular to it. 


Image 3: Use an empty Waterboxx to determine spacing - press it down into moist soil to show the "Figure 8" central opening where plants will be placed.  
Image 4: Plant pre-started plants (eggplants shown here) in each end of the "figure 8" - most Waterboxxes do well with 2 plants and 2 wicks.

If you follow these instructions, and assure that the plants have sufficient room to grow and be supported (especially for vine plants like indeterminate tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash), your family member will soon be enjoying the fruits of your labor.  There are few better gifts to someone who has helped nurture and support you.  Get grandchildren involved for a special treat.

Cucumbers and tomatoes growing in a small Waterboxx garden set up for a family member - no weeding and no watering required all summer.
The Waterboxx is sold in the United States at dewharvest.com.  We recommend buying 5 Waterboxxes for a 4x4 foot garden or 10 if you want your only personal garden plot as well.

We would love to hear your comments below, especially of any family members helped by their Waterboxx garden.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Plant Transpiration

Humans have a process through which they release water in their blood vessels to the air around them - called perspiration.  Plants have a similar system, where water drawn up from the soil is released through stoma - called transpiration.

Transpiration is very important in plants, as it one of the processes that allows lifting of water from the soil up the vasculature of the plant (the xylem).  Without transpiration, neither water nor other nutrients would be lifted to the canopy of the tree where they are needed.
Clouds formed by transpiration over the Amazon Rain Forest - from Wikipedia/USGS

Transpiration is a reason why areas with heavy vegetation (forests) tend to be more humid than regions with little vegetation (deserts).  Transpiration can be significant enough to contribute to rainfall.  Transpiration is also tightly regulated, higher in low relative humidity, and higher on warmer days and in higher wind speeds.


Because transpiration is an invisible process, a simple demonstration can help convince yourself that this process is taking place.  Below you see images of an indoor jade plant (Crassula ovata).  This plant is then watered, and has one of its branches covered with a clear plastic bag.  The jade plant is then placed outside on a warm, sunny day.  The bag quickly fills with droplets of water.  This is transpiration in action.





While plants do have a system to regulate how much water they transpire, slowing of transpiration slows the growth of the plant.  This is why a consistent water supply to the roots of the plant is important.  The Groasis Waterboxx is the best way to ensure this consistent supply of water.


A cut away view of the Waterboxx - showing how water is stored, and funneled through a wick to the roots of a growing plant - from Groasis.com 

The Groasis Waterboxx is a self-refilling water battery that provides a consistent source of water to a growing plant.  The Waterboxx contains a water reservoir, filled only once (at setup).  The water is then slowly released through a wick in the base of the Waterboxx, around 50 mL (10 teaspoons) of water per day.  Daily dew and occasional rain refill the Waterboxx.  Because the Groasis Waterboxx delivers water to the growing plant every day, the plant can remain metabolically active and growing, not dependent on irregular rainfall.  The Waterboxx can be removed after about one year and used again.  The Waterboxx can be bought from Dew Harvest in the United States. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".



Friday, July 1, 2016

Dew Point and Condensation - Planting Trees with the Groasis Waterboxx

     Dew Point is an interesting and often misunderstood concept.  Dew Point is the temperature that air must reach (decrease to) in order for condensation to take place - the Point on the thermometer at which Dew forms.  We frequently see this with glasses of ice water.  Imagine two identical glasses - one full of room temperature water and one full of a mixture of ice and water.  Which one will develop condensation (popularly known as 'sweat' although this is a very misleading term)?  Experience has probably taught you that only the glass of ice water will induce condensation, sometimes in significant amounts.  The author has even had a cellphone ruined when it was placed next to a glass of ice water in a humid room overnight.  The condensation produced by the glass created a puddle that destroyed the cellphone without the water ever being spilled. Why does this condensation happen?
     Air can hold water in the form of vapor - and warmer air can hold more water vapor.  When you fill a glass (and a glass works better than a plastic cup as glass is a poor insulator) with ice, it cools the air immediately around it.  This local air is cooled below the Dew Point, and the water vapor from the air condenses.
    This is actually why mountains cause rain - as humid air from plains or oceans has to rise to cross over mountain ranges, it cools.  Depending on the height of the mountain range, it usually cools enough for some of the air to lose water in the form of precipitation (rain or snow).
     Why is any of this relevant to anything?  Well, much of the fresh water available on the Earth is actually in the air.  In fact, over 5 times as much water is available in the humidity in the air as is available in rivers on the Earth.  

There is sometimes enough dew on the grass to thoroughly soak your morning slippers - can we put this to use?

     As so little water is available in some areas where trees and other plants need water, a brilliant Dutchman named Pieter Hoff invented a device to use water from the air to grow plants -  without irrigation.  This device is called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon®.
    The Groasis Waterboxx acts acts in several ways.  The Waterboxx has a reservoir of several gallons of water that is resistant to swings in temperature due to the high specific heat capacity of water.  There is a small air pocket above the water reservoir and immediately below the Waterboxx lid.  The water tends to be cooler than outside air during the day and warmer than the outside air at night.  When the sun sets and the outside air temperature cools, the air pocket between the water reservoir and the Waterboxx lid is cooler than the outside lid (just like a glass of ice water is cooler than the ambient temperature) causing condensation to form faster and in greater amounts.
Originally from Groasis.com

    The Groasis Waterboxx lid is specially designed with microscopic pyramids on top of a funneled, corrugated form.  This design mimics the lotus leaf, and funnels as much dew as possible to the central siphons.  These siphons direct the water collected as dew into the reservoir, and prevent the water from evaporating during the day.  This water is then slowly released to the roots of the growing plant below by a small wick at the base of the green reservoir.  This whole process can be seen in the video below.
 
     The Groasis Waterboxx will collect dew every night, so long as the temperature of the air falls below Dew Point (allowing condensation to form).  It will take up to a year without any rain to empty the reservoir if it is refilled with condensation, when growing trees.  Dry, arid climates that are most in need of the Waterboxx generally have the biggest swings in temperature between day and night due to lack of insulating cloud cover.  These swings mean the temperature is more likely to go both above and below Dew Point, causing condensation.  The Waterboxx works so well in the desert that when used in the Sahara, 88% of single trees (99% of double tree plantings) planted with the Waterboxx survived even though they were never watered again after first planting.  Only 11% of the weekly watered control trees survived.    You can check Dew Point here if you have relative humidity and temperature handy (available here).

What about areas that are so hot and so dry that dew is rarely found on the ground in the morning - can the Waterboxx work there?  Yes, and here's how:

Trees transpire a considerable amount of moisture, and a Waterboxx planted tree of any size (but especially broadleaf/deciduous trees) transpires water vapor over the Waterboxx lid.  On a windless or nearly windless night, this settles on the lid, slides down into the siphons and replenishes the reservoir.  This would be the case even if the relative humidity elsewhere around the tree was so low that the low temperature wouldn't reach dew point.  If a tree is established as recommended with the Waterboxx (with 10 gallons of water poured at time of planting into the soil), that is somewhere near 10 gallons that can be transpired, collected, and recycled.  This 10 gallons doesn't include the amount in the reservoir at planting and the amount collected from dew and rain.  

 Also, the Waterboxx planted tree may lower the daytime and therefore nighttime local temperature slightly (due to shade and humidity), and the local air may reach dew point that way.  Finally, in the beginning of the summer, the water in the reservoir is likely to be cooler than the average air temperature.  This will likely cool the small amount of air in the Waterboxx (the air resides beneath the cream colored lid but above the black midplate), making the surface of the cream colored lid cooler and closer to dew point. So, because the Waterboxx planted tree changes the local environmental conditions, the Waterboxx can be replenished even if the surrounding environment is too hot or dry.
A Waterboxx lid with significant condensation.  This water beads up due to the microscopic pyramids on the Waterboxx lid.

A note about published Dew Points.  We find these to be quite frequently inaccurate.  We have been camping and have had our tent (and the surrounding ground) covered with dew when, by published temperature and dew points, there shouldn't have been any condensation.  Dew Points can be highly local (due to differing local water sources) and the only real way to measure Dew Point is to record the temperature outside when dew begins to form on the ground (or other objects).  

If this all sounds a bit complicated, well, unfortunately that's because it is.  That is likely why a device like the Waterboxx, deceptively simple as it appears, was never developed before.  You can find out more about the Waterboxx on our parent website, Dew Harvest.  You can also buy the Waterboxx here.   We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments". 



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Growing Huge Eggplants Without Watering After Planting

Eggplants are renowned for their deep purple colors and unique flavor.  Eggplants, just like tomatoes, tend to taste much, much better when home grown, rather than when bought from even the best store. Even if store bought produce is grown and picked when flavorful, it frequently travels so far and for so long that when available in the store it is less than appetizing. This is probably never more true than with eggplants, which can be leathery and foul tasting having had to travel long distances.

Produce or "consume" from a local grocery store - this hardly makes us want to eat our vegetables
The solution to the flavorless store bought eggplant is to grow them yourself, in your own garden.  Growing eggplants can be a great joy, if done correctly.  We, however had years of disappointment growing eggplants in our raised beds.  It always seemed like something was off, something always conspired to keep the eggplants from producing well.  Some years the transplanted seedling would barely grow, other years the larger plants wouldn't set fruit.  Finally, even when the plants did set fruit well, like in 2015, the plant was so bogged down that the fruits touched the ground and were soon eaten by ants.

Eggplants have very specific requirements for good growth, detailed below:
  • Rich soil, such as that provided by well composted humus
  • Even and consistent water to its roots
  • Consistently warm temperatures
  • Minimal wind
First, let's discuss the soil.  We strongly recommend composting - in fact we have made a podcast on how to get started composting (listen to all our podcasts here).    At the end of every growing season, you should be working your composted humus or organic matter into the soil by hand or with a spade or soil knife.  If you include pureed (yes - put them in a second hand blender and press puree) eggshells and decaying plant matter from many different sources, your compost should have all essential nutrients.  Listen to our composting podcast to hear what you should and should not put into your compost.  As long as you rotate crop locations each year, adding fresh compost really should mostly take care of any nutritional deficiencies the eggplants are likely to have.  We have not had  nutrient deficiencies causing poor growth, using compost.

The next three problems seem somewhat out of a gardener's hands.  How do you make sure consistent water is provided to the eggplants, especially in raised beds which dry out quickly?  A gardener could of course water their garden every single day (a significant time commitment) but then how do you prevent splitting of the eggplant after heavy rains?  

Also, how do you keep the eggplants warm on cool nights?  Finally, how do you shield eggplants from wind, especially when the seedlings are young and fragile?

These three problems - water, warmth, and wind, are all addressable with a single device, the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, or Waterboxx for short.  The Waterboxx is an intelligent plant incubator, inspired by nature, that allows gardeners to grow eggplants (as well as tomatoes and other plants) without continued watering after planting.  The Waterboxx, seen below, collects dew, other condensation, and rainwater,  stores it in a fifteen liter reservoir, and slowly releases this water to the roots of a growing plant, like a tree, tomato or eggplant.   


A schematic cross sectional view of the Waterboxx: water is collected on the corrugated tan lid, funneled down siphons shown in red, stored in the green reservoir, and slowly released, by hygroscopic capillary action, into the soil below through a white wick.  
The Waterboxx releases water through one or two wicks only when the soil is dry, so only when it is needed by the plant's roots.  The Waterboxx will almost never run out of water if only one wick is used, and even with two wicks is likely to need watering very rarely.  With two wicks and two eggplants per Waterboxx, we have never needed to add water manually - natural sources provide enough.  After all, it takes only 4 inches of rain to fill the Waterboxx.  

When your garden does receive heavy rain, this can flood the soil and cause the eggplants to split.  The Waterboxx prevents this by storing most of the water that would be going directly to the plant roots and funneling the rest at least 10 inches away from the plants through an overflow spout.  This prevents the roots from getting water logged and prevents the eggplants from splitting, even after heavy rains.  

What about the need for minimal wind but for consistent warm temperatures?  Well - the Waterboxx provides this as well.  When eggplant plants are small (less than 20 inches) they are mostly shielded from blowing winds by the Waterboxx.  As the plant grows (and grow it will given the consistent moisture from the Waterboxx), the Waterboxx still protects the base the plant stalk and keeps it from blowing over.

Water is very good at providing consistent temperatures.  This is why some areas along the coast, like San Diego, have mild climates throughout the year almost irrespective of the season.  This also applies to the water in the Waterboxx, although on a much smaller scale.  The water in the Waterboxx reservoir resists changes in temperature, keeping the plant cool during the day and warm at night.  This can be seen below in infrared photos showing how the Waterboxx cools the soil and roots on even a very hot day.

On these infrared photographs, cool is purple and hot is yellow.  Although the ambient temperature is near 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius),  the Waterboxx keeps the soil closer to an ideal room temperature - all without any electricity
So, even if the theory is sound, how effective is the Waterboxx at growing eggplants?  Well, we have the biggest eggplant plants we have ever seen, growing with the Waterboxx, all without any watering after planting and Waterboxx set up:

Two eggplants growing in a Waterboxx in a late June in central Indiana.  To judge scale, the white lid of the Waterboxx is 10 inches tall, so this plant is almost 40 inches tall currently, and it isn't even close to done growing!
Okay, so even if the Waterboxx has a strong theoretical basis for working and it grows the eggplant plants large, that doesn't mean this leads to more or better looking eggplants.  Well, our friend Bill McNeese in Hemet, Southern California was able to keep harvesting beautiful, large eggplants up until December of 2015, as seen below.  As you can see, the Waterboxx also keeps the fruit off the soil, preventing premature decay.  

Eggplants being harvested in December 2015 in southern California 
So, the Waterboxx has both a theoretical basis and proven results for growing large, prolific eggplants.  We recommend planting two eggplants per Waterboxx, one in each end of the figure "8" shaped central opening, leading to better pollination and more fruit.  When using two eggplants a second wick should be inserted into the Waterboxx, and the water level in the Waterboxx checked every other week.


A single day's eggplant harvest - from two plants in one Waterboxx, all with no watering after Waterboxx placement - certainly more appetizing the those available in the store, for a much better price, all told.
The Waterboxx can also work for other garden vegetables with a compact central stalk like tomatoes and peppers.  You can find out more about the Waterboxx here or buy the Waterboxx here.  Please visit our main website, www.dewharvest.com, to see all the Waterboxx's awards as well as a video of how the Waterboxx functions.  

We would love to read your comments below.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

STOP WATERING YOUR TOMATOES!!!

Since time immemorial, it has been almost impossible to water tomatoes correctly.  Water too little, and you will get very poor growth.  Water too much, and your tomatoes will split.  Other diseases, like blossom end rot, are also due to problems with watering.  It seems almost impossible to get tomatoes consistent amounts of water, regardless of rainfall or drought.

Raised beds somewhat solved the problem of overwatering - especially after heavy rains.  The "Mel's Mix" of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost advocated by the late, great Mel Bartholomew in his book All New Square Foot Gardening works well to hold moisture.  Also, because this soil mix is only used in raised beds, water will not stand and suffocate tomato roots.  The problem with raised beds, even with Mel's Mix, is that with the limited depth of soil, the soil dries out very quickly - potentially in just one day in hot, windy, dry climates.  This means a great deal of work for the average gardener - with manual watering required every single day.  Of course, an irrigation system could be set up - but this is very expensive, time consuming, and isn't really worth it for just a few tomato plants.

So, the problem of how to water tomatoes remained, until, that is, of the invention of a device called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, or Waterboxx for short.  The Waterboxx was originally designed by a Dutch lily and tulip breeder, Pieter Hoff, to grow trees in very dry areas without electricity or running water.  It soon became evident, however, that the Waterboxx would work superbly for growing tomatoes.




A schematic cutaway view showing how the Waterboxx functions - water is collected from dew, condensation, and rainfall on the tan lid, funneled down siphons (shown here in red) to a 4 gallon reservoir, where it is stored and slowly released to the roots of the plants growing in a central opening.  Image from Groasis.com
The Waterboxx has since been used throughout the world to grow tomatoes.  Here in the U.S., we have seen that it is possible to grow tomatoes in a profound drought without any water added after planting, as Waterboxx enthusiast Tony Palumbo discovered in 2015 in Sacramento County, California.  As you can see below - the Waterboxx planted tomato there did excellent without any watering after planting, even in 106 degree heat, and with less than a quarter inch of rain the entire growing season.  

A summer's growth of a Waterboxx tomato - all without any watering after Waterboxx set up - even with less than 0.25 inches of rain and maximum temperatures of 106 degrees!  This single Waterboxx tomato grew 56 tomatoes.

In Sacramento County, 56 tomatoes were harvested from this one plant without any watering after planting.   This number of tomatoes is more than enough for most people -but if you want more for canning or making sauce, you can insert extra wicks into the Waterboxx and get an even greater yield (with some extra watering).   In Southern California (Hemet), 981 Juliet (Roma style) tomatoes were harvested from a single Waterboxx (with extra wicks) with just 6 times of watering all summer.
A single day's harvest of beautiful Juliet tomatoes in Hemet California from our friend, Bill McNeese
In Indiana, where we are based, we have had over 1500 cherry tomatoes grow with a single Waterboxx, all without any watering after planting.  Even though cherry tomatoes are known for splitting, we had less than 1% split due to the consistent moisture provided by the Waterboxx, even after heavy rains.

Roma and cherry tomatoes planted in a Waterboxx - the Roma plant was destroyed in a storm but the cherry tomato plant went on to produce over 1500 tomatoes - all without any watering after planting!

We have been gardening since childhood and the Waterboxx is the best device or method we have seen for growing tomatoes.  We believe so strongly in the potential of the Waterboxx, that we created a company to promote and sell it here in the U.S. - Dew Harvest LLC at www.dewharvest.com.  If you are interested in trying out the Waterboxx, especially if you live in a drier climate (like the Southwest), you can visit our buy page and buy the Waterboxx here.

We would love to read your comments below.  Happy planting!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Community Gardening Without Running Water

Community gardens are a wonderful thing - they provide a chance for people who don't have yards or space for their own garden to come together and grow healthy, local, carbon neutral or even carbon negative food.

The biggest problem with community gardening has been the time commitment needed for such a garden.  Many community gardeners, because of work, family, and other obligations, are unable to visit their garden plots during the work week. This means that all weeding and watering needs to be done on the weekend visit.  Many people visit their garden Saturdays to find their plants wilted and plots overgrown with weeds.  This problem is made especially acute with the widespread adoption of raised bed gardens, where the limited depth of the soil allows it to to dry out quickly.

Is there any solution to this problem - a way to both water your community garden plot while away and keep weeds from growing?  Yes, there is.  A Dutch device, called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, or Waterboxx can do precisely this - water garden plants without human effort.  It also blocks weed growth for a radius of 20 inches around a garden plant, without any form of herbicide or manual labor, after set up.

The Waterboxx functions by collecting dew, other condensation, and rain water on its lotus leaf inspired lid.  It then funnels this water into a 4 gallon reservoir, which is filled at set up with pure water.  This water is then slowly released to the soil below via one or more small wicks.  Up to three garden plants are planted in a central opening of the Waterboxx, and are cooled during the hot summer months by the water in the reservoir, reducing transpiration and decreasing water need.  Soil moisture is kept from evaporation by the Waterboxx as well.

A cutaway view of the Waterboxx showing function - water is collected by the tan lid, funneled into the reservoir, and slowly released to the soil below by a white wick.  The figure "8" shaped central opening has space for up to three garden plants.
The Waterboxx can be filled only at planting for many plants in many areas, and not need manual refilling at all during an entire growing season.  Four inches of rain is enough to completely refill this device.

Five Waterboxxes can easily fit in a standard 4x4 foot raised bed garden, with some space between the Waterboxxes for supports as well as other plants like beans, peas, or lettuce.

A single 4x4 foot raised bed with 5 Waterboxxes growing 4 peppers, 2 tomatilloes, 2 tomatoes, and several green, purple, and yellow beans.  No water has been added to the Waterboxxes since planting but they are still full.
The Waterboxx can easily be rented to gardeners with a garden plot - especially as they are designed to last 10 years.  At the end of every planting season, the wicks are removed and replaced, and the Waterboxxes are easily stacked for the following planting season.

The Groasis Waterboxx can completely change community gardening.  If you are interested in purchasing a Waterboxx, please visit our website, here.  Find out more about the Waterboxx here.