Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Grow Trees in the Desert With These Five Tricks From Nature

Biomimicry is the process imitating the wisdom of nature to solve human problems, and it rightfully has received a great deal of attention lately. Nature's organisms have been struggling to adapt to and live in inhospitable environments for millenia, while modern human engineering attempting the same feat is only a few hundred years old. The most famous example of biomimicry is probably Velcro, which mimics the hooks of burrs to become adhesive to fabric and hair.  However, a more complete and just as useful example of biomimicry is the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a brilliant device to grow trees and other plants in the desert without any continuing irrigation.  The Waterboxx uses multiple ideas from nature to accomplish this task - in fact, the Waterboxx is so effective that it allows up 88-99% of trees planted with it to survive in the Sahara desert.

Bird Droppings
Birds are like humans in that they can see in color (some can actually see into the ultraviolet spectrum) - likely to be able to pick out brightly colored flowers and berries from surrounding green leaves.  Plants have evolved bright colors for their fruits in order to have their seeds eaten by birds, have the outer coating of the seed digested, and then having the seed deposited far from the parent plant in a bird dropping.  Bird droppings cover the seed planted on the soil, allowing the seed to be in contact with the existing capillary channels of the soil, thus allowing capillary water to reach the seed, ensuring is survives after germination.  The droppings themselves cover the seed, preventing drying out from sun and wind.  The Waterboxx copies this ability of bird droppings to plant trees and other plants - allowing capillary channels in the soil to remain intact while preventing soil moisture from evaporating into the air - similar to how a stepping stone will always have a wet underside as that soil moisture can't evaporate either.  You can see an overview of the Waterboxx mechanism, including the bird dropping inspiration, in the video below.

Skin Dew Drinking Lizards
Lizards in different parts of the world have developed an amazing ability to literally drink dew off of their skin.  The Australian Thorny Devil and the Texan Horned Lizards both collect small amounts of rain water and much more frequent dew on their skin, which is then channeled into crevices between their "horns" or skin spikes.   This water is then conveyed over to the lizards' mouth to be drank, sustaining the lizards in very harsh and dry environments.  Because there is dew most days even in the desert, the lizards are able to survive.  Similarly, the Groasis Waterboxx collects dew and rain water along its lid, and is channeled into a 4 gallon reservoir where the water is protected from evaporation.  This water is then slowly released into the soil beneath to nourish a growing plant's roots.  The lid is even corrugated, mimicking the horns of the toad, which increases surface area on which water can collect.

Australian Thorny Devil - From Wikipedia, By Bäras (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Lotus Effect
Lotus leaves have an incredible ability to repel water, called superhydrophobicity by scientists and those fond of large words.  Lotus leaves have developed this ability in order to slick off dirt, bacteria and fungus which may damage the leaves of the plant.  This ability, called the Lotus Effect, is due to microscopic pyramids on the surface of the leaves which prevent small water droplets from attaching tightly to the surface with hydrogen bonds. The lid of the Groasis Waterboxx also has tiny pyramids which allows water to slide off the lid and down channels into the reservoir below for later use by the plant.
Graphic by William Thielicke showing pyramidal structure of the surface of the Lotus leaf.  This surface guarantees that water won't stick to the surface of the lotus leaf, or the Groasis Waterboxx lid that has similar microscopic pyramids on its surface.  
The Lake (Water) Effect
Water has incredible power to resist changes in temperature, referred to scientifically as high specific heat capacity.  This is very important in helping our planet (the surface of which is two thirds water) resist the massive changes in temperature of other planets like Mercury and the moon.  On a smaller scale, vessels of water can have a warm surface while still having a cool lower level of water.  This is familiar to almost anyone who has went swimming in a calm lake in the summer - the top most level of the water is warm, only to get much cooler farther down near a swimmer's feet.  This property of water can help a great deal in insulating plants against rapid changes in air temperature. Small plants still near the ground and the roots of larger plants are insulated from the heat of the sun in desert climates by the water residing in the Groasis Waterboxx.  In the photos below, you can see the how cool the Waterboxx keeps the soil below.

Yellow is hot, blue is cooler - the Waterboxx keeps the soil and roots of the plant cool even on hot days - from Groasis.com

Tree Trunk Effect
Trees are able to get water to their upper most leaves, even if several hundred feet high.  How do they do this - the don't have an electric pump at their base and running water.  They use capillary action, or the ability of water to pull itself up the sides of narrow tubes.  The Groasis Waterboxx takes advantage of this property in two ways.  First the Waterboxx slowly releases water from the reservoir to the soil beneath via a braided wick, similar to how torches slowly move oil for burning.  This allows a consistent supply of 10 teaspoons (50 mL) of water to be distributed to the roots every day.  Secondly, the Waterboxx planted tree takes advantage of capillary action to pull capillary water up from deep in the soil, preventing the death of the plant during times of drought.  You can see capillary action below in water rising up a paper towel.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a wonder of biomimicry - using many insights garnered from nature to increase nature - to plant trees and other plants on dry, fallow ground.  You can buy the Groasis Waterboxx from Dew Harvest  in the United States, with discounts on large orders.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Grow Your Own Local Firewood Using the Groasis Waterboxx

The U.S. has entered another cold snap, even before winter has officially begun.  This, after the fact, that for much of the United States, the 2013-2014 winter was the coldest in recent memory.  We are spending a great deal of money and non-renewable fossil fuels to heat our homes.  This wasn't always the case.  Humans first tamed fire and heated homes with firewood, an affordable renewable resource.  With the recent interest in biofuels and cost saving (which is always popular), many have a renewed interest in humanity's first fuel.

Firewood can be an excellent heat source during winter, and of course does not add any new carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (all carbon in wood was pulled from the air during the tree's growth).  However, it is very, very important that any firewood you use be grown very close to the area you plan to use it.  Transporting firewood across any distance can allow invasive and destructive insects and other pests to invade new trees, threatening whole forests.  The number of invasive insects alone -Asian Longhorn Beetles and Emerald Ash Borer to name only two in the author's area- is long and keeps increasing.  Firewood must be grown close to the site of its use.

However, many areas do not have a great deal of naturally occurring trees, and many of those alive in such areas are too valuable to be cut for firewood.  What can be done in this situation?

The answer is simple - plant fast growing trees with the Groasis Waterboxx, stagger when you harvest the trees, and use these trees for firewood.  What trees are both fast growing and suitable for firewood?  The five we recommend at Dew Harvest are the poplar (Populus species), the silver maple (Acer saccharinum), the Red Oak (Quercus rubra), the thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis) and the Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis).

First, the poplar is extremely fast growing, with some hybrids growing up to 8 feet per year.  The poplar grows straight, with relatively short branches, allowing these trees to be packed densely.  Huge tree farms 25,000 acres large have been planted with nothing but hybrid poplars.

Poplars can also be grown from cuttings (vegetative reproduction).  This means several poplars can be started from cuttings every year.  This is remarkable simple, and can be done with the Groasis Waterboxx as well.

Because the poplar is so fast growing, it is not very dense and doesn't store as much energy per volume of wood (around 16 million BTU per cord) as other hardwoods.  As a comparison, natural gas currently costs $9.50 per million BTUs, while propane is $33.00 per million BTUs, and electricity is around $24.91 per million BTUs)  Because of this lower energy density, you can use poplar for kindling or starting a fire, and then chose another tree for its longer burning properties overnight.  For this, we recommend silver maple.

Silver maple is also very fast growing (the author has personally seen silver maple grow six feet in a year between a shed and fence with limited sunlight), but doesn't have quite as compact a form as the poplar.  Silver maple has branches that can spread out up to 40 feet, and will take slightly longer to reach maturity.  Silver maple, however, contains about 19 million BTU per cord and doesn't spark as much as poplar.

A third option for much of the country is red oak (Quercus rubra).  This oak is almost as fast growing as silver maple but gives 21.7 million BTU per cord.  Red oak grows in zones 3-8 (all but the most southern part of the country) and have some drought tolerance, improved when planted with the Waterboxx.   This tree can easily grow two feet a year even without the Waterboxx, and more with it.

A very drought resistant tree with a high energy density is the Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis).  This tree has 25.8 million BTUs per cord, light smoke, and is easy to split.  It is so drought resistant that it is easily grown in most parts of the country if planted with a Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Thornless Honeylocust.

Slightly less drought resistant but a very tough tree is the Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis).  This tree grows in zones 3-9, withstands some drought, as well as strong winds and pollution.  It has 21 million BTUs per cord of firewood, doesn't spark, doesn't smoke, and is easy to split, making it and ideal firewood tree.   Buy the Hackberry here.

When growing these or any trees for firewood, you must obtain the young trees for a good initial price and ensure that they survive to adulthood.  Poplars are not generally available from garden centers; buying maples from these stores will be both expensive and futile since their roots are so malformed that they will grow very slowly.  Because of these issues, we recommend buying bare root trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.  With a ten dollar membership, bare root trees cost around five dollars each, and can be ordered in large quantities for significantly cheaper than that.

However, if these trees are planted and not cared for through a dry summer (another recent phenomenon in most of the country), they will be a wasted investment.  That is why the Groasis Waterboxx is used.  If you plant young bare root trees using the Waterboxx, you increase their chance of survival greatly, and increase their rate of growth.  The Waterboxx funnels dew and rainwater to the roots of the growing tree, ensuring the roots reach deeper for water and allowing them to survive future droughts.  In a Sahara planting trial, trees planted with the Groasis Waterboxx that received water only at planting had an 88% survival rate, versus only 11% survival for the trees watered weekly.  The Waterboxx is reusable for up to ten years, allowing you to plant trees year after year and harvest wood indefinitely.  Finally, the Groasis Waterboxx allows you to establish trees in areas that may be too dry for trees to start growing otherwise, harnessing the sunlight of summer for heat in winter.  The Groasis Waterboxx can be purchased from Dew Harvest.

The Groasis Waterboxx with an oak grown from seed.

Depending on your firewood needs, a set of five to ten Waterboxxes and as many young poplars or maples planted each year will likely keep you warm indefinitely, once the trees have had time to get established (three to five years). Since the Waterboxx can be reused, only the trees need to be purchased each year, not the Waterboxx.  This system will almost certainly be cheaper than electric or propane heating and will of course be better for the environment as no net carbon is released.

Buy Hybrid Poplar from Arbor Day

Buy Silver Maple from Arbor Day

Buy Red Oak from Arbor Day

The Groasis Waterboxx can be purchased for around fifty dollars from Dew Harvest, with discounts on orders of five or more.  The Waterboxx can be used to establish new trees for any purpose (such as landscaping or to prevent soil erosion), not just firewood growth.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Our Sources not linked above


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Grow Healthier Food with the Groasis Waterboxx

There is growing evidence that diet does have a significant effect on health, including longevity.  What we are learning is that what we have traditionally grown so much in the United States - corn and corn fed animals, are likely not what is best for our health.

What foods are healthy?  There is growing evidence that what is called in medical literature "The Mediterranean Diet" is the healthiest palatable diet available.  Among sources of protein, fish is clearly most strongly associated with longer life.  Limiting red meat to once weekly, and white meat (poultry) up to 3-4 times weekly, also helps.

Also very important to the health effects of the Mediterranean Diet is olive oil.  People who have a diet high in extra virgin olive oil also have a decreased mortality rate.  It is important that olive oil be extra virgin (minimally processed), and that means it is best to grow it close to home.  Olives can be grown in only a few select southern locations in the United States, ideally in zone 10 and 11, but some varieties in zone 8 and 9.  Olive trees have a tap root, meaning they send a root down deep into the soil to have access to capillary water.  Because of this tap root, it is very difficult to establish olive trees without irrigation - that was until the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a intelligent tree incubator that collects dew and rainwater, stores it, and slowly tunnels it to the roots of a growing plant.  It prevents water from evaporating from the soil, establishing a water column immediately beneath the plant.  In the case of the olive tree, this induces the tap root to grow straight and deep until it can tap into the underground moisture of soil capillaries.  The Waterboxx can then be removed and reused the the Waterboxx established tree will be much more drought resistant in the future.

Besides extra virgin olive oil, it is believed grapes (and especially wine) contribute to the health effects of the Mediterranean Diet.  Grapes need consistent but not excessive moisture, something the Waterboxx excels at providing.  The Waterboxx has been used at the Mondavi Winery in California, in the wineries of our customers, and as seen below, in Chile to grow grapes.

Control of trials with grapes with the Groasis waterboxx in March 2012
The Waterboxx growing grapes in Chile; From Groasis
Nuts are also very important in the healthy Mediterranean Diet.  Nut trees offer great pleasure in the landscape both for beauty and nut production, but can be very hard to establish as well due to their tap root.  If growing trees for nuts, it is important to get a grafted tree from a reputable nursery (we recommend Stark Brothers) to get the best yield of nuts as early as possible.  When investing in grafted trees, any with trunks less than 2 inches in diameter can be planted using the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx allows you to water planted nut trees only at planting (with 4-10 gallons in the soil and then 4 gallons in the Waterboxx basin) and then only revisit them to watch their progress or remove the Waterboxx when the tree outgrows it.
The Waterboxx growing roma tomatoes.  

The Waterboxx growing ab eggplant

Fruits and vegetables are also a very important (and tasty) part of the Mediterranean diet.  We have found that starchy row crops (corn, wheat) are great sources of large numbers of calories, but are not particularly healthy.  Vegetables like cucumbers, eggplant and tomatoes (which can be considered a fruit), are easily grown with the Waterboxx.  Vine fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe can also be grown with the Waterboxx.  You can see examples of all of these garden staples at our main website, www.dewharvest.com.
Zucchinn grown with the Groasis Waterboxx - originally from Groasis.com
What about greens?  One Dew Harvest in Hemet, California came up with an ingenious was to grow greens in the middle of a drought by filling the Waterboxx only once weekly.  He added three extra wicks, attacked absorbent material to these wicks, spread this out in a raised bed, and planted greens on top of this Waterboxx irrigated soil.

As you can see, you can begin to grow healthy Mediterranean Diet food in one growing season, and begin planting trees that will yield nut and olives in a few short years.  All of this is made possible by the Groasis Waterboxx, which can be purchased from Dew Harvest LLC.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Preventing Future Wildfires When Planting Trees in the Desert

Planting trees in the desert was always a tantalizing possibility that was usually right beyond reach, that is until the invention of the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx is an intelligent plant incubator, a self refilling water battery for trees that allows trees to be established in areas without water or irrigation.  The Waterboxx, explained below, is available for purchase from Dew Harvest.

When planning to plant a large number of trees in the desert, however, one must plan to decrease the risk of future wildfire consuming your hard work and spreading to neighboring properties.

Fire is usually started by lightning in remote areas, and we can do little to control the frequency of such ignition sources.  However, we can, with careful planning, prevent spread of fires by careful placement and grooming of trees.

Planting Fire Resistant Trees
Some trees and shrubs, specifically deciduous (broadleaf) trees, have a relatively high moisture content and are therefore less likely to combust.  The resins produced by many conifers are  flammable.  Unfortunately, the conifers are generally more drought resistant than even the best broadleaf trees.  Therefore, if conifers need to be planted, the other principles must be followed.

If planting trees on a flat surface, it is recommended that there be at least 10 feet between the outermost canopy of each tree to prevent flames from jumping from one tree to the next.  For trees planted on slight slopes (20-40%) 20 feet apart is recommended, and for steep slopes (greater than 40%), 30 feet between trees is recommended.  You may start with trees planted much closer than this, and then eventually cut down trees spaced too closely.

Ensuring that there are no branches on mature trees for at least the bottom 6 feet of the tree is essential.  Fires are started and spread on the ground.  If these fires cannot spread up the tree, the fire is more likely to be extinguished.  Many of our recommended trees elsewhere on this blog do not regularly grow low branches.

If you have a large property, you may be well served by having animals graze periodically on your land.  It is very important these be steers or non-pregnant females as pine needles can cause abortions of new calfs. This will trim any grasses (which can be extremely flammable if fully grown and dried) and they will sometimes eat low lying branches.  There is also evidence that "holistic" grazing reduces desertification of your land as well.  You will want to wait until the Waterboxxes have been removed and are being used elsewhere before having cattle walk around your property to prevent damage to the Waterboxxes.

Ensuring Adequate Water
If trees are well supplied with water, they are much less likely to combust even with a significant spark.  For most trees, irrigation is out of the question due to cost and remoteness of planting site.  However, when trees are planted correctly with the Groasis Waterboxx, their roots are able to tap into the deeper capillary moisture in the soil.  Except in the most extreme of circumstances, this water is sufficient to keep trees alive and healthy.

Planting with the Waterboxx
When planting trees in extremely dry areas, we recommend pouring 10 gallons of water into the soil, and then planting the tree with the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx is then filled with 4 gallons of water.  The Waterboxx should stay refilled with water from dew and occasional rainfall, and all of this water will eventually be funneled to the roots of the growing tree.  The Waterboxx can be removed when the tree is about to outgrow it, and reused.

Buy the Groasis Waterboxx here.  We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

For further information, please visit:




Trees to Plant in West Texas

West Texas poses a special challenge to landowners seeking to plant trees on their property.  The scarcity of water, the presence of caliche (hardpan), the danger of wildfire all serve as significant challenges to planting trees.  

Of note, it is important for the long term health of trees to break through caliche when planting trees in West Texas.  This can be done by hand or with mechanical drills (a two man auger).  

Planting for prevention of wildfire will be discussed elsewhere.

Of all the above issues, lack of water is clearly the biggest problem when establishing trees.  Per the National Geographic Society, a desert is an area with less than 10 inches of rain per year.  By this definition, much of west Texas is desert or near desert.  

Texas Rainfall - From Wikipedia

Planting trees in desert is difficult due to the high initial water need for newly transplanted trees.  In areas with high water costs or rural lots with no running water, this has prevented most trees from being planted in dry West Texas, until the invention of the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery for trees and other plants.  When a tree is initially planted with the Waterboxx, the soil is watered with 4-10 gallons, and the Waterboxx itself is filled with 4 gallons of water.  The Waterboxx then is self refilling from dew and rain water, and does not need to be refilled as long as it is left in place.  The Waterboxx can then be reused for up to ten trees.  The Waterboxx is explained below.

When deciding which trees to plant in West Texas and similar climates, you must decide what purpose you are trying to serve.

Windbreak Trees
Pines and other conifers make excellent windbreak trees primarily because they function year round.  Several evergreen trees grow will grow well in West Texas.  Of note, if you plan on grazing cattle on your land we would recommend against planting conifers due to the risk of pine needle abortion for pregnant cows.

First, the Eldarica Pine (Pinus eldarica), which comes from central Asia initially.  The Persian emperors, wanting to be known as gardeners, planted this tree in areas where nothing else would grow.  In fact, they prevented common people from planting this, earning it the name "the tree of royalty."  Luckily, in America, everyone can plant this tree.  It is very tolerant of drought once established with the Waterboxx, and can tolerate many different soils.  Its growth is rapid, but it is not invasive.
mondell pine
Eldarica Pine: From National Park Service

The Aleppo Pine (Pinus halapensis) is similar but with a somewhat more slow growing pine from the Mediterranean basin.  This pine is known for its frequently curved trunk.

Despite its name, the Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica) is a Texas native that also works well for year round windbreaks.  This tree is also very rapid in growth and tolerates alkaline soils. It will prosper in zones 7-9, and can reach 50 feet in height.  It has a beautiful blue white hue to its needles.  Inexpensive saplings of this tree can be purchased from Arbor Day.

Another conifer suitable for planting in West Texas is the Italian Stone Pine, or Pinus pinea.  This tree is less suitable for a windbreak because it tends to only grow a canopy at its topmost end.  It makes up for this deficiency by producing edible pinenuts, which can be eaten by both humans and wildlife.  The tree itself is quite stately, and can grow 80 feet tall and 25 feet in width.  The Italian Stone Pine can be purchased online here.

Italian Stone Pine: From Wikipedia

As we leave our discussion of conifers, we turn towards the deciduous trees that grow in West Texas. Most of these trees turn out to be oak, which are also fire wise trees.

For those that have the patience, the Bur Oak (Quercus marcocarpa) is a beautiful and stately, if slow growing tree.  Its almost covered acorns are good food for wildlife, but may prove a hassle to clean if this tree is grown near a walkway (and you lack sufficient squirrels to do the job for you).  This tree does need somewhat more water than the trees mentioned above, and may not prosper in true desert.  If established with the Waterboxx, however, its root will extend much deeper and access capillary water in the soil.   Buy the Bur Oak here
Bur Oak growing in Indiana

The Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) is another stately oak that will grow in northern Central to West Texas if established with the Waterboxx.  It grows faster than the Bur Oak, but has several of the same advantages.  It also can be purchased inexpensively from Arbor Day.  

The Escarpment Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis) is also known as the Texas Live Oak.  This tree is a marvel, growing from Oklahoma to Mexico.  It requires much less water than it southeastern cousin Quercus virginiana.  This tree is very long lived but also quite fast growing.  This tree has a massive canopy, and diseases can spread from one tree to another through root contact so sufficient spacing (80 feet minimum) is required.  This is an excellent shade tree and would make an excellent focal point for most properties.  This tree actually retains its leaves throughout the winter, making it a rare deciduous evergreen.   Buy the Texas Live Oak here.

Texas Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis) - from National Park Service

The above trees can provide windbreaks, erosion protection, wildlife habitat, or future lumber or firewood for use.  Planting large numbers of trees on your property can also change the microclimate of the land, allowing grass to become established and the land to be used for grazing.  Planting trees in the desert before the invention of Waterboxx was impractical due to the difficulty watering newly planted trees. However, today you can plant tree saplings in the spring with the Waterboxx, and return the next spring to remove and reuse the Waterboxx for another tree - with no work needed in between.

The Groasis Waterboxx can be ordered from Dew Harvest in the continental United States.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Growing Dwarf Peach Trees (Without Watering) and With the Groasis Waterboxx

In the spring of 2013, the author planted several dwarf fruit trees from Stark Brothers, including Redhaven Peach Dwarf Supreme.  Even with frequent watering we were disappointed with the results we saw one year after planting.  Below you see the peach tree as it looked after one year (photo taken in February 2014).

We believed the poor growth was due to lack of consistent water which would allow the tree to grow.

Above you see the peach tree on April 27, 2014.  The first buds are just starting to break through.  We just put in place a device called the Groasis Waterboxx around the base of the tree.  The Groasis Waterboxx is a brilliant invention from Holland that collects dew and rainwater and funnels it to the roots of a growing tree each day.    The principles of the Waterboxx are explained in the following video from Groasis.

As you can see, the Waterboxx was meant to grow trees in very dry areas, but works well to establish trees without watering in areas with more rainfall.

Above you see the peach tree on May 18, 2014.  There has been some branch growth but mostly you just see new leaves established.

Above here you see the Redhaven Dwarf Peach Supreme on July 22, 2014.  The Waterboxx induced growth has been astounding, and has approximately tripled the size of the canopy.  This is all the more impressive as there was almost no growth the previous year.  It must be remembered that no irrigation or watering was given to this tree after the Waterboxx was put in place.  The Groasis Waterboxx collects dew and rain water, stores it in a four gallon reservoir, and slowly and consistently releases it to the roots of the growing plant below. In this way, the Waterboxx allows trees to be established with high success rates and without continued watering.
Luckily, the Waterboxx can be left in place at the base of this tree throughout the cold Indiana winter.  The Waterboxx's design prevents it from breaking when frozen.  We will likely need to remove the Waterboxx next spring.  

We will continue to update this site with photos of the above peach tree.  We expect our first crop of peaches next year thanks to the Waterboxx growth.  

You can purchase the Groasis Waterboxx in the United States from Dew Harvest® LLC.  

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Storing the Monsoons

This past  month, Arizona and Nevada were flooded by monsoon rains, with Phoenix recording 3.3 inches of rain in just seven hours, a record for the city.

Everyone knows rain in the desert is rare - that is what defines a desert.  However, when the rare rains do come, the ground is frequently so inhospitable to water that flooding results, and the water quickly rushes away back to rivers and streams toward the ocean.  We are unable to use the water for irrigation purposes, and the vegetation that would be able to use it is frequently swept away.

Is there a way to harvest this rainfall, all while slowly flash flooding?  We know trees slow the speed which rainfall reaches the ground with their leaves force the water to slowly percolate down to the ground.  Also, trees planted along waterways (called riparian buffers) serve as physical barriers to water rushing into already swollen streams.  Tree roots also loosen the soil, allowing compacted desert earth (called hardpan) to accept water rather than running it off like glass.  So, clearly planting more trees in the desert would be a valid way to help with flood control.

However, trees don't easily get established in the desert.  As mentioned, most rainfall comes in a very short period in the desert, and the ground does not absorb it.  This process is explained in the video below.

So, trees (and other plants) need a stored source of water to continue living after the monsoon-like rains disappear.  For this purpose, a device called the Groasis Waterboxx was invented.  The Groasis Waterboxx is a self-refilling water battery for trees, a dew and rain collector that stores water and slowly releases it to the roots of a growing plant.  The principles of the Waterboxx are explained below.

Since the Waterboxx can be completely refilled with just 4 inches of rain, once yearly monsoons can provide much of the water a tree needs.  In fact, the Waterboxx had an 88-99% success rate sustaining young trees for one year in the Sahara desert planting trial.

After the tree grows and gets almost too large for the Waterboxx, the Waterboxx can be removed and reused for other trees for up to ten years.  The Waterboxx planted tree will have deep roots that reach underground capillary water, allowing it to survive the periods between rains without dying.  The deep roots also prevent the tree from being washed away during storms, a serious problem with store bought trees with shallow roots.

Dew Harvest® LLC was started because we saw the incredible value of the Waterboxx, and we hoped to encourage its use in the United States.  We believe huge numbers of trees could be established with this device, storing carbon, mitigating floods, providing food for wildlife and profit and enjoyment to landowners.  Learn more about the Waterboxx, or buy the Waterboxx here.

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Southwest Megadrought

A recent study suggests that the American Southwest may be more likely to undergo a decade long drought within the next hundred years.  The study, by Toby Ault of Cornell University, states that decades long droughts have happened in the past for unknown reasons.  The records of these droughts comes from tree rings (which are narrower if the tree that year grew under drought conditions).

Much of the American Southwest is already in drought conditions, with California and Arizona suffering unusual dryness.  Lake Mead, the great reservoir behind the Hoover Dam, is at historically low levels as seen below.

Lake Mead - From National Park Service - the white rim visible well above the current water level

So if there is not enough water to continue the current lifestyle and agricultural productivity of the desert Southwest from irrigation, what can be done?  Some places, like San Diego, are experimenting with desalination of seawater to make freshwater.  This is not practical for much of the Southwest interior states, or even states like Arizona (which famously lacks ocean front property).  

Because of the obvious presence of rivers and streams, it is forgotten that there is over six times more fresh water in the air than in rivers.  There is also more water available in capillary water (not ground water in the traditional sense) in the soil than is available in rivers and streams.  

When the location of fresh water becomes more evident (air and soil moisture stored as capillary water) the question quickly becomes - how do we access this water?  An inventor and Dutch flower breeder by the name of Pieter Hoff also had this question.  He retired from his flower business, spent 7 years and 7.1 million dollars developing a device to access this water.  His invention is called the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Groasis Waterboxx is a self recharging water battery for trees and other compact plants,  It is filled initially by a person, and the soil underneath it is moistened.  The Waterboxx then collects dew and rainwater, stores it in a fifteen liter reservoir, and slowly releases it to the roots of a growing plant.  The Waterboxx never needs human refilling after initial set up.  

The Waterboxx encourages the roots of the tree to reach for deeper capillary water by creating a vertical water column.   This is directly opposite of traditional irrigation which encourages shallow root growth by releasing large amounts of water to only the top layer of soil.  Shallow roots are then more likely to dry out quickly once the irrigation water is stopped (due to drought).  After the tree reaches this water (and becomes self-sustaining), the Waterboxx can be removed and reused for up to 10 years.  

Dew Harvest® LLC was started in the United States to help promote the Groasis Waterboxx.  We truly desire to see new forests, vineyards, and orchards planted across the drier parts of our nation.  With drought currently evident in much of the country and increasingly likely in others, it is clear that the time for the Groasis Waterboxx has come.  Be the first in your area to start growing trees and other plants with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx today.

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments". 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Customer Results of Gardening with the Groasis Waterboxx

Dew Harvest® has been selling Groasis Waterboxxes for about 18 months currently, and we feel privileged to introduce this technology to the United States, where it has so many uses.  When we ship Waterboxxes to a customer, we encourage them to email us picture results (to testimonials@dewharvest.com).  We are now receiving our first testimonials, and these are very encouraging.

Below, you see a customer in Hemet, California who purchased a tomato plant at a local store and planted it with the Waterboxx.  As you can see, the tomato plant not only survived but thrived and increased greatly in size in just one week.
This customer inserted a second wick in the base of the Waterboxx (to deliver more water to the roots of the tomato), and because of this the Waterboxx may need to be refilled with water occasionally, but it will still collect dew and rainwater and store them in the reservoir.  If only one wick is inserted, the Waterboxx will never need to be refilled.  The Waterboxx's design prevents evaporation of the water that has been released.

Same tomato plant, seven weeks after transplant
This customer from Hemet, California did rig up a hanging trellis system above the indeterminate tomatoes because they grew so large they needed more support.  To quote him "With a good tomato harvest, a single Waterboxx has the potential to pay for itself in one growing season".  
The same tomato plant on November 7, 2014

Of note, tomatoes in particular are much less likely to split because of the consistent 50 mL (10 teaspoons) of water delivered to their roots daily.  Because this customer inserted a second wick into the Waterboxx, the Waterboxx has a net outflow of around 1 gallon per week.  This means the Waterboxx needs to be refilled once a month in the absence of rain.  Of note, this is not necessary with the standard one wick as the Waterboxx will stay in water balance.

The Waterboxx is excellent for growing tomatoes, melons, pumpkins, zucchini, and of course for establishing trees.  What about growing greens.  The same Waterboxx enthusiast as above found an ingenious way to use the water from the Waterboxx for hydrating a whole raised be of greens (34 plants).  It only needed ~3 gallons (or less than one filling) per week of the Waterboxx directly and no overhead watering otherwise.  The gardener is able to enjoy fresh greens daily.

Below you can see Giant Marconi and Carmen peppers growing with the Waterboxx.  This picture was taken in mid-May 2015.

The Groasis Waterboxx was originally designed to let people grow trees, but it can also be used to garden in drought, especially like the one gripping California right now.

Crimson Sweet Watermelon growing with the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon® in late June, 2015.  This Waterboxx only has 3 wicks, and only needs refilling about one a week.  The largest of these watermelon right now is almost 20 lbs and in need of picking.   
Small and large tomatoes in late June with the Waterboxx PlantCocoon®.  This customer has such a long growing season that he can except continued tomato production until early November.  The Waterboxx only needs refilling once per week in his location.

Juliet tomatoes grown with the Waterboxx PlantCocoon® during the 2015 drought.  This plant only needed watering 8 times during all of the 2015 growing season, and has produced almost 400 fruit so far (as of July 27).  

Crimson Sweet watermelon grown with the Waterboxx PlantCocoon®.  This plant has produced over 64 lbs of melons with watering only 8 times, all because of the Waterboxx!

If you have recently purchased a Groasis Waterboxx and would like your results displayed (with your location and/or name, your preference being honored), please email them to us at testimonials@dewharvest.com.

As always, you can buy the Waterboxx at www.dewharvest.com  

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com.  

Friday, August 22, 2014


Desalination, also called desalinization, is the removal of salt from seawater to make available more freshwater for human consumption.  Since only a tiny percentage of water on Earth is freshwater, and most of this is locked in glaciers, some arid areas bordering oceans or salt lakes view desalination as a necessity.  Israel gets over a third of its drinking water from desalination, and the amount of drinking water obtained from desalination worldwide is expected to almost double by 2020.

Desalination is possible through three main mechanisms.  First, simple solar distillation of seawater uses the different boiling points of pure water and salt to separate the two.  Water boils (evaporates) at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, while NaCl (sodium chloride, or the main salt in the ocean) doesn't boil or evaporate until 2,575 degrees Fahrenheit.  Since the sun warming seawater can get some water molecules to evaporate at a temperature lower than 212 degrees, water is collected on a clear plastic or glass pane.  This pane is sloped, and the pure water drains downward into a trough, awaiting drinking.

Solar distillation or desalination clearly does not produce a great deal of fresh water quickly, so other more expensive but more productive methods were developed.

Vacuum distillation decreases the pressure in a container of seawater to near that of atmospheric pressure.  This causes the pure water to boil at a lower temperature, allowing it to be separated from the salt (which is very difficult to boil as noted above).  This pure water is again separated and collected.

The most recently developed method is reverse osmosis, where seawater is pumped at very high pressures through a semi-permeable membrane (which only allows water through).  The salt remains.  This method is generally cheaper than vacuum distillation.  The biggest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere is now being built outside San Diego.

Both vacuum distillation and reverse osmosis use electricity, making them both expensive and polluting.  They also leave an unwanted byproduct of very salty water which must be discarded.  If this brine water is just mixed in with ocean water again, many animals in the area of the brine will die.  Also, the costs of desalination preclude it from being used for any purpose beside drinking and cooking water.  Irrigation would clearly be far too low value a purpose for this water.

So, if desert countries do increasingly come to rely on desalination for drinking water, how can they grow trees and other plants for food production - especially since desalination is expensive?  The answer is - they can use the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx doesn't use salt water at all, but rare rainwater and condensation to grow plants.  Unlike most types of desalination, it doesn't use electricity and doesn't have any moving parts.  A tree or other plant is planted with the Waterboxx, water is poured around the tree, the Waterboxx is filled with water, and the grower's job is done.  The Waterboxx will maintain its water supply from condensation and refill completely with 4 inches of rain.  See a video of how the Waterboxx works below (from Groasis):

The Groasis Waterboxx allows trees and other plants to be planted in deserts and other very dry areas with high survival rates.  88-99% of trees planted in a Sahara planting trial survived using the Waterboxx, versus only 10% that survived without the Waterboxx but with weekly irrigation.

The Waterboxx has been used throughout the world, and Dew Harvest® is now distributing the Waterboxx within the United States.  The Waterboxx allows land owners and gardeners to plant all types of trees and many different garden plants.  We document our success with pear, cherry, oak, and sequoia trees as well as cantaloupe and pumpkins elsewhere on this site (click the respective plant for links).  Be the first to in your area to start growing with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx here.

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here.We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where is Earth's Fresh Water Stored?

The Stephens Glacier - From USGS: Glaciers hold about two thirds of all the world's fresh water
Most people know that most of the Earth's water is salt water in the oceans (almost 97% in fact).  Many people assume that fresh water is mostly found in rivers and lakes.  This is not the case.  Two thirds of all fresh water is in glaciers and ice, not readily accessible for human use.  As we see many glaciers in the northern hemisphere recede (even while they may be getting thicker in Antarctica), some of this ice may become available in fresh water lakes, but right now it is largely inaccessible.

Of all fresh water, 0.26% (or one quarter of one percent) are in fresh water lakes.  Over eighty percent of  all the fresh water in North American Lakes is in the Great Lakes region. (Incidentally, these lakes were formed by glacial melt after the last ice age, so glacial melt today could potentially have similar effects).. So, there is not much available to the Western part of the United States that most needs the water for irrigation and other uses.

What about rivers?  Well, all the rivers in the world only hold 0.006% (that is six hundredths of one percent) of all water.  We frequently use rivers to irrigate crops, but their main advantage is that they are self refilling, not that they hold significant water.  If fact, we use so much of the water from the Colorado river that it doesn't even reach the sea anymore.

The Colorado River drying out before it reaches the sea - from USGS
With drought becoming more prevalent, and ground aquifers becoming depleted, isn't there another renewable source of water that could be tapped to grow plants?  Yes, there is.  0.04% of all fresh water is held by the atmosphere.  This is over six times what is available in rivers.  The problem, up until now, has been there was no effective way to harvest and store this water for use by growing plants.  The Groasis Waterboxx has changed all of that.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery, an ingeniously designed dew harvesting device that pulls moisture from the air at night, and stores it to slowly distribute to the roots of a growing plant.  It also captures rainfall and stores this for later use.  See how the Waterboxx works in the video below:

The Groasis Waterboxx pulls water from the air, funnels it to a reservoir using its unique lotus leaf inspired lid,  and slowly distributes it to the soil beneath.  This allows the tree roots to grow to deeper capillary water (also called soil moisture, where another 0.05% of all fresh water is stored), making them drought resistant once the Waterboxx is removed and reused.  See the root growth with the Groasis Waterboxx at this link.  Contrast this to what is normally done when planting a young tree - drip or sprinkler irrigation means water stays in the top of the root zone, causing the roots to grow more shallowly and making them more likely to dry out during drought.  The Groasis Waterboxx has suddenly made this atmospheric fresh water, squeezed out in condensation most mornings, available for the growth of the plant.

We at Dew Harvest® LLC have used the Waterboxx to grow cherry, pear, oak, and sequoia trees, as well as annuals like pumpkins and cantaloupe.  Be the first in your area to begin planting trees the way nature intended with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx today.

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Growing Cantaloupe with the Groasis Waterboxx

The Groasis Waterboxx was developed to grow trees in very dry areas without irrigation or other continued watering.  For this purpose, it is superb, with 88-99% survival during a Sahara desert planting trial.   The Waterboxx has been less well known until recently as a way to plant fruits and vegetables, especially vine crops, without any continued Watering.  We had had very dry summers here in Indiana recently so we wanted to test by planting pumpkins and cantaloupes with the Waterboxx.  It is also best to start seeds of a new plant outside the Waterboxx to ensure the most light initially.  We planted several cantaloupe seeds in a peat pot, and transplanted these into the ground.  We placed the Waterboxx over this new cantaloupe, and filled the Waterboxx as well as pouring about one gallon of water down the central opening of the Waterboxx.  Below you can see the cantaloupe on July 28, 2014.

It was a cold spring here in Indiana (as well as a remarkably cool summer) and we may have gotten the cantaloupe in the ground late, but we saw good growth within a few days of the leaves of the cantaloupe reaching the top of the Waterboxx.  Below you see the Waterboxx on August 2, 2014.

The cantaloupe continues to grow very well now.  The Waterboxx usually has one wick, releasing approximately 50 mL (10 teaspoons) of water daily to the roots of the growing plant.  We inserted a second wick after drilling a 3/16 inch hole opposite the original wick hole.  This has given the cantaloupe roots more water, and with our amount of rainfall in Indiana, the Waterboxx has stayed completely full.  In drier climates, a second wick may mean the Waterboxx would need to be refilled.

Below you see the cantaloupe on August 16,2014, with several small yellow blooms.

The cantaloupe has grown significantly by August 24, shown below.

The Groasis Waterboxx allows a means to grow plants in very dry areas.  Areas where cantaloupes are traditionally grown (like Southwest Texas) have very irregular rainfall, but the Waterboxx can counteract this by providing daily moisture to the plant.  The Waterboxx has also been used to grow many other plants, including pear and cherry trees, oakssequoias and pumpkins.   You can buy the Waterboxx here from Dew Harvest® LLC.  We will continue to update this post with the progress of our cantaloupe planting in future years.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com.