Does The GrowBox Container Garden System Work?

Garden — By on July 6, 2012 7:22 am

GrowBox planters growing on Shawna Coronado's balcony

Planting a garden in the drought filled water-starved wilds of suburbia can be a challenge.  In Chicagoland, for instance, we have had a month of 95 degree Fahrenheit days and higher with GrowBox illustrationnearly three months of drought. This week we saw 102 degrees. I stepped outside my front door and my eyelids melted onto my eyeballs and I had trouble blinking. I wish I were kidding.

With this in mind, any genius planting solution which enables a gardener to water less is worth its weight in gold. I, however, am not big on gimmicks. I want the REAL DEAL. I want a drought tolerant planting solution that really works and that is so simple anyone could use it. I met Ken McDowell, a rep from The Garden Patch GrowBox company at P. Allen Smith’s #G2B12 event a few months ago. Ken sent out a few GrowBoxes to me saying how “miraculous” they were. I laughed heartily and rolled my eyes in disbelief but agreed to give them a try.

GrowBox Pre Planting System

GrowBox Organic Mechanic Soil Adding


  1. Fill the GrowBox with your favorite potting soil (I use this SECRET MIX) and lay a row of fertilizer down the middle of the planter on top of the soil.
  2. Cut holes for your plants (following the directions for planting by numbers included with the container) and lay the planting patch over the top of the soil and fertilizer.
  3. Plant your plants and add water. Keep the water reservoir filled with water throughout the growing season.

I added a secret ingredient to the containers – I was concerned that the fill hole was open so mosquitoes could lay eggs in the standing water. I created a hole cover by cutting up an old planter liner and stuffing a bit of the liner into each container hole. It was an easy solution instead of spending money on a mosquito dunk. According to Ken and his team, the boxes are made from restaurant grade plastics, so are safe to grow vegetables in.

GrowBox Prevent Mosquitoes Stuffing

Are you ready for the shocker? THE GROW BOX SYSTEM WORKS. I only watered the system planters once every two weeks – three weeks if we had a rain in mild summer temperatures. In hot summer temperatures I have been filling the reservoirs about once every week and a half. All the other plants in my garden have had to be watered heavily once every other day or so. The Bonnie lettuce in the Grow Box is twice as large as my other lettuces because they have a constant source of water.

My only qualm about the design of the planter is I am not fond of reading the lettering of the soil cover. Up on my balcony where no one dares go it was okay, but I flipped it upside down to the wordless side for the planters next to my main pathway. However, I found out that if it rains the reverse side of the cover gets a bit moldy and unattractive. Grow Box Management – I think you should have the planting by numbers printed on the back side of the liner, not the top side. It would be more attractive.

This test has been an eye-opener for me. I did not believe the Grow Box planters would effectively be drought conservative and use less water. After testing it out I will definitely use the boxes again and felt the plants were more successful than the plants I planted in the ground. Thanks Grow Box, for helping me discover a new product that works.

Michael Nolan also attended the P. Allen Smith’s #G2B12 event and wrote about his experiences with the GrowBox too – Michael Nolan, The Garden Rockstar.

GrowBox Rows

GrowBox Watering

*Note – Because the FTC requires it, I am noting that attendees at Garden2Blog 2012 including myself received transportation, accommodations and meals during the event. Event sponsors such as The Grow Box provided samples and product giveaways at no cost or obligation for testing. No one paid me to say anything about their products – all opinions are my own. Also, I am letting you know that Bonnie Plants, Organic Mechanics Soil and Natural Industries supplied the plants, soil, and soil additives I used in this garden post. I donate a large portion of the vegetables I grow in my soil-improved garden to the local food pantry when harvested.

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  1. I have wanted these for quite awhile. They are expensive though. Maybe someday when our budget allows. :)

  2. Alison says:

    I wish they were more attractive! I’m thrilled that they worked, I’d love to try them. Maybe next year. Can you cover that printing with a mulch?

  3. Suzanne Lucero says:

    I have a smaller version of the grow box for a tiny herb garden–don’t know who makes it but I bought it at Wal-Mart. Anyway, I think I must be doing something wrong because my herbs, especially the basil, are hardly growing at all. Also, since it is smaller I have to fill the reservoir every day because of the high temps lately–we’re heading for a record-breaking heat wave this summer. Yuck. @S_Lucero

  4. Grow Box says:

    wow its really very cool ideas have shared here like it thanks for this informative post

  5. Daniel says:

    I bought Eartgboxes, which are very similar but I struggled with bottom end rot, I even used more lime, but the heat of the summer was still to stressful for my poor peppers. I have read a lot of post from people with the same problem. Anyone have any thoughts?

    • Shawna says:

      Hi Daniel,

      I have not had a problem with bottom end rot at all, however, that can be caused by irregular water issues and we have had a drought through most of the country over this summer. SO – it could be that your boxes have dried out in between too much or your tomatoes have suffered stress somehow which has caused a calcium deficiency that leads to bottom end rot.


      • Daniel says:

        The boxes got so hot, I think that the water got so hot it damaged the roots. They had plenty of water. I also added plenty of hydrated lime to get calicum levels up. The only thing I could caulk it up to is the stress of heat. They couldnt take the heat without the ground to keep the roots cool.

        • Shawna says:

          Wow. That’s hot. I didn’t have that problem and we had 90 to 100 degree temps all summer and the boxes were in full sun. SO – I don’t think I have an answer for you in relationship to this.

          I would contact the company directly and ask them their thoughts.


  6. david says:

    Hi Shawna – I’ve communicated with Ken in the past and did a review of the boxes last year. I grew tomatoes and peppers which did very well. I would add, once the plants were mature, they could drain the reservoir in the course of a day. From full at 5:30 am to dry by 6 pm. These boxes work, but they need monitoring just like any garden. Keep up the good work!

  7. Melissa says:

    Is the box deep enough to grow carrots?

  8. I love what you guys are up too. Such clever work and coverage!

    Keep up the very good works guys I’ve added you guys to my personal blogroll.

  9. Kathy Kells says:

    Are the growboxes deep enough for your tomato plants? And did you just stake them in the boxes. Also how many tomato plants can you put in each grow box?
    Thank you, Kathy

    • Shawna says:

      Yes, the growboxes are deep enough for the tomato plants. Stake them in the boxes. One tomato plant unless they are small tomato plant varieties, then more than one.

  10. Paul says:

    These boxes work fine but they are mosquito farms. Tried to plug the fill hole but the top half of this two piece planter does not seat perfectly on the bottom half so the buggers still get in. After two years I gave up on them. They do grow veggie’s like the dickens though. They sell dunks to put in the water but I’m skeptical about adding something like that to the water my vegetables are drinking up.

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