Cardboard Boxes as raised beds

dapperFebruary 20, 2008

I posted this in the container gardening section, but since I am using the square foot garden method I thought I would post it here also.

I had a co-worker tell me the other day that he used cardboard boxes last year for his tomatoes and other veggies. He said that they drained water very well, held moisture well, and when the growing season was done the boxes were pretty much done. You could just scoop the boxes, with your compost into your compost pile until the next season.

I was just wondering what everyone here thought of this. I would use them for tomatoes, peppers, maybe watermelon, okra, zuchinni, all the vining stuff to save my other boxes for the stuff that don't vine.

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gardener_mary(6 MA)

I think that is a very interesting idea. My only worry would be if it would hold up through the season. I would hate to have tomatoes growing at top productivity and have the card board break down and fall apart. On the other hand if I had something like lettuce or spinach or maybe even squash growing in them I would not worry so much about loss because they would probably be alright for the remander of the season just growing in the pile of soil.

Thanks for the idea I've been looking for more space for another squash plant, I may try it.

good gardening, Mary

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 7:35PM
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swjonthebay(8b Alabama)

I am using cardboard boxes to grow potatoes in this year. I tied the sides securely with jute twine several times to help them hold their shape and keep them from falling apart on me. This will be my first time doing this but I've talked to others who have done this and they had no problem. I don't see why it wouldn't work for other veggies as well. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 10:45PM
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sldeal(Zone 11)

I'm wondering if this will work if you use plastic trash bags to line the inside or cover the outside of box. Seems like a unique idea and I also read where someone else has tried it and had positive results. Anyone else ever try this?

Here is a link that might be useful: vegetables in cardboard boxes

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 5:38PM
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Dan Staley

I think its an interesting idea. Here in Colo I can see it working if you double the thickness and don't keep the soil saturated. Certainly tying to hold shape and I can see the plastic working too. Can't try it in my yard as the fam will never give approval and I'd be sleeping outside in one of the boxes...


    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 7:13PM
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I tried it last year and it didn't work, the cardboard disentegrated too quickly and (as Dan mentioned) my husband was livid that I planted ugly boxes in the visable part of the yard.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 12:55PM
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Yoshimi Dragon(6b)

One of my friends grew tomatoes in cardboard boxes for a summer. Worked just fine, though the boxes did get ratty around the bottom by summer's end. I actually think that the root system held things in place reasonably well. I've been using light cardboard boxes (wheato's boxes) for compost collection just outside my kitchen door and at the end of the winter, the bottom was definitely soggy (and slightly stuck to the deck) but it was fine until I tried to move it...

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 10:24PM
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Was just wondering about this. I've accumulated about 25 Banana boxes from a grocery store. They have a kind of 'waxy' finish to them and I was thinking might hold up better for a season, especially if covering with trash bags and duct-taping it down, then filling with a potting mix. They also have lids with a 12x12" square cut out of top so my thought was maybe raising the lids up and taping that up higher than where they fit to give roots more depth. Boxes also have two holes in each side for drainage. I've not figured out the watering method yet. What does everything think about this?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:51AM
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Just water like normal. You can't avoid it even if it rains.

But those banana boxes are pretty good for packing stuff, so I would say they can definitely be better cardboard container than some others.

More depth will depend on the kind of plant you want so yes, that option would be good also.

Speaking of that, I think that some of the issues with boxes falling apart may be the quality of the box. We all say "cardboard box" but there is a wide variance in those boxes, even the bottom of the box.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 3:31PM
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All I care about really is that it holds up long enough for me to harvest tomatoes from the container. Where I live, no one will see it but me, it's very isolated there so looks aren't important. Also, it will recycle back into the soil. I see all kinds of posts and other websites promoting cardboard as weed barriers, walkways in gardens, etc. so decomposing cardboard into the soil must not be too bad of an idea. I plan on reinforcing the sides with heavy twine or wire crimped together and was going ot line the inside with plastic trash bags, maybe two of them, but I really wished I could just use the plastic on the outside of the boxes, it seems with a 5-1-1 mix or heavy composition of pine bark fines, the soil would drain well and not be too compacted or wet inside the box and it's going to be placed on carpet backing. Still undecided here about how much to get into this. Even if it disintegrates, it seems the potting mix would still hold together enough to be able to contain it and keep growing once the box falls apart.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 7:30AM
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Some others have suggested no bags inside the box, but I think if those bags have sufficient drainage, then it would be OK.

As for the bag being outside the box, I could see that it would probably be OK also with the same drainage.

With the plastic bags in either inside or outside, just be cautious about temperature.

But if the quality of the cardboard box is a concern for the growing season, and a bag idea is OK, then maybe there is a compromise available in using those fabric or reusable shopping bags that many stores are selling for about $1-$2. They have a good height, come with handles, practically 99.99% porous, even the fabric would help retain moisture, and I think they would definitely hold out longer than a cardboard box of unknown quality.

I also have seen an instructional video where a person just practically planted a few tomato plants into a bag of potting soil --- why move it to another container when the bag itself is a container?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 11:17AM
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Mainly because I can get these banana boxes free and already have my soil mix. I've thought about the bags but still that's money to buy the bags plus they may not have the depth I need. 60 x about $2 or so is over $100. I'm on limited income and just want to be able to use what I have for a season.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 1:02PM
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