Organic gardener growing food and flowers, lovin' pollinators and birds.

Mistress Zinnie, quite merry, how does your Eco Garden grow?

Sponsored post: This post is sponsored by Eco Garden Systems LLC, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own. Eco Garden Systems LLC provided me with a original Eco Garden System for review purposes.

Look at this lettuce.

What if I told you this lettuce was grown in full sunlight, in the heat of my driveway, during the summer? Would you believe me? Probably not.

But it's true. There wasn't even a shade cloth or taller plants nearby to shade it.

In fact, these plants were in pretty rough shape when I planted them. They should have been planted in May but were still languishing in their four-pack growing cells from the garden center until a few weeks ago. I stripped off the bottom, weathered leaves and planted them in a raised bed.

But this wasn't just any raised bed.

An email arrived earlier this spring. A representative from a Minnesota-based startup asked if I was interested in learning more about a first-of-its-kind raised garden bed. I was intrigued, having spent a few seasons attempting to grow vegetables in fabric grow bags. Before long, an original Eco Garden System was on its way to Connecticut.

I was super giddy when this huge truck arrived
at my house with my new Eco Garden System.
The original Eco Garden System offers complete customization for gardeners. I chose the soil blend I wanted, and I was able to place it in a spot that gets full sun but where I usually don't have success growing plants. (More on that in a minute!) My model hooks up to the hose to help pump water throughout the bed. The entire raised bed is made from recycled materials – including milk jugs – from the United States. The recycled plastic is certified food safe by the USDA and the FDA, which means there are no bad plastics leaching into the soil where your edibles are growing.

The Eco Garden System arrived by a massive truck on June 9. I assembled it with the help of my husband and my friend in a little over an hour using hand tools. (The directions show how to assemble it with the use of a drill and attachments, but I did not have that available.) The setup directions provided with the Eco Garden Box were clear and concise, but it is definitely a two-person job: at one point, the Eco Garden box needs to be turned over so the legs, feet and cross leg supports can be attached.

This elevated garden stands 39 inches high, is 50 inches wide and 74 inches long. It is situated on the most level part of my driveway. The Eco Garden System arrived with the black plastic hoses already installed, so I just had to worry about attaching the legs, and installing the plugs and external hardware.

The hoses and the black food-grade polymer sheet (which separates the water reservoir from the soil) were already installed.
The raised garden features a hose hookup that attaches to a plumbing device and valve, which then connects to black plastic hoses that gently water the plants. (When assembling the Eco Garden System, you need to be careful to not over tighten the hookup for the hose; the threading screw is made of plastic and if it is overtightened, it can leak.)

The Eco Garden System fully assembled in my driveway. 
The directions recommend a soil blend – a mixture of sphagnum moss, potting soil and top soil – to include in your Eco Garden System. I decided to use an organic potting soil blend, which includes Canadian sphagnum peat moss, processed softwood bark, perlite and dolomitic limestone. My Eco Garden System took 15 one-cubic-foot bags of soil. Before planting, I also added some organic fertilizer to the soil, since I wasn’t adding in compost separately to feed my plants. The garden gets morning shade and then receives about seven hours of full direct sunlight in the driveway.

I decided to grow edibles in my Eco Garden System instead of ornamental plants. A good portion of my front garden (which receives late morning and afternoon sun) consists of fruit trees, berry bushes and ornamental plants. My main problem is that the area that receives the most sunlight is my driveway – a space that is difficult to use. In the past, I have grown vegetables in fabric grow pots in my driveway to take advantage of the full sun, but I had a difficult time keeping up with watering the plants in there. Usually by the height of the summer, the heat from the driveway is so intense that the fabric pots dry out instantly. Last year, I even tried to elevate the fabric pots on bricks to try and compensate for this, but still wound up with containers that dried out quickly.

Fully assembled in a little over an hour. I put the cardboard top back on to protect the black food-grade polymer sheet from direct sunlight while I went to the local garden center to purchase (many) bags of potting soil.
And by the end of the day, the soil was inside and my plants were planted. I hooked up a hose to water my plants.

Water in my area is expensive, due to our local well being shut down years ago and a poorly negotiated contract with neighboring towns who have the water. Anyway, when the water bill arrives at my house, it's high enough to clutch your chest and gasp for air. I was a bit nervous when I realized that one of the water sources would be hooked up to my very pricey water line. Despite being hooked up to my hose, so far, I’ve hardly had to water my Eco Garden System since I initially filled the reservoir beneath the plants.

Beneath the plants is a water reservoir and a (patented) air gap platform which is supposed to help the plants grow healthy roots. The water reservoir is reported to reduce water consumption by at least 65 percent. The best part? Despite being set up at the top of my driveway and in direct sunlight AND getting extra heat from the driveway, in the three full weeks since I have had the Eco Garden System, I have not once come home to find a dried out box and wilted plants. In fact, I've only watered it twice in the last three weeks with the hose hookup. Other water was provided naturally from rainstorms. But mostly, it's the water reservoir keeping the plants happy.

I mean, just look at that lettuce.

Speaking of lettuce, I decided to plant a variety of plants to see how they would do. First I planted the four lettuce plants that were looking a little worse for the wear. Two and a half weeks later, they do not look like the same plants at all! I now have gorgeous heads of lettuce that have not only survived a rough start but have not been beaten down by the 90 degree days in my driveway. I never thought growing lettuce in my driveway in early summer would be a possibility.

I also decided to grow celery plants in the Eco Garden System. I split the cell packs so half would grow in my Eco Garden System and half would grow in a fabric pot by my front walkway. (It does not sit directly on the driveway, but on a raised rock border.) 

In addition, I wanted to see how easy it would be to plant vegetables from seed in the Eco Garden System. I planted bush beans, carrots, kale and nasturtiums from seed. They all sprouted within a week. 

Why did I choose the vegetables I did? I kept in mind basic companion planting principles. I knew I wanted to grow bush beans because I thought it would be neat to be able to harvest beans without even bending over! Beans play well with carrots and celery. Parsley likes carrots, so that was planted next.  Carrots like lettuce, and lettuce likes dill. I also wanted color among all the greenery, so I planted the nasturtiums, which is also an edible flower!

I'd love for you to follow along as the growing season progresses to see how the plants continue to grow in the Eco Garden System. There will be sneak peeks in upcoming Floral Friday posts, along with an update of edibles harvested from the Eco Garden System.

To learn more about the Eco Garden System, click here


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