I gave up on my vegetable garden when I had kids of an age likely to trample it, but since I hardly use my deck for its intended purpose, and it's quite a bit sunnier anyway (especially after half the branches on my Dutch Elm were ripped down in the big storm of August '07), I decided this was the year... to join the cult.
It's the Earthbox, as described here
by Martha Bayne in the Reader:
Touted as the "garden of the future," the EarthBox is an innovative container gardening system invented by a Florida tomato farmer, Blake Whisenant, after a hurricane wiped out his crop in 1992. Two and a half feet long, 15 inches wide, and a foot tall, the EarthBox is self-watering and self-fertilizing, and its fans say that given enough sunlight even the brownest thumb can coax a crop from it. Plants grow in a sterile potting mix of peat moss and vermiculite and are nourished by a strip of fertilizer spread across the top. Water in a 2.2-gallon reservoir at the bottom of the box, which is filled through a tube jutting up from one corner, wicks up through the soil and into the roots, rather than seeping down from above, which means the box uses significantly less water than a conventional garden. A lightweight plastic cover--the shower cap--acts as mulch, keeping the soil moist and discouraging pests and weeds.
To be honest, you could build its equivalent easily for less, and many folks do, as a search will quickly reveal. But convenience is a big deal when trying to get something done on the weekend, and rather than have the kids' "help" in sawing down a Rubbermaid tub, I bought two of the kits, and planted lettuce in it about two weeks ago.
I had some doubts whether lettuce would find its way through the holes in the "mulch" cover, but sure enough, it just took a few of the recent warm days over the last two weeks to produce lots of the Burpee Gourmet Lettuce Blend.
The Burpee Organic Mesclun Blend
has been somewhat less impressive so far, but maybe it just takes a few more hot days.
A guy and his homemade Not-Earthboxes in Chicago