Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about our product, the installation process, or durability of the Dirt Locker®? Well, you're in the right place. Click below to browse our most frequently asked questions and watch our FAQ video to give you a better idea of how our product can better serve you & your hillside project.

HOW DO THE DIRT LOCKERS® PREVENT EROSION?

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Your plants will grow successfully within the nurturing aid of the Dirt Lockers® that will lock in moisture, soil, and nutrients. Together, the Dirt Lockers® and your plants become a cohesive stabilizing force, protecting your entire hillside from nature’s destructive elements and providing erosion control that improves over time. As your plants increase their root structure, the hillside is constantly increasing in strength AND beauty! So you want at least 30% of your Dirt Locker system planted, but 50%-70% is ideal as the more plants, the bigger and stronger the root system!

HOW LONG WILL THE DIRT LOCKERS® LAST?

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Technically, forever! High Density Polyethylene (HDPE, which the Dirt Lockers® are made of) is not biodegradable and does not break down over time. They are also created with a 10 year UV inhibitor. The original prototypes were in place for 11 years with only mild fading. Additionally, since the Dirt Lockers® are designed to grow and sustain plants, ideally they will be providing shade, thus substantially increasing the life of the Dirt Lockers®. They also come with a 5 year warranty.

HOW DO THE DIRT LOCKERS® FAIR IN HARSH WINTERS AND EXTREME SUMMERS?

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We stand by our product in the harshest winters (-58F/-50C) and hottest summers (+160F/+60C). The Dirt Lockers® are made from 100% recycled High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) so the material is very durable and will not crack due to the elements.

WHAT IS YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT?

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The Dirt Locker® is ecologically friendly in several ways, but at its core, is constructed from 100% recycled, High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Feel free to request a certificate of authenticity for verification. The Dirt Locker® is also food-friendly because HDPE is one of the few plastics approved by the FDA for food storage and preparation. HDPE is found in milk jugs, plastic bags, and refillable bottles (labeled #2 plastic for recycling). The benefits of HDPE also include acting as an effective barrier to repel or hold in moisture, does not rot, resists insects and chemicals, creates no harmful emissions during production or during its use by the consumer. Most importantly, HDPE does not leak toxic chemicals into the soil or water so it is an excellent choice for fruit and vegetable gardens, and technically, it will last forever! Also, know that each Dirt Locker® purchased saves the equivalent of 13 plastic milk jugs from entering our landfills and oceans. Each month, HillGrow Inc., owner of Dirt Locker®, helps recover nearly 100,000 plastic milk jugs monthly. To read more on Mark’s (the inventor) global impact in the Group of Nations online publication, click here. The article begins on page 134.

DO I NEED TO CLEAR MY HILLSIDE BEFORE INSTALLATION AND PUT LANDSCAPING MATERIAL DOWN?

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You do not need to clear any dead vegetation on your hillside prior to installation, but any alive, green weeds will deplete the nitrogen in the soil. You can spot spray the weeds with straight white vinegar solution (1 gallon vinegar, 1 cup table salt, 1 tablespoon of dish detergent in a spray bottle) and wait until they are killed and completely dried out before install. In order for the Dirt Locker® system to work effectively, the plants need to have the ability to grow their roots down into the hillside, therefore preventing future erosion. Any material besides the natural dirt on the hillside, will prevent the plants from rooting. However, for cells that you are designating for steps, you can use a landscaping fabric either on the bottom of the cell, or on top of the soil prior to filing your step with stones, gravel or a stepping stone.

WHAT IS THE BEST SOIL TO USE WITH THE DIRT LOCKERS®?

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The Dirt Lockers® work in conjunction with any type of soil across the globe from condensed clay, to rocky, sandy, or silt, you name it! Therefore, the best soil for backfilling your Dirt Locker® system is going to be closest to the native soil that exists on the slope, and if possible, to mix in some compost matter at 25% compost 75% native soil. If that is not possible, we recommend 75% topsoil, and 25% compost or similar mixture. A nursery could give guidance if you are still unsure on what is best to use in your specific region. As your plants grow within the nurturing aid of the Dirt Lockers®, it will start to change the composition of the soil underneath the system to much richer, nutrient dense soil. For rocky soil that may be difficult to install the J hooks, we recommend drilling into your soil using a 1/2” drill bit 18-24”L to get the depth you need to secure the system in place. Calculate fill in cubic feet by multiplying .375 by Small quantity, 1 by Medium quantity, and 1.5 by Large quantity. Divide total cubic feet by 27 to get total cubic yards.

WHAT ARE THE BEST TREES & PLANTS TO USE WITH THE DIRT LOCKERS®?

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The best plants are going to be native species where possible. We suggest talking to a nursery with some key ideas:

You are no longer limited to hillside plants since each of the Dirt Lockers® create a terraced area

Plants that will be successful in their climate conditions

Evergreens are an excellent choice for discouraging erosion since they grow all year with no dormant period

Use smaller plants. The smaller the plant, the better it will acclimate to the conditions. And bonus, they are less expensive!

Search ideas with the National Gardening Association 

Search by Plant Characteristics here 

Search by Plant Name here

Search the Plant Database here

Identify your Plant via Photograph here

As for the best trees, citrus trees are great on hillsides, as well as avocado, fig, apple, pears, and pomegranates. Keep in mind, smaller trees acclimate better to their new conditions and some palm trees can take up to 5 years to fruit so remember to be patient. Also, it can’t hurt to add a wire basket to prevent rodents. Stone fruits (peach, nectarine, plum, cherry, apricots, etc) can work, but are not the best option for hillsides due to the need for training, 360 scaffold, not getting enough space to grow and it can be hard to reach. However, if you are up for the task, it can be done!

WILL THE DIRT LOCKERS® WORK IN CONJUNCTION WITH MY RETAINING WALL?

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Yes, the Dirt Lockers® work beautifully in conjunction with retaining walls, as the retaining wall serves more of a structural purpose. The Dirt Locker® is a hillside terracing and erosion control system that will lock in moisture, soil, and nutrients. Together, the Dirt Lockers® and your plants become a cohesive stabilizing force, protecting your entire hillside from nature’s destructive elements and providing erosion control that improves over time.

HOW DO I DETER GOPHERS, SMALL CRITTERS, AND OTHER GARDEN LOVING ANIMALS?

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We recommend purchasing a mesh material like the following, or similar to, Critterfence Black Steel 1/2” Mesh, and placing the Dirt Lockers® directly over the mesh. Make sure you cover the edges of the Dirt Locker® system. For planter rings, use the basket method demonstrated in our YouTube video. A few plant suggestions would be: gopher spurge (Euphorbialathyris), crown imperials, lavender, rosemary, salvia, catmint, oleander and marigolds, as well as narcissus, castor bean, and crown imperial for ground squirrels. As for larger animals, you may have to use something similar to an all natural deer and rabbit repellent like Invisible Fence or install a physical barrier like green welded wire, branch or wood fencing around your garden.

DO DIRT LOCKERS® SUPPORT PERMACULTURE?

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We believe the Dirt Locker® system is a permanent solution for hillside planting and therefore, great for permaculture. The best gardening practices don’t disrupt the soil’s microbiome, but enhance it like crop rotation, grouping plants that like to be near each other and support each other, and only removing annuals, keeping perennials and trees. The Dirt Lockers® act as their own little gardening beds and never have to be disturbed or modified, disrupting the hillside in any particular way. If you opt for growing your own fruits and vegetables, the crop rotation should be as follows for the most optimal soil microbiome: plant nitrogen givers (like legumes and beans), then high nitrogen feeders (like potatoes), then low nitrogen feeders (like turnips, radishes, onions), then REPEAT every grow cycle. Fun fact, the highest caloric density of any crop is the potato. So if you want the best bang for your buck and time, plant potatoes! Click here to download a complimentary planting schedule for the most efficient nitrogen cycle. Also, if you’re looking to keep your crops growing throughout winter*, arugula grows like a weed so keep it easily accessible! Same with herbs like cilantro and parsley. Other veggies like radishes, kale and swiss chard are also great choices to plant in the winter since they act like perennials. Pro tip, try planting lacinato kale for a more tender, tastier and beautiful bite. Fun fact, it is also called dinosaur kale! (*Locations that experience mild winters like Southern CA.)