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 to give you a better idea of how our product can better serve you & your hillside project.

How does the Dirt Locker® prevent erosion?

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Your plants will grow successfully within the nurturing aid of the Dirt Locker® that will lock in moisture, soil, and nutrients. Together, the Dirt Locker® 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! IMPORTANT: at least 50% of your Dirt Locker system needs to be planted, but 70% is ideal as the more plants, the bigger and stronger the root system. Remember it's the roots of your many pantings that stabilize your slope! Check out this chart to see how it works

Drainage: Rainfall or irrigation water is efficiently gathered in the Dirt Locker® cells. Once the the planters become fully saturated, any surplus water slowly filters down to the lower tiers, securing a sustainable water source for the plants. Beneficial seepage between neighboring rows occurs only after absorption has reached its max, while excess water above is deliberately slowed down via a cascading effect, which maintains the soil structure and preserves essential nutrients, thus safeguarding the health of the plant root systems. 

Watch this video to see it in action!

The Dirt Locker® Tree/Plant Ring consists of two Dirt Lockers only, (it can not be made larger by combining it with more than two individual Dirt Lockers), and is used for individual trees or small groups of plants to protect them on a hillside. It protects plants from erosion and other surrounding invasive plants, as well as contains them within their pod, and makes irrigation significantly more effective. No J hooks necessary.

Small Planter Ring: 14” diameter and works with 10-45° slopes (holds max 11" container)

Medium Planter Ring: 26” diameter and works with 10-28° slopes (holds max 24” container)

Large Planter Ring: 26” diameter and works with 29-40° slopes (holds max 24” container)

Watch or view the Tree/Plant Ring Installation Instructions.

How long will the Dirt Locker® last?

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High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), the material used in constructing the Dirt Locker®, is non-biodegradable and does not decompose over time. Unlike alternative plastics, HDPE is resistant to splintering and cracking, enabling it to retain its form and continue to capture water effectively, provided there is no stress or disturbance. However, it's imperative to note that the system requires adequate installation with vegetation to ensure optimal performance.

The Dirt Locker® is equipped with a 10-year UV inhibitor, ensuring its longevity. The initial prototypes were installed over a decade ago and have only exhibited mild fading. Furthermore, since the Dirt Locker® is designed for plant growth and sustainability, it has the added benefit of providing shade, which can significantly extend its lifespan.

When comparing Brown versus Black Dirt Lockers, the distinction lies in their processing methods. Brown plastic undergoes a selective separation process where only white and opaque milk jugs are gathered. This plastic is then dyed to the required shade for Dirt Locker® and fortified with a UV inhibitor. Conversely, Black plastic allows for the collection of various colored plastics. As carbon is inherent in the raw plastic source, it naturally integrates a UV inhibiting property. This distinction in processing methods accounts for the price differential between the two variants.

The longevity of the product is dependent on several key determinants. These include the quality of the installation, which should not exceed the manufacturer's recommendations and must ensure the correct geometrical form during installation. The installation process should ensure that the product is even at the top edge to maintain the verticality of the Lockers' walls. This is essential in reducing tension from one row to the next. Additionally, each locker's front should have a rounded "C" shape, rather than a "U" or "V" shape, to reduce stress on the front of each unit.

The Dirt Lockers product comes with a 5-year replacement warranty. However, please note that this warranty is only valid if the product is installed according to our official Dirt Locker® Installation Instructions PDF, which will be emailed to you once you make the purchase.

We stand by our product in the harshest winters (-58F/-50C) and hottest summers (+160F/+60C). The Dirt Locker® is made from 100% recycled High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) so the material is very durable and will not crack due to the elements. Check out this chart to see how the Dirt Locker® protects plants all year round!

Additionally, Dirt Locker® is flame retardant by nature, however, HDPE starts to melt at 235°F so although these are not fire hazards, they are not resistant to forest fires. The HDPE UL rating is UL 94 HB: horizontal slow burning with a burning rate of less than 76mm/min and burning stops before 100mm.

You can also read about “Firescaping: How to Protect your Home with Fire Resistant Landscapes” by Purgula Magazine. You can also read more about us in this Purgula Magazine feature.

I'm a landscape contractor, do you have a referral list I can join to receive installation jobs for your customers? What are the environmental pros to choosing this product?

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Absolutely! Although our product is meant to be DIY for the homeowner, some customers do prefer outside professional help. To join our program and receive customer referrals in your zip code simply email your company information to info@dirtlocker.com so we can be in touch to properly train you on installation best practices as well as estimate details.

The Dirt Locker itself is made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste plastic containers; however, it’s the Dirt Lockers application where the real environmental benefits can be seen.

Firstly, it does not require excavation or other intrusive methods to install; it conforms to the existing slope.

Secondly and perhaps even more important, its design allows for the capture and use of rainwater for irrigation, thus allowing native species of plants to thrive with minimal to no additional irrigation.

Lastly, it stops soil erosion that would otherwise tamp out plant life, especially on engineered slopes. We refer to the Dirt Locker® as hitting the trifecta in ecological benefits and are proud that our systems are applied, not only in each of the 50 united states, but also globally.

We are always looking for professionals such as yourself to partner with and help conquer soil erosion with hillside garden terracing. Join the future of modern landscape design with hillscaping!

 

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). Where single use plastic gets recycled, repurposed, and reused to grow your garden, not our landfills! (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!

With Dirt Locker®, you don't have to worry about nanoplastics or micronanoplastics. Nanoplastics form from moving plastic, like plastic bags or plastic packaging, whereas the Dirt Locker® is installed into the ground and do not move. Even if someone felt compelled to sand down the Dirt Locker®, they are non-toxic. HDPE is actually approved for food processing so the cutting board you use to chop veggies, or a chef uses to prepare a meal at your favorite restaurant is probably prepared on a cutting board with HDPE plastic. There are a few pros when using 100% recycled HDPE plastic - it's non-toxic, does not break down over time, doesn't lose its strength during the recycling process, and the Dirt Lockers themselves can be can be recycled.

Fun fact! 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. Read about our global impact in the Group of Nations online publication 2021 (PG 134-135) & 2022 (PG 118-120) to learn more about our pledge to stop erosion, save water, recycle plastic while growing trees, plants and food all at the same time!

We also partner with Eden Reforestation Projects to plant 6 trees for every 10 Dirt Lockers sold! Learn more about how Eden Project's tree planting initiatives are impacting our environment in a positive way by tackling deforestation and providing millions of people with employment opportunities throughout Central America, Indonesia, Haiti, Madagascar, Kenya, Mozambique, and Nepal!

Why choose Dirt Locker® over other erosion control products?

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The Dirt Locker® is constructed from 100% recycled, High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Where single use plastic gets recycled, repurposed, and reused to grow your garden, not our landfills! Say goodbye to single use plastic! Although it would be best for the environment if the manufacturing of virgin plastic stopped altogether, we can’t forget about the plastic that already exists. We hope to educate and spread awareness on this process and its role in providing a more tangible solution as other landscaping alternatives may be advertised as eco-friendly, but are they really? Let’s dive into a few examples:

1- Railroad ties: Not only has deforestation contributed to climate change, desertification, soil erosion, flooding, and has detrimental effects on local indigenous communities, but to then make them more resistant to the elements, they are soaked in toxic chemicals - which doesn’t exactly prevent them from rotting eventually. A little misleading to see these often sold in in your local garden centers. But no doubt, the EPA has denounced these barriers as toxic and not recommended for the edible garden. 

2- Pressure Treated Wood: "It’s worth noting that the act of treating lumber causes the wood to swell with moisture (2×4 pressure-treated boards can be significantly larger than the typical 1.5-inch by 3.5-inch dimensions). Then, as the wood dries, moisture leaches out, causing a few issues. For one, the wood can often warp and shrink as the moisture leaves, making it unsuitable for fine woodworking projects. Additionally, the chemicals leach from the wood over time, they penetrate the soil or water around them. While the general consensus  is that today’s pressure-treated wood is safe for raised garden beds, organic growers disagree.” -Bobvila.com. Similar to railroad ties, cutting down trees to grow trees doesn’t make much sense, especially even after all that chemical processing, they will eventually rot. 

3- Concrete Blocks: These blocks are incurably heavy and will require some type of foundation to keep straight, symmetrical alignment. But looking at the big picture, the process involves digging up rocks/dirt and crushing them, to then transport them and have them stop rocks and soil someplace else? Hmmm…

4- Other Erosion Control Methods:

-Mesh: Inexpensive, fairly easy to install, but will have to be replaced because it will eventually break down. Does little to retain moisture or nutrients, and will have to be replaced, while better than doing nothing, it does not provide optimal environment for the plant and will still have high plant mortality rate. Not to mention it does little to help access the plant, and it’s aesthetically unpleasing.

-Plastic Tarps: Plastic tarps look horrendous, impede if not arrest plant growth, are meant to be temporary but since they stop plant growth, they have to be replaced frequently because the plastic used is not UV tolerant. The old broken down plastic will create additional pollution when it is removed since it is degraded and cant be recycled, has to go to landfill, and this thin plastic is most likely going to create micro plastics.

-Blankets: Lifespan of 90-120 days, and will have to be replaced. They do not improve access to the slope, could make it harder to traverse, and are not aesthetic.

-Wattles: Although wattles are fairly inexpensive and easy to install, they lack aesthetic appeal and will break down over time so they'll eventually have to be replaced. They do not improve the prospects for plants much, however they are typically organic in nature, and can be used for mulch when they break down.

-Geotextiles Erosion Control Fabrics: Prevent plant growth, may have UV treatment, not aesthetic, will have to be replaced, and eventually adds to landfills and microplastics in oceans.

-Steel: Expensive, heavy, energy intensive to make and transport. It can be quite aesthetic, but big picture, the process of extracting the steel from the earth so that we can stop erosions some place else seems a little backwards.

Don’t forget that with Dirt Locker®, you can create your own sustainable organic garden! HDPE is FDA approved for food processing and will not leach toxins or nano plastics into your soil, fruits, or veggies. Read more in our FAQ’s on "CAN DIRT LOCKER® CAUSE NANOPLASTICS?” and “DOES DIRT LOCKER® SUPPORT PERMACULTURE?"

How should I design or configure my Dirt Locker® garden on my sloped yard? Can you design it for me?

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We offer a professional live zoom consult service with our founder Mark, who will guide you on your estimate, design and installation practices that will be tailored to your exact hillside needs. A portion of your consult fee will be applied to your Dirt Locker purchase.

Or, consider getting a digital rendering of your future hillside garden by providing a picture of your blank slope.

With Dirt Locker®, you can get as creative as you want designing your system to fit the needs of your slope or your imagination! Click here for 12 common designs that accommodate several different slope types, but don't feel limited by these options as the Dirt Locker® system is incredibly versatile. You have the freedom to connect the units and rows to fit your individual needs.

Additionally, if you want easy access through out your Dirt Locker® garden, we recommend adding a zig-zag stepping path. Click here to watch the steps below.

  • For extra support, consider adding landscaping material to designated units before filling with soil and stones/stone placer.
  • You will need to add a J hook to each side of these designated units.
  • Fill 3/4 with soil, then add 1/4 of stones on top, or fill units with soil and then add a stone placer on top.
  • Dirt Lockers are not meant to act solely as a staircase. The system requires roots from your plantings to stabilize your slope.

If you've opted to add irrigation, we highly recommend the drip irrigation system to target the units growing plants to conserve water and save money on your water bill!

Share your unique designs with us on social media by tagging @dirtlocker_official, or email your photos to info@dirtlocker.com!

How do I accommodate for uneven terrain, bends, and slopes steeper than 35°?

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Be sure to disconnect any or all Dirt Locker rows from the row above when installing on uneven terrain, dips or around a curve. Steeper slopes of 36°-45° must always be installed entirely as individual or separate rows as to not add any extra pressure on the center slot causing a misshapen Dirt Locker® to form. Separate rows on a steep slope allows each piece to sit level, ensures vertical walls of each Dirt Locker®, and helps keep each piece flush to the ground. Please account for 30%-50% more J hooks for these types of slopes.

You do not want a "V" or wavy shape by forcing a connection. If this occurs during installation, be sure to review the chart via the Installation PDF to ensure you have the right Dirt Locker® size and width, then remove the row tab from the center slot, and secure it to the hillside with a j hook. This will allow you to transition around a corner or curve by disconnecting each "network", or row, from the row above it to prevent distortion. It is the roundness, or "C" shape that give Dirt Lockers their strength. Keep in mind, if you have a varying slope that requires both the medium and large Dirt Locker® sizes, they are interconnectable.

Watch the separate rows application here.

Is constructing a new slope and incorporating Dirt Lockers possible?

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Before embarking on slope construction, it's imperative to take into account critical factors. Firstly, ensure that the surface you're working on is level. As you proceed, make sure to distribute the material evenly and compact it regularly. To determine the ideal slope angle for your intended purpose and budget, consult the slope angle chart on our installation tab, Step 1.

It's worth noting that a steeper incline would necessitate the use of Large Dirt Lockers and possibly more material. This is because creating individual or separated terraced rows is necessary when managing a slope that exceeds 35°.

For added stability during the initial growth period, it's recommended that you opt for the 24" J hooks. The extra depth they provide is ideal while waiting for the plant roots to develop.

Do you provide installation services?

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Our services do not encompass installations, as our product is designed for a do-it-yourself approach. For larger undertakings, some customers prefer engaging their contractors. We recommend sourcing local professionals and are available to liaise with your contractor to furnish them with comprehensive project details. To receive personalized guidance on your specific project needs and installation techniques, you may arrange a professional Zoom consultation with our founder. We suggest inviting your landscaper to participate in the call for tailored advice. Click here to sign up.

It is advisable to wait until all materials are available on-site before scheduling or coordinating your installation date. Estimated delivery times are subject to change and may arrive at different times.

The cost of hiring external labor is contingent on various factors, such as location, terrain, and the provision of soil, hillside access, irrigation, and planting materials by either the contractor or yourself.

Do I need to clear my hillside first or put landscape fabric down?

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Yes, you will need to clear your hillside first; however, you do not need to clear any dead vegetation prior to installation. Alive plants, green weeds or grass will deplete the nitrogen in the soil so it is important to remove prior. 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. You can also use the cardboard from the packaging to lay on top of any grass you wish to kill naturally. Then, feel free to compost the cardboard in your garden to add beneficial bacteria to the soil for increased microbial activity which in turn improves soil health, increases worm activity and promotes plant growth.

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.

If you have existing trees or plantings that you wish to keep, consider the scattered design option seen on the installation tab.

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.

What is the best soil to use, and how much do I need?

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The Dirt Locker® works 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 Locker®, 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 16-24”L to get the depth you need to secure the system in place. You can also insert J hooks at horizontal angle as seen in this video.

Calculate soil quantity 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.

Example: 30 LARGE Dirt Lockers:

30x1.5=45 cubic ft/27=1.6 cubic yards of soil

What are the best plants and trees to use in my Dirt Locker® garden?

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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:

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

2-Plants that will be successful in their climate conditions

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

4- 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 Locker® work in conjunction with my existing retaining wall?

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Yes, the Dirt Locker® will 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 Locker® 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 does the Dirt Locker hold up to torrential downpours such as hurricane prone areas?

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The Dirt Locker® has held up through extreme whether like hurricane Ida. Our customers who have experienced torrential downpours and hurricanes have given us amazing feedback, and are been really happy with their Dirt Locker® system results. Check out this chart to see how the system works with rainwater absorption, overflow, and drainage.

The J hook application is also VERY important to the integrity of the system especially as the plants grow within the nurturing aid of the Dirt Locker® that will lock in moisture, soil and nutrients. Together, the Dirt Locker® 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!

Will the Dirt Locker® gardening system work on lake/waterfront properties that experience fluctuating water levels?

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Yes, but a few things to consider first: 1- proper zoning via city/country/water management districts. 2- supplemental watering system/irrigation in place in dry seasons so plants don't dry off 3- native, aquatic plantings are essential. 4- Keep in mind that the Dirt Locker® is secured to the ground with rebar j hooks, and if your system will be partially/fully submerged under water at times, we recommend purchasing powder coated j hooks to prevent rusting. We do not currently sell this option, but you can certainly find them elsewhere.

For installation, set up the top of your system above the high tide water line and end your system below the low tide water line. Plant accordingly. You should have success in keeping you canal/lake/beach from eroding further as the plant's roots can grow within the nurturing aid of the Dirt Locker®.

Does the Dirt Locker garden system 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 acts 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.)

Check out our latest installation to create a food forrest here.

Do you offer discounts?

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We offer the following discounts with proof of ID/other. Please email a copy to info@dirtlocker.com to receive a discount code to use at checkout.

-licensed and insured contractor in our referral program

-certified master gardener

-USA military (no ID required, please email other qualifying documentation)

-senior (65+)

-first responder 

We also offer discounted pricing for bulk orders in packs of 25 (1 pack of 25) and 100 Dirt Lockers® (4 packs of 25), financing options through Klarna, and free shipping on orders over $500 in the continental USA. As we are a small family-owned business using 100% recycled plastic, our manufacturing costs are a lot higher than if we used virgin plastic, but we keep our prices as low as possible for you, the customer, to encourage our collective environmental impact. Each Dirt Locker® purchased saves the equivalent of 13 plastic milk jugs from entering our oceans and landfills! Our hope is to offer customers an environmentally and budget friendly DIY solution compared to inefficient and expensive alternatives.

**PLEASE BE AWARE** Do not use any unsolicited Coupon Codes or purchase any Dirt Locker® product outside our website or Etsy Shop as there are several sites falsely advertising Dirt Locker®. We are the ONLY distributor.

Where can I find videos or pictures of Dirt Locker® gardens?

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Head to our YouTube channel to watch an array of videos that are inspiring and informative.

For photo examples check out our GALLERY tab, Facebook , or Instagram page.