Sara’s Summer Garden Series: How to Make Your Own Soil for Your Container Garden

Sara's Summer Garden Series Cover

You can set up a container garden easily, with as little or as much space as you want, and relatively inexpensively. You can also make your garden as elaborate or as simple as you want. A few of my favorite benefits of container gardening are it is totally customizable to your needs and you know exactly where your crops come from. Whether it be a simple salsa garden filled with tomatoes and peppers or an extensive array of fruits and vegetables, you control for the most part what (if any) chemicals, including pesticides and fertilizers, are absorbed by your plants. You can even make your own soil for your container garden.

I started thinking about the chemicals that went into our foods after reading It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and determined that not only do we not know what is in all of our foods, but we often can’t control what farmers put in or around our foods to manage pests and increase product yields. Last year, my garden suffered a major hit from the Tomato Worm and we didn’t get any tomatoes. I didn’t put any pesticides on our plants because I was already sick and didn’t want to harm my body any more than it already had been harmed. I also started thinking about how we plant our gardens and the chemicals that are often placed in top and potting soils.

Now I know a natural way to kill Tomato Hormworms is to mix peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle and spray the entire plant.

Now I know a natural way to kill Tomato Hornworms is to mix peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle and spray the entire plant.

I know we can’t possible eliminate every single chemical that makes it into our food, but my husband helped me devise a way to have a little bit more control about what we do put in our bodies and this year, we made our own potting soil. It was easy, really cheap and the plants have been growing well this year (as have the weeds, no doubt) so I assume it is providing nutrients. In terms of the weeds, I just need to find time to pull them out! If you have a container (or any) garden, you can make your own soil too in just a few easy steps – and I guarantee it won’t even change much from what you are already doing in your day to day life!

How to Make Your Own Soil for Your Container Garden

Note: This takes a little bit of time to prepare so the first year we gardened we bought the soil and then started making our own as we became older and wiser.
  • Get some lawn and leaf bags or save the empty potting soil bags from the year you planted using commercial soil.

Bag used for compost

  •  Each time you weed your garden, trim your yard or pick up after a storm collect the plant waste.

organic 'waste'

  •  Add it to the lawn, leaf or potting soil bags.

organic 'waste' in bag

  • As time goes by and you continue to weed, keep adding to the bag! I add the new material on top and fold the bags down so there is not much room for air. We store the decomposing bags right on our front porch. I have never noticed a smell or anything because we don’t put food scraps in there and the thick material of the bag is a good barrier. Turn the compost every now and then (my husband does it once or twice a month) and soon, you will notice soil!

New compost in bag

  • When you are ready to plant, dump the soil in your bag our on the ground or tarp (so as not to waste it).

New compost on tarp, not sorted

  • Sift through the soil, removing the larger plant materials. Return the large pieces to the bag to continue decomposing.

sifting through compost

  • Add your soil to any pots you are ready to plant!

filling post with compost.jpg

  • The amount of time this will take to create compost will vary depending on factors like temperature, moisture, and what/how much you put in your bag. During the summer (which is the most productive time for us) a three month decomposition is possible, but it could take several months, up to a year. We do not turn the bags in the winter because the process slows down during that time.

That’s it! Easy and a lot healthier for your plants and you. We have two bags of soil going and were able to plant about half of our garden with homemade soil this spring. Now we have four bags going so we will just keep composting soil until we don’t need to buy any more.

Until the next mile marker,

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