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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Summer Hot Sauce Review

Hot sauce cover edited with text

It’s officially spring and not long after that is the start of summer. Since I’ve made the commitment to eat healthier and lose the weight I re-gained since getting sick last year, I joined Weight Watchers (again) and have successfully counted points and made healthy decisions for the last week and a half – and, as soon as I find a scale I will weigh myself to see just how all of that counting has paid off. As part of getting healthy, I have had to re-focus on eating the right things, including increasing my protein intake and decreasing my carbohydrate intake. My husband and I even bought propane for the grill this year, and we have been grilling out for the last few meals. So, it seemed like the perfect time to roll out my Summer Hot Sauce Review.

My show-stopper was the grilled lamb I made the other night with grilled poblano peppers and even grilled Naan Bread. My husband said he liked the flavor of the pepper so much, it is his new favorite one.

Grilled lamb and poblanos

I also really enjoyed the flavor. Poblano’s are not overly spicy (they are classified as mild), but have a rich, almost what I would describe as an earthly flavor with just the right amount of spice to make them good.

As you know, I have a serious hot sauce addiction and no summer would be complete without the addition of hot sauce into my refrigerator, which is already packed full of hot sauce, but we won’t go there….really….

refrigerator door

There’s more on the shelves and most visitors think it’s ridiculous. They reach for water and they get hot sauce. I just noticed my favorite is not even in the above picture, which is Sambal Oelek. I would like to own stock in your company (or jut more of your chili paste), please and thank you. And, yes, I know all of my hot sauces/spices and which one goes with what food and if one is ever missing, bad, bad things can happen!

My friends (the real ones, anyway) also know about my love for hot sauce and the do things like visit the Pepper Palace on their family vacations to the Smoky Mountains just to bring me back a present.

Hot sauce orig

Sitting in their kitchen on the night they bestowed these beautiful gifts upon me, I could not wait to try at least one thing, Ghost Pepper Nuts-

ghost pepper nuts

If you recall, Naga Jolokia (or ghost chilies) are some of the hottest peppers in the world and they are fantastic in chili, I might add. These. Were. Amazing. I say were because they are gone now, but I am seriously considering ordering some. They took my breath away a little bit, they were that hot. Once I brought them home, they only lasted about a week. So, ten stars out of five for Da Bomb Ghost Pepper Nuts. I’m addicted. They’re so good. If you can handle extreme heat, get some (or get some and try them and if you don’t like them, I accept gifts).

Here is the rest of my review (ranked in order from least to most favorite, excluding the coveted Ghost Pepper Nuts):

hot sauce bottles with no border

#6 Maker’s Mark Gourmet Sauce

This has no heat (and this is a hot sauce review) so it ranks the lowest, however, it does have a good, rich flavor that would be nice for barbecuing or dipping steak/chicken (as my husband does). It is a thick sauce, which I like for grilling.

#5 Panola Clearly Hot Sauce Salsa 

This caught me off guard because it tastes exactly like salsa, mild salsa, that is. It would be great in a gumbo or on fajitas/burritos/tacos. I prefer hot salsa so I would use this in cooking gumbo or crawfish etouffee and people can add their own heat later.

#4 Tennessee Heat

This hot sauce reminds me of Tabasco and it will be a good staple to have – it goes with anything and provides jut the right amount of heat and flavor. My sister even tried it with chicken and rice (she is not a huge hot sauce fan) and liked it. It would be good with seafood, chicken, steak and eggs. I like this as a good alternative to Tabasco. I took it to my Dad’s to keep at his house because I really do need hot sauce no matter where I go (and not everyone has a supply, I am told).

#3 Scorpion Stinger

Scorpion peppers are apparently a new “breed” of peppers and rival the heat in ghost chilies. This hot sauce was just really good and packs a good punch of fiery heat. I still would argue that the ghost pepper is hotter, thought. Maybe it depends on what you eat it with.

#2/#1 Mountain Q Honey Habanero Hot Barbecue

This BBQ sauce is phenomenal! Habaneros are one of my favorite peppers (I have been known to eat them right out of the garden) and this sauce is deliciously hot with habanero heat. The BBQ has a sweet smoky taste that makes this sauce perfect for dipping. I grilled wings in it and it was so good. I might have to order this one too as it is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. This sauce is simply made with all natural ingredients, no preservatives and nothing I can’t pronounce, which inches it that much closer to a #1 in my book!

#1/#2 The Hottest Sauce in the Universe

I’ll give it to Pepper Palace, this just might be one of the hottest sauces in the universe and the warning is more than fair-

hottest sauce warning orig

I used a couple more drops than recommended, of course, but you can taste the ghost pepper right away. That pepper is hot and I think is my second favorite next to habanero. Yum! This sauce is for those who are looking for pure heat.

I promptly labeled all of my hot sauces with Cuties stickers, which made me smile – what better use for a Cuties sticker than put it on a hot sauce lid? Both make me smile.

Hot sauce bottles with cuties stickers orig

What about you? Do you like hot Are you obsessed with hot sauce like me? Do you have a favorite pepper? Do you cook with hot sauce or put it on your food? Is there any hot sauce I just have to try? Tell me in the comments!

Until the next mile marker,