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This year I am planting a large garden–all in containers. Wait, what? Can you plant a large garden in just containers? You sure can–and not only does it produce a bountiful harvest with fewer plant diseases and pests, but if you follow my recipe below, it is a LOT less work to keep up with! As an added bonus, because containers are portable, you can start your garden earlier, indoors, and move it outside when it warms up. It’s mid-April and I already have large tomatoes on my vines and strawberries forming.

Container gardening, when done right, is so much simpler. None of the digging, the tilling, the preparing the soil, the weeding, the protecting from critters…in essence, it’s the lazy woman’s garden. Below is a potting mix that is inexpensive (160 lbs of soil worth cost me less than $20), feeds the plants, lessens watering, and gives plants good, organic soil.

Potting mix:

2 parts potting soil
1 part compost
1 tablespoon water crystals

The potting soil keeps the container light and allows the right growing medium for your plants. (Do not use top soil–it compacts easily starving roots, has weed seeds and potentially plant diseases in it.) Compost adds organic material, aids in drainage and feeds the plant roots. Water crystals absorb water during watering and slowly release water to the soil as it dries out, keeping the soil evenly moist at all times. Because it absorbs water up to 100 times its normal size it reduces problems from both overwatering and under watering. Combine this potting mixture with my self-watering setup and you will have a complete low-maintenance system. Plus, the entire setup encourages deep roots, which produces healthier plants that produce more and withstand heat waves with fewer problems.

The picture above is of a mass mixture of this potting mix in a five gallon bucket. I make it up in large batches then fill smaller containers with it. There’s one 20 lb bag of potting soil mixed with 10 lbs of compost mixed with 4 oz of water crystals. I then thoroughly mix the lot together, and scoop out into individual containers. The total cost is about $4. I’ve used this mix for going on fifteen years for all of my container gardens. When we lived in a condo I had a huge garden on our tiny balcony–grew everything from roses to brussels sprouts on it!

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