Bag Gardening…As Simple As It Gets!

Here’s a simple alternative for those people who have poor enough soil conditions that a raised-bed garden would make a good solution.  By bag gardening, you can get the benefits of raised-bed gardening with a minimum of work.  Click on the link below to view a short video showing just how easy it can be.

As you can see, there is very little effort involved and even the frame is optional.  Personally, I think the frame should be used in order to hold everything together.  An important point that you may have missed from the video is to punch holes through the bottom of the bag for drainage…that’s what the pitch fork was used for.

He also utilized some of the techniques of square-foot gardening by partitioning the soil with the string. Each square partitioned is used to keep your plants organized. You might put one or multiple plantings in each, depending on the space requirements of the vegetable planted. For example, it may hold just one tomato plant or lettuce, but several carrots or radish.

Price accurate as of 11/19/2012.

An added benefit of bag gardening is that you don’t have to worry about what might be in your current garden soil.  You are simply using bagged organic potting soil to which you could add your own compost, or purchase organic compost from your garden center at the same time.  Another name you could give this is the Lazy Man’s Garden, as there is no digging or soil preparation before you can start planting.

Bag Gardening Melons

This is just another example of how to maximize your garden efforts and an yet another alternative to hay-bale gardening. Obviously, you need to have room for the melon vines to roam, but you can see just how fast and easy it was and the melons are well fed by being planted directly into mulch. Just make sure you get a bag of organic mulch if you want to practice organic gardening.

Indoor Organic Container Gardening

Sometimes, the desire to garden might be hindered by your circumstances, such as living arrangements or space constrictions. While most of the articles on this site address growing vegetables (and there is a post that covers raised-bed gardening, which is container gardening on steroids), this article is addressed more towards people who may live in an apartment or condo and have limited space. Of course, you can also use container gardening in a house.

If you live in an apartment, you can’t really have a full garden because you don’t have a yard! But, that doesn’t mean you have to give up gardening. I think that one of the best solutions for this problem is container gardening. You can hang baskets or get pots and arrange them on your patio, window sill or balcony.  Just a few baskets or pots, and your whole living area will look much nicer and more inviting.

A benefit of growing in small containers is the fact that you can move them around to suit your needs. If you rearrange your furniture and you think that it would look nicer if it was in another area, it’s no problem at all to move it. As long as there is sufficient lighting, your plant shouldn’t mind the transition at all.

Going organic indoors is easy!

Another benefit of the containers’ versatility is the fact that you can adapt it to simulate any environment depending on the type of soil you fill it with and where you place it.  Organic gardening in a container garden is easy to do because you can choose the soil and compost material you put into your pot and with fewer bugs to keep under control, you have little need for pesticides.

If you are trying to make an aesthetically pleasing arrangement of containers and plants, you can arrange your containers at different heights by hanging them from the ceiling or placing them on stands. Hanging them will allow you to make the most of the space you have.  This method of container gardening is called “vertical gardening”.  If you pull it off right, you can make a very pleasing arrangement of plants while conserving your valuable space.

If you live in an apartment or condo, you know how important it is to conserve space!  One method of vertical gardening is the use of a wooden step ladder.  If painted correctly, you can arrange all the plants on it in a beautiful, stylish cascade of color. Of course, there’s nothing that says you are limited to growing flowers if you don’t have a yard.

More and more people have turned to growing herbs  indoors.  And, the more adventuresome are even growing vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, which do well growing in containers. You can even buy complete systems that contain everything you need to grow herbs and vegetables indoors.

Container gardening takes a bit more attention because you have to water more often and go around to each individual container. However, the square footage for container plants is much less than that of an actual garden and the time you save not having to weed and having fewer pests to worry about offsets the extra effort you must put into watering your plants more often. Its just as important that you don’t over-water your container plants, as this can be just as bad to their health as under-watering.

When choosing containers for your plants, you’ll want to buy them all at once along with some extras in case they break or you add more plants later. You don’t necessarily want them to be all the same shape and size, but the effect is nice if they are all in the same style so that they compliment each other. Plastic containers are the best because they require the least amount of watering. If you prefer to stick with clay or earthen pots then you should line the inside with plastic to minimize the water that clay and earthen pots soak up.

How big will that plant get?

Another thing to keep in mind when buying your containers is the fact that the size of the pot will ultimately affect the size of the plant. When choosing pots, considering what you plan on growing in each one. If you search for the plant you chose on the internet, you should be able to find specifications as to how much root space it should be given. Of course, this could even be an advantage for you, if you choose a plant that can grow very large, you can restrict how big it will grow by keeping it in a smaller container.

If the benefits of container gardening sound appealing to you, then you should start planning out your container garden today. If you make a list of all the plants you want to grow, you can do a little research to find out what size and shape of pots you should get. After that, it’s just a matter of arranging them in a way that makes your home look the nicest.

Growing Organic is even more important indoors!

Living in the city, an apartment or condo does not have to mean you can’t have a garden. It simply means you’ll have to learn how to adapt organic gardening techniques with an indoor container garden.  Its actually the easiest method of gardening using organic methods because  you’re indoors and away from most of the pests.  And, not using chemicals and poisonous pesticides is especially important when your plants are indoors with you!

Hay-Bale Gardening

So far, we’ve discussed raised-bed gardening and, within that post, square foot gardening techniques.  Another method of gardening that can help people who have poor soil conditions or just don’t want to put all that effort into tilling the ground to get started, is hay-bale gardening.

More emphasis has been given to straw-bale gardening and you can find a ton of information about using straw-bales to garden with, but your results will be much better using hay-bales, rather than straw-bales.  If you consider just the nutrition available from hay versus the almost complete lack of nutrition in straw, you can make a strong case for using hay instead of straw.

As the name implies, it involves the use of  hay-bales to use in planting your garden plants.  You can grow most vegetables on a hay-bale, with the possible exception of top heavy crops, such as corn.  But, the rest of your typical vegetable garden crops should do fine, vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peppers, and such do just fine.

It will take about two-weeks to get your hay-bales ready to plant in.  Here’s what you need to do:

  • Set your bales out in an area the drains well.   You will be keeping the hay wet, but you don’t want it sitting in water and rotting.
  • If you put out more than one row, make sure they are far enough apart that you can fit your mower between rows.
  • Water them thoroughly for the first few days.
  • The interior will heat up due to the decomposition process…that’s normal.
  • When it no longer feels warm, you’re ready to start planting.
  • Remember to continue to water your hay-bales and keep them moist.

You can plant seeds if you add some topsoil or potting mix to the top of the bales, but its much easier to transplant plants that have already been started.   Open a space with a garden trowel, add some mulch, topsoil, or potting mix and transplant your plants.  Press the space close and make sure your plant is securely in place.

Another difference between using hay instead of straw, is that using hay-bales you will only have to water your plants once a day versus twice a day with straw.   Hay holds moisture very well.

This video does not have the best audio, lots of noise, but it does deliver a lot of helpful tips that can help you get the most from your efforts.  Some key points to watch for are using fish-emulsion to add nutrients the plants may not get from the hay and using urine to help in the composting process, in addition to adding nitrogen.  Note:  There is a discussion of someone who uses sheep manure in her garden, but it has been advised not to use sheep manure because of pathogens found in it that could infect humans.

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As I’ve mentioned, you should use mulch rather than plain dirt to supplement the nourishment from the hay.  By not being in the ground, you also reduce the problems you might have with bugs and plant diseases that are often transmitted from the soil.   You will not eliminate all bug and disease problems, but you would handle them the same way you would in any other garden.

By the way, if your hay starts to grow, simply clip off the new growth as it sprouts.  At the end of the growing season, simply breakdown the bales and spread what’s left of  the hay around to biodegrade back into the soil.  Next season, set out some new bales of hay and you’re ready to get started with a new garden.

So, if you have a bad back or bad knees or you can’t easily till the soil in your garden, this is yet another option that will allow you to continue gardening.  So, now you have container gardening, raised-bed gardening, square-foot gardening, and hay-bale gardening to consider as alternative methods where a traditional garden may not work.



A Raised-Bed Garden Has Many Benefits

Raised-bed gardening is a technique of growing plants within areas that have been raised up above the normal ground level.  They are typically enclosed within a wooden framework, typically rectangular.  New soil may be mixed in with the soil from underneath or it can just be new soil placed on top of un-tilled soil.

There are several benefits to growing plants in a raised-bed.  Probably, the biggest is being able to harvest more from the same sized area.  Raised-bed gardens can in fact double or even triple the quantity of produce grown in a space!  One reason for this is that the area needed for walk-ways is decreased considerably, so more room can be devoted to your plants.

Another great advantage to raised-bed gardening is the ease in which you can boost your soil conditions and you can even grow plants in places with extremely poor ground conditions.  Garden areas that are typically very sandy or that may have a lot of clay, can both be hard to grow much in.  But if you are willing to build a raised-bed, you can easily put in soil that you’ve purchased or soil that you have mixed yourself.

Weeds are also not as much of a problem in a raised-bed.  Since the soil is confined, it’s much easier to spot and control any weeds that do turn up, and the weed seeds in the existing soil are buried under far too much soil to sprout more often than not.

The frames may also be made with a bottom and placed on tables so handicapped and elderly people can reach their plants to care for them more easily.  This is a big benefit for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to adequately care for a garden.

Square-Foot Gardening

This type of growing was made popular by Mel Bartholomew in his book and television series called Square Foot Gardening.  He developed a system that requires close to 80% less area than traditional styles of gardening.

Instead of being just a regular raised-bed, the bed is divided into modules that house plants of varied sizes.  It uses special soil mix which is free of weeds and is perfect for growing almost any kind of plants.  It uses less water, is all organic, and uses a lot fewer seeds than conventional gardening.  His system claims you can generate 5 times more in the same space of a traditional garden.

The system divides each square foot into a grid, based on the type of plants you want to raise in each section.  If you wish to grow a large plant like broccoli or cabbage, it would take one full square foot, so that section wouldn’t be divided at all.

If you want to grow radishes, then you may section that square foot into sixteen separate spaces, each growing a single radish!

So, to sum things up, a raised-bed garden is not only capable of yielding more, but also capable of producing a garden where you might not otherwise be able to have a garden at all.  Think of it as container gardening on steroids.  As mentioned in the video, Mr. Bartholomew has a new book out going into much detail about his square-foot gardening method.
Updated 11/19/2012

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