Ghetto Vegetables-Or How to Plant a Bag Garden

I planted my peas yesterday.  They went into my ghetto bag garden.

Three bags of topsoil ready to be turned into peas

Three bags of topsoil ready to be turned into peas.

Have you seen this planting method before? Where the plants are planted directly in a bag of dirt? I tried it out last year after reading about the technique in Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens by Barbara Pleasant.

After reading about square foot gardening this year, I have come to think of bag gardening as the quick and dirty version of raised bed gardening.  With bag gardens you are still suspending a better soil/media over your existing crappy soil, but with less expense and trouble than a raised bed. Also, with less class, but that’s a different story.

But, Elizabeth, you say, square foot gardening is cheap and easy. That is true, I say, but bag gardening is even cheaper and easier. While you need things like “lumber” and “drills” to build a raised bed. You could pretty much “build” a decent bag garden with $20, access to a compact car and a sharp stick.

Basically, you get some bags of plain old topsoil or “tree and shrub planting mix,” whichever. I bought a bunch of 1 cubic foot bags of topsoil for $1.47 each. Then you go all Psycho with a screwdriver (or anything small and sharpish) on one side of the bag. After that you flip the bag over and cut a large window into the other side of the bag. I used a box cutter, but feel fee to improvise.

Adding fertilizer to the topsoil.

Adding fertilizer to the topsoil.

Sprinkle on some fertilizer (or don’t), mix it in, and plant seeds or seedlings directly into the bag of dirt.  The holes on the bottom provide drainage and a chance for the plant roots to expand beyond the confines of the bag.

Pushing the seeds into the soil.

Pushing the seeds into the soil.

The bags help hold heat and moisture in the soil and they cut down on weeding, since bags of topsoil are usually fairly weed free. Best of all, though, it’s a great, cheap, lazy way to start a garden from scratch. If you plunk the bags down on to grass or weeds they will smother whatever is already growing.

Pleasant also recommends smothering grass between rows of bags with wet newspaper or cardboard and mulch. I didn’t do this last year, and I regretted it. This year I’ve been hoarding cardboard just for this purpose.

Sugarsnap, Oregon Snow and Shelling Peas

Three varieties of peas: sugar snap, snow, and shelling peas!

At the end of the growing season you pick up the plastic and turn the soil into the native dirt to make a garden bed.

I tried the bag garden method last year, it worked pretty well, so I am using more bags this year to expand into new territory. I will also be planting the “beds” created with last years topsoil. I anticipate lots of weeding.

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