Q. since the goal is to use inexpensive materials, and also the right mix of ingredients, I am now at a stopping point. Other than very pricy small bags of peat I cannot find organic media as recommended in the Gardening Library. What should I do?
I can get topsoil in bulk, but which is preferred? Mushroom Mix or some other type?
I estimate I will need 10-15 cubic yards. I will be container gardening in 100 – 5 gallon buckets. No way to build grow boxes because I live in a rental that has low maintenance rock garden and desert shrubs.
A. If you just need enough for 100 – 5-gallon containers, you should only need 2 1/2 cubic yards of material. One cubic foot = 7.5 gallons, so 500 gallons = 67 cubic feet, and 67 cubic feet (67/27) = 2.48 cubic yards.
I recommend you stay away from topsoil, or any other type of dirt, for that matter. In buckets, or other containers, dirt will set up and become very hard. It’s also very heavy, and disagreeable to work with.
I take it there are no lumber mills nearby. What about forests or stands of pine trees? Pine needles would be excellent. Are there any stands of cedar trees in your hills? the “copi soil” beneath those, which consists of previous years’ dropped needles, would be good also.
The lighter the material the better, so long as it is clean and weed-free.
In Utah, mushroom mix has no dirt in it, but is organic material made from shavings, sawdust, turkey droppings, etc., and therefore it could be very good.
Growing in 5-gallon containers in the heat of the Southern Nevada desert will be a real challenge. I hope they are at least white, to reflect a little sun. Your biggest challenge will be to keep them moist and cool. Anything you can do to keep the sun off the containers will be helpful, and watering multiple times each day will likely be necessary.
If that is all you need, perhaps you can find some help with peat moss,
perlite, etc. and not end up with dirt in your containers, which will be
Additional information on container gardening can be found in Gardening by the Foot and the Mittleider Gardening Course, available at www.growfood.com.
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