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There are three characteristics of a perfect growing mix. First of all, it's lightweight, so it is easy to work with and easy for plants to grow in. Next, it is nutrient-rich and has all the minerals and trace elements that plants need without adding fertilizers. Finally, it holds moisture, yet drains well

After many experiments, I found that three of my favorite ingredients made the perfect mix when combined in equal portions:

  • 1 /3 Peat Moss—Available at any garden center or supermarket.
  • 1 /3 Vermiculite—Buy the coarse grade in large 4-cubic-foot bags at any garden center or home improvement store. Phone ahead to be sure its available in that size.
  • V3 Blended Compost—It you don't have your own compost operation, then buy bags of compost at the garden center to get started. Then, start your own compost pile as soon as possible.

I 'll explain some simple steps for foolproof composting later in the book. However, one word of caution here: You must have a blended compost, so don't buy ail the same kind. Pick out one bag of this and one bag of that. But, more about that in Chapter 5.

What Do These Ingredients Do?

All three of these ingredients are natural—not manufactured. They all drain well, so there are no puddles to waterlog the plant roots; but they also hold large amounts of moisture so the plants will grow well. This mix is a pleasure to work with, has a light fluffy texture, and smells good,

The first two ingredients have no nutrients, but the last— compost-—is loaded with all the nutrients and minerals that you could imagine. Compost is the most important ingredient of the three, and making your own is good for both the environment and the garden. This is about as organic as you can get.

i you don't think this perfect soil mix will work in the garden, ask yourself, "What do professional greenhouse growers use for growing crops on their benches? Do they go out and dig up the fields for soil?" Of course not. Professional growers mix up a perfect potting soil from several other ingredients and never use local outside soil.

When you buy a windowbox at the store, what do you fill it with—your yard soil? Of course not. You buy a bag of perfect potting soil. So why cant we do the same for our vegetable garden? Well, there are two reasons:

One, no one ever thought of it—and two, it would be prohibitively expensive for the typical single-row garden that everyone has been using all of these years.

So, how can we do it now? Because SFG reduces the garden size down to only 20 percent (thats one-fifth as large), so it is now possible to consider using a perfect soil from the very start. An additional reason is found in the next major improvement to Square Foot Gardening.

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Organic Gardeners Composting

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