Planting mix for your square foot garden

No soil is needed! Planting mix is a mixture that consists of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite. Peat moss keeps the soil loose, vermiculite helps to hold the moisture and compost acts as a fertilizer. When choosing compost, blend several types of it for the best nutrition of your plants. Usually, it is recommended to use cow and sheep manure mixed with leaf and sea compost. I have grown a great garden on just leaf compost, so don't let the lack of different types stop you.

mix for square foot garden, garden soil

Peat Moss

Available at any garden store for about $5-7 for a big bag that would serve about one - one and a half 4x4 square foot raised bed.


Compost is an important part of your planting mix. If you want your garden to be as organic as possible, I recommend to steer away from using cow/sheep/chicken manure unless it is collected somewhere at the organic farm. It was used for centuries to fertilize the soil, but these days, manure from commercial farming contains antibiotics and growth hormones, which will transfer into your plants from the planting mix.

One of the best ways to get neverending supply of free compost for your garden is to do it yourself. Composting your food scraps is good for the environment, for your plants, and for you. Check out video explaining two easy ways of creating your own compost:Build a compost pile and Worm Composting.

The best gourmet food for the plants is provided by sea compost (a mix of seaweeds and fish bone meal). Mixed with free leaf compost, it becomes an affordable solution for everybody.

Did I say "free leaf compost"? Yes! You can make your own, but if you don't yet, check if your city gives it away.

City of Toronto distributes leaf compost - no payment required! If you missed your neighborhood compost day, come to one of the compost stations across the city. Bring your own shovel, big plastic bags and get 1/3 of your mix for free... Because you are going to pay a lot for vermiculite!


Looking for large amount of vermiculite could be challenging. Usually, garden stores sell it in very small bags to be used in the starting mix. When buying vermiculite, be sure to get the coarse grade, and get the more economical 4 cubic foot size bags. The only place to get vermiculite in Toronto that I know of is Bustan - they sell it by the big bag, measured in cubic feet. It costs around $40-45 for a bag and this amount is enough for three raised 4x4 beds. At Bustan, they also sell starting kits for the indoor seed germination that can be assembled like Lego. They sell organic compost and a variety of natural plant foods and insecticide products.

Now, place some sort of plastic or cardboard on the bottom of your raised beds and fill them with the mixture. Mix it thoroughly right inside the raised bed. Distribute evenly, and make the squares as described in Building raised beds.

You are ready to plant! Wasn't that easy?


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