Try Soil Bag Planting for No-Dig Beds

Is anyone out there in a hurry?

tomato plant in a soil bag
Fastest gardening method in town.
Photo/Illustration: Chris McLaughlin

Is anyone out there in a hurry? Are you working three jobs, have seven children, or on your way to a fire? This no-dig planting method is the fastest way to a vegetable garden – a soil bag can be planted in under 60 seconds (I clocked it). Planting directly into a bag of topsoil is also easy and convenient.

At first glance, this may look like a less-than-organic approach, what with the plastic and all. However, there are a few great reasons to try this method yourself. The first reason being the one that I mentioned above. You may have the desire to grow fresh veggies or herbs but keep looking hopelessly at the calendar wondering where the heck you’re going to find the time to create a suitable bed for them.

Another great reason is if you feel intimidated by the whole idea of figuring out the size and structure of a garden bed. After all, it seems like every garden book you pick up has a different formula for amending the hardpan soil that describes your yard so perfectly. Inside those manuals are also numerous ways to construct raised garden beds; it’s enough to confuse anyone. Perhaps you are allergic to tools. Whatever the intimidating factor is – planting soil bags are the answer.

A third reason is when the perfect spot in your yard seems beyond all hope at the moment. You may have this perfectly brilliant spot in your yard for veggies, but what passes for dirt in that spot really gives soil a bad name. Drop a couple of soil bags there and plant to your little heart’s desire; it’s that easy.

Here’s how you do it:

Get a bag of topsoil and with a pair of scissors, make slices into the back of the bag for drainage. Then lay the soil bag on its back (sliced-hole-side down) in the area that you want to make your veggie bed. Use your scissors to cut a big rectangle shape of plastic off of the top of the soil bag. At this point, you simply make some holes into the soil and place your plants into them – then water.

You can also start seeds in the bags this way instead of using little plant starts if you’d like. During the growing season, feel free to mulch the soil bag beds with compost, grass clippings, and the like. The plants will benefit from a little spoiling and it’ll help your bed in the long run. If you want to hide the soil bags for aesthetic or deceptive reasons, mulch the bags with enough straw or hay to cover them.

If you want to plant tomatoes this way, then use one bag per tomato plant to get the best results. Otherwise, you can put several pepper plants in one bag, etc.

At the end of the growing season, pull the plastic out of the bedding area and arrange the soil (and the added amendments). This will be the beginning of enhancing any lousy soil that was underneath the bags to begin with. In the picture, I used a rather large bag of soil for my Lemon Boy tomato plant, but there’s no rhyme or reason for this – it’s just what we had handy.

* The tomato plant in the picture was planted as an example. We just happened to have it on the lawn when we planted it. We have it sitting in an all-rock area at this point to grow in a place that otherwise would have been useless in our yard.

Learn more about planting in containers…

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