So I have a little itty bitty yard this summer.. and HUGE aspirations of a magnificent container garden. However, I've learned from summers past that before I run out and spend all of my grocery money for the next couple months on containers and potting mixes and grow lamps, it's best to look into all my options.
First off, feel free to give any and all suggestions about container gardens from your own experiences. I am an enthusiastic amateur. I need all the help I can get.
Secondly, does anyone have a recommendation for good all-around potting mix that is not too expensive and works for the usual tomato-cucumber-bean-all-around sort of range? I know one type can't meet every plant's most ideal environment, but I'll settle for decent. I also have access to a composted manure mix, and I'm wondering how high a ratio I can use of that in my mix.
Thirdly, self watering? I know they make containers designed to do this, but I'm wondering if it can be as simple a matter of placing the right dish under a pot with holes in the right places to at least get a plant through a couple drier days...
This last question is getting far ahead of myself but... I found myself wondering the other day- what does one do with all the potting soil at the end of the season? As I mentioned above, I have only a tiny little yard area surrounded by neighbors, so there isn't any sort of dump site. But must it be dumped? I'm assuming that by the end of a season the nutrients are mostly leached from the soil, but is it worth saving the remainder and reviving it with some compost and nutrients for the next year?
Again, all input much appreciated!