The Q&A Archives: Changing soil in patio bucket gardens

Question: I grow tomato plants every year in large green plastic buckets I bought from Home Depot. They are the largest you sell. I generally have to fill each one with the largest size bag of miracle grow moisture control soil. I have around 20 such buckets. Every year I have been emptying out the old soil and replacing it. In this economy, this year, this might not be an option. Is there any other advice

Answer: If you have been dumping the old potting soil into a pile, I'd suggest reusing it. If you've been spreading it around in the garden, you won't want to dig it up and reuse it. The problem with not rotating your crops is that insects and disease pathogens can build up in the soil. If you have not had problems with these on your tomatoes, the soil is okay to use again. If your plants did have insect or disease problems last year, you can still use the old soil but you will want to purchase disease resistant cultivars and then place an organic mulch material over the soil surface after planting your tomatoes. Use an inch or two of bark chips or shredded bark to keep water from splashing from the soil up onto the leaves of your plants. Next year you can empty all the buckets onto a tarp or drop cloth, mix the bark chips into the soil and then refill your buckets. After planting, use more organic matter over the soil surface to prevent water from splashing onto your plants.

Best wishes with your container gardens!

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