Ask a Question forum: What is the best way to rejuvenate soil in containers?

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Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
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CDsSister
Jun 21, 2014 12:13 PM CST

Every year I toss out so much dirt from my containers. I am hoping to get some tips on how to add something that will allow the dirt to be reused.

I dumped and sifted a bunch this spring and have added some ozmocote to it and am going to plant some of my herbs. Do you think it will work?

Most of my containers from last year are for succulents and have a lot of pea gravel/squeegie added so the
soil is well draining. If I can I would like to plant more succulents but am afraid the dirt doesn't have much
nutrient value.

Any advise is appreciated. Am just trying to save a few dimes this year.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Jun 21, 2014 3:11 PM CST
Do you have compost you can add to the mix? I wouldn't use more than about 1/3 of the old container soil in any one pot. Although, the Earth Box people say you can re-use the potting soil for a couple of years in their boxes.
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Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Jun 21, 2014 5:07 PM CST
I'm constantly reusing soil from pots .. I just add as Woofie suggested, a little compost, top soil and ProMix. I mostly use the 'old' soil as bottom filler in large containers.
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 21, 2014 6:14 PM CST
You might want to first pour some boiling water over the pots with old soil to kill off bugs that may be lurking. This is really only needed if your pots will be indoors. Then refresh with new fer etc.

For outdoor pots what you are doing is fine. Once you do want to replace soil in a pot the old soil is still good as an amendment to your garden, or at least compost it. Don't throw it out!
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Jun 21, 2014 6:39 PM (+)]
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Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
Garden today. Clean next week.
Garden Procrastinator Region: Colorado Heucheras Region: Southwest Gardening Container Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Sempervivums Annuals Foliage Fan Herbs Garden Ideas: Level 2
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CDsSister
Jun 21, 2014 6:37 PM CST

This may sound like a silly question but can you buy compost? How is it labeled?
I don't have any place to do composting myself as I live in a townhouse with little actual
ground. Just cement and rocks.

Also I have no place to dump dirt. So I put in garbage bags and toss it. I hate doing that but have no other alternative.

Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 21, 2014 6:49 PM CST
Good nurseries might have bagged compost. The composted manure they sell at big box stores is not great, and meant as garden soil amendment, I think.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
Garden today. Clean next week.
Garden Procrastinator Region: Colorado Heucheras Region: Southwest Gardening Container Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Sempervivums Annuals Foliage Fan Herbs Garden Ideas: Level 2
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CDsSister
Jun 21, 2014 6:51 PM CST

I'll check when I make my next trip ... have a couple of coupons to use anyway.

I tip my hat to you.

Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Jun 22, 2014 11:15 AM CST
CDsSister said:

Also I have no place to dump dirt. So I put in garbage bags and toss it. I hate doing that but have no other alternative.



Nooooooo!! You just need more pots! Green Grin!
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
Garden today. Clean next week.
Garden Procrastinator Region: Colorado Heucheras Region: Southwest Gardening Container Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Sempervivums Annuals Foliage Fan Herbs Garden Ideas: Level 2
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CDsSister
Jun 22, 2014 11:57 AM CST
Hilarious! I have lots of pots but cannot just keep filling them. Now I am taking pots and dirt to the
garbage house.
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
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lovemyhouse
Jun 22, 2014 12:47 PM CST
Do you have Freecycle in your area? Or a rest/nursing home that might need the soil and pots? Something along those lines, anyway. Smiling
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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springcolor
Jun 22, 2014 1:39 PM CST
Contact your local garden club. I would bet one of the members would come get it.
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Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
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lovemyhouse
Jun 22, 2014 1:40 PM CST
Good idea.
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jun 22, 2014 2:04 PM CST
I reuse all my old potting mixes. I never waste it. If it really looks bad and has been in use several years, I might use that to fill in uneven places in the yard or just dump it in my raised garden. If it still looks pretty good, I will dump it in my handy-dandy wheelbarrow, mix in some coarse perlite, Black Kow, Osmacote, and milled sphagnum. I don't really measure anything, I just know by the look/feel of the potting soil when it is "right". Sticking tongue out I want plenty of organic matter but also want well-draining soil. If I had to guess I would probably be using 1/3 old potting mix to 2/3 everything else (by volume).
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Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
Garden today. Clean next week.
Garden Procrastinator Region: Colorado Heucheras Region: Southwest Gardening Container Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Sempervivums Annuals Foliage Fan Herbs Garden Ideas: Level 2
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CDsSister
Jun 22, 2014 2:51 PM CST

Thanks Ken. That's what I needed to hear.

Also thanks to everyone else ... Good idea on giving to nursing home or other. A couple of years ago my HOA took a bunch of old plastic pots I wanted to discard. Perhaps I should check for some other possibilities. I am a bit paranoid about the p;aces like Freecycle and Craigs list but will give it some thought. If the pot is nice enough I put it in my SA, Goodwill or ARC for pickup and they can resell for profit to the organization.

Since I do mostly hardy succulents and a few annuals for color and display, I have a variety of types of pots.
I am doing hypertufa for my sempervivums as they seem to winter over best in that medium. The annuals are in a variety of types of pots but am not sure about the dirt issues.

I will try ammending as has been recommended and advise results.
Thanks for all the suggestions.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
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drdawg
Jun 22, 2014 3:41 PM CST
I tip my hat to you.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Annie
Waynesboro, PA (Zone 6a)
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LysmachiaMoon
Jun 23, 2014 4:47 AM CST
I just hate to think of potting soil ending up as landfill. Here's an idea for you to make your own compost, even if you live in an apartment. You will need a plastic trashcan/wastebasket (pick the size that is right for your situation: I would NOT use a big garbage can. A tall wastebasket is ideal). This will be your compost bin. You will also need EITHER an old sponge mop or Swiffer type thing (all you need is the pole and the head, you don't need the sponge, so get one out of the trash). OR you can buy a heavy duty paint stirrer attachment for an electic drill. These look like giant egg beaters with a long sturdy handle. Get one with the longest handle you can find. (You don't need a drill, just the attachment). This (the old mop or the stirrer) will be your compost turner.

Put the mop/stirrer into the compost bin. You will be adding your compost stuff on top of and around it.

Set the compost bin in an out of the way place. Begin by tossing in some shredded up newspapers (torn up by hand or run thru a shredder) and some of your old potting soil. You have the beginning of compost. Add to this, as you get it, coffee grounds (tear up the filter), tea bags (break open the bags), eggshells, more shredded paper, trimmings from your houseplants, spent flowers, etc. You COULD add vegetable peelings, apple cores, lettuce leaves trimmings, etc. as is, but what is better for your situation is to run these things through a blender or food processor first to grind them up into mush. Then pour the mush into the compost. Everytime you add a good bit of mush, add some dry stuff...paper towels, torn up newspaper, dry coffee grounds, dried out tea bags, more old potting soil... You don't want the mixture to get too wet.

Once you have several inches of this compost in the bin, gently lift and "toss" the stuff with your compost stirrer. Just a few up and downs on the handle is all you need, maybe every couple of days. Always leave your compost stirrer buried in the compost. That makes it much easier to lift and toss the compost.

Keep adding old soil, coffee grounds, paper, etc. a little at a time and stirring. If the mixture looks very dry, add a little water but you want it only to be slightly moist, not wet. Once the container is about 3/4 full, stop adding more, but keep stirring. You'll know when the compost is ready to use when you can no longer see bigger chunks of stuff (like apple cores for instance). It should smell like a freshly opened bag of potting soil.

The key is stirring; it's important to get as much air through this as possible thru stirring because you don't have air holes drilled in the container (a container with holes is too messy for an indoor compost operation).

NEVER add meat scraps, fats, fish scraps, dairy products, cat litter, dog waste, or primate droppings.
If you keep a pet bird/rodent, you can add the bird/rodent droppings/bedding. You can add the sludge from the bottom of the fish tank but you will need to offset wet high-nitrogen stuff with a lot of dry high-carbon stuff like paper (or leaves).

This can be scaled to whatever size of "composting operation" you can manage. When I lived in an apartment I had one of these mini composters in a wastecan in the kitchen and it worked very well. You might also want to look into worm composting; google on "Vermicomposting" for more information.
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Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
Garden today. Clean next week.
Garden Procrastinator Region: Colorado Heucheras Region: Southwest Gardening Container Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Sempervivums Annuals Foliage Fan Herbs Garden Ideas: Level 2
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CDsSister
Jun 23, 2014 9:54 AM CST

Thanks for the detailed instructions, I have a sensitive nose so it sounds disgusting to me. I do save coffee grounds to spread on my Hosta but that is about as far as I will go.

I will consider ways previously suggested to get rid of the soil when I think it is depleted.



Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Jun 23, 2014 12:17 PM CST
Marilyn,

In my area, the Cedar Grove company has the contract to turn yard waste and biosolids into compost. However, they mix it with so much sawdust and wood shavings that it's more like "mulch" than "compost". Not worth the price.

What I buy for "compost" is labelled somewhat ambiguously. It says "Manure" in large letters, and "compost" in small letters. It has the word "mix" somewhere in the labeling, so that it isn't clear whether they are selling a mix of manure and compost, or what. At $1.25 per 1-cubic-foot-bag, the price is right and it's light enough to get in and out of my trunk.

But my nose tells me that the manure is at least fairly well composted if not almost-completely-composted. My speculation is that they can't it by its right name ("composted manure") because then they would have to prove that they meet some standards of aging and temperature.

In my mind it's perfect: it seems to be composted "enough". The last few weeks or months of "complete" composting would deplete the nutrients, and it is already aged enough to remove almost all of the odor. I never see any problem with weed seeds, but that might just mean that I already have so many weeds that I don't notice a few extra.

The only thing I find annoying is that, if I push it through a 1/4" screen to break it up finely, I always find some fairly coarse gravel. As far as I know, cows don't have gizzards! Why should compost made from manure have gravel in it?

Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jun 23, 2014 12:52 PM CST
Rick, do you use Black Kow in any of your potting soil mixesl?
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jun 23, 2014 2:08 PM CST
Ken said:
>> do you use Black Kow

Not yet. I didn't see it at my local HD, and I see it's $5 at Lowes. I usually try whatever is cheapest first, and only go to a pricier product if I really need to.

If I'm right that 50 pounds of Black Kow is right around 1 cubic foot, it's four times as expensive as the "no name" bagged manure/compost I've been buying. Since they promise 'composted for 3 months" and "reaches 13o degrees", and they know the diaries they get the manure and bedding from, Black Kow might be twice the quality of what I've been buying.

I assume that 99% of my weeds are coming from my past bad habits making my own compost in a small, cool heap with my own weeds included, and from not always pulling weeds before they seed. If I ever get my own weed reseeding under control and learn that my generic cheap bagged compost is alsso contributing significantly to the weeds, I might rethink my cheapness/quality choice and go hunt for cheaper sources of Black Kow.

Until then, the value of getting four bags for the price of one is a big deal to me.

(Edited to add: I currently use compost in raised beds, not pots. I buy it 6-8 bags at a time. If I were shopping for compost for pots, I might well "splurge" on one bag of higher-quality compost. "Soil in containers" is the subject here, and "find the best quality ingredients you can afford" makes good sense. If I get my tomatoes-in-buckets project going next year, I probably will buy one bag of "top shelf manure" for those buckets.)
[Last edited by RickCorey - Jun 23, 2014 2:11 PM (+)]
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