Ask a Question forum→What to do with your flowers and soil once winter rolls around?

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CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 18, 2020 5:07 PM CST
Hello everyone,

I grow a variety of plants and flowers (cilantro, parsley, tomatoes, morning glories, etc.). Winter will be rolling around in about 2 months or so, killing everything I have. First time doing this so have a few questions.

I plan to harvest all the edible plants and eat them. Since I'm tossing everything out, rather than use scissors and just cutting the leafy heads or picking the fruit, should I just pull out the entire plant by the stem, get what I need, and toss everything else in the trash? I assume the roots and stems may have nutrition value and be food for other animals, so should I instead dump them out in the forest near my house? What do I do for the flowers? Should I leave them to wither and die? Or should I also pull them out.

Once the flowers/plants have been taken care of, what do I do with the soil? It's around 30 gallons of soil (measured by pot size). So I can't exactly just dump it in the backyard. Is this safe to go and dump in the forest as well (it should still be good for stuff to grow in and use, so recycling?

Thank you as always!
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Aug 18, 2020 7:26 PM CST
I throw out every thing. I do it right after a killing frost.
If you composted, you could put them there.
I cover every one of my planters with pieces of plywood. The smaller ones get grouped together. I use plywood to keep the rain and snow out. It got to -14 here year before last with several more nights below zero. I do not want to take a chance that very wet soil will freeze, expand and break my ceramic planters.
Plus plywood keeps critters out of them.
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
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CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 18, 2020 7:29 PM CST
But where/how do you toss it out? Do you throw it in the trash? Do you go to a nearby forest and dump it there? Same with the left over plant matter
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
American Orchid Society Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
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BigBill
Aug 18, 2020 7:53 PM CST
I have over a half acre with some edges in the rear 30' that are not planted. The back center fence is covered with honeysuckle vines, grape and bittersweet.
I am talking about my west side which is where I compost leaves, twigs, big weeds and flowers along with my vegetables. I add a few large branches to make a brush pile in the center to provide habitat for rabbits, woodchuck, chipmunks and others which frequent my yard. It provides them with winter shelter and perhaps living and breeding cover.
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
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sallyg
Aug 19, 2020 5:03 PM CST
I agree you should take off all the plant material to somewhere else, compost, forest, yard waste collection..?

Keep the soil in the containers and cover them so they are mostly dry over winter, is what Bill seems to be saying.
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 19, 2020 5:05 PM CST
sallyg said:I agree you should take off all the plant material to somewhere else, compost, forest, yard waste collection..?

Keep the soil in the containers and cover them so they are mostly dry over winter, is what Bill seems to be saying.


Why would I keep the soil though? It's only good for 6 months according to the package
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
American Orchid Society Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
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BigBill
Aug 19, 2020 5:08 PM CST
Yes Sally, exactly!
You take a glazed pot of any size, fill it with soil, add a lot of moisture and then expose it to below zero, something is going to give!
A little water/ice in huge boulders is known to split the boulders over time. Ice is an incredible force.
Can anyone say pot hole??? Rolling on the floor laughing
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
Bellevue, NE
Ceckery
Aug 19, 2020 7:31 PM CST
I've had the same soil in some of my pots for years. But I fertilize things. The soil doesn't go bad. It's just that the fertilizers already mixed in run out after so long (maybe that's the 6 months). You can actually buy your own fertilizer and mix it in next spring before planting.
Name: Lynda Horn
Arkansas (Zone 7b)
Eat more tomatoes!
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gardenfish
Aug 20, 2020 1:40 AM CST
The best thing to mix with the old soil for the next year is compost, preferably your own. I've been doing this for years. Gets really expensive if you buy new soil every year.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.
Mother Teresa
CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 20, 2020 2:17 PM CST
Ceckery said:I've had the same soil in some of my pots for years. But I fertilize things. The soil doesn't go bad. It's just that the fertilizers already mixed in run out after so long (maybe that's the 6 months). You can actually buy your own fertilizer and mix it in next spring before planting.


But aren't some plants sensitive to fertilizer (i.e. it's better not to use feritlizer for them)?
CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 20, 2020 2:18 PM CST
gardenfish said:The best thing to mix with the old soil for the next year is compost, preferably your own. I've been doing this for years. Gets really expensive if you buy new soil every year.


Unfortunately I don't know if I can make compost, I live in a tiny apt. and grow everything from my small balcony (I barely have room for the pots, let alone creating room to compost)
Name: Zoë
Albuquerque NM, Elev 5310 ft (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Herbs Salvias Composter Bee Lover Container Gardener
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NMoasis
Aug 20, 2020 2:28 PM CST
Hi Samman, If you plan to grow the same things next year, you could try letting them flower and go to seed and harvest the seed for spring planting. For the old plants, yes, pull them out of your pots, roots and all, and discard them. If you had any diseases or pests (I think I recall that you did), it would be better to put them in the trash rather than in the forest. One big one: morning glories can be quite invasive. I would definitely not throw that plant into the forest if there are flowerheads/seeds on it.

Ceckery and Gardenfish are both right about the potting soil. Save it for next year. You will need to use fertilizer, but the potting soil itself does not "go bad". Now that you've accumulated all those pots and soil, your investment next year shouldn't be nearly so costly!

How did your tomatoes do?
For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.
Name: Zoë
Albuquerque NM, Elev 5310 ft (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Herbs Salvias Composter Bee Lover Container Gardener
Bookworm Cat Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers
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NMoasis
Aug 20, 2020 2:31 PM CST
Our posts crossed. Next spring you could get one smallish bag of a good compost and stir it into the old soil in the pots. You''ll lose a little soil pulling out the roots, so you'll probably have to top them off anyway. For pots, I recommend Happy Frog Soil conditioner. Don't get the cheap stuff from big box stores that is mostly wood chips.
For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.
Bellevue, NE
Ceckery
Aug 20, 2020 3:25 PM CST
samman said:

But aren't some plants sensitive to fertilizer (i.e. it's better not to use feritlizer for them)?


Probably. I've never had any issues with over fertilizing (other than getting tons of leaves on some plants). If you're worried about it, just don't mix any into the soil in the spring and use fertilizer only as needed. I tend to be an experimental gardener. I just try things. Somehow that resulted in the best crop of blackberries, tomatoes, peppers, and green beans that I've ever grown. Blueberries, strawberries, and carrots weren't so good but they're usually hit or miss anyway. Zucchini did great until vine borers took them out. But that's the only bug issue I've had. I figure if something fails I can just try it differently next year.
Name: Zoë
Albuquerque NM, Elev 5310 ft (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Herbs Salvias Composter Bee Lover Container Gardener
Bookworm Cat Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers
Image
NMoasis
Aug 20, 2020 3:56 PM CST
Samman, growing in potting soil is different than growing in garden soil. Many plants get by fine with the nutrients in healthy garden soil and don't want or need supplement feeding. Potting soil is sterile, and has zero nutrients or at best very few. That's why so many companies add fertilizer to their products. You'll need to learn what various plants need and how much, but you have quite a bit of time to study up on it before spring. Thumbs up
For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.
CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 20, 2020 4:14 PM CST
nmoasis said:Hi Samman, If you plan to grow the same things next year, you could try letting them flower and go to seed and harvest the seed for spring planting. For the old plants, yes, pull them out of your pots, roots and all, and discard them. If you had any diseases or pests (I think I recall that you did), it would be better to put them in the trash rather than in the forest. One big one: morning glories can be quite invasive. I would definitely not throw that plant into the forest if there are flowerheads/seeds on it.

Ceckery and Gardenfish are both right about the potting soil. Save it for next year. You will need to use fertilizer, but the potting soil itself does not "go bad". Now that you've accumulated all those pots and soil, your investment next year shouldn't be nearly so costly!

How did your tomatoes do?


Well they were doing great initially. I was wrapping the vines around my balcony bars and had around 20 baby tomatoes, but then we had a big storm come in (I believe it was the left-overs of a hurricane) and it tore all the vines to shreds. I tried to save them, by planting the stalks in soil, but they were in too many pieces to recover. Only 1 or 2 stems didn't break, and those are doing great, I currently have 2 ripened tomatoes from them, and 4 more coming along (they're quite delicious from the one I tried).

Gonna use an actual cage next year so I can transport the plant in case of a storm again.

Name: Zoë
Albuquerque NM, Elev 5310 ft (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Herbs Salvias Composter Bee Lover Container Gardener
Bookworm Cat Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers
Image
NMoasis
Aug 20, 2020 4:37 PM CST
Good idea. I lost a lot in high winds, too. Just a thought: I grew full-sized vines in my pots, which I knew was a mistake but did it anyway D'Oh! . I'm going to look into the smaller "patio" tomatoes for next year. There are many varieties to choose from and they are better suited to growing in pots. They don't get so unwieldy and reputedly produce full crops. Don't know, never tried, but worth looking into. Smiling
For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.
CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 20, 2020 5:12 PM CST
nmoasis said:Good idea. I lost a lot in high winds, too. Just a thought: I grew full-sized vines in my pots, which I knew was a mistake but did it anyway D'Oh! . I'm going to look into the smaller "patio" tomatoes for next year. There are many varieties to choose from and they are better suited to growing in pots. They don't get so unwieldy and reputedly produce full crops. Don't know, never tried, but worth looking into. Smiling


Yeah I thought these guys would be a bit more maneagable since they are the tiny grape tomatoes, but the plants grown enourmous. I had to wrap it around the bars because it was getting to large (things taking up around 6f in diameter without wrapping it around), and I'm growing 3 of them!
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Region: United States of America Cat Lover Birds Butterflies
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sallyg
Aug 20, 2020 6:20 PM CST
Grape and other very small bite size tomatoes seem closer to their wild ancestors, and many have huge rangy vines.
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Darrell
Nova Scotia (Zone 4b)
dfeltmate
Aug 20, 2020 7:08 PM CST
For potting soil get some "fine bark mulch" which will be available bagged in the big box stores. Work it through a 1/4" inch sieve to leave a finer material. You can either mix it with your present used potting soil or on its own. It does a great job of moisture retention, drainage and aeration. The bigger chunks left in the sieve can go into the bottom of the pots for even greater drainage or used as mulch.
While the material will have a trace of nutritional value, it is bark after all, it will not have enough to sustain the plants. Do not use regular fertilizer in pots. It will kill the plants. Us a slow release fertilizer. It will be sold as a slow release fertilizer and should be labelled as to how many months it provides nutrition. 6 months is fine for most of us.
For an apartment dweller the only composting that really makes sense is worm composting. The easiest way to dispose of dead plants is simply whatever system you use to dispose of the stuff that got lost at the back of the fridge.
O, just for context, most of the stuff I grow in pots is flowers in six window boxes, two 3 gallon pots, one 2 gallon pot and two 5 gallon pots. There are also a couple of hundred perennial plants in pots of various sizes growing on for next year but those are in back in what will be a cold frame again next spring. The system works well.

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