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Question about dirt for container gardens

I had a fruitful first year with a container garden thanks to some advice here. Now that fall is approaching, what do I do with the dirt from the containers? Is this something I can re-use next year?

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  1. Unfortunately, like chicken stock made with bones, etc., most of the nutrients have been used in the growing of your bounty. If you're able, empty the container soil on any plant border. (spread it around a bit) Store the container, and plan to buy (or make) new growing medium for next season. If there's no place to empty the pot, empty the soil into a bag and put it out for rubbish collection. In our town we are allowed to bring compostable materials, like garden debris and leaves, etc., to the city yards.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gio

      Once I tried a 50/50 mix of last year's and new. I wasn't pleased with the results. And, yes, I can put the old stuff around other things as a mulch.

      1. I reuse them but I always put more fertilizer in them based on what I'm planning to grow for the next season. It's difficult to reuse them otherwise because the nutrients have probably been used or leached out.

        3 Replies
        1. re: raytamsgv

          How do you replenish the soil? I am both lazy and cheap, so I'm not going to ditch my dirt. So I'd like to know what you specifically recommend, fertilizer-wise.

          1. re: small h

            It depends on what you plan to grow there. Fertilizers typically have three numbers (N-P-K) that describe their Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium ratings respectively. Each plant has it's own unique requirements. For example, I think peppers and tomatoes typically prefer a 5-5-3 ratio. They also like extra calcium. Kale, however, prefer something more like 10-10-10, and it doesn't need extra calcium.

            Extra fertilizer does NOT mean that your plant will be healthier. For example, If tomato plants are given too much nitrogen, they'll grow wonderfully, but they probably won't bear any tomatoes.

            1. re: raytamsgv

              Thanks very much. I currently use a timed release plant food, but I haven't been thrilled with the results. So I may try something else.

        2. I have used the same mix for three years now, adding 5-10-10 fertilizer (and lime for the tomatoes) each year. Last year everything was fine, but this year I noticed that those in the containers suffered a bit compared to similar plants in the ground, so I am going to use new mix next year. The peppers did better than ever though, so maybe I'll just try the 50% old, 50% new mix for them.

          1. You'll get the best results by using fresh soil next season. Dump your old soil onto your compost pile or in your garden or around your trees or shrubbery. Or, if you don't have those options, perhaps offer the used soil to someone who does. It really does make a nice addition to compost piles.

            1. Just change out the soil for next year. It’s not worth the hassle, imo. Especially with vegetable plants in the Solanaceous family (Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers), as they are notorious for harboring disease through the winter on plant debris and/or roots.

              Even if your plants next year don’t become infected with a disease, generally, the plants will do better in fresh soil.

              1. I never buy new soil. EVER. Never never never. They will tell you that you should or HAVE TO but it is just rubbish. I am going to refer you to a post on another site that I think really gives the perfect advice (and so I do not have to type it because it is sorta long). It covers all the ways to amend old soil: http://www.rollitup.org/organics/1876... - go to post number 5. A very good answer indeed.

                Oh - and my garden - veggies, fruits, baskets are overflowing - every year - same old soil.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                  I don't replace each year and don't think it's necessary. Does anyone replace the soil in their farm or regular garden every year? No, they turn it and add stuff. Granted containers aren't quite the same, but still. I've always figured the recommendations to buy new soil each year originated from people selling soil.

                  I make my own container mix of peat, lime, vermiculite, and perlite, with kelp meal and other organic fertilizers as needed. There will always be a bit new as things always need topping off, and if I need soil for something else in the garden I may use it from some of the containers then make some new to replace. So it may get partly replaced, or not. My plants do great and it doesn't seem to matter. What does seem to matter is dumping the containers, cleaning them, and giving the soil a good mixing and addition of fresh perlite/vermiculite to lighten things up as those tend to degenerate, and of course fertilizers. If I get lazy and just do things in the container, skipping the empty/mix/clean/refill bit, that may make a difference. Hard to say sometimes.