What to do with old soil?

on Mon, 02/20/2017

A question I see a lot from people who container garden is what to do with the soil from last year that is in their containers. Do they get rid of it? Reuse it? What? It seems like every year once we get close to growing season that this question comes up.

There are a lot of options. If you have a compost pile, you can dump all of the old soil that doesn't have plants currently growing in it, bulbs that will come back each year, etc. This gives it a chance to be reinvigorated by the nutrients it picks up from your compost heap. But what if you don't have a compost heap?

What I've done is reuse my soil every year. But I don't just reuse it as it is - I amend it. I bought some cheap tarps at the store - one for my tomato plants, one for everything else. I don't want to to reuse my tomato soil two years in a tow for tomatoes, so all of the pots that had tomato plants in them get handled separately.

We dump out all of the containers onto the tarp. We use a rake to help break up the soil so that it's not in huge clumps. We then pour in some fresh organic soil as well as compost that we purchase at the store. I have some all-purpose granular fertilizer that I purchased at a local farm store. I also pour in some of that. 

Using our hands and the rake, we mix everything up as good as we can. Then we refill the containers.

This allows us to get the most use out of the soil we purchased while also giving the plants the nutrients they need.


Hi Jenni,
Here in the East it is not easy to find "compost" to buy at the garden centers. We have 3 compost bins, yet they take time. Do you have any suggestions were we could purchase compost and what brand do you like? Thank you so much!

Sorry, somehow I completely missed that there were some comments on here, so I'm sorry for being so late in answering this.

Do stores like Home Depot and such not have bags of compost by where the bags of garden and potting soil are at? There and stores like Walmart are where I typically find them. They look just like the bags of soil. 

Another option would be to do some Google searches for places near you that sell it in bulk. Usually there are going to be places that take waste from businesses (like restaurants), yard debris from the city and county, etc and turn it into compost. I know folks around me who have a lot more room will usually buy both their soil and compost from those kinds of places. Often times you can buy smaller amounts, but you may have to bring containers to get it home in.

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