We are all guilty of it as some point. You walk out to your garage, back patio or porch in the middle of winter, and there they sit or hang. The brown, curled up remains of last year’s potted plants. The frost and freeze season is now upon us – and that means the end of the line for the hanging baskets and planters filled with Summer’s bounty of flowering annuals and vegetable plants. So instead of letting those sit around until next spring, or even worse, throwing them away – now is the time to recharge that dirt into super soil to reuse next year!
The soil in potted plants will lose most of its structure and nutrients throughout a growing season.
Unlike garden soil, which can be recharged through cover crops and natural decaying plant matter – the soil in pots and hanging baskets have no chance at all to rebuild structure and vitality. So if you plan on reusing that soil in the same pot next year – plan on disappointing results.
So how do you recharge it? Make a potting soil compost pile!
Potting soil can be a big expense each spring – and by composting your old and tired dirt to re-energize it – you can reap huge savings next year. Each Spring, we make our own super soil potting mix using 4 parts of potted soil compost to 1 part new potting soil. Not only do we reduce our new potting soil purchases by 80% – the plants are healthier than ever!
Depending on your available space – you have several options to get a small compost pile built.
Create A Space In Your Garden:
If you have a little garden or flower bed area that becomes barren in the winter – start it right in the available space and make an over-winter pile.
The Garbage Can Method:
If space is limited – get yourself a big garbage can or two (depending on how many plants you have) – and make it right on your patio, garage or porch.
Start by gathering all of your pots and baskets – take a shovel or sharp tool to break and chop up the matted soil and spent plant material before adding to the pile or can.
Next – add what fall give us for free! Chopped leaves and fall grass clippings are a great addition – as are coffee grounds, apple peels, pumpkin rines and potato peels. Mix it all together and if your pile is dry – add a little water to make it moist. You want to make sure to add those grass clipping or scraps along with the leaves – because they give back valuable nitrogen to the spent soil as they decay.
For the next month or so – keep adding those kitchen and garden scraps, making sure to mix it in as you go. The mixing process adds oxygen to the pile which helps to speed up the composting process. We usually stop adding to our “planter” compost pile near the end of November. However, as weather permits – we will still turn the pile every few weeks or so to keep the compost process going. By late Spring – when we are ready to start potting up all of those planters and hanging baskets – we have a ready-made supply of super rich, super composted potting soil to use.
-Jim and Mary
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