If you want to keep your hanging and potted plants looking great year after year – you need to recharge that soil!

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.

As plants start to fade – it’s time to think about making a potting soil compost pile!

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.

We also use our composted potting soil for starting our seedlings indoors in the early Spring – it gives plants a great start.
Good Potting Soil = Great Blooms!
You can add a lot of color to your landscape with potted plants – but make sure to re-energize that soil to get great results each year.

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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23 thoughts on “How To Make Super Soil From Summer’s Hanging Baskets and Planters

  • June 6, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    I always dump my soil from my hanging baskets and containers in my raised beds. I leave a 4′ x 4′ space to do this. I add all my kitchen scraps and coffee grounds to it. Makes great planting soil and no moving or dumping needed. When I get ready to plant there, I just add some black cow and plant. Then I start a new spot.
    I am 67 and it works great for me.

  • March 17, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    What kind of soil do I use for Naustratans hanging baskets
    in the ground they don’t need good soil

  • March 16, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    What do you do when ants get in the compost pile?

  • October 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    2 Quick questions: Do you need to drill holes into the garbage can for aeration? Do you cover the garbage can or leave it uncovered?

    @ Darlene, I have been composting right into my garden for 2 seasons now. The kitchen scrap (no meat) composts so fast! Maybe a couple weeks? I cover my compost with a lil bit of soil from around the garden and this seems to speed up the process. The best part? The soil is already in my garden! No moving or dumping needed. I am also kinda lazy 🙂 half the time I don’t even have to turn the compost. I literally produce new, beautiful, rich dirt, right before my eyes! Love it!

    • October 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Great advice Darlene! If you do use the can – I would definitely drill holes in the bottom and keep it covered to keep out any animals..

  • September 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    I love this idea of repurposing the soil from potted plants. I also used to throw away at the end of the season. Just moved into our home in June, got my veg/herb garden growing. I’ve got plenty of room to do a compost pile with my kitchen scraps and such. Going to start on this immediately. Thanks, also will it help putting my worms in the compost pile too? I just bought the red wrigglers for composting.

  • September 5, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Thank you for the tips, all my gardening is done in containers as we have no space in the yard (yet) This is the third year with the same soil and I have definitely seen a diminished quality in the plants. I’m just worried the composting material added won’t “compost” enough and I’ll have visible food waste in my pots… should I break down the added material or can you add it as is? Thanks again.

  • November 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with Share Your Cup. I usually dump my dirt into my garden somewhere and then throw the dead plant away. Great to know that it can be made into healty soil.

  • November 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    This is a great post! Thanks for sharing at repurposed ideas weekly.

  • October 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Wonderful gardening tip. I need to start a compost pile. I stopped doing this a few years ago. Thanks for sharing the compost tip.

  • October 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Thanks for the post. I reuse my spent potting soil every year too, but I’ve left it in the pots. I would add organic fertilizer to help get it going, but I had problems with disease in a few of the pots. So, I may try using the garbage can method as I have a few old ones handy. I can add peat or other soil lightener next year as real dirt/compost tends to be heavy and sometimes retains too much moisture. Thanks again for the tips! Blessings, Nancy at livininthegreen

  • October 25, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Great post and great idea for rejuvenating the soil ~ ( Creative Harbor) ^_^

  • October 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Hi, I’m Anne from Life on the Funny Farm (http://annesfunnyfarm.blogspot.com), and I’m visiting from Tilly’s Nest.

    What a great idea! It’s both brilliant and down-to-earth common sense at the same time. Why have I been throwing these out all these years? Thanks for sharing this great tip!

    Anyway, it’s nice to “meet” you! Hope you can pop by my blog sometime to say hi…

  • October 24, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I really want to do this – we spend so much on potting soil every spring! Is there ever a problem with insects wintering over in the soil? Should the garbage can be kept outside on in the garage?

    • October 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

      I know – potting soil is so expensive! We have never had a problem with insects – and as for the can – it can be kept in either place – just make sure to turn the contents every few weeks.

  • October 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Brilliant. Love how you constantly think “repurpose”.

  • October 23, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Thanks for the great idea! I was just getting ready to empty all those containers! I thought I read somewhere that you can’t re-use potting soil because it might contain a plant disease or something like that and I always thought that was such a great waste.

  • October 23, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Two years ago I started doing this exact thing with my “used” potting soil. For a container, I stacked a few tires next to my potting station. I add kitchen scraps and yard clippings to the pile and use an old shovel handle to turn it over every week. But do avoid recycling weed heads or you will be growing baby weeds next spring when you use your enriched soil.

  • October 23, 2012 at 9:47 am

    i love this, but i have a question…..does it matter what kind of garbage can i use(ie..plastic, metal) and also does there need to be holes punched into the can???????????

    • October 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks Carol! As for the type of can – it doesn’t really matter – you can use an old metal or a plastic can – or even a big tub or bucket if you have a small quantity of soil. Although you dont have to, you can certainly put a few holes in the bottom of the can to help from having too much water build up – but if you do – put the can in your garden or flowerbeds because all of that liquid will be filled with nutrients. Basically – that becomes compost tea. Hope that helps! Jim

  • October 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

    The garbage can method is a great way for those with little space to get the benefits of compost – and it really does cut down on the cost of expensive potting soil. Glad to have you as a follower!

  • October 23, 2012 at 8:46 am

    As I start to consider container gardening, this is such a great tip! I wouldn’t have thought to just use a big garbage can to get the benefits of a little composting, and to save money on potting soil year over year.

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