Now is the time to recycle the soil from this summer’s hanging baskets and potted plants and turn it into super soil to use again next year!
Fall is here, and container plants that were once overflowing with life have finally reached their end. Unfortunately, at this point, no amount of water or fertilizer is going to bring them back.
But that doesn’t mean the soil, or the decaying plants for that matter, have to be tossed to the curb. Let’s face it, potting soil is expensive. And having to replace it every single year puts a big dent in the garden budget.
But by recycling, recharging and reusing your soil, you can save big and create even better potting soil to power your plants next year. And the process is easier than you might ever think!
How To Recycle Hanging Basket & Container Soil
One thing is for sure, you can’t simply just save and reuse old potting soil from year to year. The soil in potted plants loses most of its structure and nutrients throughout a growing season.
If simply saved and reused the following year, there just isn’t enough power in the soil to grow healthy plants.
But by adding in a few key powerful ingredients, and creating an over-wintering “potting soil compost pile,” it can be powered up and ready to use next spring. And here’s how to do it:
Creating A Potting Soil Compost Pile
Although you can always put your old hanging basket and container soil and spent plants in your regular compost pile, by creating a separate “potting soil” pile, you keep the potting soil mix in-tact to use by next spring.
Instead of making true compost, you are are instead recharging the soil as a whole. This keeps the consistency and light structure needed to create great potting soil.
Simply use a small corner of your garden or flowerbed, or even a large drum or trash can to pile up the ingredients. Make sure the pile can drain so it does not become overly wet or saturated.
To recycle your hanging basket and container soil, start by chopping up the foliage and stems into small pieces. We use our lawn mower with a bag attachment to chop ours.
Although the plant material may be dead or dying, it still has nutrients to give back to the soil. And the smaller you chop it up, the quicker it will break down into the potting soil.
Next, we break apart all of the roots and soil in the pots and containers, mixing it in with the shredded foliage. We then add in a few 5 gallon buckets of shredded leaves and grass clippings to the pile.
Not only are they readily available in the fall, they add lots of structure and nutrients. Even better, when shredded finely, they break down in the pile quickly.
The Power of Fresh Compost
We finish off the pile by adding in fresh compost. As a general rule of thumb, mix in about 10% of fresh compost to the overall pile size.
The fresh compost not only adds power to the potting soil, but microbes and bacteria too. They in turn help to break down the shredded plant material quickly. (See : How To Make Great Compost In The Fall)
Maintaining The Potting Soil Pile Through Winter – How To Recycle Hanging Baskets & Container Plants
Through the course of the fall and winter, we also add in spent coffee grounds and a few dozen finely crushed egg shells to the mix. These add even more nutrients, and again, break down quickly.
As the weather allows, we turn our “pile” a few times each week. Just like a compost pile, the organic material heats up and breaks down faster as oxygen is added by turning.
By keeping all of the added ingredients extremely small, by spring, the pile looks and feels like ultra-rich potting soil once again.
Reusing The Potting Soil In Spring- How To Recycle Hanging Basket & Container Soil
As spring rolls around we are ready to use the mix! We use it in our seed starting mix, as well as for potting up our new hanging basket and container plants.
It can be used straight, or mixed in with 25% new potting soil if it needs to be lightened up at all. As with our homemade potting soil, we always mix in a few cups of worm castings for every 5 gallon bucket of potting soil we use.
They are simply unbelievable when it comes to powering up soil. They are the perfect slow-release fertilizer for nearly every plant. (Product Link : Worm Castings)
Here is to taking the time to recycle your hanging basket and container soil, and growing with even less expense next year! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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