2 Easy Methods to Revitalize Old Potting Soil
If you’re a container gardener and you have been for a couple of years, you probably have spent containers full of soil that you don’t know what to do with. Do you throw it out? Do you revitalize it? Well, the answer could be either, but we’re going to talk about how to rejuvenate your soil so you save money and still have an epic harvest.
One of the best things about gardening is being able to reuse, reuse, reuse, right? But there are some cases where you would want to do a complete refresh, which is why we’re going to talk first about should you just do a complete replacement, get rid of all this soil, or should you refresh?
The simplest way is just to add more potting mix or compost or a mixture of both.
So we have our old soil, right? What I’ll do is I’ll just dump it into a larger box. What you may want to do is grab some loose clumps of dirt or some, you know, larger pieces of material, maybe some root matter. I absolutely love it. You just mix it in, you moisten the soil up and you’re really good to go. So if you didn’t have any major issues, you weren’t growing something that was extremely heavy feeder. This is a very simple time efficient and pretty cost efficient way to refresh your soil, but if you do want to get a little crazy, let’s go into the next method.
The first thing we need to do is remove any plant material and gnarly roots, like you grew a tomato in there.
You really do want to get those larger roots out. Now in my raised beds, oftentimes I just leave those in and let the soil life go, but there’s not as much going on in containers as there is in large raised beds. And so what I like to do is I’ll come through and I’ll give it a nice screen. This is just to get rid of all that large particulate matter that’s built up over the course of a growing season. So I’ll screen it through and you know what else this allows you to do. Let’s say you have grubs or some sort of pest that likes to overwinter and bury into the soil. Well then you’re going to find it right now and you won’t have to worry about it later. So I’ll just screen this out, remove any large chunks of material and then I’m in a good spot to see what’s next. Now that we’ve sifted and screened, I don’t see any grubs in here. I don’t see any really large pieces of anything, so we’re good to go with the next stage, which is the same as the last stage. Actually you just do a bit of a potting soil refresh. You can also add some compost, but that’s just going to loosen it up a little bit. If there was a little compaction, it’s going to give a nice overall dose of organic matter and now we’re going to get into the slow release fertilizer.
Use some slow release organic fertilizer.
Some examples are blood, bone and chicken manure. Chicken manure is a good all around like a three two three or so. What we want to do is to just add some good all around organics that will make it into the soil, but they won’t make it in really unless we have a living soil. So mix in some of these, and you don’t have to get too crazy, but I like to do around a couple of tablespoons or so for about five gallons. I could probably add a little more. This will go into the soil, mix it with something that you might be familiar with.
Get some worm castings, you’ll have maybe some worm eggs, but more importantly, some microbial life and a good all-purpose fertilizer. Just give it a little bit of a tap and you will get beautiful castings to come out. Now all we have to do is mix it all together, moisten it along the way, and we’re in a really good spot.
Now you have your organic fertilizer, slow release, and worm castings. Hit it with a nice brief bit of water before mixing. And so as you mix, what you will have to do is to incorporate all these ingredients.
So the worms of course now that they’re in here are going to want that organic matter to start munching through and the microbes want that nice moist environment to start living in. And what’s nice about this is you can even let this soil cure or or chill for a little bit while that microbial population starts to build. You don’t have to. You can though. So you don’t even have to do this right before you replant. You can do this maybe a week or two before and then you can replant and all of your plants are going to be in a great spot for some super healthy soil once you do put this back into a container. Repotted refreshed potting mix. You can just put in some fresh potting mix. You can use your own homemade compost.
So you’re improving the soil quality and texture and also the organic nutrients within it. Refresh it and then add some slow-release organics that would really just balance the soil over time. Slow-release. Right? But those nutrients are only released if there’s enough life within the soil to kind of break them down, which is why we add worm castings and a little bit of worms into this mix. And so that’s really the one, two, three, four step punch for revitalizing your soil. And it’s just a great way to just make use of things you already have so you don’t have to spend tons and tons of money.
Good luck in the garden and keep on growing. Happy Gardening!