Reusing Potting Soil from Year to Year

pots with potting soilDo I have to change the soil in my containers before planting them, or is it OK to reuse what’s left in there from last year?

Answer: When it comes to growing lush, thriving plants, healthy soil is essential. For the most part, you want soil that is loose and full of nutrients—thus making it fertile, well-drained and yet able to retain sufficient water.

It is okay to use container soil for two or three years as long as it has remained nutritious and healthy. One exception would be for starting seeds; in that case, use fresh mix.

Also, you do not want to reuse the soil if last year’s plants showed signs of disease or had an issue of intrusive pests, because the soil is no longer of good quality. Other signs of poor soil include: poor plant growth, increased insect intruders, inability to retain water and amplified growth of weeds, suggesting it harbors weed seed.

There are benefits to using fresh soil, besides the obvious advantage of higher yield in plants. You may find enhanced soil drainage and ability to effectively retain water, reduced chances of disease and pest invasion, less weed growth and overall better plant development with less maintenance.

Image: Laurie Lee
Want to know how to maintain the perfect soil to grow thriving plants? Check out the Horticulture Smart Gardening Techniques: Soil.

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One thought on “Reusing Potting Soil from Year to Year

  1. I was very curious to see what the “official answer” was to this question. I’m delighted to read that it matches my own 55 years of direct experience.

    When I was a wee child, growing up on my Grandparent’s farm, after each killing frost my grandparent’s would take a shovel and empty all the containers into a wheel barrel. Obviously any containers that became root bound and were 100% roots were chopped and tossed into the compost pile. But those containers that had soil filled with roots from the dead plants were saved and mixed thoroughly in the wheel barrel. Then some nice rotted manure was added to the root-filled soil and then the mixture was shoveled back into the containers and set outside to “cure” all Winter long. In the Spring, you had the most incredible soil for plants: rotted manure and rotted roots, filled with earthworms that had wriggled up through the drainage holes and ready for planting. My Gran won Blue Ribbons at the local county fair each year with this process and the other farm ladies sure where jealous!

    Now, 60 years later, I carry on that process and have prize winning roses, dahlias and geraniums all around our cottage!

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