Is it possible to recycle the soil in my hanging baskets so that I can use it again next year?
It is a question many gardeners ask each and every fall. Especially since it’s a time when many hanging basket plants (and container plants too) begin to reach their end. And, knowing how much they spent on potting soil just a few months earlier, gardeners hate to just throw it all away.
Unfortunately, no matter how well you take care of annual plants, they eventually run out of steam. Whether they become root-bound, succumb to a freeze or frost, or simply run out of nutrients, their once lovely blooms and foliage begins to falter as summer comes to an end.
But just because your hanging pots might have reached the end of the line, it doesn’t mean they should be tossed to the curb. In fact, it’s the last thing you want to do. Especially when the soil can be recharged and rejuvenated to use for planting again next year.
A Second Life For Hanging Baskets
One thing is for sure, potting soil can be extremely expensive! And it certainly doesn’t get any less costly with each passing year. So simply throwing it away at the end of each season really is like throwing your money to the curb.
Although the soil inside of baskets and containers might be depleted of nutrients by the end of the growing season, it still has plenty of value. As does the failing foliage from the plants that grew from the soil below.
But the key is to unlock that value, and in the process recharge the soil so that it can be used again. With that in mind, here is a look at 3 quick and easy ways to recycle and reuse both the soil and foliage in your hanging baskets each fall. And in the process, greatly reduce your potting soil expenses every spring!
3 Simple Ways To Recycle Hanging Basket Soil & Plants
#1) Create A “Soil Recharging Bin” – How To Recycle Hanging Basket Soil
For those that plant a large number of hanging baskets and containers each year, creating a soil recharging bin is one of the best ways of all to recycle your plants and soil over the winter.
Not only does it give you a single space to empty out all of your plants at the end of the growing season, it also gives you easy access for ready-to-go potting soil next spring.
In essence, a soil recharging bin is a dedicated compost bin. But instead of composting anything and everything, it is only used to compost materials that can recharge your old potting soil quickly over the fall and winter months.
How To Create A Soil Recharging Bin – Recycling Hanging Basket Soil
You can create a soil recharging bin from nearly anything. A wheelbarrow, a 55 gallon drum, or of course, an actual compost bin. The key is to select a vessel that will hold all of your old soil plus a bit of additional material as well.
If you don’t have something available, you can find quite a few inexpensive expandable compost bins on the market that work great for this purpose. Product Link: Expandable Compost Bin
To create your recharging pile, begin by dumping in all of the old soil from your pots and baskets. Next, chop up all of the foliage from the plants an place in as well. Cut them up as small as possible to speed decomposition. (A push mower with a bagging option works great for this)
Now it is time to add in some additional composting materials that can quickly break down and recharge the soil. This includes green grass clippings, shredded leaves, coffee grounds and chopped vegetable peels. Only put in materials that are shredded and small as these will break down quickly.
Building The Recharging Pile
Place these materials in as available until mid to late fall. As for how much to add of new materials, a good rule of thumb is double the size of the soil mass.
Always mix as you add to help the pile heat a bit to break down. By stopping in late fall, it will give the added materials enough time to completely break down and recharge the soil.
Once spring arrives, add in a bag or two of new potting soil and compost to the mix. Just like that, you are ready to grow again with healthy, vibrant soil. And at a fraction of the cost!
If a dedicated soil recharging bin is not an option, a traditional compost pile is the next best choice!
When it comes to giving a second life to old hanging basket soil, it’s hard to beat composting. Both the soil and foliage of hanging baskets plants are the perfect additions to a fall compost pile. (See : How To Create A Great Fall Compost Pile)
What makes the spent container soil and foliage so valuable for a compost pile is that it adds instant substance. The old soil mixes easily into a pile and quickly break down leaves, twigs and many of the other additions to a fall compost pile.
As they do, they in turn help to create a finished compost that is teeming with nutrients. And that nutrient-filled humus is great for mixing in equal parts with new potting soil next spring to power your potted plants once again.
#3) Trench Composting – How To Recycle Hanging Basket Soil
So what if you don’t have a compost bin, or the space for a soil recharging bin? Well, you can still use that old soil and plant material to help recharge your garden and flowerbed soil. And you can do so with a method called trench composting.
Trench composting is the practice of digging a hole and burying compostable materials. This is actually a great way to compost vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps if you don’t have an existing compost pile. But it’s also simple and easy to do with old hanging basket soil and foliage as well.
The loose soil of container plants are perfect for adding to existing bed spaces to help improve the soil. Start by digging a small hole or trench into the soil of your garden or flowerbeds. You can dig the trench or hole near existing plants as long as you don’t disturb the roots of nearby plants.
Next, break up the root ball and foliage with a sharp shovel and scatter into the hole. Cover with a bit of existing soil, and just like that, you have helped to improve the soil for next years flowers or crops!
Here is to recycling, recharging and reusing your hanging basket soil. And, to saving on your gardening budget next spring as well!
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