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Reviving old container soil over the winter

 
Gerry Power
Posts: 33
Location: South coast MA, Zone 6b
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I have been doing container gardening, mostly tomatoes. The soil in the containers is a mix of commercial composts, manure, peat, local soil, vermiculite, and perlite. I plan to enrich the saved soil over the winter by combining it, adding organic materials such as leaves, bokashi, and what ever else makes sense.

I will be storing the old soil in large trash cans. If I add [soak] the soil with compost tea to add beneficial nutrients [esp. fungi ] to the soil, will that improve the quality of the soil for next year?
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
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An easy way I recharge potting soil, whether or not anything is growing in it at the time, is with urine. Dilute it four or five parts water to one part urine if plants are still in the pots....it's a wonderful pick-me-up, or add it full strength to potting mix not currently growing anything and let it mellow a while before planting in it. Wood ashes can be mixed in too. The trick is estimating quantities....you could do it by the numbers, looking up nutrient contents and so on, or just guess. I would add no more than half a cup of ash to a five-gallon bucket of mix, and a half gallon of urine undiluted. Wet the mix down some and let it sit a few days. If there's any odor to it at that point you've got too much urine....dilute with more mix.....
Fresh urine from a healthy person carries minimal disease germs. Just don't let it sit around in containers too long. If you do, send it through a prolonged or hot compost process, as one would humanure.....
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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I always just mix my annual soils together during winter and grow weeds in them... Dandelion, clover, parsley, mints, ect. Then divide and replant in spring.
 
Gerry Power
Posts: 33
Location: South coast MA, Zone 6b
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Urine is on the "what ever makes sense" list. Any liquid that gets added will have to happen in the next 2-3 months. Once we hit December, things might freeze solid.

I am interested in getting as many soil enriching microbs into the mix so that after the spring thaw they will go to work. The bokashi will break down, and I assume the leaves and falls wood chips will mostly breake down. The urines nitrogen is a good idea to help them along their way. I will and blood meal too for its nitrogen content.

As I said, I intend to empty the containers into several larger waste containers. I will add layers of "stuff" with the soil. I hope that the added organic material will compost by next spring, and I thought that lots of good compst tea might help break down the new organic additions.
 
Eric Markov
Posts: 100
Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
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I'll second the ashes and urine additions. These have worked great for me in containers for years now.

For some unconventional container soil additions how about a stump and some logs?

I did that this year with great results. Pictures in these links:

http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/2012/09/eggplant-stump-branch-pot-comparison.html

http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/2012/09/pepper-containers.html




 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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http://www.seafriends.org.nz/oceano/seawater.htm#composition
 
julian kirby
Posts: 58
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Don't forget some chunks of lump charcoal! Makes for a happy habitat for your microbes.
 
Gerry Power
Posts: 33
Location: South coast MA, Zone 6b
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julian,

That is a good idea. Easy to do, easy to find. I assume it needs to be the wood char to avoid odd chemicals. It goes on my Xmas list!
 
julian kirby
Posts: 58
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indeed! either hardwood lump charcoal or natural briquets work, I recommend the lump so you can smash to the size you want, between dust and chunks
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Charcoal can absorb a tremendous quantity of water. This can be a problem in dry climates.
A solution to the problem is to soak the charcoal in a good compost tea before incorporating it in the soil.
 
Bob Dobbs
Posts: 145
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Heh, I've used "used" potting soil in the 'ol thunderbucket before and let it mature all winter, then used it again. Just make sure that the drainage is good, cheaper bark based potting soil breaks down and loses its drainage. Perlite/expanded shale/charcoal/broken pottery/anything small, inert, and porous is a must IMHO, at least for the plants I am growing. Which are rare, tropical, and acid loving. I do know if I plant "regular" non picky plants in this sort of soil they take off like no tomorrow, though my formula is generally for specialized use. Generally I just mix a bit of blood/bone meal. greensand or ironite, and lime, and use it again.
 
Steven Gibson
Posts: 6
Location: Frankton, Indiana
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I can't vouch for the effectiveness, this is the first year I've tried, but I'm recycling my potting soil in worm bins. The larger of the two is a 100 gallon stock tank in our living room. It sits next to a window and grows flowers and nurtures plant cuttings etc. They recieve regular amendments of food scraps, cardboard, shredded leaves and peatmoss. We also add house plant and aquarium plant trimmings. It is watered with stale dog dish water and water from our bird cages.
Steve Gibson
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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This might not help you this season but going forward:
A winter growing N-fixer Fava bean, grown right in the container.
A winter growing humus maker winterrye, grown right in the container.

Then once your spring planting time starts I would pullup the winter cover crop compost them with worms.
After harvest, I would compost the stem/leaves/etc with worms. capturing all the minerals/etc.

The winter covercrop compost would be added in fall to the container soil.
The summer eatingcrop compost would be added in spring to the container soil.

You will be able to create new Nitrogen and
Recycle the minerals that are in the leaves, stalk, etc
You will be able to give the soil a blast of microbes with the worm compost.

Obviously you will not get to recycle all the minerals because you ate some.
Short of adding your pee and poop, you will have to add some trace mineral from time to time.

You could get these trace minerals from bio accumulators (grown outside) that you add to the compost.
You can also add stale fruits and veggie to the worm bin.
You can add imported off site bio accumulators like kelp.
You can add eggshell to the worm compost bin.
You can add rock dust to the worm compost bin.

Lastly you can go the chemical way and add fertilizer to the container soil. NOT RECOMMENDED.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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