Stir the pot, how gardeners can freshen up their planting soil

Published 10:14 am Monday, January 16, 2023

By Paula Pettis

MSU Extension Service

All of us gardeners are super eager to get things moving in our landscape. And who wouldn’t be, with sunny, 70-degree January days?

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Of course, everything looks horrible from the “freezemageddon” that we experienced just a few weeks ago. It is still too early to start pruning and cleaning up our plants, but I must confess that I don’t always follow the rules. There may be a few plants that I just could not look at anymore.

If you are like me and couldn’t wait any longer to clean up some plants, be sure to mulch them for cold protection. In my case, I took advantage of the 50 million leaves in my yard and figure these trimmed and mulched plants look better now without their mushy, wilted foliage.

One task that we can definitely begin is cleaning up our flowerpots for the coming season.

Many of us fill our pots with wonderful potting mixes and never change the soil again. While the potting mix is good in the beginning, it eventually becomes compacted and leached of all nutrients.

I recommend amending your potting soil every year. One easy way to do this is to dump the used potting mix into a wheelbarrow. Add additional potting mix, peat moss and compost as needed, and mix well.

I personally am a huge fan of compost. It is a great fertilizer, and it makes the soil heavier, which I need because I tend to stretch out the waterings at my house.

The pots at my house are a prime example of the shoemaker always wearing the worst shoes. I have a full sun yard and lots of terra cotta pots. A heavier soil saves me from losing my plants when I get too busy and too tired to water at the end of the day.

While your containers are empty, take time to clean them and evaluate their drainage. You may need to add additional drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. I always like to put an old towel at the bottom to help filter the water as it drains, which helps prevent stains on the porch and patio.

Now that your containers are clean and properly draining, it is time to fill them with your potting mix. As you fill the container, water the potting mix slightly to help the soil settle.

Your pots are now ready for all the beautiful flowers that our garden centers have to offer.

While you are being a go-getter in your garden, don’t forget to clean your tools.

Using your dirty tools from last year is like sneezing on someone; it’s just nasty and not going to lead to anything good. I am not saying you have to scrub them down perfectly, but take a few minutes to rinse off all of the dirt from last year.

Fill a bucket with water and a squirt or two of dish soap. If you dealt with any fungus or bacteria last year, add 2 cups of bleach per gallon of water. Soak the tools a few minutes and then scrub them with a brush or old rag. Rinse and dry them thoroughly and they are ready for this year’s garden work.