Reuse of soil not always safe
Q. I grew impatiens and petunias in my containers and hanging baskets this year. Can I keep the same soil in these for next year?
Delores from Youngstown
A. This is a great question because we often hear, “Throw it out and don’t use it again.”
But how many of us actually do this? I would argue very few.
The reality is, we mostly reuse the soil (which is actually potting mix in most cases).
The answer is somewhere in between.
In general, you don’t need to throw out or compost the soil from your containers and hanging baskets.
That is, as long as your plants were generally healthy.
Understanding the difference between healthy plants and plants that may have not gotten enough water during the dry part of the season is an important distinction.
There is an impatiens disease that we are concerned about (impatiens downy mildew).
So if you had healthy plants, keep the potting mix in place for next year. If you think you had a disease, put it in the compost pile and start new next season.
The compost pile needs to be managed correctly and needs to get above 148 degrees for three days in order to kill the diseases that concern us.
The most important thing to consider is whether you have the best soil mix in your containers.
Some gardeners use garden soil in containers.
Our native soils are quite heavy, and when used in containers there are issues with drainage.
Mixing native soil with amendments is a better option.
Compost, peat moss and other amendments will work.
Potting soil is another option, but is heavy as well.
This makes it difficult to move containers around or to put them in a sheltered location for the winter.
Your best bet is choosing a soilless potting mix that is composed of peat, fiber, bark and other natural materials.
They are lightweight and come in a variety of options depending on the plants you are growing.
For details on selecting soils and mixes for your containers and more, go to http://go.osu.edu/containersoil.
Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Winter hours for the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic vary. Submit questions to the clinic at 330-533-5538 or drop samples off to the OSU Extension Office in Canfield.