Container Toms: Reusing this year's mix?

garystpaul(4)June 16, 2012

I'm growing quite a few toms in containers this year for the first time and have put a fair amount of money into the potting mix I use. I'm wondering if up here in Minnesota I could get away with reusing at least some of the mix next year. My thought was to devote one of three sections of my huge composting area to the mix, putting down a layer of landscape cloth at the base. Is it utopian to think our severe cold would help render the mix more acceptable for use next spring? The alternative is to dump it into the compost heap or on the gardens at the end of this season and just start over for the containers next year. But it would be nice to save some money as well. Any advice or experience appreciated. TIA, Gary.

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

There have been threads about re-using some container mix the following year.

Here's a link with a link in the last post.
http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/tomato/msg0212484525931.html

I don't remember having seen any explanation of how people store used mix over the winter. Maybe in one of those threads (which are from posts all across GW, not simply in the Tomato forum)....

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 11:45AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

As I posted on another question about this -

"Reusing it gets mixed opinions. Some swear never! Some do it all the time. So all I can tell you is that I do. I dump all the containers out onto a big tarp, spread it out in the sun with a rake to dry well, then I mix in about 1/3 new mix and some fresh pelleted fertilizers with it. After cleaning all the containers well I refill the containers and go from there. After the 3rd year the old goes into the garden and I start with new in the containers. Never had any problems with this method."

I need to add to that info that it all depends on what mix you use in the first place. Some break down much faster than others. I only use ProMix BX in my containers.

You'll find much more info about this question over on the Container Gardening forum as that is their focus.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 12:03PM
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garystpaul(4)

Thanks a million, guys. A lot of reading there, but very helpful. I like the idea of spreading it out in the sun. Dave, could you specify the reference to "fresh pelleted fertilizers"? Many thanks, Gary.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 12:27PM
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garystpaul(4)

Thanks a million, guys. A lot of reading there, but very helpful. I like the idea of spreading it out in the sun. Dave, could you specify the reference to "fresh pelleted fertilizers"? Many thanks, Gary.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 12:33PM
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mewhee

Hi Gary -

I've got a relatively small tomato space as my garden takes up a very limited area by the pool filter/heating equipment - approximately 16 plants of which half are potted. Mixed in w/ the in-ground tomatoes are a fair amount of large adobe/clay pots on hardscape which each year are re-used after soil turnover and adding a modicum of new amendments with no problem in terms of production/disease and every plant is coming along just as hoped (knock on wood).

Next year as a preventive measure, I sure like Dave's method above and will give that a go.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do -

Will and the Furry Ones in the OC

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 12:44PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

could you specify the reference to "fresh pelleted fertilizers"

Osmocote or similar slo-release product. Mixed in well before refilling the containers. Then I use a good quality 10-10-10 granular for banding and side-dressing the plants and then other liquid supplements as needed when watering.

I grow mostly organic in the gardens but it doesn't work well in containers with soil-less potting mix.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 1:04PM
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containerted

Dave (digdirt) and I use very similar methods of reusing mix. I put all my mix from all the pots into a very large tarp and add some dolomite lime and some 10-10-10 slow release fertilizer. After mixing well, I roll it all up and let it spend the winter working on decomposition. This will allow the calcium in the lime to get closer to useable compounds over time. Also, the slow release will have rejuvenated some of the nutrients lost to watering washout the previous season.

Then, in the spring, I add some new mix to the old as I fill my pots, buckets, and tubs(roughly 25% new mix). I also add some composted manure (usually Black Kow). With another handful of dolomite lime, some Tomato-Tone (from Espoma - about a cup per container), and another small handful of 10-10-10, I fill the tubs and set in the tomato and pepper plants. I add some Miracle Grow for Tomatoes fertilizer to the watering every two or three weeks during the growing season.

When all the containers are properly filled and plants are growing, I use any leftover mix from the last year in flower beds or hanging planters or whatever. So, nothing wasted.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 8:47AM
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garystpaul(4)

Thanks, Ted. I follow your posts elsewhere and thus value your advice on container growing.

Question: When you say 10-10-10 slow release fertilizer are you, like Dave, referring to products like Osmocote (timed-release, usually temperature- and moisture-activated), or to the common granular 10-10-10? The reason I ask is that I've never seen Osmocote in a 10-10-10 version (of course there may be other brands).

Thanks,
Gary

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 9:04AM
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capoman(5a)

I would not reuse peat based soil, as it is already water retentive and breaks down quickly. Bark based soil such as 5-1-1 from the container forum lasts much longer and can be reused. Best to sterilize the soil though before reusing.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 3:14PM
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containerted

Gary, because I use some Tomato Tone for the micros, I use the cheapest 10-10-10 slow release I can find. That will take care of the basic NPK's and I can use the "good stuff" for the rest of the formula to get a fairly well balanced growing medium.

Most folks get too detailed in putting together a growing medium. Tomato plants are far more accomodating to less than perfect environments than we give them credit for. I treat them like kids. Give them the best you've got and let them adapt a bit to their environment. My formula is not perfect, but it seems to do well year after year.

Take care and don't be afraid to push the envelope from time to time. It'll teach you just how wide the window for success can be.

Ted

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 8:19PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

I consider reusing the potting mix as practical,prudent,and
frugal.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 2:52AM
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