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Is this soil still usable

Posted by artist473 Michigan (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 3, 13 at 21:12

This is kind of a strange question, I'm sure. But here goes ... I planted three pots (s, m, l) with annuals. The pots did not have drainage holes at the bottom but they did have kind of a reservoir. We have had many heavy thunderstorms and as a result the pots got totally waterlogged to the point that the whole thing was a soppy, smelly, bug ridden mess. (Surprisingly, the annuals are still alive.) I laid out a tarp and spread out all the bad soil, drilled holes in the pot bottoms and replanted them with fresh soil. Now I'm trying to dry out the soil in the sun although the weather is not cooperating very much.

My question is, assuming I can get this soil dried out, will it still be usable? Any suggestions on what I can do short of dumping all the soil? I told you it was a strange question! Thanks for your help!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Is this soil still usable

not that strange! you can mix it with garden earth, sand, peat, compost, and other things and use it again. Soil is full of living organisms and your soil went from having air breathing organisms to ones which thrive in water. Drying it out and adding nutrients from other organic materials will
refresh it and allow new air breathing organisms to form.
If you have left over soil from replenishing your planters, just mix the old soil back into it and allow it to rest for a couple of weeks. Should be fine if left somewhere it can continue to breathe (not, for example, in a sealed plastic bag or bucket of some sort) best wishes


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RE: Is this soil still usable

Thank you! Now if it will only stop raining for a while!


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RE: Is this soil still usable

Well, you can.....but I wouldn't.

The plants should have had drainage holes from the beginning....failing that, plants should be carefully watered to prevent over watering---which affects the roots.

The roots feed the foliage....but they can only take so much...when they take too much....or sit in water too long, they stop taking it up....even if water is only an inch away...it is unable to drink further.

The soil you have is drowned and any salts that was removed from the soil----is not removed...its still there.
Hence the reason why plants are encouraged to have drainage holes in their pots....to rid themselves of the salts that can build up.

Putting the same old soil back is not doing the plant any favour. Once you have arranged for the pot to have drainage holes...now put something between the soil and the roots. Clay shards work great...stones of size, gravel...anything that can keep the soil away from the drainage holes.
Then give it fresh potting soil. If necessary, cut the plant back according to how the roots are--examine them for any sign of damage...or odour...and water it to drainage.
Allow the plant to drain....for 10 minutes...then get rid of the excess. Never leave a plant sitting in the drainage water for more than 10 minutes. Otherwise, the salts that left the soil....is drawn back up to sit at the roots.
The fresh potting soil has sufficient food to feed your plant for a time...depending on the size.

A good rule to follow when contemplating fertilizing....water it first...then give it the water soluble food. The watering first encourages the fertilizer to be drawn down to the roots.
Always, water to drainage....letting the plant dry down between waterings. Stick your finger in up to the first knuckle...if it feeds damp...let the watering go for another couple days..then test again.

Oh yeah....that old soil, give it to your compost.
Don't have a compost....start one.
Throw the old soil outside on your lawn.

Hopefully your plant is encouraged to grow well.


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RE: Is this soil still usable

Gosh, why do I feel like I just got rapped on the knuckles??

To clarify, I used these pots for two previous summers and never had this problem. It wasn't me over-watering them; we have had HUGE storms that I had no control over, and I have nowhere to place these pots to shelter them. Besides, by the time I realized I had a problem it was too late.

I appreciate your tips on watering, etc., but I'm not a novice gardener. Thanks, though, for your comments.


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RE: Is this soil still usable

The odor you smelled was from anaerobic decomposition, so once the soil has dried, the entities producing that odor won't be able to survive. Whenever I repot potted plants, I put the old contents in a flower or veggie bed. There's nothing in there to be composted, and would make compost extremely heavy.

Over time in a pot, the organic particles break down into mud, very unsuitable for healthy roots, so should be replaced periodically anyway for something much more porous, airy, well-draining.

The next time you encounter a pot with an attached drain saucer, you may find that it will snap off, making drilling holes unnecessary. Although you may be talking about a hanging basket type pot with a recessed drain hole that allows about 1/2 inch of standing water at the bottom. Those pots can easily kill plants if a hole is not made in the actual bottom surface.


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RE: Is this soil still usable

Thanks, purpleinopp. Followup question - if this soil is not good for potted plants, will it hurt anything if I add it to my flower beds? I don't want to cause more problems ...!

Thanks for your reply.


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RE: Is this soil still usable

No, since it's been rained on, excess salts mentioned should be mostly flushed out. Any likely imbalance will be moderated and spread by the much larger area of the ground, digested by the microbes, and further diluted by rain. Toss a little here, a little there, making sure not to bury any stems of your ground plants any deeper than they are currently (as a generally safe rule, some plants would like that.)


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RE: Is this soil still usable

  • Posted by Liz321 6 - Detroit Metro (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 10, 13 at 19:08

Artist, I'm in Royal Oak, Mi so I know exactly what you are facing. Once the waterlogged dirt is close to dry, dump it in a low place in one of your beds. It won't hurt a thing. I just went out and dumped several waterlogged pots, but expect I'll be doing it again tomorrow. :) When pots get stinky, it is best to just dump them in a corner and let it mix in with the bed and start over in your pots for the reasons mentioned above.

FYI, for those that don't know, the great lakes have been getting unprecedented amounts of rain this summer. It has rained all but one of the last 10 days and we had over 8 inches in June.


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RE: Is this soil still usable

Hi, Neighbor!
I'm in Bloomfield Hills, MI!! You're absolutely right about the unprecedented rainfall. I think tomorrow will be the first day that no rain is predicted. So I'm going to do what you suggest - dump the dirt somewhere in my very small front and back garden. (I live in a townhouse style condo.)

I can also start getting caught up with yard work that has been somewhat neglected lately.

Thanks for your input. Here's to no more rain for a while!


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RE: Is this soil still usable

  • Posted by Liz321 6 - Detroit Metro (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 11, 13 at 0:09

Hi Artist - I think I know exactly where you live - Well at least the most likely complexes. lol

I grew up in Pontiac and am at 14/Woodward now so we really are neighbors! I have my plan set for tomorrow too - God willing and the rain don't fall! ;) I already have a flooded mushy corner of yard and I don't want any more.


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RE: Is this soil still usable

What a small world, Liz! I'm at Square Lake and Opdyke (Bloomfield Concord). I see by your profile that you retired early; I did too, for medical reasons. I am now well into senior citizenship!

Happy gardening for the next few days!


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