I was reading in a gardening book that you should wash/disinfect the previous year's flower pots, throw away the old dirt and then refill with new potting soil. How many do that? But most important, what do you use as a natural disinfectant? Thanks
  14 answers
  • Soap and water is fine to use. The old dirt on top of my large pots and in smaller pots I compost unless you would have a disease, fungus/blight that the plants developed. To be honest, good dirt is expensive and I have never had a problem using the "old" dirt. I wash pots (usually because they get stained or yucky) in my kitchen sink with hot water and dish soap (because soap kills germs, bacteria). Unless your plants had developed a problem the previous year, and to save money, I would mix the dirt if the dirt is not rock hard or too dry. I love Miracle grow and I do not use the water saving soil because I find it dries out and it is not useable the next year. I also stay away from Sta-green I think it is next to Miracle Grow in the aisles. I find this soil to be dry and horrible to work with. This may spark some opinion to say no but I carry over some plants each year in my garden and even use the "old" dirt to revive otherwise discarded or dying plants. Just do not use dirt from plants that got sick and died and use that dirt to fill in holes in the yard. Good luck and happy gardening!

  • Katie Katie on Mar 02, 2014
    I agree with @C Renee Fuller. Sometimes I just also break up the "old" soil and throw in any area of the yard that may have a little dip in it. I will mix the old soil with new soil, too as long as the plants in it were healthy. Soap and hot water….

  • Michelle Eliker Michelle Eliker on Mar 02, 2014
    I also reuse my dirt . I have a big black plastic trash can that I compost in and the old (non-diseased) dirt gets mixed into that. The can gets nice and hot so it kills most disease if there is some. I use this dirt to amend my soil which is clay. So far I haven't had any problems. If you do re-use dirt in pots be very sure that the plant wasn't diseased and mix the old dirt into lots of new dirt. The older dirt will not have many nutrients. I would also recommend splurging for a new bag when planting a prized plant. (and don't tell anyone, but I rarely do more than rinse my pots and I never sanitize them with anything more then a long sit in the sun.)

  • Fenya Kashergen Fenya Kashergen on Mar 02, 2014
    I use a mild soap and add some chlorox to the mix to clean the pots. Be sure to wear protective clothing (something you don't mind getting bleach stains on) and gloves.

  • MaryAnn B MaryAnn B on Mar 02, 2014
    I empty my containers into a wheelbarrow and then mix in the same amount of new soil, mix and refill container. Clean containers with dish soap, and or some diluted bleach water.

  • Berniece Knotts Berniece Knotts on Mar 02, 2014
    Sanitized pots aren't a requirement unless there was a disease or infestation involved. I also reuse old potting soil or dump in with compost. I wash out dirty pots using a big bottle brush to loosen stubborn dirt & mineral deposits. Then I run them through my dishwasher. For large containers I just wash the best I can with detergent, rinse with a hose & dry in the sun.

  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Mar 02, 2014
    Thanks everyone for your prompt replies. You are right, new potting soil is quite expensive. It makes sense to mix some old and some new. Best to each and everyone of us in Spring and Summer.

  • Debora Debora on Mar 02, 2014
    Unless the plant was diseased, I don't do anything to my pots. I just pull out the old plant after the frost kills it, add new potting or top soil (whichever I have handy - sometimes both) and plant the pots up with new flowers. i do dig in some plant food when I plant the new ones. I have never had a problem in over 40 years of doing this. Note: I use LARGE containers, so when I pull the plants out, not all the soil comes with it.

  • Pamela Scruggs Pamela Scruggs on Mar 02, 2014
    Hey from Stone mountain, GA Liliana! I do change out my soil but I don't discard it. I may hose out the pots but that's about it. I rarely ever have a snarky "diseased" plant so-can't speak on bleach versus vinegar-but as long as they are diluted and then rinsed away well, I can't see any harm in being safe. I am just now preparing my own handy-dandy seed starting mix (which I use to refill all my planting pots and veggie containers) and I am excited! I am one of those people that believe that if you enrich the soil, a seed or, a plant will take what it needs. So I throw a lot of good stuff into one big soil vat at the beginning of each season. I do use the commercially-sold seed starter potting mix but then I add all of the old soil from my tomato pots and my flower pots from last year. I know it's depleted soil but I am getting ready to renew it! So...then I add a good smattering of my used dried coffee grounds (which I dry on paper towels after I brew a pot), a handful of Epsom salt, two hands-full of crushed eggshells (which I was and let dry throughout the year), about a coffee can full of cheapo kitty litter and then I get to the good part! Have you ever heard that there's more vitamins in dogfood than there is in baby formula? Well, to get some micro-available nutrients into the mix, I use my spice grinder {I soley use this particular grinder just for this purpose} and I grind up some cheapo dry dog food into a powder-even if it's on sale or expired-it works for this purpose. Then I grind up a handful of my old leftover or expired horse-pill multivitamins. So now I have phosphorous, calcium, nitrogen, sodium and most of the trace minerals, rare earths and base mineral elements a plant could ever want all mixed up into one super-rich food vat. I experiment with plain old seed starter versus my concoction every year and my concoction plants grow faster, taller and stronger-hands down~! I have great success with repurposing my soil and it sure is fun. Good luck!

  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Mar 02, 2014
    Amazing! THANK YOU! On another note, do yu shop at the Grower's Outlet in Loganville?

  • Patty Morgan Patty Morgan on Mar 02, 2014
    My mother in law does this with her pots and even buys new soil. I compost with coffee ground and egg shells and plant perennials in my pots so I don't feel the need. I agree with the other comment if it is invested or a plant was diseased it would treat the pot and put fresh soil in. I have an above garden and have no problems.

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 03, 2014
    It's not just disease and mold that can linger in pots. It's also a buildup of salts, so it really is a good idea to sterilize them. The master gardeners in the Philadelphia area have directions here, and also tell how to sterilize your soil to re-use it:

    • See 2 previous
    • Catherine Smith Catherine Smith on Mar 05, 2014
      @Douglas Hunt Sounds like extra ho-hum work when I could playing with the plants, LOL

  • Jessica C Jessica C on Mar 03, 2014
    I would never recommend reusing the soil. After a season of constant watering, the soil in your pots is completely devoid of nutrients. Your plants will not survive. Always compost your old soil and reuse it in your garden beds down the road, but for the pots it's important to buy new soil each season for the best blooming flowers and fertilize regularly.

  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Mar 03, 2014
    Interesting article - will do. Thanks again for your advice.