Asked on Mar 21, 2014

How can I avoid spending a fortune on potting soil?

Debbie Chapman
by Debbie Chapman

Due to back problems, I have switched to container gardening. Not only are big pots expensive, but so is the soil! I have been told I should switch out the soil each year. I don't believe that is necessary, but wonder what other people are doing? Do you change out your soil, or reuse it? Please let me know how to reuse potting soil, thanks.

This is one of the areas in my yard with large and small pots. I need economical way to fill old and new ones!
  142 answers
  • Bonny McDaniel Bonny McDaniel on Mar 21, 2014
    Many of my main container plants are permanent (with annuals around them), I don't change out the pots but I do add a little compost in the Spring and I do fertilize every few months. If a plant container looks like the plants were doing poorly, then I do dump the pot way off in a corner of my yard and clean the pot with boiling water and bleach and start over in case there was a disease in it. Go to yard sales for big, sometimes unusual pots at reasonable prices. I have a big, nice looking one made out of a tire...paid $1 for it at a yard sale.
  • MaryAnn B MaryAnn B on Mar 21, 2014
    I empty the old potting soil into a wheelbarrow, then mix it with some new. You can just take out the top part of the soil in the container and then add some new and mix it up. I've never had a problem.
  • Connie Connie on Mar 21, 2014
    I agree with MaryAnnB. I use what I have and add in mulch and more soil. Mix really well and then add it back into the pots. As there is always extra I use it on the established beds for additional nutrients or additional hanging pots.
  • Jackie Erickson Jackie Erickson on Mar 21, 2014
    I read last year (and I did incorporate the idea and it worked very well) place an old planter (I even used the plastic potting containers and cut them to fit in) turn them upside down to take up some of the space in the pot so you don't need so much soil. Water can get down through and you use a lot less soil.
  • Darwin Darwin on Mar 21, 2014
    You can add compost as well as fine pine bark mulch. Also be sure to fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer often. I also add osmacote.
  • Celeste Gettings Celeste Gettings on Mar 21, 2014
    Have you tried planting directly out of the bag? Containers are heavy and need to be potted and replanted. Out of the bag--all the nutrients are in the soil and the plants and vegetables love it. There is no waste "out of the bag" because you plant what you need and fill the entire space. You can even set the entire bag on a bench--off the ground. Ivy's look wonderful--and watering is easy too. Just soak the bag with the hose.
    • Maria Jimenez Maria Jimenez on Mar 23, 2014
      @Celeste Gettings This is also a great way to use less space and the bag itself is the container. Also, once the soil is depleted, I add it to my garden beds. Great way to grow veggies.
  • Lynda Lingg Lynda Lingg on Mar 23, 2014
    My grandmother used to bake garden dirt in the oven and then mix in fertilizer, etc for her Violets and other indoor plants. They were always lush and thriving.
  • Hderoche Hderoche on Mar 23, 2014
    For large pots, I use Styrofoam peanuts or cut up slabs of packing materials in the bottom, cover that with weed barrier (the kind that lets water drain through) then put my potting soil in. Saves the need for filling the pots full of dirt, and keeps it light enough for me to move it if I need to. Water drains through just fine.
    • Marta Parrott Marta Parrott on Mar 23, 2014
      @ I do this also Halle. Saves wear and tear on the body. Makes it a lot easier to move the pots around. I even use the peanuts in my wooden planter boxes.
  • Atira Atira on Mar 23, 2014
    I do not use commercial soils for potting plants or starting seeds. I use my compost pile along with garden soil. With my garden soil I put it in large metal pans and put it in the oven to "bake" at 300 degrees for several hours. I know that this sounds weird but the soil is then "purified" from any critters and weed seeds and any other thing which it comes across. It is an unusual way to make the soil purified, but it works and I am only out my time. My home gets this aroma of the soil as it is baking and I like the aroma. But let me remind have to turn your soil. I know this is weird but it works for me. I do not do this to my compost, because it would kill the good things in it.
    • See 2 previous
    • Polly Zieper Polly Zieper on Mar 23, 2014
      @Atira I thinkI'll try that!And if anyone has small pots and needs soil, Dollar tree has bags for$1.00, but they are only about 2 gallons worth.
  • Elysa Wallingford Elysa Wallingford on Mar 23, 2014
    Water bottles work great as filler. That is what I use
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    • Erica Martin Erica Martin on Mar 23, 2014
      @Elysa Wallingford This was what I was going to suggest :) LOL And it makes the containers lighter if you need to move them around ;)
  • Gesele Dreslinski Gesele Dreslinski on Mar 23, 2014
    @No search results.Lynda Lingg,My father used to bake soil he used for seed starting and house plants. His plants were lush and healthy. I know other things go along with healthy plants, but it works. I also use empty plastic coffee cantainers for space fillers in large pot of annuals.
  • Maria Jimenez Maria Jimenez on Mar 23, 2014
    I have been container gardening successfully for many years and I never have had to switch out the soil on ornamentals, only on veggies. If the soil and plant look healthy, no need to replace. I just consistently fertilize and clean up the plant. I agree with using a filler at the bottom of the container. It not only calls for less soil, but helps to retain water. What I have found works best is shredded paper. I shred my old documents and newspaper in the $29 shredder I bought on sale and add this to the bottom of my pots. It also works as a fertilizer and aerator for the plants. Also, to make my potting soil go further I do half compost and half soil. I buy the cheapie compost at Home Depot or Lowes, $3 - $4 a bag.
  • June June on Mar 23, 2014
    Baking garden soil is fine but beware of the smell it will make. Not that it's poisonous, it's just really stinky
  • Andrea Andrea on Mar 23, 2014
    Compost. you don't have to have a big area and as long as the pile gets hot enough it doesn't have to take very long. a 3 x 3 x 3 dark colored container that is well layered, appropriately moist and turned should only take about 30 days from start to cured. Get online to different sites and get different opinions about the things that work best for "Greens" and "browns" and get started. Every month you'll have "free" dirt and the best growing medium for any plant or vegetable.
  • Linda Vellucci Linda Vellucci on Mar 23, 2014
  • Janette Janette on Mar 23, 2014
    If you want vegetable or plants that are free of chemicals, please stay away from anything plastic to fill you containers. You should use clay pots or glass. You can use pine cones to fill the bottom of the pot then put your dirt on top of that. Andrea is so right. You want free good dirt start composting. There are lots of site ( I think Hometalk will tell you how) that show you how to make it and you help the earth by using thing you would put in the landfill anyway. Like leaves, grass clippings. raw vegetable scraps. And flowers after the season is done. Have fun with it. Just do small piles so it won't hurt your back. And you don't need to buy expensive compost containers. Just read up on composting. I think you will enjoy it. Happy Gardening.
  • Linda Bailey Linda Bailey on Mar 23, 2014
    Have you tried straw bale gardening or lasagna gardening? You can also lasagna garden in large pots. Lasagna gardening is layering leaves, straw (not hay) compost, grass clippings, and finally potting soil on top to plant. The entire thing will break down over the growing season, and be the bottom layer of soil or compost for next year. Straw bale gardening will be better to google.
    • Debbie Chapman Debbie Chapman on Mar 27, 2014
      @Linda Bailey Interesting thought! I just picked up the book Lasagna Gardening at a garage sale. I need to read it. Hadn't thought about it applying to containers! Thanks!
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Mar 23, 2014
    At the beginning of every spring, I take all my pots and dump the dirt into a big pile...then I turn it a few times, mix in watering crystals (love these things) and let the sun bake it. Then I mix in fertilizer, maybe some sand or soil buster...then put some straw/leaves in with it and then fill my pots. Soil is soil and the only difference is what you mix in with it and making it absorbent of water. I don't do the ph, etc...just take my chances.
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    • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Mar 23, 2014
      @Ann Darnell You can get them at HD for about $10 a bag. They are white crystals just larger than sand. You put them in the top couple of inches of your plants. The swell up with water and appear clear jelly like and release water as needed. You have to be careful in pots not to fill your pots up only to about 2" from the top or they will spill. over! I LOVE THEM.
  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim Tanya Peterson Felsheim on Mar 23, 2014
    In the past I have bought so many ready made baskets when they are about out of bloom to enjoy the blooms but save money. When the new spring arrives I take all of my "last years baskets" plus any plants I have potted before with annuals and dump them all into a large wheelbarrow or other large vat and mix it all up and use that first. Many times when I have new things to plant it takes up room and I have plenty to refill several containers.
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    • Jeri T Jeri T on Mar 23, 2014
      @Jeanette S Love the straw bale gardening! No pesky Bermuda, weeds or bending over!
  • Kelly S Kelly S on Mar 23, 2014
    I used old plastic soda bottles last year but my peppers didn't respond as well to the new space so maybe I'll do that for any flowers. Somewhere on HT I saw where cracked pots were turned upside down in bigger pots and used to take up space. @Jeanette S and @Tanya Peterson Felsheim have the best way. Reuse what you have and add amendments as required for the particular plants you're growing.
  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Mar 23, 2014
    There are some good ideas here. Also, there are several recipes on HomeTalk on how to make your own soil mix, which will be more cost effective than buying it.
  • Hderoche Hderoche on Mar 23, 2014
    @Marta Parrott Great minds!!
  • Marz Bo Marz Bo on Mar 23, 2014
    I find any organic material will decompose eventually returning back to dust, earth or soil which can be used to grow plants, flowers, etc..
  • KathrynElizabeth Etier KathrynElizabeth Etier on Mar 23, 2014
    If I am reusing soil from a deceased plant, I just aerate it, and mix in some pebbles for drainage. I don't buy potting soil (except for succulents)--we have rich soil next to a creek near our home.
  • Sheryl S Sheryl S on Mar 23, 2014
    I live by a lake. Can I use the sand from the shore to mix with potting soil or yard soil that is clay-ish? Will it have the fish emulsion that is supposed to be good for plants??
  • Mary C Mary C on Mar 23, 2014
    How do you keep the OLD roots and etc that are in the soil ( sometimes u can see them sometimes you can't ) from growing up with the NEW stuff you are doing? and what about eggshells and coffe grounds do they work well and with what ...any ideas?
  • Tamir DuCharme Tamir DuCharme on Mar 23, 2014
    If you don't want to use water crystals there is a sand called lava sand that works the same way.
  • Jane Seaver Jane Seaver on Mar 23, 2014
    4 parts organic matter 1 part sand will make soil. You can add anything else you want after that..
  • Mar188685 Mar188685 on Mar 23, 2014
    I compost directly into my garden spot (which contains mostly raspberry bushes) all year round. I dump all my pots into one of my flower beds and buy fresh soil for new potting year...getting older so am using alot less pots. Buying more perennials now.With my pallet gardens I fertilize and add some fresh soil.
  • Carmen Webster Carmen Webster on Mar 23, 2014
    I reuse soil. I dump it out and add a little new and mix it and it seems to work fine
  • Mary Fewer Allen Mary Fewer Allen on Mar 23, 2014
    I crush soda cans to put in the bottom of pot.
  • Emma Pettit Emma Pettit on Mar 23, 2014
    For a few weeks before planting I grab a bag of top soil . Mix in egg shells and coffee grounds(used) add some all purpose plant food and plant my pot. as year went along added more food and grounds. Grounds help keep the leave eaters away. We are in sw Florida so we have pots year around.
  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on Mar 23, 2014
    composting is the best way to make fresh healthy soil , you can add it to the dirt you have (mix everything together as some have mentioned) also coffee grounds help to speed up the composting action and they are good for practically any plants. My Roses Love em, and coffee made from old grounds to feed my Jade plants works wonders!! If you want good compost any vegetation matter will rot down into compost,, but there may be some seeds that go along with it so you may get some unwanted guests in your dirt.. thats ok , just pull them out.... I have used sawdust as a compost medium adding manure and coffee grounds to it , breaks down great and is a easy to use soil... (I raise pigeons so I have great manure for the cause)... If you have a cabinet shop, or a sawmill near you they will usually give you all the sawdust you want.
    • Andrea S Andrea S on Mar 23, 2014
      I'm a little confused on what you said you did to feed your jade plant. Did you just feed it coffee grounds or did you use coffee grounds to brew coffee and then use the coffee to give to the plant?
  • Diana Haddad Diana Haddad on Mar 23, 2014
    I dump all my old potting mix into a pile and add a bag of compost then water it down with fish emulsion fertilizer and it works great.
  • Connie B Connie B on Mar 23, 2014
    I compost, add my old plants from previous year, and anytime I dig a hole in the yard any excess goes into compost heap. Plus, the big box stores sell their broken open bags of soil/fertilizer/mulch for 50% off in our area. A bag here and there really helps!
  • Gracie Gracie on Mar 23, 2014
    In the past I have used those annoying packing peanuts to put in the bottom of large heavy pots. Helps with drainage and lightens the load a bit. I reuse my potting soil from year to year, just add plant food regularly. It has worked for me for years.
    • Niki C. Niki C. on Mar 23, 2014
      The packing peanuts are a great idea that I use myself. Just be careful...The first time I used them I potted 6 large contains era for my patio with the pots 1/3 peanuts in the bottom. When all was done and I watered them to my shock everyone of them sank like a giant sink hole had opened in them. Turns out my peanuts were biodegradable...starch!!! LOL!!!
  • Vickie Lewis-Pence Vickie Lewis-Pence on Mar 23, 2014
    Another good idea is to use plastic soda bottles or the like in the bottom of a big pot. I have several half barrel planters and that is what I do. I also dump all my soil together and mix in new soil and then refill and replant.
  • I have plastic water and soda bottles in the bottom of my large patio planters. I place a layer of weed block over the bottles and add the soil. Less soil is needed, there is drainage and they are not as heavy if I need to move them.
    • Freda Freda on Mar 23, 2014
      @Paula Dickinson Linsebigler What is weed block and where is it purchased?
  • Grace Hitt Grace Hitt on Mar 23, 2014
    We have a area in the small town that I live in. Everyone takes their leaves there in the fall and dump them. Then the DPW turns the pile over a couple of times a year. It takes a couple of seasons, but it breaks down into the best mulch dirt you've ever seen. They have like 3 different areas so one area is always ready for mulch dirt every year. I just add a little bit of miracle grow pellets to it and for container pots I add a little bit of moss or dry leaves in and everything grows really well.
  • Sharon Reed Sharon Reed on Mar 23, 2014
    I always add a little new soil to the pots each spring, maybe 1/4 - 1/3 new and then feed the plants.
  • Kate Antolini Kate Antolini on Mar 23, 2014
    i too use the empty soda/water bottles for large pots, weighs less too.
  • Julia Douglas Julia Douglas on Mar 23, 2014
    Soil is soil.....I'm an old gardener from Minnesota. All these Ideas are wonderful! Using compost is good for soil and compost tea. It's a good way to use garden debris. But...keep in mind. Plants that develop a fungus need to be put in the trash or burned. Also some plants(vines) will take root in the compost. It is really important to get the heat up there to kill the plant debris and seeds. Also Do Not ad manure to your soil unless you compost it first. Or plan on weeding the volunteers that grow from undigested weeds. And the only other idea that comes to mind is this....For the really big pots - use empty pop cans in the bottom. I would cut an old tee shirt to put down through the cans to wick water up to the soil above. Then you don't have to worry about the water in saucers over watering your plants
  • Elizabeth L Elizabeth L on Mar 23, 2014
    Do you cut up the soda bottles or just stick them in there??
  • Laurette Laurette on Mar 23, 2014
    I add some new basic potting soil each spring to the old soil mix it in a bit, add some miracle grow and water. Works well.
  • Nanci Burroughs Nanci Burroughs on Mar 23, 2014
    I dump all the old potting soil into my large wheelbarrow, then add some new garden soil, compost and fertilizer. Mix it all together and refill the containers. That way you don't need to buy so much.
  • Kate Antolini Kate Antolini on Mar 23, 2014
    depends on the size of the planter, i used a liter soda bottle w/air in it & capped it for a whiskey barrel size planter. as longer as its safe & takes up space i use it :)
  • BONNIE J BONNIE J on Mar 23, 2014
  • Lou Todaro-Watson Lou Todaro-Watson on Mar 23, 2014
    I leave my bottle whole. Also the plastic container the flowers come in.
  • Gracie Gracie on Mar 23, 2014
    I guess it's a good thing they are biodegradable now. LOL Mine seem to be of the permanent, never going away, type. No gaping holes in the pots after several years. But something to think about for those who have not tried them yet.
  • Jmh Jmh on Mar 23, 2014
    I use bottle caps in the bottom of the pot and then tip smaller pots upside down in the bigger pot. They take up room so as not to use so much soil. In some pots I will put sponges to help retain some of the moisture.
  • Linda T Linda T on Mar 23, 2014
    I would have painted the plastic to disguise that fact, maybe try to find an orange clay pot colour, or simply white.
  • Diana Easter Diana Easter on Mar 23, 2014
    I put the old soil in my compost pile, stir it them refill the pots.
  • Elaine Simmons Elaine Simmons on Mar 23, 2014
    I have always mixed the old with the new as well and this is a tip for a new gardener, use coffee filters over the hole of a pot. Works better than shards.
  • Janet Hollister Janet Hollister on Mar 23, 2014
    I put pieces of Styrofoam from packing to take up space in my big pots.
  • Paula Cardone Paula Cardone on Mar 23, 2014
    I put the old soil on the compost pile in the fall mix it in and add more stuff to the pile I use the finished compost in my pots
  • Vida Gilbart Vida Gilbart on Mar 23, 2014
    I used styrofoam but since there was no hole in the bottom of the pot they all floated to the top. So what else can I use?
    • Sue Rucker-Powell Sue Rucker-Powell on Mar 23, 2014
      Drill holes in the bottom of your pots to prevent rotting of the roots. Then the styrofoam won't float.
  • Amy Simmons Amy Simmons on Mar 23, 2014
    I use sweet gum balls. Takes up space, and compost eventually. Add layer of fresh soil every year
  • Linda Linda on Mar 23, 2014
    I mix old soli with new and never had problems. I also bought a lift to help move the pots around. Looks like what they use to move boxes in warehouses.
  • Teri Herzog Teri Herzog on Mar 23, 2014
    I have read you can put news paper in the bottom of for big pots fill with styrofoam . This past year first time I attempted Veggies. That dirt I might pour into the yard where its low. but I just add potting spoil and black cow to the old to freshen it up and big pots fill half full with old plastic bags or styrofoam. Everyone has some great ideas. Yes I too went to container growing I like it better.
  • Mary Cupp Mary Cupp on Mar 23, 2014
    I use plastic bottles and cola cans to fill up about half of my pot and I mix old potting soil with new and pot great
  • Patricia Linn Patricia Linn on Mar 23, 2014
    Did this just yesterday. Had SEVERAL pots from last year. I like the idea of putting dirt in the compost pile, but what if there are TONS of ants in it? I just took it to a dump pile on our hill away from my garden area. I saved any pots that can be used this year and will recycle the others by giving them to a nearby nursery/garden shop. They clean and reuse them. But MY question is how to get rid of ALL THE ANTS!!!???!!!???!!!??? I HATE ANTS!!!!! Sorry. LOL!!!
  • Pat J. Sliwinski Pat J. Sliwinski on Mar 23, 2014
    My back and my age have got me to down size all my gardens all 7 of them. We did this last year and it really helped me. We made them a foot wide and planted perennials only. Than we added mulch and garden statues. This way I can take my cheap plastic chair and my long handled tools and get the job done. Than I have many, many pots. I have used packing peanuts for my large pot and reused the old soil with the new soil. And always Miracle Grow...Works great ! Good Luck to you.
  • Delores Smith Lamb Delores Smith Lamb on Mar 23, 2014
    We do as Mary Cupp does, smash soda can's, fill pot's about halve full, them plant..We save the old soil, mix in some new and some Miracle Grow Plant food. seem's to work fine, beautiful flower's very summer. good luck
  • DJ DJ on Mar 23, 2014
    To make it easy for me to add organic minerals and nutrients back into what is already in the pots when empty of plants, I blend in a blender/food processor my scraps and make a hole in the old soil and pour it in and mix it all up. I give it a couple weeks, stir it up again and then replant. Adding things like aluminum cans etc also helps to not have to put so much soil in the huge pots. I don't care for the styrofoam peanuts as they get mixed in with roots and if you are transplanting can become a messier.
  • Cathy622 Cathy622 on Mar 23, 2014
    I use smashed plastic water bottles or packing peanuts then mix 1/4 old soil with 3/4 new soil. Always use Miracle Gro to feed. Have some beautiful plants.
  • Charmaine Charmaine on Mar 23, 2014
    How do you refresh dirt if you have perennials in pots and you don't want to repot?
    • Debbie Plummer Debbie Plummer on Mar 23, 2014
      @Charmaine I roll the pots onto their sides, loosen the soil, and pull them out. I have Soda Pop bottles to fill bottom of pots and for watering and then layer new soil part way up pot to root depth. Then break up the soil around the roots so they are loose and most of old dirt is off. Put them back in pot and refill around with the new dirt. I also mix in some fertilizer & epsom salts with the new dirt going around the roots. Then give some water and you're good for another 2 or 3 years.
  • Lisa I Lisa I on Mar 23, 2014
    I use dried branches, leaves etc anything that will decompose for added nutrients as a fill for the bottom o pots... then just amend from there soil from there...also I dnt buy potting soil...I purchase a top soil from home depot their cheapest...peat moss...and manure....if I have compose ready at home I use that... and leaves etc...I mix the items together for a nice gardening soil...I'm in florida and this mix works great for me...
  • Marilyn S Marilyn S on Mar 23, 2014
    If using the styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of very large pots to cut down on weight and keep from using so much potting soil, put the peanuts in a mesh bag like oranges, lemons, onion, etc. come in, tie it shut and when you dump out the soil they will be all contained. I also use the coffee filters in the bottom to keep the soil in.
  • Nina Nina on Mar 23, 2014
    I use pint cones they r light and very cheap.
    • Shirley Mcdaniel Shirley Mcdaniel on Mar 23, 2014
  • Nina Nina on Mar 23, 2014
    Pine cones
  • Bill Snyder Bill Snyder on Mar 23, 2014
    You can use old pots smaller than the big pots, turn them upside down inside of the big pot and not have to use as much soil. If you can remove the perennials and add some fresh soil then replace them and add some compost enriched soil in a top layer.
  • Connie Schultz Dunnihoo Connie Schultz Dunnihoo on Mar 23, 2014
    You can use Styrofoam,plastic bottles,anything really,I do not switch out my soil I add to the top & add things that the soil needs for my need to swap soil! :)
  • Amy Ogden-Paparone Amy Ogden-Paparone on Mar 23, 2014
    Love the idea of Different sized pots, my knees are shot and I can't get down and weed my garden like I used to. I've been doing my veggies in pots for years, but never thought about my flowers! Seeing how pretty yours look, i'm doing that this spring! Thanks for posting! If you can turn the soil over in the posts and add some miracle grow, you don't need to change out the dirt.
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    • Amy Ogden-Paparone Amy Ogden-Paparone on Mar 23, 2014
      @Maureen Matty first off I have to say I'm so jealous, I've been wanting to move to PA for years now, but don't want to leave my mom alone. I know i'll get there some day! I wish I could find a way to get up and down too, so pots for us! I think they look beautiful and we can move them anywhere we want them! Wishing you only happiness in your new home!! Post pics of your plants when they start blooming and look beautiful!
  • Lilli H Lilli H on Mar 23, 2014
    I haven't replaced potting soil from pots in years. I top dress the soil with some compost or top soil and fertilize occasionally if necessary.
  • Sybil P Sybil P on Mar 23, 2014
    Be careful about using pine ones. I did that one year and roaches got in the pots. I read the idea in a garden magazine. I never did it again.
    • Jeulia H Jeulia H on Mar 23, 2014
      @Sybil P OMG-thanks for the heads up! I can take snakes, bugs, etc but not roaches so definitely don't want to use pinecones.
  • Helen M Helen M on Mar 23, 2014
    The bottom of my big pots have plastic containers in it. I renew the soil by incorporating organic matter into the pots when the annuals have died. .
  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Mar 23, 2014
    I scoop out the top 4" to 6" of last years soil (which usually also includes some roots and some stems from last years plants) and put that into my compost bin.Then I add new soil on the top layer that I am planting that year.I mix my own soil in a huge bin with a lid. I mix together regular potting soil, peat and perlites.
  • Dorothy Hoskins Dorothy Hoskins on Mar 23, 2014
    You can find pots really cheap at thrift stores!
    • Debbie Chapman Debbie Chapman on Mar 27, 2014
      @Dorothy Hoskins I love to find things at thrift stores, garage & estate sales! Great idea!
  • Charmaine Charmaine on Mar 23, 2014
    Thanks Debbie. I will do this. Maybe another good reason to plant in ground but I don't have enough planting areas. :)
  • Diane Diane on Mar 23, 2014
    I add those annoying round styrofoam circles you get in packages in the bottom of large pots then add the dirt. I recycle dirt each year by dumping the old pot into a wheelbarrow and mixing with new potting soil and fertilizer
  • Carmen Heilman Carmen Heilman on Mar 23, 2014
    I pull out some of the dirt and put in compost and mix it well.That will enrich the soil!Atfer two yrs your soil is pretty much stripped of nutrients and you're plants won't do well!
  • Mary McNamara Mary McNamara on Mar 23, 2014
    Go to your local thrift store or wait for neighborhood clean ups I use cheap ugly large plastic[can be crack ed] bowl in bottom of pot turn bowl up side down .One year I use basket like you get fruit in and also have use straw & hay The hay and straw breaks down over summer so you can simply dump all soil in compost area Don't like idea of styro foam peanut ,really a mess when you dump them in the fall
  • Susanna Goolsby Susanna Goolsby on Mar 23, 2014
    I mix the old dirt with some new every year. Works great and saves a ton!
  • Carolyn Nelson Carolyn Nelson on Mar 23, 2014
    I save all my prescription bottles and vitamin bottles with lids and put them into the bottom of the pot. Have also used beverage cans, but you need to crush them first. Makes the pots lighter and easier to handle.
  • Judy4justice Judy4justice on Mar 23, 2014
    I would never have thought to use all these different things in the bottom of pots.So many good ideas here.Thanks.
  • Kathleen Glasscock Kathleen Glasscock on Mar 23, 2014
    I try really hard not to replace too much of the dirt unless the soil has ben contaminated with bacterial or fungal infections. That dirt I put in a plastic bag and set it in the sun so it gets good & hot for a several weeks. However, I do add blood meal and bone meal each year
  • Sharon Sharon on Mar 23, 2014
    My huge pots I put bricks in the bottom. Probably 2 layers. Of course you won't move it
  • Anna Ibarra Anna Ibarra on Mar 23, 2014
    Thank you Debbie for posting this, this also has been on my mind. I was throwing out my dirt and buying new soil, since I had heard to do so, but wondered who the avid gardeners do their gardening pots. By the way, I love your potted plants.
    • Debbie Chapman Debbie Chapman on Mar 27, 2014
      @Anna Ibarra Thank you! I garden more and more in pots every year! They are easier to work on (less hard on back, knees, etc.)
  • Carol Plantz Carol Plantz on Mar 23, 2014
    For my big pots around my deck I throw my empty water bottles in the pot then fill with dirt. I read somewhere to do this and it has worked fine. Then if you want to add more dirt or change some dirt, you don't have so much to change and your pots are much much lighter.
  • Linda Wallace Linda Wallace on Mar 23, 2014
    I use empty water bottles in the bottom, using let dirt and easer to move around
  • Carole Carole on Mar 23, 2014
    If you can grow bromeliads and orchids they take very little soil. In fact most of the 'soil' in the pot can be stuff like broken up polystyrene and then a little orchid soil ( a very little - they don't need much at all" in the pot. The benefits of bromeliads is that they also multiply by putting out pups which can then be separated from the parent plant and planted up in another pot. Free plants! You can even exchange your 'pups' with friends or neighbours to get a broader range of plants for your pots - do a swap with someone! If you don't want to do that, then suggest you compost and use your well broken down compost in your pots rather than keep buying potting mix. There is stuff you can add to the compost to retain water and or give good drainage. You only need a little added to your compost. If doing this ensure that there are no visible food scraps and that the compost looks like chocolate brown soil before using it. There should be no bad smell either, rather a soil like smell to the compost if you have got the balance right when composting.
  • Cindy M Cindy M on Mar 23, 2014
    I start adding my fruit n veggie scraps right in the potting soil around feb then by march u can mix it up n plant, guess it would be considered compost
  • Sandy Grieves Sandy Grieves on Mar 23, 2014
    Love the tips. To help prevent soil from being lost out the drainage holes I use coffee filters to line the bottom.
  • Tye313050 Tye313050 on Mar 23, 2014
    i use leaves from fall at bottom of pots and if i have new pot i also take soil from other pots and add a little new to all.
    • See 3 previous
    • @Linda Bailey Yes, and it created the environment needed for a grass eating fungus to grow and destroy what little grass there was. Our horticulturist at my job said one must be careful when mulching leaves and adding to grassy areas.
  • Kathy Koza Kathy Koza on Mar 23, 2014
    I"ve used plastic water bottles in tne bottom of the pots--let"s water flow through and a easy way to recycle -- several in a big pot makes it less heavy and uses less soil. On a gardening show, they said you can use a
  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on Mar 23, 2014
    hello Andrea I typed up a rather long reply to this comment , I was going to add pics of my Jades to it when I came back to the comment it was gone and I cannot find it.. did it send accidently.. did you get it? please let me know.
    • Barbara P Barbara P on Mar 23, 2014
      @Buster Evans my son saves coffee grounds , egg shells , in spring I mix the dirt with the coffee grounds and egg shells
  • Bob Bob on Mar 23, 2014
    I've been reusing my potting soil for over 20 years. I store it in 30 gallon garbage cans over the winter. When it's time make pots,bags and baskets in the Spring, I reconstitute it. In a wheelbarrow, I mix batches of the old soil to which I add screened, finished compost,peat moss,perlite, and occasionally a little organic fertilizer. I clean my grow containers in the fall but do not sterilize the potting soil. I've never had a disease problem. When a large container is called for but the plants are shallow rooted, I add plastic gallon milk jugs to the bottom to save soil. An added benefit is they are lighter and easier to move.
  • Judy H Judy H on Mar 23, 2014
    I just stir in some chopped leaves each spring, stir it well, and that's it. I've got pots that have 20 year old potting soil in them. I only lightly fertilize with Miracle-Gro maybe three times in a season. I will change flowers into vegetable soil and vice versa, since I believe veggies have more things that want to eat them.
  • Rebecca Duff Rebecca Duff on Mar 23, 2014
    NO NO NO don't throw out that soil! Amend it! If there are big roots left behind just chop them up with a hand spade after removing the main plant/roots. John Kohler's videos have taught me so much, and even though this is for after the growing season, there is no reason you can't amend your old soil the entire video as you can cut it back to only a couple of items to add....(compost & rock dust) and they aren't expensive..GOOD LUCK :)
    • Rebecca Duff Rebecca Duff on Mar 23, 2014
      @Rebecca Duff BTW, I would suggest dumping all old soil together in a wheelbarrow or some other type of container and then amend it all together
  • Sybil P Sybil P on Mar 23, 2014
    If you use styrofoam peanuts, put them in plastic grocery bags and make like pillows - a half bag full and tie up the opening. You can put as many as three in your large pots and have plenty of room for soil. To reuse the soil, you can sift it to get out the old roots, you can add some compost or manure, your usual plant food and you should be good to go. Fine Gardening had a short article on re- using the soil and that is where those statements came from. I did it. I even re- used the soil in my tomato tubs.
  • Kate Hannon Kate Hannon on Mar 23, 2014
    I use styrofoam in the bottom of pots! Packing material, cups, egg cartons...the bigger the pot, the more styrofoam! Saves soil costs & keeps pots lighter in weight for me to move around!
  • Ann Ratay Ann Ratay on Mar 23, 2014
    I, too use the styrofoam peanuts........... I will remix the old soil with new soil and compost. In planters, I will line with disposable diapers............ they hold the water and help prevent water from just running through.
  • Kat Kat on Mar 23, 2014
    if you use café steamers to eat save the insert and put in pot upside down for drainage also take the old soil and mix it with a regular garden soil its cheaper than potting soil
  • Lisa Bledsoe-Rowe Lisa Bledsoe-Rowe on Mar 23, 2014
    I would amend first. Styro Peanuts in the bottom with broken bits of clay pots. Also if u find broken bags at Lowes or wherever they will usually mark them down 1/2 price.Walmart does not.They send them back fyi. Good luck.
  • Lela Lela on Mar 23, 2014
    For years I have used bagged top soil, it is a fraction of the cost of potting soil. So far it has worked out real well. For composting, we freeze our vegetable scraps, bury it where we plan to plant and in areas next to plants. Florida has mostly sand, which needs to be amended. Three years later and we have nice gardens.
  • D P D P on Mar 23, 2014
    Change of subject but you folk sound smart so I will go for it...can anyone tell me if Miracle Grow fertilizer for vegtables is harmful to people?? I stopped using it with all the facts about Monsanto and other chemicals used to enhance vegtable growth. Afraid what we will find out next.
    • Crafty2you Crafty2you on Mar 23, 2014
      @D P My Dad used Miracle Grow far to many years for me to count, and he lived to be 91 yrs. old. I use it on my veggies, and just about everything else I grow, I can't give you the facts, but it doesn't worry me. I live in a valley of orange trees, tree fruit, and a lot of other edibles, and would be far more afraid to eat what is out there, than what I grow.
  • Carolyn Carolyn on Mar 23, 2014
    One of my neighbors uses the same containers and dirt year after year. She is 92 (and amazing)....her plants are for me I use styro peanuts and also small soda bottles so I don't have to use so much soil.....
  • Virginia   grizzell Virginia grizzell on Mar 23, 2014
    E Dr Every other year, I put the old in the garden and plow it in !! BAM......helps my garden......
  • Judy Wise Judy Wise on Mar 23, 2014
    I never dump soil unless I had something in there that the roots just took over! Just use some Miracle-Gro.
  • Lynette Sabotka Lynette Sabotka on Mar 23, 2014
    There is a product with myrcorizzia in that refreshes your soil from the year before. This is a good article.
  • Janice Janice on Mar 23, 2014
    If you have a large pot put plastic water bottles in the pot then it won't need as much soil and will provide the drainage you need. I saw this on one of the home improvement shows and have used it.
    • See 2 previous
    • DMac DMac on Mar 24, 2014
      @Janice I have put plastic bottles, plastic plant pots, etc. in the bottom of my pots for years and it works great to cut down on the amount of soil. I also reuse the soil from year to year; I just put a little extra of the new stuff on the top 2 inches.
  • Bonnie Lewenza Bonnie Lewenza on Mar 23, 2014
    Build your old soil up by adding new peat, bone meal for feeding, if you have old coffee grounds add it to the soil. There are many ways of doing this.
    • See 2 previous
    • Bonnie Lewenza Bonnie Lewenza on Mar 24, 2014
      @Shelley I do cut up banana peels and add them to my potted indoor plants, as they provide a good source of potassium which they love. I also feed the plants Epsom salts and sugar every 2-3 weeks.
  • Pokiedogmom Pokiedogmom on Mar 23, 2014
    I use the soil over adding compost and peat moss to lighten it up
  • Nancy J Goldwire Nancy J Goldwire on Mar 23, 2014
    Mixing organic compost in with old potting/planting soil works wonderful. Rather than Miracle Gro, I stick with organic fertilizers & making compost in the back yard. I don't want the chemicals in my food that you get with Miracle Gro, or any other non-organic fertilizer.
  • Kirsten McCann Kirsten McCann on Mar 23, 2014
    Check for local sources of compost- my fave is the local supermarket chain that composts old produce and then sells bagged product for $2 - $3 per cu ft. or our local winery sells bulk compost fairly cheap. I have raised beds 4' x 4' that I originally filled with compost and now just add 4" - 6" per year in the spring. I have never switched out the soil in 8 years and my veggies are fantastic
    • See 1 previous
    • Debbie Chapman Debbie Chapman on Mar 27, 2014
      @Kirsten McCann Wow, that would be great! I don't think we have anything like that here! What a great idea! Hmmmm......... maybe I should double check with a couple of supermarkets here........
  • Alexa Karaoulis Alexa Karaoulis on Mar 23, 2014
    Check with your local municipality. You can often get free compost from them. I know in Philadelphia, I can get up to 30 gallons of organic compost a week.
    • Jill Jill on Mar 25, 2014
      Yes, many place recycle green yard clippings on trash day and allow the residents to get free compost for their yards. This is a great way to get something for free that you can use, and put back into your yard for good use. You can also compost your own soil by building or buying a composting bin. Some cities even offer these for free if you take a class on how to do it, or offer a discounted rate on them much less than those in the stores. Composting is easy. Just add grass clippings and tree leaves and such. Do not compost weeds. The compost needs to be turned every now and then so it can evenly decompose. You will also need to water it some. Starters are also available to get the compost to decompose, but aren't really needed. I don't usually add or change out the soil in my potted plants on a regular basis unless the roots are getting crowded and they need to be repotted, or the pot looks like it has lost soil. I do however compost and add that every year to my vegetable garden, as it needs nutrients that have been lost in the soil.
  • Patti Bosley Patti Bosley on Mar 23, 2014
    I reuse it every year. My neighbor dumps it all out and gets new every year..I don't see difference in the quality of our plants.. I do add plant food every year though..
  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on Mar 23, 2014
    Ok Andrea at the risk of sending this twice and talking way too much... here goes... I had tried several times with jade plants and they always died... then I was in a store in Ducktown Tn and there was this huge jade in the window behind the counter.. I asked the lady how she got the jade to do so well , she was taking a sip of coffee from her cup, smiled, then poured the rest of the coffee in the cup onto the jade... She said they LOVE coffee. She said to flood them once a month, (to where the soil is drenched and water stands in the drip pan) then just once in a while give them a drink of coffee. She then pinched me off three (I think) of the leaves or petals and told me to stick the tip into the dirt, the leaf would die but root and create another jade plant... I followed her instructions and that started me on my path of raising jade... I did try the putting coffee grounds on top of their dirt and they didnt do well with that . I guess it was too much... SO I water them on the 1st of the month then give them a drink of coffee from left over coffee in the pot or maybe brew some from old grounds and give it to them. They have done great... even survived a house fire and come back strong... I now have quite a few and have given a lot to friends, because I cant stand for a leaf or stem to break off and not stick it in the dirt to give it a chance to root... sometimes there are some small root like growth that appear on a stem, you can break that stem off and plant it and those growths will root and it will grow... Ok Im adding pics of the jades this time,,,
    • See 3 previous
    • Linda T Linda T on Mar 26, 2014
      @Buster Evans Yesterday, I put my jade into a plastic bowl and poured 2 jugs of water + Schultz's Instant into it. By morning the earth had absorbed the whole thing. Now Miss Jade will go back on her table by the radiator. I'll tell you how she does.
  • Karen DeSanno Karen DeSanno on Mar 24, 2014
    I reuse and add Super Thrive to the water at least a couple of times a month. Replaces minerals and stuff normally in soil that plants need but gets washed away. Made a huge difference in my plants. Super concentrated. Can use indoors or out. Heritage Roses recommended it to me several years ago.
    • See 1 previous
    • Shelley Shelley on Mar 24, 2014
      I've used Thrive for about 40 years and makes a big difference.....just got to remember to follow the directions....more is Not better. This stuff is powerful.
  • Lydia C Lydia C on Mar 24, 2014
    I rent and have a yard with plants in ground and in containers. I have a large gum tree and I usually fill my pots half way with the gum balls and I reuse potting soil and add from the compost heap. The gum balls usually take a year to decompose and they just add to the goodness of the soil for re-use. If growing vegs. or herbs I use organic potting soil in the pots. Expensive, but worth it for edibles. If you get ANY mulch, compost, whatever from your town - please remember they usually use pesticides and lawn chemicals!! Be sure to ask.
  • Reno Girl Reno Girl on Mar 24, 2014
    I reuse my soil.i have filled my really large pots with upside down plastic containers from the nursery. Back full with soil then I add a hanging planter plant. Cut off the hangers and plunk it in. Way cheaper than buying all the little annuals and planting them in!
  • Mary McNamara Mary McNamara on Mar 25, 2014
    coffee grounds FREE at STARBUCKS ,just have to go early and take a couple of plastic bags with you they do put them in bag ,but they are messy
  • Beverly Henderson Beverly Henderson on Mar 25, 2014
    At Fred's dollar store they have composted horse manure, I buy a bag of that, and mix it in with all the soil from my pots. This year, I have rabbits and chickens, so I will be using the poo from them, which is much better. I have bought only a few bags of potting soil in the last few years, and that was only because I put out more pots with yummy veggies :)
    • Letha Letha on Mar 28, 2014
      @Beverly Henderson be careful with the horse manure. It's very rich and can burn up your plants if you use to much. I've had much better luck with the rabbit poo and coffee grounds.
  • Tamir DuCharme Tamir DuCharme on Mar 26, 2014
    Another thing that I have added to my soil or plants for years is to take children's chewable vitamins and push down into the dirt, and you water they will break down. My plants love it, and on the cheap, you can buy at drugstore when they are going to expire. Just my 2 cents worth :)
  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on Mar 26, 2014
    cool Linda hope she does well!
  • Mary McNamara Mary McNamara on Mar 27, 2014
    Debbie Chapman very lots pot maybe 2 cup fills of uses ground mix well,
  • Beverly Henderson Beverly Henderson on Apr 02, 2014
    I use one bag of composted manure,to the equivalent of about 10 bags of soil. And it's already composted,so it's doesn't get hot. My flowers and veggies love it. Coffee grounds get to hot for my liking,I do add then to my compost pile,but not directly to my plants
  • Vicki O Vicki O on Jun 04, 2014
    I buy a "bale" of promix soilless potting soil, It is a little hard to find, but it worth it. The potting soil at most places is mostly water. Do not pay for water.. If you cannot use all that in one season, put it in 5 gallon buckets for the winter. I use it for my houseplants also.It is what the pros use.
  • Helen M Helen M on Jun 05, 2014
    For my very big planters, I turn them into a compost maker during the off season. In the Fall and Winter, I mix kitchen scraps, leaves, and newspaper in with the soil. In the Spring it's ready to be replanted.
  • Patricia Patricia on May 17, 2015
    I friend gave me some packing peanuts to put in my large pots, fill half full then the rest with putting soil. Peanuts are cheap, no need to change out dirt all the time. Maybe Mixx old dirt with new dirt for other pots and feed once a month or seasonally.
    • See 1 previous
    • Lyn Therese Lyn Therese on Aug 10, 2015
      Adding a mixture of perlite and soil will lighten the load but you will have to water your plants more often. This mixture tends to dry out a lot faster.
  • Janice Janice on Jul 24, 2015
    Do not add any soil from the garden as it is not the correct media and the soil will become hard as a rock. Better to top dress the pots each year with new premium potting mix or compost. Add some form of organic fertiliser make sure it is diluted if using from a concentrate.
  • Kris King Kris King on Dec 24, 2015
    You can always fill the bottom half of you're pot with pine cones.
  • Maria Maria on Feb 16, 2016
    When using a large pot, I use top soil for bottom half of pot and top half with good potting soil.
  • Bonny McDaniel Bonny McDaniel on Feb 17, 2016
    If the plants don't need a lot of root space like tomatoes do, then I fill the bottom third with chunks of packing foam, then some old soil, then a layer of compost and finish off with the potting soil. The foam allows for retention of some moisture but the most important function is to take up space and use less soil and keep the large pot lighter in case you need to move it.
  • MaryAnn B MaryAnn B on Feb 17, 2016
    I too have many large containers. I don't replace all of the soil in the containers. If I'm renewing annuals I mix half new potting soil with soil I removed from the containers I'm renewing. I empty all of my last year containers in a wheelbarrow and then mix in the new. Add some fert. Perennials just get a top dressing of new stuff. for large containers I use packing peanuts (my least favorite), crushed cans, small plastic plant containers, and/or pine cones. Large containers can be filled half full with old potting soil.
  • Elaine Simmons Elaine Simmons on Feb 18, 2016
    If it is a large pot and the plant does not take a lot of root space, I use empty soda cans.
  • Sherry H. Sherry H. on Feb 18, 2016
    You can buy less costly platers and pots and spray paint them. Try painting plastic pots.
  • Sharon Sharon on Sep 02, 2016
    I have done pot gardening with great results I mix new soil vermiculite sheep manure in abig plstic container that has a cover I mx it well and add or top up old soil then for the plants I use oganic liquid seaweed I cant carry heavy bags so before planting time I shop for smaller bags until I have it all just adding a bit at a time to the container.Baby steps !
  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Jun 29, 2022

    Make your own from Kitchen and Garden waste.

  • Dee Dee on Jul 27, 2023

    I use water bottles, or sada cans in the bottom of my planters. I buy Miracle Grow soil at Costco or Lowes and add what I need to the top then mix it in. I do not think it is necessary to change out your soil yearly. You could add mulch to the bottom on top of the water bottles for drainage.

  • Janice Janice on Feb 25, 2024

    I feel your pain! Depending on how deep the pots are, I use plastic bottles. I just step on them to smash them flat and keep them until I need "filler" for my plant containers. Layer them in leaving enough room for the new plants and the soil needed. This really lightens the weight of the potted plants and many plants don't need to have the depth of the pot to thrive. If you don't like this because the plastic won't disintegrate, then just shred newspapers/magazines/grass clippings/veggie scraps/etc. in with the potting mix which doesn't really need to be changed each year. Enjoy container plantings!

  • Betsy Betsy on Feb 25, 2024

    Hi Debbie: Garden soil is cheaper than most other soils, even though it says it's for in-ground use, I have used it very successfully in my pots. And, no, you don't have to change it every year, but be sure to add fertilizer to the water every month or so. I've used those foam peanuts or crushed up plastic bags in the bottoms of my planters to take up room. If your planters have holes in the bottoms, cover them with coffee filters so that the soil doesn't leak out.