Spring Cleaning in the Container Garden


You don’t need a big yard to enjoy gardening; even a small patio can be transformed into a colorful oasis. Container gardening isn’t quite the same (care of the plants is a bit more challenging for one thing), but a container garden or patio can be just as attractive as those grown in the dirt.

You also don’t need a lot of money to invest in containers, either. Reusing old ones and repurposing other items to use as planters is perfectly acceptable, as long as there are holes in the bottom for drainage and then you take the time to ensure that you rid them of the old “gunk” that might be clinging to them. Everything from fertilizer salts to fungal pathogens could be hiding in there just waiting for some new, succulent roots to munch on or destroy.

Dump the old soil

There are no hard and fast rules about reusing this year’s potting soil with next year’s plants except for one: don’t reuse soil in which you grew tomatoes to grow them again the following year. Go ahead and use it for other plants, just not tomatoes.

Scrub out the Gunk

The best scrubber for terra cotta containers is steel wool (plain, not soaped). Steel wool will scratch plastic pots so use the type of scrubber you would were you washing a non-stick fry pan for these.

Dip the pot into soapy water and scrub away as much of the dirt and stuck roots as possible. If you can’t get all of it, allow the pot to soak in the warm soapy water for a while.

Once the containers are free of grime, rinse well in clear water.


Soak the container in a mix of 1 part household bleach in 10 parts of water for about 15 minutes. This should kill off any disease organisms.

Rinse the container again in clear water to ensure that the bleach residue is gone and allow it to air dry.

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