As we get ready to embark on spring container gardening projects, it is always good to take a few extra minutes evaluating and preparing pots we already have on hand prior to planting.
Do you have the right size planters ?
Having the correct size planter pots can make a big difference in the long term health of your plants and their ability to produce fruit or blooms.
Are old flower pots still in good condition?
Check for cracks and small fissures, as well as moss, mold and insects. Frost often cracks pots, and infestations won't just go away. I sometimes hang onto pots with cracks, since they have character, but avoid repotting them
Preparing Pots for Re-Use
If you can re-use some or all of your planter's great, that's a time & money saver.
Cleaning Pots for Planting
If last years' plants were healthy and you see no visible infestations, you may be able to get away with a simple washing with soapy water. It is preferable to soak pots in a mild bleach solution though (about 10% bleach), then rinse well before adding new plants.
Re-Using Old Potting Soil
If last year's plants were healthy, this should not be an issue. To ensure the soil is not contaminated, it is a good idea to pour boiling water over it or dump it into a black plastic bin and leave in full sun for a couple days. Either method will kill off pests. If your previous seasons plants showed signs of disease, it is probably best not to use the soil in your planters at all. Tossing the soil away is best, but if you have a hot compost that will not be used this season, you should be able to add it to that.
Ensuring Proper Drainage
For the most part, planters should have drainage holes. If broken shards of old pots are available, they make a good cover for the holes, to keep them flowing. If drainage holes are not an option, then turn a small pot or bowl upside down into the bottom of the planter prior to adding soil. It will provide a small drainage reservoir. Roots will be protected from rot due to this.
Ensuring Proper Moisture
Smaller planters, those with open to air coconut husk liners and those out in full sun will be prone to quickly drying out. In these pots it is a good idea to use a moisture control potting mix or in the case of larger planters, add a diaper between oil and drainage. It will hold moisture below the roots, mimicking natural earth.
With properly prepared pots, your container gardening adventures are more likely to succeed. Best of Luck!