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Container Gardening: What do you do with old pots?

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Forum: Container GardeningReplies: 10, Views: 768
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Ottawa, ON
(Zone 4a)

August 16, 2001
10:11 PM

Post #10940

I shamelessly re-use them, but I've been wondering if I wouldn't be better off sterilizing them first. Was thinking of soaking all my plastic empties in a weak bleach solution and pouring boiling water in the clay pots.

Any wisdom out there?
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 16, 2001
10:25 PM

Post #111469

I reuse my pots without washing as long as whatever was in them didn't die from a disease. I also hose them off and let them set in the hot sun for several days. Sunshine is an excellent disinfectant. If the plant died from a disease, I use 1/4 cup bleach to 5 gallons of water and dip them in that, then rinse and dry in the sun. For the bleach to be really effective, it needs to be in contact with the pots for about 20 minutes. I haven't had any problems with this method. I also reuse my old soil as long as nothing had a disease.

August 16, 2001
11:16 PM

Post #111488

Same on this end. I reuse everything that I can possible can.
Travis AFB, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 7, 2001
12:54 AM

Post #141597

I've re-used my pots for years; I use them until they break or fall apart. I normally clean them with dishwashing soap and hot water. The ones that fit in the dishwasher go in there after being washed by hand.

If they're going to sit empty I stack them face down on the shelf under my potting bench after they’re cleaned. I give them a quick rinse before re-filling.

When I buy new clay pots, I remove the price sticker (HA!), wet the pot, and toss it in the back of the garden, behind or under something that will "hide" it until it's developed an acceptable colour and a mossy look.

I have four plastic (ugh!) half-round pots hung on my privacy fence facing my patio. They’re used year-round here. I keep violas in them in Autumn and Winter and then refill them with lobelia for Spring and Summer. They’re a terra cotta colour, and once the flowers trail down you don’t really see enough of the pot to be shocked by the material.

After using these very inexpensive half-pots for six years I decided I could, in all good conscience, replace them with "bigger and better" ones. The new ones also have the “half-round” look, but they’re deeper, hold a lot more soil, and have a flat bottom so they were much easier to pot up than the completely rounded ones.

They have a subtle “art deco” design impressed in the sides, and, for a bit of serendipity, the new pots fit on the same supports I used for the old ones. The spacing and heights were perfect! I just knew I was going to have to get out the level and yard stick and drill and mess with getting them “just right.”

I filled, planted and hung all the new wall pots today; they look lovely. A neighbor has adopted the old pots. I also filled a 14” pot with more violas and spread the rest of the flat around the cottage garden.

It was a beautiful day.

November 17, 2001
12:30 PM

Post #163879

For a cracked or partically broken clay pot; lay it on its side and have a plant coming out of it. Pots do not always need to be standing upright. I think laying some down gives a garden a pit of character. Can lay some down on their sides, spaced so far apart; like in a row and have different things growing out of each one that way.
Lorain, OH
(Zone 5b)

November 17, 2001
3:59 PM

Post #163961

I use my old broken clay pots for lots of things, the large pieces I use for toad houses in my memory garden, the smaller pieces I use in the bottom of containers or just throw them in the river rock boarder in the front of the tree lawn. I plant perrenials in old hanging baskets for resale at the flea-market. To sterilize them, I rinse them of all dirt then, I put plastic pots in the dishwasher on the top rack, and I soak the clay ones in water then place them upside-down in a 200 degree oven till they are dry. I also reuse my coconut fiber liners, simply knock out old dirt, soak overnight in 1/4c. vinegar to a gallon water, then reshape on inverted bowl and allow to air-dry. When they start to get thin spots after 2 or 3 years, I use them as an attractive mulch for my container trees (Columnar apples, a dwarf X-Mas tree and ivy topiary) simply cut to the center, wrap around the base of the tree, and flatten and reshape to cover the dirt, this helps to conserve water loss too.


Allen Park, MI
(Zone 6a)

December 2, 2001
4:07 PM

Post #171427

You should sterlize in a 10% clorine bleach soulition before reusing them.

A diease that might affect one plant and not another might present in the pots.

Its easy to do and pays off in the long run.
North Vancouver, BC
(Zone 8a)

December 3, 2001
3:39 PM

Post #171824

this is one good question! so many don't know what to do with used pots...clay, I do the bleach thing and then dip them into a dish detergent baths so the remaining chlorines come out(being porous, clay pots really do need a good clean!)plastic pots from the nurseries I clean and then make great use of them as props so that tropicals are sitting on the floor! I do understand nurseries will take them back for their own propagation use..Elaine

December 6, 2001
2:49 PM

Post #173192

Very good question as many don't know how to properly care for containers,glad it is posted,thank you'

I totally agree Paulgrow' Love also seeing CoCo's idea in gardens,so original and useful'

Well, my most used ones and favorites, I do wash/sterilize/store' Some I put thoughout the gardens for toad houses,don't wash them. I save anything that gets broken or damaged to use in creating wind ornaments,feeders,decorations incorporated in plantings etc. I also used old pots to put my starts in outside in the yard' I save the nursery containers to share plants with friends and they return them after planting. Any more ideas or suggestions...???

March 12, 2002
3:56 PM

Post #225625

I reuse all my pots and containers by washing in soapy water with bleach, rinse and sun dry. I reuse potting soil by disinfecting it in a roaster oven bag placed in the microwave. I also use this method on any soil that appears to have mites in it.

I'm meticulous about keeping containers and soil free of any pests as I don't want them spreading indoors over winter to any of my tropical plant collection.

Any potting soil that falls on the floor when I'm potting up plants I toss into the vermicompost bin. In the spring I get wonderful fertile compost to spread on the garden beds.
Seward, AK
(Zone 3b)

March 17, 2002
5:38 AM

Post #227921

joydie1: Just the person I am looking for! Do you find the potting soil to be smelly when heating it in the oven bags? I sterilize soiless starter mix in the oven in baking bags. I bring it up to 180 degrees and maintain that for 20-30 minutes. I don't find it maloderous at all, but thought potting soil might be so.

I've considered the microwave, but wasn't sure I could regulate the temp. In the case of soiless medium (vermiculite, perlite, peat), temp is less an issue, because there are no nutrients to bake out. I use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp in the bag. After reading your post, I think I'll try it.

Like you, I wash all used containers, flats, and dome lids with hot soapy bleach water, then dry. I seal all sterilized soil in ziplock bags if not used right away. Consequently, I seldom have trouble with dampening off in the domed flats.

Concerning contaminating house plants, I have given up wintering over geraniums, etc. because they seem to carry aphids into the house, thus infecting not only house plants, but my young seedlings in the basement, as well.

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