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Refresh Your Container Garden

Updated on September 11, 2014

Beautiful Potted Plants

Beautifully potted plant
Beautifully potted plant | Source

Use those planters to their utmost

You can easily make your old planters look great. If you have old planters lying around, whether filled with dead plants or ones that are looking a little sorry, now is the time to fix them up.

It's very easy to refresh your planters, and when you're done you'll have some beautiful plants to enjoy. Don't let those planters go to waste, fix them up and use them.

Refresh Dead Plant Pots

Gather Your Repotting Supplies

To refresh your gardening containers that had plants that died, you don't need much, just a few things. Gather your supplies together and move it to an area where you don't mind soil possibly spilling.

Planters Needing Plants

Container Planting
Container Planting | Source

Repotting Supply List

Supplies You May Need

Leftover pots from plants that didn't survive

Wheelbarrow or large container

Small trowel

Small rake or hoe

More potting soil


Time-Release Fertilizer

Hose or Plant Waterer

Scrub Brush or Wire Brush

Get a Garden Tool Set

Master Craft Eight-Piece Garden Tool and Tote Set
Master Craft Eight-Piece Garden Tool and Tote Set
If you don't have one or yours has seen better days, pick up a gardening tool set. It's tough to do even basic gardening chores without the necessary tools.

Step 1 : Empty Planters into Large Container

Empty the soil from the old, used planters into the larger container or wheelbarrow. Toss aside any large rootballs or stems to be placed in the compost pile later.

Repotting Supplies

Repotting Supplies
Repotting Supplies | Source

Step 2 : Break Up the Soil

Using a small rake or hoe, break up the soil so it's back into fine particles. The soil in containers gets compressed over time and this makes it difficult for plants to grow new roots through it.

Mixing Potting Soil

Adding Potting Soil
Adding Potting Soil | Source

Step 3 : Add Some Fresh Soil, Compost, and Fertilizer

The balance of nutrients in containers can become unbalanced over time, depending upon what your plants used up. Since different types of plants tend to use different nutrients, it's a good idea to check the soil from the planters and add what is missing.

Checking the soil for missing nutrients is the best thing to do, but I'm lazy, so I usually just add some fresh soil, compost, and fertilizer. This revitalizes it a bit and gives the new plants something to use to grow. I add about a 1/4 more fresh soil to the old stuff, a couple handfuls of compost, and then whatever amount of fertilizer the fertilizer package recommends.

Soil sometimes leaks from planters, so you may need to add a bit more soil to make up for the amount lost since the last time you planted something in the pot. It just depends on how much was lost over time.

Test Your Soil

Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
These soil tests are easy to use and great for getting to know what you need to add to your soil.

Potting Soil

Do not use dirt from around the garden in your containers, it is way too dense and heavy and will not allow your plant to flourish. Use potting soil, preferably one made for containers, so your plants have all the light, airy material they need to grow in.

Step 4 : Mix Soil Well

Make sure to mix the new soil, old soil, compost, and fertilizer together well. You don't want any clumps of old soil or fertilizer.


Planting Containers
Planting Containers | Source

Step 5 : Check Container

Make sure to go over your planter well and ensure it's not starting to crack or have something wrong with it.

Planters don't last forever and the winter can be hard on them. Clay planters are especially vulnerable to the frost and thaw cycle and plastic planters get brittle over only a couple of seasons.

Create Beautiful Container Gardens

McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers
McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers
Grow fresh herbs by your kitchen, edible flowers by the front door. Have an entire garden on your patio or porch by picking up this book.

Step 6 : Clean the Pot

If your planter has crusted salts on the outside, use the scrub brush or a wire brush and some water to get the worse of it off. A little adds a bit of a natural look to the garden, but too much will prevent your planters from being as porous as they should be.

Step 7 : Line the Bottom of the Planter

Inside the bottom of the planter line it with newspaper to keep soil from leaking out the drainage holes. Only put a couple of layers since you want water to still be able to drain. Some people will use pieces of broken pots or other items to block the drainage holes a bit so the soil won't leak out, so if you're more comfortable with that, now is the time to do it.

Rootball in Place

Replanting Plants
Replanting Plants | Source

Step 8 : Refill Container and Plant a Plant

Fill your planter partially with the soil mixture. Add a plant, making sure the top of the root ball remains at the same level as it was in the previous pot. In the picture on the right, see where soil ends and the stem begins? Don't put dirt higher than that.

Add more soil around the edges until the planter is filled. Pat the soil until it fits snugly, but don't pack it too tightly. Wet it down and make sure you get out all the bubbles of air by jiggling the wet planter a little. Add more soil if necessary.

Easy-peasy! Freshened planter and plant ready to grow.

Planting Levels

When replanting plants it's important to plant them so that where the stem comes out of the ground is at the same level it was in the old pot. Soil up against the stem in the wrong places can cause plants to rot.

Grow Lots of Tomatoes

Tomato Container Gardening: 7 Easy Steps To Healthy Harvests from Small Spaces
Tomato Container Gardening: 7 Easy Steps To Healthy Harvests from Small Spaces
Tomatoes grow well in containers, so get this book and start growing.

Refresh Living Plant Planters


Refreshing your planters that still have plants in them is pretty easy. Get together a few supplies and get it done.

Supplies You May Need

More potting soil

Small rake or hoe

Fertilizer sprinkles

Hose or plant waterer

Scrub brush or wire brush

Step 1 : Check the Plant

Before you get started, check to make sure your plant is happy in its container. Plants can outgrow their containers so make sure the plant isn't getting root bound. Root bound means the plant's roots are filling the planter so much that there is hardly any room for it to grow or breath.

First check to see if the plant is getting root bound by turning it sideways and looking at the bottom of the planter. If several roots are coming through the drainage holes, then it is probably root bound.

If there aren't a lot of roots coming out, tip the planter to the side and slide it out of the planter. If there are roots grown all over the outside of the root ball it will need to get replanted. So do that instead of refreshing the planter.

Step 2 : Clean the Pot

Use the scrub brush or wire brush along with some water to clean the excess salts off the outside of the planter.

Step 3 : Use Rake on Soil

Lift the edges of your plant up a little so you can reach underneath without tearing leaves. Use the small rake or hoe to stir up the soil in the top inch or two of the soil. Be careful to not go too deep or you'll scratch up the roots.


Fertilizing Container Garden
Fertilizing Container Garden | Source

Step 4 : Add Fertilizer

After you have stirred up the soil, add a sprinkling of fertilizer to it. Preferably use a fertilizer that is continuous-release or time-release and designed for container plants. Container plants need different fertilizer because they have different needs. The time-release fertilizer breaks down over time so that the plants get a steady supply.

Don't add too much fertilizer or you will burn the plant. The amount of fertilizer to add varies depending on the brand, so make sure to follow the directions on the fertilizer itself.

Stir the fertilizer into the soil a little and you're done. The plant will have a bit more nutrition and water will again be able to enter the soil.

© 2013 Alisha Vargas


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    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 

      8 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      This is a great overview of re-planting in containers. I have kept a garden in this manner for a few years now and every spring they all get new soil and treatments. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      8 years ago from UK

      I have always used containers extensively but after a couple of years with major family health problems my garden is looking very poorly. I need to take some major actions and the containers will be my priority. A bit of colour and useful plants for the kitchen, herbs and tomatoes are favourites, and I can take my time over the rest of the garden. THanks for a great article

    • AlishaV profile imageAUTHOR

      Alisha Vargas 

      8 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      @Vikk Simmons: Thanks so much and hope your containers look great this year!

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      Vikk Simmons 

      8 years ago from Houston

      Very timely. My containers have been talking to me for about three weeks asking to be refreshed. I've been container gardening for decades as a result of living in apartments and have learned to love it. Even though I'm living in a house now I still container garden, mostly because I'm not able to do the physical work required by heavy garden work. Bookmarking on Pinterest and sharing. Nice job.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. Great information and tips. I will use this information to refresh my gardening containers. Thanks for sharing.


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