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Old 10-18-2018, 02:17 AM #1
DTOM420
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How to maintain container soil

So, I just wound up my first grow (outdoors) and Iím wondering whatís the best way to maintain the soil I have in those 12 grow bags?

I jumped back into growing after a 25+ year sabbatical late last summer. When I did, I followed my method from the late 80ís/early 90ís of mixing some more premium potting soil like FFOF, Happy Frog and Promix with some perlite, more Canadian peat moss, various composts and a variety of amendments like EWC, bone meal, blood meal, lime, rock phosphate, guanos, etc. Then I started reading up online and started learning about all the things that have been discovered and publicized since 1992, when all I had was Rosenthalís original book and some tattered copies of high times! Lol! Well, I did alright for a first grow (autos only) and Iíve worked to grow some microbial life in that soul and Iíd like to keep it alive and try to improve it for next spring. So, Iím wondering what to do with it?

Should I plant something like green manure in them and keep them watered all winter or maybe I should buy some large totes and combine them into 3-4 totes? Should I add additional amendments (for the next grow, starting April 1) and let it all stew until next season or wait until it gets closer? Sure would appreciate any advice I can get.

FWIW- We will only get 2-3 weeks of freezing temps during our winter, if that much. We have a pretty mind ďwinterĒ and donít get snow.
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Old 10-18-2018, 02:57 AM #2
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I would dump them out add amendments mix and let it go compost pile for the winter. If that isn't an option I'd go with the big totes. Either way I would amend the soil now and let it go. Best of luck!
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Old 10-18-2018, 05:47 AM #3
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Originally Posted by Streft View Post
I would dump them out add amendments mix and let it go compost pile for the winter. If that isn't an option I'd go with the big totes. Either way I would amend the soil now and let it go. Best of luck!
Thatís certainly an option. Thanks for the advice! Only reason I thought about totes was to keep it clean - keep our dogs and cats and wild critters from getting into it. But, Iíll prolly do just what you said.
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Old 10-18-2018, 11:22 AM #4
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Could also cover it with a tarp, should be fine as well (if the tarp is fixed somehow and doesn't get blown away by wind or pulled away by critters).


You want to keep the soil alive which means it can't dry out or freeze solid.


The drying out part can easily be ensured by leaving the tarp and leaving the soil uncovered, rain should do its thang. Just in case you could check it in between and water a bit if you feel the need.


I would also sow some clover or other cover crop over the soil pile, this should aid in keeping it alive.


The freezing through part is what would worry me the most when leaving it outdoors. Which is why I would bring it into a shed or garage or something, instead of leaving it outside.



Keeping it in totes and covering it up, possibly with a thick layer of leafs or so, could be enough to avoid it freezing through in the winter as well. Depending on how it is covered up (tarp or leafs etc.) you might have to make sure it doesn't dry out by hand after all. If a cover of leafs will be enough to not make it freeze, then rain might be enough to ensure it doesn't dry out after all.
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Old 10-18-2018, 11:54 AM #5
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feed your mix

If your pile isn't shrinking with time, then you may need to add N to heat it up. You have to feed the microbes a little during winter. Here are some good sources of N., blood meal, fish emulsion, crab meal, alfalfa meal, soybean meal, or where I am I use finely shredded grass clippings. However my favorite is poultry manure because its fast and cheap! 50 lbs for $20.00. Just takes a small amount. Also, I found that turning your mix is a must every chance you get through out the winter! When next spring is here you will be setting in high cotton!
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Old 10-18-2018, 03:05 PM #6
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I did not notice if you said what size your containers are. If they are large, you do not need to do anything at all. Freezing does NOT kill off your microbial life if the containers are deep enough. This is how indigenous microbes populate.

If you are growing outside, why not use raised beds? This is the best way. We did this for 15 years and only topdressed organic matter in fall and spring. We had red clover naturally growing on the beds. Frames were built over top to support tarps for light exclusion for early flowering. We also used the frames to support an irrigation system.

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Old 10-18-2018, 06:04 PM #7
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Old 10-18-2018, 06:45 PM #8
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THAT ^^^

I just leave everything outside, containers and all. The microbes at most just go dormant, they don't die. I'm in zone 7a with some snow and hard freezes but seldom lasting more than a few days. The "frosty morn" is more the norm here and it sounds like you are further south than I am in SC.

For cover crops and such, windblown seeds take care of that and are native to the area. But everything gets knocked down when temps get into the teens for a few days in Jan and everything goes fully dormant.

I'll do some top dressing on the raised beds in the fall, mainly slow release stuff like minerals. Nothing for the containers. My main prefrence is to do top dressing and reamending in very early spring (middle of March), when warm weather is on the way but not quite here yet. About the same time you're starting seeds indoors.

Hope this helps some.

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Old 10-18-2018, 07:06 PM #9
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Old 10-18-2018, 07:11 PM #10
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Cover crops are great and it will keep the nitrogen cycling ( Google nitrogen cycle).
Rage that cover crop all winter if your climate allows it. Legumes with Nitrogen fixing bacteria, don't actually start fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere until all the left over soil N is used. Legumes are lazy. You can also buy bails of alfalfa and till it a few times of year. That way you are only adding N.

I don't add the amendments other then green manure until spring so water soluble nutes don't get washed out. Something like chicken manure that has water soluble n- p and k will get wasted of added in the fall and rained on. Even slow break down nutes should be added later so it breaks down during your grow and makes it through the year. I don't know how big your containers are but if it's anywhere close to what it should be for outdoor, i can't see how bringing it inside would help or would even be doable. You can compost right in that container.
Think about how your soil was last year. Do you want to add more volume to your soil? Do you want to change some properties? Want it to drain more? Hold more water? Hold more air? Allot of those larger soil particals break down to smaller particals and the texture changes. I add volume and correct texture over winter.
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