Gardening season has sadly come to an end for the year, and you still have quite a bit of potting soil on hand. Of course, you’ll want to keep that so you’re ready for any new seedlings in the spring.
What’s the best approach?
More on Potting Soil
Potting soil is more than just dirt. Good potting mix is very loose and has a lot of extra material in it to allow for new root growth and for excellent water drainage.
Along with the “dirt,” you’re going to have a blend of sphagnum moss, shredded bark, coconut fiber, perlite, vermiculite, and possibly some sand worked in too.
It’s a complicated mix, and is more valuable than plain topsoil.
Possible Problems with Storing Potting Soil
Why do you even need to worry about how to store potting soil? There are a couple of reasons. The simplest is that it can be very messy should it spill out, so you want to have it somewhat secure in the proper storage arrangement.
Other than that, you need to be concerned about possible contamination and the growth of pathogens in the soil while it is waiting for you over winter.
Insect eggs can hatch and lead to quite an infestation if left to their own devices for months. Definitely not something you want to discover when you open up a bag of potting mix in the spring. All that organic material we mentioned in the last section is the perfect food to sustain a lot of bugs for quite a long time.
Not only bugs, your stored soil can pick up spores of mold or mildew, which takes hold and will then spread to your plants when you use the mix again.
The Importance of Using Quality Containers
The key to storing potting soil over winter is to make sure it’s in a good container. If you try to store your mix in the plastic bag it came in, you’re just asking for trouble.
As we mentioned before, soil is a messy commodity to have get away from you from a torn bag.
A solid, water-proof container with a tight lid is the best. Plastic totes are an excellent choice because they are inexpensive, easy to find, and have a relatively secure lid.
They can also be found in so many sizes, you’re sure to get the right one for your stash of potting mix. Wood can let dampness seep in, and unglazed ceramic has the same problem. A metal container may work, though getting a good seal with the lid can be tougher.
Once you’ve chosen the container, you should go the extra step to clean it properly before adding your soil. Make up a dilute bleach solution and water (1:10 ratio is good enough), and give the container a good scrubbing.
Don’t rinse it, and then give it lots of time to dry completely. The last thing you want to add to your soil is moisture.
How to Store Potting Soil
You can just dump all your potting mix into the tote and be done with it, or you can take a few extra steps to do it right. First of all, dry soil will store better. Open it to the air for several days before storage, giving it a stir now and then to dry out.
Fill up your container, and if it doesn’t already have a rubberized air-tight seal on it, give the lid a wrap with some duct tape. You want to keep out moisture as well as any possible insect invaders.
Where to Store Potting Soil
Having the right spot for your potting mix is important too, whether you are storing over the winter or any other time of the year.
Find an area that is going to stay dry. Kitchens and bathrooms are not great because they can get quite humid when there is a lot of water running. A damp basement is also a bad idea. Outside areas can also be tricky for the same reason.
Of course, if you have your soil in an air-tight container, then moisture won’t be as much of a worry. A spare bedroom, or even in the garage can be suitable options. Temperatures aren’t that much of a worry, though a cooler environment would be better.
Storing Other Gardening Items Over the Winter
Keeping your potting soil safe and clean over the winter is only one seasonal gardening chore. What about your seeds?
Whether you are dealing with indoor or outdoor plants, you will want to hold on to your leftover seeds until next season. That means proper storage.
Seeds are alive but dormant, and that makes them quite durable. They can still have 100% germination for many months if not years, if you keep them in the right conditions.
Keep them in their original paper packets (so you have all the planting info handy), or a standard paper envelope if you are saving seeds from your own plants.
Mark the date, and then store these envelopes of seeds in a zipped plastic bag. For any indoor houseplants that normally wouldn’t survive in winter weather, store your seeds in a cool dry spot that won’t have a lot of temperature fluctuations over the winter.
For outdoor seeds, you can actually pop that bag right in the freezer. It’s very dry, and the seeds would experience freezing temperatures if they were out in the wild anyway.
Another storage chore would be taking proper care of the garden tools over winter. Again, this is for the outside tools more than any items you use in the house.
First of all, give them all a thorough cleaning. Scrape off dirt and wash them. Dry them off, and then wipe a thin layer of vegetable oil on all the metal surfaces to protect from rust.
All of these storage tips might seem like a lot of work but you’ll be happy in the spring when you are ready to get your hands dirty again and all your tools and supplies are in great shape to get started.