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How to Store Potting Soil Over the Winter (Or Any Time of the Year)

How to Store Potting Soil Over the Winter (Or Any Time of the Year)

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As the gardening season winds down, you might find yourself with a surplus of potting soil. It’s tempting to just toss it in a corner and forget about it until spring comes, but hold up! Improper storage can lead to pest infestations and contamination, rendering your soil unusable. 

But don’t worry; I’m here to help.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the simple steps of how to store potting soil over the winter so that it stays fresh and ready to nourish your springtime seedlings. 

Stick around!

Understanding the Value of Potting Soil

Potting soil is more than just dirt. A good potting mix is loose and has a lot of extra material in it to allow for new root growth and excellent water drainage.

Along with the dirt, you’re getting a blend of sphagnum moss, shredded bark, coconut fiber, perlite, vermiculite, and possibly some sand worked in too. It’s a complex 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 first 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—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, but 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

Stack Of Plastic Storage 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 it 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 many sizes. 

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 give it enough 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, 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.

It’s worth noting that not all potting soils are created equal, and their storage requirements can vary. For example, potting soils that are rich in organic matter like compost and peat moss should be stored with extra care to prevent moisture buildup. 

They should be stored in a container that has adequate ventilation. You may also want to add absorbent materials in the container, like silica gel packets, to regulate humidity. 

Soils with a high proportion of perlite or vermiculite can be more susceptible to compaction. When storing these light, airy mixes, avoid pressing down or packaging the soil too tightly, as this can compromise their structure and drainage properties. 

For specialized potting soils designed for particular plant varieties, such as those for cacti or orchids, you should follow the manufacturer’s storage recommendations closely, as these unique blends may have specific needs to maintain their carefully balanced nutrient profiles and pH levels.

Storing Other Gardening Items Over the Winter

Seed Packet

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 in there, 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 them 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.

Troubleshooting Common Storage Issues

One of the most common storage problems is the development of mold or mildew. If you notice any fuzzy growth or discoloration, it’s important to act quickly. 

First, thoroughly inspect the container for any cracks or openings that may be allowing excess moisture to enter. To add, you should discard any visibly contaminated soil, then clean the container with a diluted bleach solution before you refill it with fresh, dry potting mix. 

Another issue to watch out for is soil compaction. Over time, the soil’s weight can cause it to become dense and difficult to work with. To prevent this, avoid packing the soil down when filling the storage container. Instead, you want to gently pour or scoop it in, taking care not to compress the material. 

Final Thoughts

Properly storing your potting soil is a small but essential task that can pay dividends in the next growing season. By taking the time to prepare and safely contain your soil, you’re investing in the health and productivity of your future plants. 

Remember, a little effort now can save you time, money, and headaches down the line. So, embrace these storage strategies and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your potting soil is ready to go when spring fever strikes.

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Colette Kadrich

Monday 22nd of June 2020

I have about 20 smart pots I've incorporated into my garden this summer. I plan on recycling my putting soil for next year. Will My soil be alright in totes in the basement? I do not have a garage & yes, my basement is damp. Any tips for storage? Thank You. :)

Rose Huttner

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

So you are saying if a potting soil is unopened. You should open and dump into storage containers. Not leave in garage to freeze over winter ?

Kirsten bouchard

Friday 21st of January 2022

@Lisa | The Practical Planter, is it ok to store an unopened bag of peat moss in freezing temperatures?

Lisa | The Practical Planter

Wednesday 11th of September 2019

Hi, Rose!

If it’s unopened, you should be fine to just put it in a storage container as is. You will just want to make sure that the soil is dry before you put it in there (it can mold or grow pests if it is). If you have any doubts as to if it’s dry, I would open it up, dry it out, and then put it in the container out of the bag.