Can you re-use container garden soil?

Yesterday we winterized the balcony garden. Here it was in its prime:
Tomato Cages

Here it is now:

There was a lot of soil to deal with. Can you re-use container garden soil? Most of what I’ve read online advocates for starting fresh each year, but that’s expensive. And I don’t know how we would dispose of this year’s piles (I’m imagining some kind of illegal midnight dirt-dump at the edge of Fresh Pond).

I was encouraged by this chat thread and this website to try recycling our soil. Mixing in new organic matter (manure, compost, etc.) replenishes the minerals and improves the drainage, so I emptied our backyard composter and refilled it with alternating layers of maple leaves and container soil.

The (mostly) composted kitchen scraps from last year got added to the potato box. I sandwiched them between layers of soil and then threw all of the pulled garden plants on top with another layer of maple leaves. We’re going to buy soil amendments next year, but that’s still cheaper than starting from scratch.

The winterizing project left us with a clean porch, dirty hands, and a little container of tiny green tomatoes.

I’ve always wanted to make fried green tomatoes. The film of the same name is one of the first PG13 movies my mom let me watch. Some of the plot points escaped me then…like the fact that Frank was actually turned into BBQ for the whistlestop patrons, or that Ruth and Idgie were in a loving lesbian relationship…but I came away from it loving Jessica Tandy. And wondering what fried green tomatoes tasted like.

Turns out they don’t taste like a heck of a lot. That was our initial impression anyway.

I salted the slices, waited 15 min, then blotted off the extra moisture with a towel. They got a dip in beaten egg, then dry Jiffy cornbread mix (cheap, tasty, and self-rising). I fried them in the iron skillet and laid them out on paper towels to drain.

The cornbread mix gave them a great crunchy texture, it’s just the taste that was under-whelming. They need something to help draw out the tang of the tomatoes. I mixed up a little dip for them that was 1 part plain yogurt and 1 part Tapatio hot sauce. WHA-BAM they came alive! Much, much better.



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  3. bonniehull · November 7, 2011

    I’ve often mixed half new potting soil into the old, put the old in the compost pile. Fertilize…but not too much for tomatoes or you get beautiful leafy plants (this would be the voice of experience speaking…). The tomatoes all sliced and in rows were gorgeous! BTW I had my SIL go get the green scarf from the museum store and send it to me…more on that soon as I need more advice…xo

  4. sally · November 7, 2011

    (I’ll really love the green tomatoes photo.)

  5. sally · November 7, 2011

    Your garden soil should be perfect, Katie! A touch of all-purpose fertilizer in the spring, and it’ll be great. I agree with you about fried green tomatoes (it’s the fat and cornbread that’s the most tasty.) So your dipping sauce is a wonderful addition. Yum!

    BTW, I have a horseradish that needs harvesting. Do you, or the elders in your family, know what I should do with it?


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