Forum home Tools and techniques

How to improve soil in pots?

SkylarksSkylarks East MidlandsPosts: 379
Hi, newbie here  :)

I started growing veg in pots & raised planter a couple of years ago (my soil in the garden is too clay like). I've just been out today, taken off the top 3rd of the soil & used veggie mesh to cover them to stop weeds.

How can I improve the nutrients in the soil for next year & when would I do this?

Or, does it depend on what veg I grow? I've heard carrots don't like a soil that's too rich.


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,023
    Hi @Skylarks. Normally you'd just add some rotted manure, or good compost, to refresh beds, but what many people do is to add fresh manure around this time of year which will then rot down over winter, in time for next spring. 
    It would certainly depend what you want to grow though, and whether you have anything growing just now, or want to grow in the near future. Otherwise, you could just add good compost nearer planting/sowing time.

    Carrots don't like recently manured soil, so you'd be fine to put something down on the beds just now, as it would be ok in time for sowing those next year  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • SkylarksSkylarks East MidlandsPosts: 379
    Thanks Fairygirl. I'll get some fresh manure to add now  :)
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,396
    What you do to soil in a bed is not the same as you'd do in pots.   Assuming the pots are now empty for winter I would just leave them be or maybe cover with cardboard, held down with a stone to keep down weeds.

    You could add manure to the raised bed and cover that with cardboard which will stop weeds and provide a lovely environment for worms and other soil organisms to work and play over winter.   Come the spring it should be perfect for sowing and planting but not carrots which tend to fork if the soil is too rich.

    Just before sowing or planting next spring, refresh the top few inches of compost in your pots with new compost.  You can put the stuff your remove on your raised bed, on top of the cardboard which should have rotted down by then and added to the mix.  If not, just plant thru it.   If you're planning on growing brassicas, add some lime to the mix as this helps them fight off club root.

    For the rest of your garden, an annual mulch in autumn of well-rotted garden compost and manure will help break it down and you will end up with gloriously fertile soil.  clay usually contains lots of nutrients.   The fibrous matter will be worked in over winter and eventually you'll have a looser texture that's easier for you and plant roots too.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • SkylarksSkylarks East MidlandsPosts: 379
    Ah, I see. Thanks Obelixx. 

    The clay soil is under the lawn. I dug up a strip at the bottom of my garden this spring to see if anything would grow, not much luck. I was trying to work out what to do with the dug up part. I'll try what you've stated & if it does improve, I'll dig up more of my lawn.

    If the clay has lots of nutrients, would it be a good idea to add a thin layer of the clay to the raised bed before adding the manure & cardboard?
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,396
    No.  Leave the clay where it is but work on improving it with all the organic matter.   Are you intending the dug up area for veggies or ornamentals?

    The raised bed will be fine with the manure and cardboard.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • SkylarksSkylarks East MidlandsPosts: 379
    Ok. I’m hoping to grow veg. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,023
    Apologies - I was mainly talking about dealing with beds/borders rather than pots, but @Obelixx has given you plenty of info there  :)
    All my gardens have been on clay, and it can be hard to deal with unless you address it, but if you do the right things, it is one of the best growing mediums. Organic matter is the key component, as already said.
    I have a mix of raised beds, and standard borders. The border created from compacted grass was just stripped back, and a layer of manure put on over one winter. I then planted into it, adding compost with each shrub put in. Over the next few years, it's just had spent compost [mainly from tomatoes and sweet peas]  added around the planting. Everything grows well.  :)
    If you're growing veg, you just need to look at what each type will require in terms of aspect, and cater for them accordingly. In pots, it's easier because you can add the appropriate matter to each one, but you then need to give them more attention in terms of food and water because it's more restrictive. 
    Good luck with it - and if you have specific queries, you'll get lots of help here from people who grow a lot of veg.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,766
    Leaf mould, no?
  • SkylarksSkylarks East MidlandsPosts: 379
    I’ve seen leaf mould mentioned in the forum. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it. I have a tree behind my garden so it will be something I look into and hopefully have for next year.

    Thank you for all your replies. The forum has been full of useful advice and seems very friendly  :)
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,396
    edited October 2019
    Happy to help.  To get leaf mould, you need to gather up your fallen leaves - a lawnmower is good as it shreds them a bit as it goes - then bag them up in old compost bags of bin bags and then spike a few holes with your garden fork.  Leave to rot down for a year or sometimes two.  They need to be damp.

    Leave some leaves on the ground for the worms to work over and into the soil too.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
Sign In or Register to comment.