Don’t Forget to Amend the Soil in Your Container Garden

Posted on Jul 28 2010 - 3:49am by Mike Lieberman

One of the mistakes that I made last year was not feeding my plants and amending the soil in my container garden.

When you first plant the potting soil that you use should likely have all the compost, nutrients and minerals for the plant to initially survive, but over time the plant will use these up and they will deplete.

If you were growing in the ground, the soil would likely take care of itself with the worms and everything that’s going on underground.

I was a having a discussion with someone the other day about this and it makes perfect sense why you would have to amend the soil in your container garden. The reason is because it’s contained…hence the name container. Nothing is added to it unless you add it.

In my online networking on Twitter (@CanarsieBK), I connected with a company Authentic Haven Brand Products (Twitter: @GreenSoil) that provide soil amendments in the form of cow and horse manure tea. Sounds great with some breakfast.

Cow and horse manure might sound nasty to put in your garden, but it makes sense. What happened before garbage got picked up? Cows and horses crapped on the dirt roads and it got buried under the soil. It’s natural.

While speaking with Annie, I learned more about the company and her product. AHaven has been a small family owned business since the 1920 and all of the animals are allowed to roam free and are treated humanely (for an animal). This is the kind of company that I can support.

I got me some cow manure tea that I am going to brew up and use on some of the plants. Some benefits of it are that it’s quick releasing and it won’t burn your plants. Read up on some more benefits of using manure tea in your garden.

I’ll be running some experiments on plants using the cow manure tea, vermicompost and whatever else I can get my hands on. You’ll have to stay tuned to see the results.

Most importantly – Don’t forget to amend the soil in your garden and feed your plants!

What do you use to amend the soil in your garden?


23 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Sukrita July 28, 2010 at 3:50 pm -

    I use the dry leaves that fall into my balcony… dead plants, other dead leaves, peat and vermiculite. The other day when I was transplanting some spinach I found an earthworm in one of the cells!!! Don't ask me how it got there, because all I used was peat and vermiculite starting mix!! There wasn't even any soil in there! It's possible that it somehow got in as a larva or egg or something… it's been raining a lot over here, and someone told me it happens sometimes during the rains…

    Anyhow, it was very cool, and I put the little fellow in the big tray with all the rest of the spinach. I have self-feeding soil! 😀 😀

  2. Mike Lieberman July 28, 2010 at 4:46 pm -

    Nice. Gotta love nature and how it works!

  3. Meemsnyc July 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm -

    I've been wanting to try compost tea out in our garden. Will have to check this company out. Thanks.

  4. Agbandy83 July 28, 2010 at 5:17 pm -

    I use coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels, dead leaves..whatever I can get my hands on that has one of the important soil nutrients

  5. Mike Lieberman July 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm -

    I've personally spoken to Annie on the phone. Love that it's a family business for almost 100 years and how she cares for the animals.

  6. Mike Lieberman July 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm -

    Nice. There is so much around us that we can use.

  7. Whenuwish1 July 29, 2010 at 9:47 am -

    Does Annie send out samples to try?

    I used the organic miracle gro liquid this year, but it's freekin' EXPENSIVE…..and my main goal is to do all this with as little outlay of cash as possible.

    I have a great big compost pile cooking up in a never used corner of my back yard. When the season ends I plan to dump my container “spent” soil into a huge trashcan and mix in a lot of compost and whatever I can find to enrich the soil.

    My veggies are very abundant, but also very small when they mature. I think this is a combo of too little fertilizer and over-crowding. But hey — I've GOT veggies! Not bad for the first time, IMHO.

    BTW Mike — I sent a link to your website, along with a GLOWING letter about how you've inspired me to the Oprah folks who are looking for hosts for shows on her new network. Ready to be famous? LOL

    Just don't forget the little people on your rocket-ship to fame.

    Much love, dude!

  8. Mike Lieberman July 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm -

    Haha. Wow. Thank you. Not sure about the samples. Her stuff is pretty cheap though. You can get 3 teabags for like $20 and each bag brews up 5 gallons worth that you use throughout the season. You could also make your own eventually with your compost.

    I would stay away from the Miracle Gro though…even the organic stuff. It is made by Scotts who sells the Roundup weed killer, which is the stuff that's used on the Monsanto seeds. Personally it's a company that I do not want to support in anyway. I can go on and give more reasons as to the problems with that.

    It's your first time. Good work. It'll all take time. This is one of the problems with growing your own food…it becomes addictive. Addictive in a good way. Nice job!

  9. Sketchkat06 July 30, 2010 at 1:32 am -

    I keep meaning to try brewing my own compost tea. Always forget…maybe this weekend…

    Anyway, I normally try to remember to keep adding a thin layer of either GroMulch, chicken guano, mystery compost, or horse manure to my larger containers once a month. Each month I try to make it a different type so they get a better balance.

    I've started trying to use the Cheap Veggie Gardener's egg-shell calcium water boost to each container at least once a month now also.

    That's it so far.

  10. Mike Lieberman July 30, 2010 at 2:09 am -

    I'm bad at remembering to add to the containers. Hoping this will help out big time.

  11. Newgame99 July 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm -

    Hi I am a new Gardner that lives in apartment. I am currently growing red kidney beans. Have you ever tried that? Anyways, from time to time I just put in dead leaves and once threw a banana peel in there. I first cut up the banana peel in pieces and now its gone, so I assume its composted.

  12. Mike Lieberman July 30, 2010 at 3:34 pm -

    Have never grown beans, but definitely want to. How's it been so far? As long as the stuff is buried and can get hot enough it should compost, but you might need to do it more often.

  13. Sukrita July 30, 2010 at 5:51 pm -

    Actually, it doesn't need to be buried at all. Any organic matter on the surface will add to the soil's fertility content. I think it's called mulching. Forest ecosystems live off it ;).

  14. Mike Lieberman July 30, 2010 at 5:55 pm -

    You'll want it buried to keep pests from it and to speed up the decomposition process.

  15. monica July 31, 2010 at 6:01 am -

    mike i swear, i feel like i'm a year behind you in all this!! really, i need to go back to the beginning of your blog and speed read my way through it. i'm sure it would save me a lot of agony!! but at the same time, it's kinda fun to learn as i go.

    i built my self watering containers with HUGE, DEEP RESERVOIRS, mostly because i travel quite a bit for work and can't really rely on anyone to do the watering while i'm gone. well, i got so overzealous with the watering in the beginning that i would refill them as often as possible without ever letting them get low at all. soon, i noticed that the leaves of my basil were yellowing and not really growing as large as they had initially. the leaves of my tomatoes were yellowing as well.

    i hadn't had any bad insect infestation for quite a while, so i deduced that i must be overwatering. on top of that i figured i must have drowned out all the nutrients from the soil. so off to home depot i went and bought some organic fertilizer powder. i don't think it's miracle grow or scott's but good to know to stay away from those brands!!! soon enough, i'll get off the home depot dependency and get a compost going to make my own teas and mulch!! anyhow, the directions gave a few different methods for how to mix and use the fertilizer, but i figured, why not just pour a small amount right down the reservoir fill spouts?? after all, they're ginormous, and with all the water in there, it would dilute perfectly before being absorbed into the soil. so that's what i did, and then i vowed to stay away from the hose until the reservoirs were EMPTY.

    my basil it out of control now, and the leaves are back to being green and HUGE. there's been a rapid, new growth on both the tomoato plants and they're also way more lush and green than the older growth (and sucker free now too!!)

    i swear the reservoirs are so huge, i can go on a month long african safari and come home to see water down there!! next season, i'll make them slightly more shallow and amend my soil with home grown nutrients!!!

    oh and i just noticed today that the home farming is catching on!! my neighbors have a few rows of something started in their tiny plot of dirt on the side or our building. i'm gonna ask if they wanna get in on some community composting.

  16. Mike Lieberman July 31, 2010 at 10:50 pm -

    Yea def don't wanna over water. Get your neighbors involved planting and growing food is such a communal thing. Love it.

  17. February 28, 2011 at 3:58 am -

    What about just making your own compost or compost tea… does it have to be manure based?

  18. Mike Lieberman February 28, 2011 at 4:05 am -

    Absolutely does not have to be manure based, but if you can get access to some manure from pasture raised animals it will be beneficial.

  19. David April 23, 2012 at 9:54 am -

    How can I amend the soil without transplanting or disturbing the plants already in the container? Thanks for all the knowledge, by the way.

  20. Mike Lieberman April 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm -

    You can either use a liquid fertilizer or dig the compost into the soil around the plants.

  21. Brandy Lance May 17, 2012 at 9:04 am -

    Hi Mike!  Do you like the results you get w/ this tea? 

  22. Mike Lieberman May 17, 2012 at 9:25 am -

    I liked it. Yes.

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