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Old soil reuse

Category: gardening | Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:30 pm

I have containers, pots, window boxs and raised beds full of soil that drastically need HELP! For last several years, have been hauling out two wheelbarrows, lining them with loose plastic sheets, emptying soil into one then using an ancient plastic hand sieve to sift soil into the other before putting in additives and refilling everything. This year I purchased a hand-operated rotary sieve in HOPES it'd make the backbreaking job just a wee bit easier..and BOY! has it!
In anticipation of the unit's arrival, I hauled in hanging baskets, containers I could MOVE easily and other pots full of soil into the sunroom, had 'em stacked everywhere! The rotary sieve arrived, got it put together, then realized I had NO WAY to get a wheelbarrow in there (and it was way too cold to work in garage or workshop), so now what? I wanted to start using the thing!
Sieve came in a box that was packaged within another box, discovered it was just right to set the 16 inch diameter new fangled object in, lined the box with a big plastic garbage bag to catch sifted soil and went to work.
It's truly amazing the amount of soil things hold til you empty them OUT, and would be a shame to not reuse it all! Took only minutes to get soils sieved: just half-filled the drum on rotary unit, sat on a bucket and turned the handle, watched the bag under it fill with SPEED, went "WHOA! This is too good to be TRUE!" as pot after pot, container after container of old, worn out soil disappeared into the depths of the garbage bag. When there wasn't room for any more, I put "processed" soil into empty heavy-duty wood pellet bags to sit til phase #2 came into operation, tied them off and stacked them..didn't take long to get a good supply on hand.
Phase #2 was "cutting in" new soil (Pro Mix BX) with the old to give it a boost at a 50-50 mixing rate. Made a scoop from an empty plastic bottle with a handle on it, worked beautifully for measuring soils.
Did three scoops of Pro Mix to three scoops of old, ran it thru the rotary sieve for blending, then rebagged and marked it as "done, ready for additives". Piece of cake!
Yesterday, I put together baskets of pansies and transplanted some Crego asters into bigger pots. Just opened a bag of the blend, scooped some soil into a bucket, added what I felt was needed ( a bit of bone meal, pelleted fertilizer, epsom salts and dried blood), dampened the soil with a liquid root booster, and tranplanted away to my hearts content! Sieved/blended soil was totally old root/stones and stick free, didn't clump, still retained enough perlite for lightning the soil, was just lovely to work with! As compost is still frozen solid, that'll be used to top off things later.. after a good sieving, of course!
As soon as weather permits (hopefully by late March) I'll tackle the raised beds and too-heavy-to-move containers outside, use the two wheelbarrow method so they won't feel left out, set the sieve in the largest and have at it, big time! Just LOVE that unit!!
(For general information: rotary sieve was purchased from Charley's Greenhouse and Supply of Mount Vernon, Washington. Cost was $64.95 on sale, has already about paid for itself.)

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