Wow! 2010 was a great year for growing yummy and pretty edibles in containers on a deck! I learned a lot about the whos, whats, wheres, and whens of planting, watering, and harvesting from a deck. Its a lot different than gardening right in your backyard. One nice benefit of container gardening, especially around Ithaca, NY, was the fact that I didn't have deer munching on my hard work. Excellent.
But now that the growing season (for my veggies) is over, I've realized one not-so-nice con to container gardening: ridding myself of the soil. Posting about this is tricky, because I have a pretty reasonable landlord who will let me pile my used soil out in the corner of the land. I know not everyone who container gardens has this freedom, and I also know that I have to cart heavy buckets of dirt through my living room and kitchen to do this, so I've been researching a few alternative options.
If you do some composting, a great idea is to store your used soil in some heavy duty garbage bags and mix in fresh compost with it over the winter. If you have the storage space, this will save you $$ for next season, as you'll have some great soil ready to go. You can also do this outdoors. If you can put your pile of soil in corner somewhere, grab a tarp and some heavy rocks to weigh it down, and add compost to it throughout the winter months. Or just save it and mix in some fertilizer in the spring. The soil will stay relatively moist in both cases. I know I just tried to save a bag of potting mix through the winter in an open bag and it dried out, but I think adding to it throughout the winter and mixing it will help maintain the moisture necessary to keep the soil in tip-top shape for spring.
If you don't compost currently, or don't have the outdoor space to do so, you're in luck. Next week my colleague will tell you about her dream of setting up a kitchen compost in her house. I'll be tuning in so I can revive this year's soil by next spring. I hope you'll check back, too. Together, we can compost, container garden, and maybe even succeed at it...even if we're lazy. :)