Four big pots for tomatoes full of prepared soil

Making Dirt

I grow tomatoes in pots. That’s the only way to succeed with them in my garden. I wrote a series of posts about that last year.

This year, I bought six new, larger pots for tomato plants (which are still ridiculously small, due to our cool spring).

My usual practice is to refresh last year’s soil by dumping each pot (which has been sitting by the garden shed since last fall) into a wheelbarrow. I add bagged manure (which purports to be from cattle, steer, sheep, or mushrooms–haha, that’s a joke; I know mushrooms don’t actually produce it!) and my own compost, along with extras such as lime and fertilizer. Then I stir up the mixture with a spade, and when it’s uniformly mixed, I refill the pots.

The new pots, of course, were empty. And this year I have twelve tomato plants instead of the usual eight or nine. I needed more soil.

Digging up the garden wasn’t an option, so I had to make more dirt.

I used my established technique of enhancing the soil from last year’s tomato pots, but I also rounded up a few extra pots whose occupants had died or been dispatched, and incorporated that soil as well. But, some will ask, what about evil fungi or other toxins that may have killed those plants? Yes, that dirt might harbour such things, but I was going to dilute it with other stuff, so the risk was worth taking.

The “other stuff” was large amounts of compost and several bags of manure. Sheep manure this time. (To be honest, the stuff I dump out of those bags into the wheelbarrow has only a passing resemblance to actual poop expelled by whatever creature is named on the bag. Okay, it’s also labelled “composted” and “deodorized.” I suspect that really means the manure has been mixed with a good deal of other material, such as straw or sawdust. No matter, though, it refreshes and enhances the old soil from the pots.)

Prepping soil for tomatoes, wheelbarrow, compost and sheep manure

Amazingly enough, after filling the six new pots, I still had soil from six of last year’s tomato pots and two sacks of sheep manure, not to mention a good supply of compost. More than enough. The garden gods’ equivalent of loaves and fishes?

Of course the soil is fluffed up in the enhancement process, so I will probably have to top up the pots at planting time.

With luck, by late summer there will be tomatoes!


  1. I think sheep poo sounds much better in French. I always empty old pots into a large container and mix my homemade compost in, paying little heed I’m afraid, to what may lie within either the old soils or the compost – But this does have the advantage of creating ‘self seeding compost’ and having mostly nice surprises.

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  2. I have such trouble growing tomatoes, Audrey. My growing season is short and cold. Yet, every year I try again! I’ll try pots this year and maybe it will be the year of success. Now if It would only warm up. 🙂

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        1. This year I bought 10 seeds (for $5!) of “Roma” and planted 5 of them. They all came up, but the seedlings are the floppiest I’ve ever seen. I also have 7 seedlings from my own seeds. I don’t know if I can assign a variety name because I’ve never practiced any controls on how my plants have been pollinated, so who knows what genes are represented. But the variety I started with years ago was a French variety called “Dona.” Here’s some info:
          I plan to plant in the next few days!


    1. I add some 6-8-6 fertilizer to the soil mix. Once the plants get bigger I would advise using a product intended for tomatoes, following the directions on the package. What the plants really need is warmth. 70 degrees F at least. Right now we’re stuck in the 60s, so my tomato plants are small too.

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  3. Love this idea!! I have been trying to grow some veggies in my garden but so far not a huge success. I could manage the herbal garden though 🙂 Your post definitely inspires me to give it another try 🙂

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    1. Herbs are pretty tolerant of less than ideal conditions. I turned my former vegetable patch into a herb garden when I realized vegetables didn’t grow well in the dry, rooty soil. I hope you do try again!


  4. Audrey, I loved reading about your ‘recipe’ for dirt to grow your tomatoes. A man we had help with the yard a few years ago applied goat poo everywhere. The smell was terrible! I think I’ll just add fertilizer. I have a few pots ready for seeds next week. It’s always warm here in Mexico so I hope the seeds turn into tomatoes. The only thing is it’s so dry. How often should I water the pots? Be sure and post some photos.

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    1. I think in Mexico tomatoes may just be perennial. Tomato trees, perhaps? 🙂
      Fresh manure would be quite smelly, I imagine! That’s why the stuff sold in bags is composted and mixed with sawdust, etc. But it does make good fertilizer.
      I understand it’s important to maintain soil moisture for tomato plants. Letting them dry out too much between waterings can cause blossom end rot in the fruit. The soil should contain calcium as well for that reason, which you can supply by adding lime.
      I hope your plants turn out well!


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