Do You Need To Change Compost In Pots Every Year?

If you have a compost bin or pile, you’ll know that compost should be mixed or changed every once in a while. The same thing goes for pots of compost – eventually, the organic matter in the pot breaks down and becomes inactive. However, do you need to change your compost pot every year? 

You need to change compost in pots every year, ideally, even more frequently. The organic matter in the pot breaks down and becomes inactive over time. If you don’t change it, your plants won’t receive all the necessary nutrients.

This article will further explore the need to change compost in pots yearly and provide tips on how to do it. Let’s get started!

Why Should You Change Compost Every Year?

Many gardeners don’t realize that changing their compost yearly is important. There are a few reasons for this:

  • After a year of decomposition, the material in your compost bin will have broken down into nutrient-rich humus. This is great for your plants, but it also means that there isn’t much left to decompose. 
  • If you don’t change your compost pot, the organic matter will continue to break down and become inactive. This means that your plants will not receive the nutrients they need.
  • Older compost may contain organisms that could harm your plants. Finally, as compost ages, it tends to lose its ability to retain moisture. This can be a problem in dry climates or during periods of drought.

Fresh Food Waste = Fresh Nutrients

One of the main reasons you should change your compost every year is that fresh food waste contains fresher nutrients. Nutrients break down over time, so if you’re using last year’s compost on your plants, they won’t receive as much of a nutrient boost.

Moreover, fresh food waste also comprises more nutrients than older food waste. For example, green leaves are full of nitrogen, while fruit peels are high in potassium, iron, zinc, etc. By changing your compost every year, you’re giving your plants a more well-rounded diet of nutrients.

Old Compost May Have Pathogens And Weed Seeds 

Another reason to change your compost yearly is that old compost may contain pathogens and weed seeds. These can harm your plants or, in the case of weed seeds, take over your garden.

Pathogens are bacteria, viruses, or fungi that can cause plant diseases. They can be transmitted through the soil or water and infect your plants. If you’re using old compost on your plants, they may be at risk of infection.

Weed seeds can also survive in old compost. If you use this compost on your garden beds, the weed seeds will germinate and grow. They can then quickly take over your garden and crowd out your other plants.

How To Change Compost

Now that you know why you should change your compost in pots annually, here’s how to change it:

Remove The Old Compost

The very first step is to remove the old compost from your pot. You can turn the pot over and gently tap it on the ground.

Remove all of the old compost from around the plant’s roots. You can do this by gently shaking the plant or carefully picking out the old compost with your fingers.

The compost should fall out easily. If it doesn’t, you can use a garden trowel or spade to loosen it up and help it along.

Discard The Old Compost

Once you’ve removed the old compost, it’s time to discard it. You can do this by adding it to your compost bin or pile, or garden bed. Old compost is still nutrient-rich and will benefit your plants. However, it may not be as effective as it once was, but it can be used effectively to lock in moisture.

Add The New Compost

Now, it’s time to add the new compost. You can buy organic compost from a garden center or make your own. If you’re making your own, allow it to age for at least six months and ensure it’s well-rotted and free of large clumps before using it on your plants.

Once all the old compost has been removed, add fresh compost to the pot. Ensure you add enough so that the roots are completely covered.

Place The Pot In A Sunny Spot

Now that you’ve changed your compost, you need to find a new home for it. Place the pot in a bright spot but keep it out of direct sunlight. Water it regularly, and you’ll soon have rich, fertile compost for your plants.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your potted plants always have access to fresh, nutrient-rich compost.

How to Make The Perfect Compost Mixture For Your Plants

Using compost is an excellent way to give your plants the essential nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. It’s also a great way to recycle kitchen and yard waste. 

There’s no perfect compost mixture recipe. The best way to determine what your plants need is to start with a general mix and experiment until you find what works best.

Here’s a general recipe to get you started:

  • 1 part green waste (fruit and vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, etc.)
  • 3 parts brown waste (dead leaves, twigs, wood chips, etc.)
  • 1 part water

Once you have your 3 basic ingredients, place them in a compost bin or pile. If you have a lot of green waste, consider adding extra brown waste to balance it out. The key is to have a mix of about 30% green waste and 70% brown waste.

Turn your compost weekly to aerate it and help speed up the decomposition process. You should have rich compost ready to use on your plants in a few months.

How to tell if a compost pile is healthy

The best way to tell if a compost pile is healthy is to understand what good conditions for decomposition look like:

  • The temperature should range from 135-160°F (57°C-71°C) and should be uniform throughout the compost.
  • The lower layer of your compost should be moist but not soggy, while the top layers should appear dry enough since too much water can reduce the air circulation in the pile. 
  • Healthy compost should have a slightly sweet smell, almost similar to that of soil. 
  • Mature and healthy compost has an earthy dark color which indicates it’s properly decomposed and ready for use.

How To Know If It’s Time To Change Your Compost

Read on for a few surefire signs that it’s time to swap out the old compost for a new mix:

Your Plant Is Struggling To Grow

An obvious sign that you need to change your plant’s compost is if you notice that it is struggling to grow. This can manifest in several ways, from stunted growth to yellowing leaves.

If you notice that your plant isn’t growing as vigorously as it once was, it might be time to give the roots a fresh start with some new compost.

The Compost Smells Bad

If your plant’s compost is starting to smell bad, that’s another sign that it needs to be changed. Bad smells usually indicate that the compost has gone bad and no longer provides the nutrients your plant needs to thrive.

If you’re unsure whether the smell is coming from the compost or something else, try sniffing around the pot – if the smell gets stronger the closer you get to the soil, that’s a good indicator you need new compost.

There Are Visible Signs Of Insects

If you notice visible signs of insects in your plant’s potting mix, it’s a telltale sign it needs to be changed.

Insects are harmful to plants and can quickly spread to other plants. To avoid an infestation, nip the infestation in the bud by changing out the entire potting mix batch.

Your Plant Is Wilting or Yellowing

If your plant is wilting or its leaves are turning yellow, it could signify a nutrient deficiency. When compost breaks down, it releases nutrients into the soil for plants.

If your plant isn’t getting enough of these essential nutrients, it will show signs of distress. In this case, you should change the compost and give the roots a fresh start.

What To Look For When Buying Compost 

  • Choose compost made from various organic materials to ensure it contains a good balance of nutrients.
  • Ensure the compost is free of chemicals that could harm your plants.
  • Pay attention to the texture of the compost. It should be crumbly and moist but not too wet.

With these factors in mind, you’ll surely find the perfect compost mix for your plants.


There are plenty of good reasons to change your compost every year! Fresh food waste contains fresher nutrients that benefit your plants more than older compost.

Additionally, changing your compost annually prevents the build-up of insects and diseases that could contaminate your soil and harm your plants. So, don’t be afraid to give your compost pile a fresh start each year – your plants will thank you for it!

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

Recent Posts