Hortense Answers Spring Gardening Questions

Hortense Hoelove has returned this spring to answer important gardening questions for the plant-lorn and other gardeners!

Dear Hortense Hoelove,

Can dirt get old? You know, that dirt in containers, does it get old?

Lori Lovestogarden

Dear Lori,

Why, yes indeed, just like everything else, including you and me unfortunately, dirt, or potting soil as some would call it, can get old, worn out, and depleted in containers. If it is small container, dump all that old stuff out, give the container a quick brushing out, and then refill it with new potting soil. You do not have to scrub and scrub and use bleach on the container, unless the plants you had growing in it before had a terrible, awful disease or was infested beyond belief with insects. Don’t get all crazy about cleaning it out. Just dump it out, rinse it out, add new potting soil and plant. For larger containers, remove about a third of the potting soil, maybe more, then add new potting soil and mix it a bit and you are ready to plant.


Dear Hortense,

How do I get rid of all the thistle growing in my garden?

Exacerbated in Indy

Dear E,

You don’t get rid of thistle. It's just foolish to think that you can. Mostly you just try to control it. You can pull them and watch them come back. You can also try a vinegar-based herbicide on them, and watch them come back. I would mulch like crazy and then if you see them, keep pulling them.

Watching Thistle, Too

Dear Hortense,

Can I plant outside now in Indianapolis?

Eager to garden,
Your Youngest Sister,

Dear Youngest Sister,

Don’t you read the local weekly paper? There was a column on that very subject, planting too early, this week. No, do not plant frost tender annuals or vegetables yet, even if you see them in the stores. Do not. Wait around until at least May 10th in central Indiana, and even then check the 10 day weather forecast to see if it is safe.


(Questions above were actual questions asked by real people this week. The iris pictured is Iris pumila 'Fireplace Embers'. If you have a question for Hortense Hoelove send an email to her agent, Indygardener AT Gmail dot com or leave a comment.)


  1. Good advice, we are supposed to get frost tonight!

    How do you get rid of creeping charlie?


  2. Hortense I think Youngest Sister will be convinced to wait by tomorrow. The 24 hour forecast is frightening enough for the advanced stages of trees and shrubs much less tender tomatoes.

    Good luck up there in Indy.

  3. LOL you are always good for my morning smile!

  4. This was so much fun! That's what we need, a no nonsense Hortense. Who tells it like it really is. Love it.

  5. So Hortense, what do you do with the soil from the containers once you've dumped it out? Do you throw it in the garbage? Dump it in the compost? Bury it in a deep hole in the ground?

  6. Hortense, I'm not surprised that people in Indy are wanting to plant some flowers already with this warm weather we have had. I'm much too experienced a gardener to do something like plant annuals yet...but I did forget to cover up the seedlings I winter sowed and have babied for months. I wonder if they'll recover from the frost we had last night?


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