UK Veg Gardeners

Is it possible to reuse compost year after year in containers?

Hi everyone.. 
I had quite a successful, enjoyable 1st year growing veg in 12, 66ltr large containers. 
My question is, to do the same in the future, do i have the expense of having to change all the compost, or can i somehow reuse the old compost?
I do have access to horse manure, seems well rotted, brown, crumberley, with no smell and have a bucket of growmore generalpurpose balanced granular fertiliser to hand. 
​​​​​​​Regards Barrie.

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Hi Barrie - not sure why the experts on this forum haven't replied to you yet, but I'm reading a lot about soil currently, so I thought I'd have a stab at it.

The compost you've already used will be drained of certain nutrients, the balance of which depends on what you've grown in it and how intensively. Although you could theoretically add new nutrients to that compost and try using it again, it would be difficult to determine exactly what is missing (including micronutrients, like magnesium) not to mention the challenge of replenishing it back to its original composition. Then there's the risk of pests that might have laid their eggs to hatch the following year.

For the record, I have used compost from my pots more than once, particularly when the first crop was very quick to harvest and I've got time for a second in the same season. At the end of the year, I dump all used compost onto my growing beds, which are so heavy with clay that I'm convinced adding anything else will help lighten the structure. I assume the pests from the greenhouse couldn't stand a chance in the south Welsh wind and rain.

I've only tried horse manure as an addition to the growing beds, but I've heard that very hungry plants can grow directly in such material (pumpkins, courgettes, etc). If you only have space for containers and there's really nowhere else to put your used compost, I would be tempted to change only half of it each year: 66ltrs sounds like more than any plant could exhaust in one season!

Thank you Anne for your well written reply, I will do as you suggest and replace half of each container with a mix of fresh compost and manure along with some general fertalizer, early spring.
Maybe it might be a good idea for me to do the mix in a wheel barrow, so as to check the old compost for grubs.
We do also implement a crop rotation policy.
Thanks again,
Kind regards,

Barrie, is the compost you mention the commercial stuff you buy in bags? If it is then it doesn't have a lot in the way of nutrients. I've been growing all manner of crops in containers for many years but I make about two cubic metres of my own compost each year and it includes seaweed and bracken in addition to the usual kitchen and garden waste. I try to get two crops out of each container each year. So, early potatoes might be followed by carrots or lettuce. Sometimes I can even get three crops by finishing with radishes or salad greens. At the end of each season all the containers are tipped onto the compost heaps but the only trouble with this is that the heaps get bigger each year so I may well end up drowning in compost!

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