The days are growing shorter and winter is on its way. Outside of normal garden clean up there are things to do to prepare for winter. I often get the question, “how do I set myself up for success next spring”? There are many things that you can do that will set you off on the right foot. I will discuss how to best prepare and store your containers.
Container gardening has become a hot new trend and many people have multiple planters made of varying materials. Not all containers can be stored outside. So which ones do we store where? How do we prepare them for winter?
1. Remove the plant material as well as the soil.
Some options are to compost the potting mix, throw it out, or reuse it. While it is best to throw the mix out or compost it, you can reuse some soil. It will need to be mixed very well with new soil the next season. Do not reuse more than 1/3 of the mix the next season. This mix has been stripped of nutrients and at this point is only filler.
Even if you do intend on reusing some of the mix it will all need to be removed from the pots to prepare them for winter. I keep my leftover mix in a labeled Rubbermaid container and use the same container to mix my new soil in the next season. Do not reuse any of the soil if you had any disease or insect issues the previous season.
2. Do a rinse of the container to get all large pieces of plant material and potting mix out of the pot.
Then create a mix of warm soapy water and add bleach in a 1:10 ratio. The soapy water and bleach will eliminate any pests that may be trying to overwinter in the small pores or cracks in your containers. Rinse the pot very well and allow the pots to individually air dry before stacking them up.
3. Now that the pots are clean certain containers will need to be stored differently.
The general rule of thumb is that if the container is made of a porous material it should be stored inside. Moisture will get into the pores of the material and if we receive a freeze in St. Louis soon after the freeze the thaw will cause the material to “pop” or break.
Pots can be kept in a garden shed, garage, basement, or anywhere they can avoid moisture and freezing temperatures. Types of pots you want to store out of the elements are clay and terracotta.
There are some types of materials that are in the middle. Most ceramic pots are glazed and that prevents the moisture from getting into the pores. If the pot is fully glazed it can be stored outside, but be sure to looks for any chips. If a ceramic pot is chipped or cracked, or isn’t glazed on the interior, those are areas where moisture can seep in and when it freezes it will break.
Concrete pots can usually be stored outside but occasionally can have issues. To be safe it is best to store these inside. It is ok to store Styrofoam or polymer containers outside. Dowco recommends finding a protected place or cover them to avoid fading or staining.
I like to put my pots in the garage after rinsing them out and then I can clean them when I do not have as much going on in the winter.
Following these steps will make your pots last as long as possible and make setting up next year easier. In the spring, when things are crazy, you will be ready to go on your container gardens!
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