By Heather Rhoades
Container gardening has become very popular in the past few years as a way to easily and conveniently take care of flowers and other plants. While pots and containers look lovely all summer, there are a few steps you need to take in the fall to make sure that your containers survive the winter and are ready for planting next spring.
Cleaning Containers in Autumn
In the fall, before you store your containers for the winter, you need to clean your containers. This will ensure that you do not accidentally help diseases and pests survive the winter as well.
Start by emptying your container. Remove the dead vegetation and, if the plant that was in the pot did not have any disease issues, compost the vegetation. If the plant was diseased, throw the vegetation away.
You can also compost the soil that was in the container. However, do not reuse the soil. Most potting soil is not really soil at all, but rather mostly organic material. Over the summer, this organic material will have started to break down and will lose its nutrients as it does so. It is better to start each year with fresh potting soil.
Once your containers are empty, wash them in warm, soapy 10% bleach water. The soap and bleach will remove and kill any problems, like bugs and fungus, that may be still hanging onto the containers.
Storing Plastic Containers for the Winter
Once your plastic pots are washed and dried, they can be stored. Plastic containers are fine being stored outside, as they can take the temperature changes without getting damaged. It is a good idea, though, to cover your plastic pots if you will be storing them outside. The winter sun can be harsh on the plastic and can fade the color of the pot unevenly.
Storing Terracotta or Clay Containers for the Winter
Terracotta or clay pots cannot be stored outdoors. Because they are porous and retain some moisture, they are prone to cracking outside because the moisture in them will freeze and expand several times over the course of the winter.
It is best to store terracotta and clay containers indoors, in perhaps a basement or an attached garage. Clay and terracotta containers can be stored anywhere where the temperatures will not fall below freezing.
It is also a good idea to wrap each clay or terracotta pot in newspaper or some other wrapping to prevent the pot from being broken or chipped while it is stored.
Storing Ceramic Containers for the Winter
Much like terracotta and clay pots, it is not a good idea to store ceramic pots outside in the winter. While the coating on ceramic pots keeps the moisture out for the most part, small chips or cracks will still allow some in.
Like with the terracotta and clay containers, the moisture in these cracks can freeze and expend, which will make larger cracks.
It is also a good idea to wrap these pots to help prevent chips and breaking while they are being stored.