For any of you who have backyards, outdoors spaces, terraces or balconies on which you’ve set up pots to enjoy your seasonal flowers, vegetables & herbs…..and you live in parts of the country where the temperature drops below freezing….this week(end) is the perfect time to get them ready for winter (if you haven’t done so already)! Many outdoor pots and planters are made from terra cotta (unglazed or glazed) or other ceramic materials. These wonderful planters are quite durable in warm weather, but probably will not survive the winter if you leave them the way they are. Typically, when the thermometer drops below freezing, the soil within the pots freezes….as does the water in that soil. And when the water and soil freeze, they expand…powerfully…and that expansion can crack and break the container! Have you ever left a bottle of wine in the freezer to quickly chill it and then you forgot it was there? Same thing….broken bottle of wine in your freezer…..broken pots on your deck or patio!
Now, just as an aside, there are some wonderful pots and planters made from synthetic materials which WILL survive most winter’s freezing temperatures. These can stay outdoors and don’t have to be emptied, as the compounds and materials they’re made of give them the flexibility to weather the cold. However if you’re in doubt about it…..better to winterize them, as discussed below.
So as difficult as it is to admit that the season is over, we must either empty out the breakable pots….or bring them indoors. At present, many of the containers we have on our own back yard terrace & deck contain annuals which have already died back, so these pots get emptied out. Don’t throw that soil away if you can help it, however, as that soil is rich with “good stuff!” We empty them into our composter for use next season, as this soil is a great “base” component in making wonderful, rich compost for next Spring’s planting. Add some leaves from the yard and your vegetable clippings from the kitchen and you’re composting! ….but I digress.
You may have some pots with plants you’d like to try and nurture through the winter (as this one with rosemary and sage). This particular pot will spend the winter in a sunny spot in our side solarium…and we can then enjoy fresh herbs all winter long!
After emptying out the pots, give them a quick rinse to clean off the clingy bits of soil and then leave them out in the sun to dry. Once that’s done, you can leave your planters and pots outdoors, as long as you don’t let them fill up with water or snow! We have found that the best way to do that is put them in a safe spot….upside down. Or you can put them in a garage or other storage space.
By taking the time to do this now, you’ll be able to enjoy your planters again next season….and for many more to come!