Sunday, October 13, 2013

Plant Pots

I like pots and planters, but it means more work at this time of the year as they have to be emptied and stored away. Some of the glazed ones are supposed to be able to survive winter, but it is all relative. I expect they could survive -5C, but I am very doubtful they would come out intact after a week at -20C.
Pots drying in the sun before being stored for the winter

Filling the pots in spring, I use a lot of compost and some potting medium. In the fall, the "higher quality" soil that was in the pot I spread on various beds. This is one way to improve the garden soil. In fact the very large pots I use as a kind of composter. The bottom halves I fill with "rough" compost (compost that includes plant material not completely broken down), and when I empty them in the fall, that compost has completely matured and is easier to use. I expect the plants in the pot benefit from it as well.

Pulling plants out of pots

The actual emptying of the pots is the difficult part, as it requires a lot of shaking and pulling. At least with annuals, since you don't have to keep the plants, you don't have to be careful. Besides, the roots of annuals are less tough and come out relatively easily.  But with perennials you want to keep, such as hostas, it is a bit like pulling teeth.

Once I have managed to pull out the plants I want to keep, I sink them in free bed (a bed where I grew vegetables) where they spend the winter. It is very important to label them since many look alike in the spring before growth has begun. In past springs I have potted plants I did not know really know,  because I had not labelled them, thinking I would remember.

Plants I want to keep I sink in a vegetable bed

The very large glazed pots I leave outside, but I empty them and put them up side down. I also  raise them off the ground. They have to be raised off the ground, otherwise ice may form along the rim and damage it.  As for the clay pots, and other more delicate pots, once they are empty I store them under the porch where it gets very cold, but where they stay dry. Before I store them, I try to leave them in the sun for a day or two to dry up.

Some of the pots, one that holds a bay laurel and another one that holds a fig tree,  I simply move, without emptying, to a crawlspace in the house that gets cold, but where it does not freeze. Every two or three years I repot them. The fig tree is a "Chicago Hardy", so it might survive outside. Eventually, it will get too big to take it in and out each fall, and I will learn how hardy it actually is.

Bay laurel in a pot


  1. Pretty soon, pretty soon....

    Laura picked that flowering kale stuff for our last fling of summer with pots on the porch.

  2. We've probably emptied tons of compost onto our garden over the years when emptying planters although those planted with perennials are either lagged with bubblewrap or moved into the greenhouse, Usually we don;t suffer from temperatures as low as you do and if it does get down to exceptionally cold levels - it's usually short lived.

  3. It's just amazing to read how much more work goes into gardening because things like changing the pots during winter, putting them upside down etc, all with good reason would not have crossed my mind (had a tiny garden a very long time ago). Now I know and have realised how to stop breakage's for the future, not forgetting to mention how to save money. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Your containers are beautiful. I use plastic and fiberglass containers, much less attractive, but I don't have to worry about winter cracking.

  5. Good luck with your fig tree! I recall a tiny backyard just off the Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal that held a fig tree with real figs! A little reminder of someone's Italian patrie.

  6. I leave all my pots outside all winter. I don't do anything with them except stuff them with tulips. If I had to empty them in the fall, I'd definitely have a lot less pots! Sounds like a lot of work, especially with the really big pots.

    1. You are right. It is a lot of work. That is the price you pay for living in a cold climate!


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