It’s finally cooling down and it’s time to tuck in those potted plants that have actually embellished our decks and patio areas all summer season.
Gardening in containers has increased in appeal over the previous few years as individuals move into smaller sized spaces or desire a flashy garden right on their deck. Many of those pots have been filled with annuals, perennials, shrubs and little trees of differing hardiness to our USDA Zone 5. In my experience, the USDA zoning system may say we are in Zone 6, but there are so many microclimates here that it’s much better to state we are Zone 5.
First, if your plants are truly not hardy to the cold temperature levels, you will need to find a place in your home or a heated greenhouse or garage to keep them above freezing. Do some research on how much light the plants need and place them accordingly. Some will be fine in the low light of a basement, but others might need brighter light to remain healthy through the inactive season. I understand individuals who cut handle buddies to house their tender plant collections in warm areas over the winter season.
For plants that can take the cold, there are several alternatives for safeguarding them. Bear in mind, however, that plants in pots despite how sturdy they are, do not have the protection of a deep bed of soil to safeguard its roots and can be damaged if we get a cold winter season. Case in point, I have a rosemary plant I will be digging up and bringing indoors. A lot of rosemary ranges aren’t durable here no matter what the description on the tag said.
If your containers can be quickly moved, move them to a protected location like a protected porch, unheated garage or shed. Once they lose their leaves and go inactive, they aren’t going to need much light and only an occasional watering through the winter season. A neat trick is to put snowballs on the soil to melt and water the plants. Smaller plants can be dug out of containers and planted into a nursery bed in the garden and then replanted into their pots next spring. Be sure to cover the bed with 2 to 3 inches of mulch for extra insulation.
If your containers are too huge to move or you don’t have any other area for them, group them together and cover the pots with burlap, old blankets or a tarp to develop a windbreak. Do not cover the plants themselves as the covering can heat up if we get a sunny day in February. Some people pack leaves or pine needles around the pots under the covering for extra insulation.
The containers themselves might not be frost proof. Terra cotta clay pots take in water and will shatter when they freeze. Hard-fired and glazed pots will not soak up wetness but can crack if the soil left in them freezes. If the pots do not have plants in them, cover the opening to stay out the rain and snow.