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4 Tips on How to Safely Overwinter Containers

Joan Moyers is a graphic designer and garden designer. In her Cincinnati, Ohio, garden, Joan combines her eye for unique design with her passion for plants. Hers is a colorful garden full of delightful nooks that shelter containers of all sorts—she plants in everything from bike baskets to kitchen colanders. Here are her tips on what to do to containers as the growing season ends. 

overwinter plants

A woven basket attached to a vintage bike became a delightful container for plants on Joan's front porch.

1. Clean Out

Joan empties most containers of their soil, making sure to get rid of any potting mix that hosted plants that suffered from pests or disease. She has encountered these problems with potted tomatoes and peppers in particular.

Take special care with breakable pots. Joan says, “Empty breakable pots completely, or if you choose to keep the soil, store the pots in a protected area where the soil can't get wet, such as a garage, shed or underneath a deck. Repeated freezing and thawing of moist soil causes expansion, which causes cracks in the pots.”

2. Bring In

Many garden containers must be properly stored to avoid damage caused by winter weather—think: terra-cotta, ceramic, glass, wicker baskets, metal colanders that could rust, etc. Bring indoors any fragile pots or garden art (such as ceramic, stained glass, fairy garden decor, etc.) that will suffer in cold temperatures or under snow and rain.

overwinter containers

Joan Moyers has a knack for turning everyday items into charming containers. Here is a colander used as as a hanging basket on the porch.

Store pots upside down to prevent water getting in (again, to avoid cracks). You can stack several pots inside each other, but place a layer of cardboard, bubble wrap, or something similar in between each pot. This will help them slide apart more easily next spring.

3. Experiment Cautiously

A new component to Joan’s garden this past season was a wine-cork mulch, and she’s eager to see how it will hold up over the winter. 

“Wine-cork mulch is new to me this year. I pulled most of it out and stored it in an empty pot. I'm interested in seeing how the ones I left out will winter, but I think they'll freeze and crumble. I leave out anything I think can stand the cold.” Joan said. She adds that perhaps it goes without saying, but only experiment with objects you won’t mind losing to damage.

4. Look Ahead!

It’s fun to get a jump on next spring’s garden even as we wrap up this growing year. Tasks on Joan’s fall list include ordering and planting spring-blooming bulbs (alliums, tulips, daffodils and more!), relocating volunteer seedlings to new spots, and putting down cardboard and mulch to smother grass and weeds for a new bed to be installed next year.

overwinter containers

One way to overwinter your containers is to use them inside to force spring-blooming bulbs.