4 Tips on How to Safely Overwinter Containers

Joan Moyers is a graphic designer and award-winning garden designer. Here are her tips on how she prepares to overwinter her garden containers.
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Joan Moyers, founder and lead graphic designer at Garden Girl Creative, is an award-winning garden designer and the former art director for Horticulture magazine. Joan’s been a friend of the magazine for many years, and recently she invited us to visit her home garden.

overwinter containers

Patty Craft (left), content director for Horticulture, and Joan Moyers (right), designer at Garden Girl Creative, have been friends and worked together on many gardening related projects over the years.

In her home garden, Joan combines her eye for unique design with her passion for plants. Hers is a garden full of delightful nooks that shelter containers of all sorts—she plants in everything from bike baskets to kitchen colanders.

overwinter plants

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

Here are Joan Moyers's tips on how she prepares to overwinter her garden containers:

1 Clean Out

Take special care with breakable pots. Empty them of the soil, making sure to get rid of any soil that hosted plants that had pests or disease. Tomatoes and peppers are notorious for these problems.

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

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). Stack several pots inside each other with a layer of cardboard, bubble wrap, or something similar in between each pot so they come apart more easily or they may crack next spring when you bring them out of storage.

3 Experiment with Caution

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 this year. I pulled most of it out and stored 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. And 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 our fall cleanup. Tasks on Joan’s list include ordering and planting spring-blooming bulbs (alliums, tulips, daffodils and more!), relocating volunteers 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.

Watch for a feature in HORTICULTURE in 2018 of Joan Moyer’s home garden. It’s full of fresh ideas for containers you’ll want to recreate yourself!

Rachel Fountain is social media manager for Horticulture.