Container Garden Clean-up

Today was a dry and mild reprieve from the awful cold, wet and sometimes windy late fall weather we’ve been enduring here in Southern Ontario — a good day to do some garden work. I have found frozen water in the trays underneath the containers on the roof a couple of times recently increasing my concern about getting everything cleaned up in time. You can pretty much forego cleaning up in-ground gardens (I know because I have) and expect minor plant loss, however container gardens in these parts can’t be ignored. The heaving caused by freezing and thawing conditions will crack and destroy terra cotta and some plastic containers. I’ve got A LOT of containers out there and would like to keep the collection I’ve cobbled together for as long as possible.

Here’s what I do to clean-up the container garden:

  • Bring houseplants and plants that are still producing fruit indoors – I did this back in September well before the first frost.
  • Harvest remaining produce – I found a couple of missed tomatoes, sweet potatoes, hot peppers, and a few small red onions.
  • Remove all plant matter from terracotta and small containers – Cut them into manageable pieces and compost. If you don’t have a composter put them into garden waste bags for city composting.
  • Remove stakes from containers and pile together.
  • Dump soil from pots that will be stored away – I dump all of my soil into the large, plastic garbage cans that are used for growing tomatoes. They stay outside for the winter.
  • Hardy perennials can be safely overwintered in large planter boxes – I sometimes add a blanket of mulch or dried branches, but they do just fine regardless. You can prune them back if breakage is an issue, but the plants in my boxes are so tough I leave the stems for added interest. The birds like to perch on the branches on mild winter days searching for seeds to munch on. They also collect dried grass bits for their nests come spring.
  • Soak and scrub all terracotta pots and containers that are too fragile for outdoor storage – I wash mine in hot soapy water to which I add a couple of splashes of oxygenated bleach (aka hydrogen peroxide).
  • Over-turn, stack, and store your pots somewhere sheltered such as a garage, basement, or shed. I don’t have any of those so I stack mine on shelves in our hallway and tuck the treasured containers away in the back of kitchen cupboards.

Related: Preparing Your Garden for Winter

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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4 thoughts on “Container Garden Clean-up

  1. I was just thinking about moving north. Nevermind…..LOL
    I might grow a tomato in a pot and that’s all for my gardening.
    Nice to know you are out there in the dirt though. : )

  2. I agree with Gayla, the end of the season is sad but it gives me a nice time to plan out my garden next year :)

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