Question: Ive done everything plantwise I know to do. But what about the terra cotta pots. I have some large ones, but just have no more room to store them. Are they OK outdoors in freezing temperatures? Becka Lexington, Kentucky
Answer: Becka, its time the temperatures have dropped, your plants are all tucked away, but how about your hardgoods? The Terra cotta pot over in the corner, the concrete statue the husband hates, plus the picnic table on the patio and lawn chairs.
What are you going to do with them?
Whats the best way to handle all these things for winter?
Lets look at caring for hardgoods in the winter.
Visit almost any garden center and youll find terra cotta: pots, statues, chimeneas, and a host of other products made from terra cotta.
Terra cotta being a relatively porous material, allows water to fill the pores of a pot or statue. This is why terra cotta products, do not handle the typical winter freeze and thaw cycle which much of the country experiences. As water in the pores freezes and expands, it may break your favorite pot. Dont assume glazed or painted terra cotta items are protected from cracking in cold weather.
If your area experiences temperatures that fall below freezing, you need to move your fragile terra cotta to shelter.
Terre Cotta Preparation
- Dump remaining soil on compost pile
- Check for White on Outside and Inside of Pot
White traces indicate a build up of salts from fertilizer, water, and other sources. If the salt levels are high enough, plants can be harmed.
Scrub pot lightly with a wire brush, kill disease organisms that might be present by washing pot with 10 percent bleach solution (9 parts water to 1 part bleach).
Allow pots to dry, store where they will not get wet; wet weather is more of a problem than cold weather.
If your terra cotta must absolutely stay outdoors (very large containers, for example), thoroughly mulch around the terra cotta, wrap with burlap filled with some type of insulator material like dry leaves, straw, or pine needles.
Concrete is similar to terra cotta its surface contains many small air holes, making concrete subject to the same type of winter damage terra cotta can face.
It should be noted however, concrete is naturally stronger.
Like terra cotta, moisture in the small holes or pores is the problem in freezing temperatures. Generally, concrete minus moisture is safe outdoors in freezing temperatures.
Overall, inexpensively made or smaller concrete pieces should be stored safely in a garden shed, garage or basement.
To help reduce moisture from penetrating concrete pieces like statuary in your garden, visit your local hardware store to find a water-sealing glaze you can apply over the surface including the bottom. Follow directions on the label for application.
Like terra cotta, it is always best to wash the concrete pots with a 10 percent bleach solution (see above) before planting again in the spring.
Plastic Pots Planters
Plastic pots are popular in providing decorative looks, available in many classic designs, are lightweight and quite easy to move.
While not porous like terra cotta or concrete, plastic can become brittle and easily crack when subjected to very cold temperatures.
Before moving plastic containers, dump all soil from the container and wash with a 10 percent bleach solution (see above) between plantings
Store plastic containers away from exposure to extremely cold temperatures a basement or garden shed is good.
To keep wood products such as wooden furniture looking good as long as possible, it is best to keep out of the weather yes even the ones claimed as weather-resistant types Some items cannot be easily moved, stored indoors or moved out of the weather, picnic tables for example. To keep moisture off the surface cover with a tarp.
Before moving indoors or covering for the winter, the fall season is always a good time for some clean up and preventative maintenance.
Clean all wood surfaces thoroughly using a plastic scrub-brush and a mix of a mild-detergent and water.
Redwood is one wood susceptible to graying. Apply a stain and sealer each year, to seal the wood and prevent wood from turning gray.
While you are at it, clean and seal your wooden deck as well.
To prevent damage furniture (this includes BBQ grills) made from steel or aluminum, should winter someplace out of the weather unheated shed or garage works fine.
Some metals, are susceptible to rust such as cast iron. To help keep metals looking good and rust free, apply a good coat of rust-proof paint.
Do a fall inspection looking for rust. If you find rust, use a metal brush to carefully remove it, and wipe the surface off thoroughly.
Using a mild household detergent, clean the area, apply a weather-resistant primer (Krylon Rust Tough®), finally apply a color-matched weather-resistant paint.
For grills and other surfaces exposed to high temperatures, check out special heat-resistant paints.
If possible, bring all metal items like lawn chairs indoors to a dry place. They will last longer stored indoors than left outside during the winter. Snow, rain, and temperature changes all act to lower a metals lifespan.
If storage space is an issue, consider using hooks to keep items high, dry and out of your way.
A gazing ball may be a great visual in the garden, but it should be stored inside during the winter. Prevent help scratching or breaking, wrap in an old blanket or bath towel.
Patio tables with glass tops can be a special issue.
If indoor storage space is not possible, cover with a tarp and move the table so it is out of the way of falling objects like branches or icicles dangling from a roofline.
If you have space by all means, bring them inside.
Wicker should be moved indoors after it has been washed well with a mild detergent and water solution. If you find mildew on any wicker, mix three-quarters of a cup of bleach to one gallon of water to clean the wicker.
Put on your list to check the hardgoods and get them ready for winter. It will save more time for you to enjoy spring when the weather warms up.