Overwintering Containers And End Of Season Cleanup

By Raffaele DiLallo | November 22, 2020
by Raffaele DiLallo
November 22, 2020

Nothing that I do in the garden is on a small scale, and my summer pots are no exception. On any given year, I’ll have upwards of 60-70 containers, or more, scattered around our property. Everything from single pots with geraniums to much larger pots full of hibiscus, bananas, elephant ears and other tropical plants. My least favorite gardening task is managing these pots each and every year.

Once all my pots are planted, I do enjoy the routine care of watering, fertilizing, and the beautiful results, but getting to that point is a challenge for a variety of reasons. It’s a labor of love though, and the results are certainly worth it for me, but it is my least favorite task to manage and prepare the pots for planting each year – and then comes the end of season cleanup.

Managing Garden Pots Before Winter

If I were a “normal” person, I wouldn’t have as many pots, but as an indoor and outdoor garden fanatic, it’s a way of life! Just the sheer number of pots is a challenge to manage. At the end of each season before winter comes, the cleanup becomes a burden. Given the unpredictable nature of our weather, most of the time I don’t get around to cleaning up all the pots in time for winter. 

At the end of the season cleanup, I’ll try do one of three things when overwintering containers:

  • For smaller pots that have annuals, I’ll sometimes just throw them in a compost pile.
  • For certain pots that are too big to move, I’ll just clean up the dead foliage and leave the pots as-is and let them sit over the wintertime.
  • If they’re small enough to move, I’ll move them to a more protected place to guard them from the elements.

By springtime, since I have so many pots, I like to reuse the soil in many of the pots if I can. I will usually take the old soil out of each pot and place it in a wheelbarrow. To lighten up the soil, I’ll add a good amount of perlite, mix in a time-release fertilizer, like Osmocote, and return the soil to each pot.

Since I don’t have a good place to overwinter some of my plants, like hibiscus, which get very large, I’ll treat them as annuals and purchase them every year. It is difficult to get these plants out of the pots at the end of the season (or in the spring when I get lazy). It often entails much prying, pulling and twisting to get everything out.

The things we endure as gardeners! 

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