Properly cleaning and storing pots in the winter sets you up for success in the spring!
Cleaning outdoor pots might not be the most glamorous part of gardening, but it sure is an important one. Gardening in containers is all about creating a favorable environment for plants, one that has nutrient-rich soil and is free of pests and disease. And to achieve that, you need to make sure the container is clean!
Plus, minerals and salts from fertilizers and hard water can build up throughout the season. This not only looks less than pleasant, but it also can be harmful to plants.
How to Clean Outdoor Pots
No matter what type of pot you used, whether it’s plastic, clay, or anything else, you can clean them in the same way.
- In fall, after the growing season, remove the plants and soil from the container.
- Use a stiff brush to remove debris, mineral buildup, and dried soil from both the inside and outside of the pot. Mineral buildup, which is white and powdery-looking, might take a bit more effort to remove. If the brush isn’t working, use an old butter knife to scrape it off.
- Fill a large container with warm, soapy water. Use a sponge or scrub brush to clean the pots further.
- Rinse well in clean water.
- Now it’s time to sanitize the pots. In a large container, make a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Add the pots, and let them soak for at least 10 minutes. If the pots you’re washing are big and aren’t fully submerged in the solution, then rotate them occasionally, so all parts get sanitized.
- Rinse well in clean water. If you’re washing terracotta pots, then let those soak in clean water for at least 10 minutes to make sure the bleach is rinsed out of the pores.
- Let the pots air dry.
For the sanitization step, you could also use vinegar rather than bleach. So, instead, you would put the pots in a mixture of 1 part water to 1 part white vinegar. Let the pots soak for a couple of hours, rinse in clean water, then let air dry.
How to Store Pots for Winter
If you have any dirty pots you plan on storing before you’re able to sterilize them, put them in a plastic bag to make sure any bacteria or fungus doesn’t spread.
To help organize where you store your garden supplies, we have tons of caddies, carts, saucers, and floor protectors at Wallace’s Garden Center.
Plastic pots can be stacked and stored outside in a dry, covered, protected space, like a shed or under a deck. Make sure the pots are off the ground.
Terracotta and clay pots are more delicate than plastic ones and should not be stored outdoors. Terracotta pots are porous and retain moisture. Throughout the winter, this moisture will freeze and thaw over and over, resulting in cracks. While glazed ceramic pots may be a bit more protected, they still can retain moisture and crack.
Instead, keep terracotta and clay pots indoors, like in a basement, or anywhere else the temperature will stay above freezing. Wrap each one in newspaper, then stack them to store indoors.
Properly cleaning and storing your pots isn’t just good for your plants; it’s good for the environment and your wallet! It will help your pots last longer, meaning you’ll have to purchase fewer in the future.