It does not take many gardening seasons to amass a treasure trove of plant containers. Some you buy, others are received as welcome gifts, or maybe you (like me) gained possession of plastic pots by participating in community planting projects. With the growing season gone and many pots now empty, it’s time to talk about winter storage of plant containers, from clay pots to fabric grow bags.
Storing Frost-Sensitive Pots
The most valuable containers in your collection are no doubt lovely clay, ceramic, or glazed pottery pots. All are prone to chipping and cracking if left filled with damp soil that expands and contracts as it freezes and thaws. It is best to empty all types of masonry pots and let them rest in an upturned position until thoroughly dry. Then they can be stored in any dry place. Note that you can store potting soil you recover from masonry pots in plastic pots or bins, which don’t crack up in cold winter weather like clay does.
I have two big, heavy family heirloom glazed pots that get moved into the basement for winter storage because of their sentimental value, but I store my terra cotta pots outside in a place where it stays reasonably dry. At this point in the season I want the containers to dry out, so I postpone cleaning pots until spring. Terra cotta pots often accumulate algae and a ring of salts inside the rim, which are best soaked off in warm, soapy water, but you don’t want to store them in a moist condition. Wait until spring to scrub them clean.
How to Store Plastic Pots To Extend Their Lifespan
I have a great appreciation for plastic pots, which are fundamental to my seed starting practices and essential for furnishing the deck with flowers. I have my favorites, which include a range of sizes for quick and easy potting of fast-growing seedlings or rooted cuttings.
Lightweight, durable and easy to clean, plastic pots are often free for the asking. This year I fell into a fresh supply through a community recycling project, which is great because plastic pots don’t last forever. Sunlight, moisture and warmth can degrade some thin plastic pots in one season, but I have reused several nice rigid ones for more than five years. As you sort through plastic pots you may have accumulated this year, look for containers with some heft in sizes you are likely to use. Store plastic pots and trays in a dry place out of direct sunlight.
I am always on the lookout for large black plastic nursery liners that I can use as cachepots inside my big ceramic planters. In spring, I get flowers started in the plastic pots, and then slip them into the prettier containers when they are ready to strut their stuff. Meanwhile, I use large plastic pots to store potting soil and compost through winter for use next year, stacked up in an outdoor shed. It’s good if the soil or compost is dry, but light moisture is fine in open plastic pots.
Storing Fabric Grow Bags in Winter
Most manufacturers recommend emptying fabric grow bags and storing them clean and dry through winter. The plastic microfibers will degrade faster when exposed to moisture and sun, but this doesn’t happen when your store grow bags empty in a dark, dry place.
Before that, you can use empty bags to collect dry leaves that need to be removed from decks, patios and driveways. Using a gloved fist, you can smash dry leaves into the bags, rendering them nicely crumbled and ready for use in compost, as mulch, or as chicken bedding. Store fabric grow bags for winter when you use the last of your stored leaves. Because they might make attractive mouse housing if left folded in a garage, use the handles on the grow bags to hang them from a hook on the wall of your storage space.