With this wacky weather we’ve been having, there is no telling what kind of weather we’ll get this winter. The upside is that we can react a lot faster because our gardens are miniature.
Here are some tips for the colder areas – or if the weather dips like it did here in Seattle last winter – and this will work for your other containers too, not just for miniature gardens.
When a plant is in a container, subtract up to 15 degrees off the hardiness of that plant. A potted plant is a contained micro-environment, and the roots only have the walls of the pot to protect them.
It’s this difference that we forget about, and lose our marginally hardy plants to the winter weather.
~> Keep an eye on the weather reports and stockpile what you need ahead of time so you can react quickly, without hassle.
~> Plant in the biggest pot you can. Big pots don’t freeze as fast and the extra soil insulates the roots. This may be late news, but keep it in mind for future reference.
~> Plant the whole pot right in the ground for the winter, with the foliage above the earth of course, and let Mother Earth insulate the pot.
~> Wrap the whole pot in bubble wrap with a thick layer of fallen leaves between the plastic and the pot. The leaves will insulate it and the plastic will keep the leaves intact for the season. Cover this with wrapping of burlap to hide it – and add another layer of insulation – and you can have fun decorating it with eyeballs and arms for Halloween, leaf garland for Thanksgiving and twinkly lights for the winter holidays. Use the leaves as compost in your veggie bed in the springtime.
~> Move the pot beside the house or under a covered porch. This can be a temporary fix to get through a cold spell. If it is something you’d like to do for the winter season, make sure the light requirements are close to what the plant needs (Full sun plants will get leggy in the shade, shade plants will burn when that sun decides to come out.) and make sure it gets enough water throughout the winter too.
~> FOR IN-GROUND TOO: Cover the whole container garden with evergreen boughs – it’s nature’s insulation. Wait until the weather is cold enough though, you don’t want it to rot – only to protect. And be sure to take them off promptly in the spring for the same reason.
~> Choose the high-fired pots instead of the terracotta pots. The pots from Vietnam or China are high fired, fairly freeze proof, and don’t absorb the moisture as much as the terracotta ones do. It’s the moisture in the walls of the pot that freezes, expands and breaks the pot. Leave your terracotta for your annuals, empty them out now, and put them away dry for the winter.
~> Keep watering that pot! Even if it is freezing outside the contained environment will need moisture – and the cold will dry it out. This also applies for your in-ground evergreens too – check them during the dry spells to make sure the soil stays at least damp.
~> For more temperate zones with occasional freezing, get the pot up on pot feet, bricks or stones, so the water can drain and there’s nothing to really freeze and expand when the temperatures dip unexpectedly for too long.
A lot of this information came from my brother, Joel Cross of Stone Maven Landscapes, north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada – the land where your nose hairs freeze! (Which is why I’m in Seattle. Hey, thanks, Bro! ;o)
But, if all else fails and you do loose some plants, there is an upside: you get to try something new next spring!