Creative winter container gardening?
September 17, 2008 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Winter container gardening... or, to be more specific, what to do with the containers?

I live in Denver and have nice flower garden going on my balcony. With freezing temperatures only a few weeks away, however, the garden doesn't have much time left. I don't have anywhere to store the containers over the winter, and would rather just leave them in place, dirt and all. However, I'm not looking forward to staring at containers full of dirt every time I look out the window for the next eight months.

The balcony faces due north and remains in full shade through the winter (and much of autumn and spring, for that matter), so I'm guessing I won't have much luck growing cold hardy plants. Snow tends to pile up, as well, so anything I did try growing would likely end up buried before Christmas.

Any ideas for making use of and/or sprucing up the pots through the long winter months? Should I just grow an army of miniature snowmen?
posted by jal0021 to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If they're ceramic, or otherwise breakable, cover the dirt to keep it dry. Water expands on freezing, and pots will crack. I stored some of my containers on my covered porch, and stuck lots of branches in the dirt. I meant to put fairy lights on them, but never got around to it. They looked kind of nice anyway.
posted by theora55 at 4:10 PM on September 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Do you have any place inside you could put them? You could buy a cheap fluorescent light fixture and a hang a grow light over them.

If you want the pots out of sight, I'd dump all of the potting soil into a Rubbermaid container with a lid, store it in a closet, and stack the pots up out of the way somewhere.

I think you're right that you're not going to be growing much, unless you some how fashion a cold frame for them. That's hard to do with pots, though -- especially on a balcony.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:12 PM on September 17, 2008

First, if they are teracotta or other ceramic that is unglazed, they will probably crack. If not, there are lots of things that will grow in the extreme cold, pansies are always good and there are new color strains that are much more attractive than the traditional purple and yellow. Bulbs are nice too, winter aconite and early snow drops bloom when there is still snow out in some places. I would cluster my containers and add mulch and stuff to the top so that the soil doesn't freeze, but it should be doable.
posted by stormygrey at 7:44 PM on September 17, 2008

A fellow Colorado resident here.

As mentioned, ceramic and terracotta will crack due to the expansion of water within the soil. (Personal Pet Peeve: It's soil or earth; not dirt. Dirt is what you track inside on your shoes. Soil is what plants will grow in.)

The water will expand toward the path of least resistance. When left standing upright, this would be horizontally and crack your pot. However, if you lay the pots on their side, then the horizontal expansion merely moves the soil towards the open end of the pot. Voila! No cracked pots.

As for growing something in our climate that can make it through the winter, I don't know of anything. The problem is that the pot will freeze solid. I suppose you could try plastic tents over the plants and wrap the pot in bubble wrap, but that is rather ugly IMHO. I'd just head over to Michaels and grab some realistic looking plastic plants if you need to have greenery out there. Just watch out for cracked pots during our hard freeze nights.
posted by TauLepton at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2008

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