Winter Container Gardening

When it comes to winter gardens, Californians have it
easy. The biggest challenge is keeping
containers from getting too waterlogged during winter rains, but that problem
is easily solved by moving flower pots under a porch roof or even stashing them
under a patio table during a storm. Some California gardeners will see frost or even a little snow in the
winter, but that’s a short-lived problem that can usually be overcome by
bringing a germanium indoors or wrapping a sheet around a potted lemon tree.

The best strategy for California
gardeners is to repot or renew container plants during winter months. Use the highest quality organic potting soil
you can find, because unlike the plants in your garden, container plants don’t
have the ability to send roots out into the soil in search of nutrients. Instead, you have to give them all the food
they’ll need. Carefully tip plants out of their pots, shake off the soil, and
repot them in a mixture of potting soil and a well-balanced, dry organic
fertilizer. If your container lacks a
good drainage, this is a good time to drill a couple of holes in the bottom and
place the pot up on “feet” so that it can drain more easily.

Even large container plants that
cannot be easily repotted will benefit from fresh soil. Scrape off a layer of soil around the top
and sides of the plant and replace with a mixture of potting soil and
fertilizer. This will revitalize the
roots and help the plant make it through the winter.

Some people fill their containers
with flowering annuals like cineraria or violas to brighten up the gray winter
days, but I like to use containers as a temporary home for perennials I want to
plant in the spring. I might divide
ornamental grasses and plant a few of the divisions in a container, along with
some cuttings of salvia I’d like to propagate. It’s easy to keep an eye on
these new plants if they’re in a container near the house, and I can move them
into the sun on warm days or shelter them from the frost on cold, clear nights
without any difficulty. When spring
fever hits, I’ll have healthy, vigorous plants that are ready to go in the