Overwintering Strawberry Pot in Zone 5

doriswk(5)September 17, 2011

this year I have a beautiful terracotta strawberry pot going, it contains strawberry plants, hens and chicks and other sedums. With the temperatures dropping, we will reach freezing temperatures in a few weeks and I don't quite know how to offer optimum protection for the terracotta pot as well as the plants. Some people suggest to bring the whole thing into the garage. When should I do this? If I bring the pot and plants inside in September, they will probably have to stay there until May when it does not freeze any more at night. This is a long period; would I have to water the plants in the pot now and then? Or would the plants be healthier if I remove them from the pot in the fall ( when exactly?) and plant them in the garden? Then replant in spring? I would rather not go through this exercise, if option one works just as well. However, if someone out there convinces me that fresh soil is required every year, well then, I may as well remove the plats now...

I tried to include a pic, but I keep getting a systems error message every time I try uploading to the garden gallery...

Thanks in advance for your advise!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The need for "new soil" is a secondary consideration to the degree of root congestion for plants other than the hens & chicks, which just don't seem to care much about tight roots, unless you care about the fact they'll dwarf when roots get really tight. For the strawberries & sedum, it DOES matter. So, you have two things to consider: A) have roots become so tight it's affecting growth and vitality B) is the soil structurally sound to the degree that I won't have a significant amount of soggy soil at the pot's bottom next year.

Over-wintering in an unheated garage is a good plan. I do lots of dish gardens and some 200 other containerized plantings that way. I simply toss a little snow on the containers every 4-6 weeks until the plantings wake in spring & can be moved to their warm weather accommodations.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:06PM
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Thanks tapla for your input.
The pot was planted with new soil and new baby plants around July of this year. The soil should be good, I hope, and I doubt that the roots of the strawberry plants are getting congested at this point. However, should I be changing soil next year?
And when does one put the pot in the garage? My concern is also about the long winters her, and that the pot would have to be in darkness in the garage perhaps until next May ?
I should mention that I am not worried about the hens and chicks, got plenty of them, also plenty of sedums. I could put these back together with their brothers and sisters in the garden. I just don't want to plant the strawberry plants in the garden, unless it would be better for them?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 11:28PM
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I was wondering if you have ever been able to get a decent harvest with strawberries growing in a container?

I have tried and tried again and could not even get a fruit bigger than a walnut.
I think they need LOTS of leg room and inground to produce well? How big are your containers?

Thank you



    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 4:35PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You're prolly borderline on whether or not you should repot. I probably would because that's how I role. I figure that if the roots are too congested by early summer, I'm stuck with poor growth and vitality for the remainder of the growth cycle. I tend to be automatic in my tendency to guard against that, so I'm pretty sure I'd repot. The 5:1:1 mix is cheap, and it doesn't take much time.

The primary consideration is the integrity of the terra cotta pot. If it freezes, it likely breaks, so bring it in when the temps are predicted to drop below freezing - to 25* if you put it on the ground where the earth's heat will help keep it from freezing in late fall down to ABOUT 25*. In spring - move it outdoors as soon as danger of the put freezing has passed.

Darkness is not an issue. Dormant plants don't need light and will be just fine, snoozing the winter away in a dark and comfy (to them) garage. ;-)


    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 3:41PM
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then would your approach be to put the planter as it is, with all plants, in the garage when it gets to freezing temps? Someone suggested to throw a little snow on it every month or so. Then bring it out in spring and re-pot at that point, using new soil, and reducing amount of plants?
Thanks again!


    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 8:50PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Exactly! You've got it!

Here is an over-wintering 45 year old barberry destined to be a bonsai. It was 'collected' from the landscaping of my credit union, which is how I know its age.

and a couple more of the 200 or so I over-winter, showing the snow I toss on them to keep soil barely moist. The snow melts very slowly in the cold garage.


    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 1:16PM
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Another question, my fiance is worried that the container would also freeze in the garage when it hits low temperatures, and crack. Wherabouts are you ?
We are in Toronto, zone 5...

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 10:39PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'm in mid-MI in a transition area between 5b-6a, though I'm able to over-winter almost all zone 6 plants in the ground. I have a LOT of plants in terracotta, as you can see in the background of this shot of a pair of Ficus cuttings soon to be going out to a friend

These plants are all potential bonsai. I have no problem with breakage unless I leave them on the benches too long and they freeze (outdoors) when the soil is wet. Even though the soil sometimes freezes in the pots while the plants are in the garage, I never seem to have any breakage of the terra cotta there.

If you have only a few plants, setting the plants on the floor will help guard against breakage. Most think the floor is colder because cold air sinks, but plants on the floor are able to take advantage of geothermal heat conducting through and radiating from the floor. If the pots are directly on the floor, they will remain quite a bit warmer than pots you isolate from the floor by putting them on something like a table or anything that insulates them from the heat coming from the floor. This is particularly important if you're likely to leave the door(s) open for extended periods during extreme cold.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 3:38PM
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bex10023(New York City)

Thank you for all the wonderful information posted on this thread. I, too, would like to overwinter my strawberries (in plastic pots) but I do not have access to a shed or garage. I'm wondering if I can wrap the outside of the pot with bubblewrap or something similar to help the plants survive winter on my patio. The patio has full, southern exposure but it is on the second floor and can get a bit windy. Any suggestions?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 12:34PM
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