Gardening: Put away landscape accessories with care

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

When doing fall cleanup, don’t overlook your containers and other yard art. Porous materials can absorb moisture that expands when it freezes, causing chipping and cracking. Pottery, terra cotta, cement and cast stone are all vulnerable and should be given winter protection.

Some terra cotta is very porous and is best stored in a heated garage or basement. If stored in an unheated building, place them on shelves or wooden risers. That’s also true for glazed or unglazed pots.

Plastic containers should be emptied and stored upside down. If left outdoors cover them with a waterproof tarp to prevent sun damage that makes them brittle and may fade the color.

Old metal pots and sprinkling cans used to accessorize the garden should be emptied and stored away. If left out, water that collects will freeze and expand, blowing out the bottom of these treasured containers.

Garden glam, including gazing globes and art glass, are also at risk in winter. Strong winds can send a glass globe sailing. Moisture accumulated in the interior of mercury glass ornaments will damage the finish causing the silver to peel and the glass to crack

Don’t overlook your collectible stepping-stones either, especially the homemade treasures given by children and grandchildren. Lift and store them in a protected area.

Resin statuary should also be stowed away. UV rays and acid rain degrades painted surfaces and water that collects in cracks and crevices and freezes can cause chipping and cracking.

How about those huge cast stone fountains and other accessories?

Pieces sitting directly on the ground are vulnerable to freeze damage when moisture in the material absorbed as the soil freezes and expands. If possible, it’s best to elevate the piece off the ground to prevent the material from absorbing moisture. You can buy decorative feet designed to do just that or use a couple of pressure treated wooden slats. Be sure not block the drain holes when positioning the wood under the containers.

Fountains and vessels should be emptied and dried. Before covering, line the cavity with burlap or old blankets to absorb any moisture left in the bowl or that may accumulate over winter.

Remove and clean a fountain pump, according to manufacturers directions, and store it in a frost-free area. Submersible pumps should be stored in plastic bucket filled with water so the gaskets and seals don’t dry out. These are best stashed in the basement.

Anything that may collect water should be fitted with some sort of waterproof cover. Garden centers that specialize in fountains and statuary carry special covers specifically designed for this purpose.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy.