Whether a garden is large, small, or merely a window-sill, there’s nothing that can enhance it more than some artistically placed garden pots. But as they become battered by the rain, beaten by the wind and bleached by the sun, they can start to look a bit tatty. Time, then, to give them a new lease of life!
If the garden pots are made of plastic or varnished ceramic, then they are easy to clean. All that’s needed is some hot water, some gentle washing up liquid and a good scrubbing brush. After removing the plant, the pot should be cleaned well both inside and out, taking particular care over any nooks and crannies. This is because if any residue of old soil is left in the pot, it could harbour bacteria which could then be harmful to the next plant you put in it. Also, if using any petroleum based cleaner, it should be completely rinsed clean so that there is no residue remaining which could affect the plant environment.
Non-plastic pots aren’t quite so easy to clean and require a bit more elbow grease. Terracotta pots in particular, can be difficult to treat. Because terracotta is porous, if left over-winter in freezing conditions, it can be prone to cracking as moisture enters the stone, expands with the cold and splits the pot. Even if they’re not cracked, the pots can be weakened by adverse weather conditions and be fragile to handle. If pots have to be left outside during the winter, it is best to wrap them in an insulating layer to prevent the worst of the cold, but otherwise they do need a bit of care when cleaning. Moisture in the air or soil can also cause quite marked discolouration on terracotta garden pots, especially if placed in shady areas where they don’t have so much chance to dry out.
After carefully lifting out the plant for feeding and re-potting, start by scrubbing the pots as before; however if this isn’t removing the grime, then a great solution is to use a pressure jet cleaner set to a low force. These can be bought relatively inexpensively from all good hardware stores, or hired for the day or weekend from a tool hire shop. They are extremely useful in cleaning decking, patios, garden furniture, and in this case, stained garden pots, so the whole lot can be tackled on the same day! By keeping the jet of water at a steady pressure, and using the brush attachment if there is one, the whole of the outside of the pot can then be worked over quickly and efficiently with very little effort. The green staining comes off easily and the pot is as good as new. Wait for a sunny day and the pot can be left to dry naturally.
If the staining is too difficult to remove, another way of re-claiming a nice garden pot, is to clean it as well as possible and then to paint it. Using non-toxic, water-resistant paints, enjoy matching planters to the colour scheme of the garden. This will cover the stain and also bring a new lease of creative life into the outdoors. Remember, though, to keep the base of the pot unpainted, so that excess water can still escape from the underside of the pot and so not rot the plant.
Unless a totally pristine look is desired, some garden containers are best left stained’ and shouldn’t be cleaned up too much. The patina they gather with age and by being exposed to the elements, lends a charm and softness to the garden which suggests romance, mystery and natural beauty. Stone for instance, will gradually weather over time and may have pretty coloured lichens clinging to it which can enhance the overall effect.
Wood and Metal Garden Pots
Wood and some ceramics may bleach in the sun and wind and fade to blend in much more naturally with the surroundings so that they take on the air of always having been there. This presents a very graceful air about the garden. Some metals, such as copper can of course take on a completely different appearance with staining and which can be very desirable. The green which copper turns can look super against dark purples and blues while as long as the plant isn’t being affected adversely, the rust of a tin garden pot can also be effective.
On the other hand, if a bright, reflective and modern style is what is wanted, then metal pots kept clean can be extremely dashing. Taking care to protect the pots from excess exposure to bad weather and water, they should be regularly wiped over with a soft polishing cloth such as an old sheet, to keep them dry, free of soil particles and shining. The perhaps once a year, the plant should be removed and the container polished properly with a proprietary metal polish, making sure that no residue is left on the pot. Aluminium, which is very simple to keep clean, but which has a tendency to dull’ with time, can also be used in the garden.
Overall, general maintenance of all garden pots twice a year in spring and autumn should suffice to keep them clean and protected so as to show the garden at its very best.