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WHAT'S BLOOMIN'

Gardening column: Prevent disaster for garden ornaments

Friday, December 14, 2012 - 12:01 am

If any of you have gone out to the garden in the spring and found your favorite and expensive concrete birdbath and/or containers broken and crumbling, you know how disappointing that can be.

Porous materials such as planters, birdbaths, sculptures — anything made of concrete, terra cotta, pottery and cast stone — will absorb moisture and freeze and thaw along with the rest of your garden soil.

Following are some tips to help prevent this:

•Empty water from any type of birdbath and/or water feature made of porous material. Dry and stuff burlap or old sheets or blankets into the cavity, then cover with a waterproof covering such as a tarp or heavy plastic sheeting.

You might find that some of your plastic trash bags have large enough openings so they can fit right over the object.

•If the piece is too heavy to move to a sheltered area, be sure to elevate it by shoving a couple of scraps of treated lumber (or whatever you have) under the base. Doing this will protect it from freezing and thawing of the soil — and from the object absorbing moisture into the base.

•If you are doing this to a planter or container, make sure you leave the drain hole clear in case the covering is dislodged and winter winds blow rain, ice or snow into the cavity.

•If possible, some of these items can be moved to a more sheltered location such as a shed or garage, or right next to the house under the eaves. If under the eaves, use protective coverings.

•If you want to provide water for your birds during winter, it is possible to purchase birdbaths and heaters that are made of material especially for this purpose.

Your concrete birdbath will suffer if used in this way. But even at that, all is not lost. In the spring, if you find cracks or leaks, you can purchase Liquid Nails and fill the holes and keep the item going for another season or more.

•If you leave your plastic containers out without winter protection, they too can be damaged. They can fade from the UV rays and become brittle from freezing and thawing. I've had them fall apart when handled in the spring — so pulling a plastic bag over them and setting them in a sheltered area is a good idea.

•Some people buy special coverings for their garden ornaments, but you can use most anything from around the house that will protect the item.

Perhaps you have worn vinyl tablecloths from summer picnics that can be reused in this way. You can easily wrap those around the item and use duct tape to fasten in place.

•If you don't want a lot of unsightly covered items around your yard and garden during the winter, be creative with the coverings.

Large clear plastic trash bags would allow the item to be seen.

•An idea for the Christmas holiday would be to cover your containers in green or red plastic — especially if they are setting near the front-door area of your home. Later use white — those would vanish covered with snow. (Dollar stores are always a good place to get plastic table coverings in white and colors.)

Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What's Bloomin' blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the writer's opinion.