James A. Baggett

Baked Earth

terracotta

Putting away my terra cotta pots is my final chore of the season. Terra cotta is my material of choice when it comes to the containers that grace my garden and front porch. I love the natural look of terra cotta (Italian for “baked earth”) and have amassed quite a collection of cool clay containers over the years. But like all crockery, terra cotta breaks when dropped and often cracks or flakes when exposed to repeated freeze-that cycles in the winter. So I keep mine stacked in a lopsided shed attached to the rear of my nearly hundred-year-old house.  Every year at this time I empty my spent containers in the compost bin, I make sure to remove all the loose debris and dirt from the pots. I spray them down with the hose and scrub them clean with a stiff brush before carting them to the shed. Cleaning your pots from year to year prevents passing fungi, bacteria, or viruses. And because clay is porous, salts in fertilizers pass through the pots walls and accumulate on the outside. That’s what that hard white crust is. Clean it off with a baking soda paste and a soft brush. Nothing looks nicer than stacks and stacks of clean terra cotta pots waiting for warmer weather.