How To Have Fantastic Summer Hanging Baskets
Image: Maxwell Hamilton
Here is some great advice for planting your summer hanging baskets
Summer hanging baskets are ideal for a splash of colour, even if space is limited. Size can range from a slim flower pouch to a 45cm (18”) basket. There are infinite colour combinations and a huge range of plants to choose from; it can range in price from £10 to £60. The cheapest option can be achieved by buying a plastic hanging pot for a couple of pounds and a ready themed bedding pack, usually containing 10 – 12 plants; these usually retail for approximately £6 - £10. If money is not a consideration there are a lot of beautiful wrought iron hanging baskets which will last for many years. Just make sure that the supporting bracket is secure enough to support the weight of a heavy basket plus wet compost and plants. It needs a sunny sheltered site.
If you don’t fancy flowers why not try strawberries or tomatoes instead?
When do I plant my basket?
Small plug plants are available at Hayes Garden World from February, so the basket can be planted up from then if you have somewhere light and cool to keep it. Make sure you don’t over-water as the small plants will rot easily. The larger plants are available from mid-April but also need to be kept inside, somewhere light and cool. Put the baskets outside when all danger of frosts have passed, usually the beginning of June. If you live in a mild area or can’t wait that long make sure you keep an eye on the weather forecast and are prepared to bring the basket in, or insulate it if frost is forecast.
What basket do I choose?
There is a vast range of baskets from which to choose; from the simple plastic hanging pot to elaborate wrought iron baskets. There is also a plastic basket with sections that pop out making it easier to plant around the sides and avoiding damaging the plant roots. If using a wrought iron or wire basket don’t forget the liner. If using a coir liner line it with plastic, making sure to slash the bottom to avoid the water collecting, this extends the life of the liner. You can be inventive and recycle an old colander, a sturdy wooden crate or even an old pair of boots (making sure there are plenty of holes in the bottom. Chain can be bought from any hardware store.
What compost do I use?
Any good quality multi-purpose will suffice. Adding a water retention gel will cut down on watering. As bedding plants need a lot of feeding I always add a slow release feed. This should be enough to feed the plants through the main season, a supplementary liquid high potassium feed, such as Tomorite, may be necessary to prolong the show into early autumn. There are composts available which already have water retention gel and slow release feed incorporated.
Which plants do I choose?
There is an infinite variety of summer bedding so first decide on a colour theme. You roughly need a plant for every inch of hanging basket plus a larger upright one for the centre of the basket. For example, if planting a 14” basket choose 14 trailing plants plus a large upright one for the middle. Trailing plants are usually sold in small single pots costing approximately £1.50 - £2.00 each. To keep costs down pad the basket out with trailing lobelia, which usually comes in packs, costing just a few pence per plant.
How do I plant the basket?
Place the basket on a pot or bucket to keep it stable. Fill the basket half full with the compost, water retaining crystals and slow release feed mixture. Make slits around the sides of the basket to push the plants through. A good idea is to wrap a cone of cardboard around the plant roots; this makes it easier to push through and protects the roots. Once the side plants are in place, put in some more compost mixture and place the top plants, filling in any gaps around the plants. Once planted water well and leave to drain. Leave the basket to settle in for about a week before putting in position.
How often do I need to feed and water the basket?
On a hot day you may need to water twice a day, morning and late afternoon, try and avoid watering in the midday sun. If reaching the basket is a problem there are products on the market to hang the basket from which lowers it for ease of watering and deadheading. If you have several baskets it may be worth considering investing in a watering system. Incorporating water retention gel into the compost will help prevent the basket drying out. Feed weekly with a high potassium feed, such as Tomorite, if there is no slow release feed in the compost. If there is slow release feed in the compost you will probably only need to feed with a high potassium feed in late summer when the flowers are starting to fade.
What else do I need to do?
Make sure you keep deadheading the plants as this prolongs the flowering period.
Basket recipes for a 35cm (14”) basket
Cool and Classic
Centre: Geranium – upright white
Helichrysum Goring silver x3
Bacopa Abunda colossal white x3
Geranium trailing white x3
Petunia Tumbelina Melissa x3
Verbena Aztec white x2
Hot and Sunny
Centre: Begonia non-stop orange
Begonia Apricot shades x3
Geranium trailing red x3
Helichrysum gold x3
Calibrachoa Tequilla Sunrise x2
Pretty in Pink
Centre: Argyranthemum Madiera Crested Pink
Petunia Million Bells trailing purple x3
Bacopa Abunda pink x3
Geranium rose pink bi-colour x3
Fuchsia Wedding Day x2
Center: Fuchsia Brutus
Geranium trailing Precision Burgundy x3
Verbena Aztec Purple x3
Calibrachoa Cabaret Deep Blue x3
Surfinia petunia deep red x3
Fuchsia Blacky x2
Centre: Geranium upright red
Geranium trailing red x6
Lobelia trailing white x4