It’s hanging basket season! They can be a source of delight but also a source of stress. It’s easy for a hanging basket to fail badly. Too sparsely filled and they look bedraggled. Too little water and death is swift!
The secret to growing a successful basket lays both in the way it’s planted but also in sensible aftercare.
Plant the basket with bedding plants at the beginning of May but don’t plant them out for a couple of weeks, especially if you live in a more exposed area. Instead give them some shelter in a porch, or unheated greenhouse, or even under polythene at the side of the house. This allows the new plants to grow and toughen up a little before they are hung in their final position.
Check your bracket and chains for signs of rust and also check that the bracket is securely fixed to the wall. Hanging baskets are extremely heavy, especially when they are wet and you really don’t want your lovingly-planted orb of flowers to be deposited unceremoniously all over the floor!
Planting is easiest if you balance the basket on a large flowerpot or bucket. Fibrous liners help to retain water and look nicer than polythene. For extra moisture retention place a circle of polythene in the base of the basket before filling with soil.
The best planting medium is soilless multi-purpose compost, mixed with water-retaining granules. Place a layer of compost in the base of the basket and push the first layer of plants through. Trailing plants such as lobelia, bidens and ivy-leafed pelargoniums look lovely but you can be as creative as you like. Water the plants in their containers before planting them and squeeze the rootball firmly to make it small enough to push through the mesh from the outside. Plant quite densely and gradually build up layers of plants and soil. When it’s full within 3cm of the rim you can plant up the top with more upright, compact bushy plants like begonias, petunias and pelargoniums.
Make sure your basket never dries out. It will be reliant on you for all water and nutrition. If you water it at least once a day and feed with dilute tomato fertilizer once a week I promise it will be a blooming basket in the best possible way. Happy gardening!
By Rachael Leverton